What Are Beams?

Definition of Beams in Construction
Beams are the common nomenclature for any supporting member that spans between two means of support on either end. The support can be a column, a supporting wall, a concrete support, etc. There are both floor and roof beams which are in many cases supported by structural walls. Beams can be constructed of reinforced concrete, steel, wood, composite laminated components, etc. A beam is normally stressed with a compression force on the upper surface and a tensile force on the lower surface of the beam. Engineers reference a beam that is stressed in this configuration as a ” happy ” beam, due to its profile of a smile and not a frown. If the beams profile is a frown, then normally , this beam is loaded improperly and could suggest an issue with its design. Based upon this ” happy ” beam configuration, explains why, any reinforcing steel within a concrete reinforced beam, is located primarily within the bottom half of the beam. Steel is excellent in tension, whereas concrete is excellent in compression, therefore the ” happy ” beam is being compressed ( compression ) at the top and pulled apart ( tension ) at the bottom. There are various different types of beams, dependent upon the design needs of the structure. Castellated beams are deep beams that have been modified with large openings within them for piping, ductwork, etc. The cutting of beams to allow piping and penetrations within them must be based upon specific engineering designs to minimize the removal of material from a beam, in an area that would affect its ability to maintain its structural integrity. The proper design of beams is extremely important to the structural stability and performance of the structure. Laminated wood beams are constructed of several layers of wood that are fastened with adhesive and pressed together. The engineering of the stresses within a laminated wood beam are complex and their sizes normally identified by the structural design team on the project.