Ask Difference

Girder vs. Beam — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Fiza Rafique — Updated on March 11, 2024
Girders are the main horizontal supports of a structure, designed to bear large loads, while beams are structural elements that distribute loads across space.
Girder vs. Beam — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Girder and Beam

ADVERTISEMENT

Key Differences

Girders are large beams, often used as the main horizontal supports in buildings and bridges, designed to support heavy loads. They are typically made from steel, concrete, or wood and are crucial in transferring weight from the structure to the columns and foundations. Girders are often wider and heavier than beams, enabling them to support greater loads over longer spans. They play a critical role in the structural integrity of a building, acting as the backbone that holds various parts of the structure together.
Beams, on the other hand, are structural elements that distribute the load across space to support floors, roofs, and walls. They can be made of the same materials as girders but are usually smaller in size and weight. Beams are used to support loads from the structure above them, transferring the weight to columns or girders below. They are versatile in use, found in a wide range of structures from residential homes to commercial buildings, and are essential in creating stable, supported spaces.
While girders are often used to support the weight of the entire structure, including beams, beams primarily support the weight of floors and roofs. This difference in function dictates their design and material selection, with girders being more robust and beams more numerous throughout a structure. The distinction between the two is sometimes based on function rather than form, with girders acting as the primary horizontal support and beams as secondary support elements.
In terms of construction and architecture, girders are considered the major beams that form the primary support for structural loads. Their design and placement require careful consideration to ensure they can carry the anticipated loads without failure. Beams, while also crucial, are designed with a focus on supporting specific parts of a building, such as floors or roofs, making them integral to the stability and safety of smaller structural elements.
The materials used for girders and beams can vary, but the choice is influenced by the loads they are expected to carry and the spans they need to cover. Steel girders are common in large construction projects due to their strength and flexibility, whereas wooden beams are often found in residential constructions for their aesthetic appeal and ease of installation. The material selection impacts the overall design, cost, and construction method of the structure, highlighting the importance of understanding the specific roles and requirements of girders and beams in building design.
ADVERTISEMENT

Comparison Chart

Definition

Main horizontal supports designed for heavy loads.
Structural elements that distribute loads across space.

Primary Function

Support the structure's weight, including beams.
Support the weight of floors, roofs, and walls.

Material

Typically steel, concrete, or wood.
Same as girders, but depends on the specific application.

Size and Weight

Larger and heavier, designed for greater loads.
Smaller and lighter, designed for specific parts of a structure.

Placement

Acts as the backbone of a structure, less numerous.
Found throughout the structure, providing widespread support.

Compare with Definitions

Girder

A large, principal beam supporting other beams.
The steel girder spans the length of the building, providing essential support.

Beam

Supports the weight of floors and roofs.
The beam cracked under the unexpected heavy load.

Girder

Used in buildings and bridges.
The engineer calculated the load capacity of the girder for the new bridge.

Beam

A structural element that distributes loads across space.
Wooden beams were used to support the roof of the house.

Girder

The main horizontal support in a structure.
Girders were installed to enhance the bridge's stability.

Beam

Essential for creating supported spaces.
The addition of new beams allowed for a more open floor plan.

Girder

Designed to bear large loads.
The girder's design includes reinforcements to carry the anticipated weight.

Beam

Found in residential to commercial buildings.
The old warehouse's beams were reinforced during renovation.

Girder

Often wider and heavier than beams.
The construction team lifted the girder into place with a crane.

Beam

Can be made of steel, concrete, or wood.
Concrete beams provide the foundation with additional stability.

Girder

A girder is a support beam used in construction. It is the main horizontal support of a structure which supports smaller beams.

Beam

A long, sturdy piece of squared timber or metal used to support the roof or floor of a building
There are very fine oak beams in the oldest part of the house
The cottage boasts a wealth of exposed beams

Girder

A large iron or steel beam or compound structure used for building bridges and the framework of large buildings
The tower is made of steel girders criss-crossed to make it stronger

Beam

A ray or shaft of light
A beam of light flashed in front of her
The torch beam dimmed perceptibly

Girder

A beam, as of steel, wood, or reinforced concrete, used as a main horizontal support in a building or bridge.

Beam

A radiant or good-natured look or smile
A beam of satisfaction

Girder

A beam of steel, wood, or reinforced concrete, used as a main horizontal support in a building or structure.

Beam

Transmit (a radio signal or broadcast) in a specified direction
The satellite beamed back radio signals to scientists on Earth

Girder

One who girds; a satirist.

Beam

(of a light or light source) shine brightly
The sun's rays beamed down

Girder

One who girds; a satirist.

Beam

Smile radiantly
She beamed with pleasure

Girder

One who, or that which, girds.

Beam

A squared-off log or a large, oblong piece of timber, metal, or stone used especially as a horizontal support in construction.

Girder

A main beam; a stright, horizontal beam to span an opening or carry weight, such as ends of floor beams, etc.; hence, a framed or built-up member discharging the same office, technically called a compound girder. See Illusts. of Frame, and Doubleframed floor, under Double.

Beam

A transverse structural member of a ship's frame, used to support a deck and to brace the sides against stress.

Girder

A beam made usually of steel; a main support in a structure

Beam

The breadth of a ship at the widest point.

Beam

The side of a ship
Sighted land off the starboard beam.

Beam

(Informal) The widest part of a person's hips
Broad in the beam.

Beam

A steel tube or wooden roller on which the warp is wound in a loom.

Beam

An oscillating lever connected to an engine piston rod and used to transmit power to the crankshaft.

Beam

The bar of a balance from which weighing pans are suspended.

Beam

(Sports) A balance beam.

Beam

The main horizontal bar on a plow to which the share, coulter, and handles are attached.

Beam

One of the main stems of a deer's antlers.

Beam

A ray or shaft of light.

Beam

A concentrated stream of particles or a similar propagation of waves
A beam of protons.
A beam of light.

Beam

A radio beam.

Beam

To radiate light; shine.

Beam

To smile expansively.

Beam

To emit or transmit
Beam a message via satellite.

Beam

To express by means of a radiant smile
He beamed his approval of the new idea.

Beam

Any large piece of timber or iron long in proportion to its thickness, and prepared for use.

Beam

One of the principal horizontal structural members, usually of steel, timber, or concrete, of a building; one of the transverse members of a ship's frame on which the decks are laid — supported at the sides by knees in wooden ships and by stringers in steel ones.

Beam

(nautical) The maximum width of a vessel (note that a vessel with a beam of 15 foot can also be said to be 15 foot abeam).
This ship has more beam than that one.

Beam

(nautical) The direction across a vessel, perpendicular to fore-and-aft.

Beam

The crossbar of a mechanical balance, from the ends of which the scales are suspended.

Beam

The principal stem of the antler of a deer.

Beam

(literary) The pole of a carriage or chariot.

Beam

(textiles) A cylinder of wood, making part of a loom, on which weavers wind the warp before weaving and the cylinder on which the cloth is rolled, as it is woven.

Beam

The straight part or shank of an anchor.

Beam

The central bar of a plow, to which the handles and colter are secured, and to the end of which are attached the oxen or horses that draw it.

Beam

In steam engines, a heavy iron lever having an oscillating motion on a central axis, one end of which is connected with the piston rod from which it receives motion, and the other with the crank of the wheel shaft.

Beam

A ray or collection of approximately parallel rays emitted from the sun or other luminous body.
A beam of light
A beam of energy

Beam

(figuratively) A ray; a gleam.
A beam of hope, or of comfort

Beam

One of the long feathers in the wing of a hawk.

Beam

(music) A horizontal bar which connects the stems of two or more notes to group them and to indicate metric value.

Beam

(railway) An elevated rectangular dirt pile used to cheaply build an elevated portion of a railway.

Beam

(gymnastics) balance beam

Beam

(ambitransitive) To emit beams of light; to shine; to radiate.
To beam forth light

Beam

To smile broadly or especially cheerfully.

Beam

(transitive) To furnish or supply with beams.

Beam

(transitive) To give the appearance of beams to.

Beam

To transmit matter or information via a high-tech wireless mechanism.
Beam me up, Scotty; there's no intelligent life down here.
The injured crewmembers were immediately beamed to sickbay.

Beam

To transmit, especially by direct wireless means such as infrared.

Beam

To stretch something (for example, an animal hide) on a beam.

Beam

To put (something) on a beam.

Beam

To connect (musical notes) with a beam, or thick line, in music notation.

Beam

Any large piece of timber or iron long in proportion to its thickness, and prepared for use.

Beam

One of the principal horizontal timbers of a building or ship.
The beams of a vessel are strong pieces of timber stretching across from side to side to support the decks.

Beam

The width of a vessel; as, one vessel is said to have more beam than another.

Beam

The bar of a balance, from the ends of which the scales are suspended.
The doubtful beam long nods from side to side.

Beam

The principal stem or horn of a stag or other deer, which bears the antlers, or branches.

Beam

The pole of a carriage.

Beam

A cylinder of wood, making part of a loom, on which weavers wind the warp before weaving; also, the cylinder on which the cloth is rolled, as it is woven; one being called the fore beam, the other the back beam.

Beam

The straight part or shank of an anchor.

Beam

The main part of a plow, to which the handles and colter are secured, and to the end of which are attached the oxen or horses that draw it.

Beam

A heavy iron lever having an oscillating motion on a central axis, one end of which is connected with the piston rod from which it receives motion, and the other with the crank of the wheel shaft; - called also working beam or walking beam.

Beam

A ray or collection of parallel rays emitted from the sun or other luminous body; as, a beam of light, or of heat.
How far that little candle throws his beams!

Beam

A ray; a gleam; as, a beam of comfort.
Mercy with her genial beam.

Beam

One of the long feathers in the wing of a hawk; - called also beam feather.

Beam

To send forth; to emit; - followed ordinarily by forth; as, to beam forth light.

Beam

To emit beams of light.
He beamed, the daystar of the rising age.

Beam

A signal transmitted along a narrow path; guides pilots in darkness or bad weather

Beam

Long thick piece of wood or metal or concrete, etc., used in construction

Beam

A column of light (as from a beacon)

Beam

A group of nearly parallel lines of electromagnetic radiation

Beam

(nautical) breadth amidships

Beam

A gymnastic apparatus used by women gymnasts

Beam

Smile radiantly; express joy through one's facial expression

Beam

Emit light; be bright, as of the sun or a light;
The sun shone bright that day
The fire beamed on their faces

Beam

Express with a beaming face or smile;
He beamed his approval

Beam

Broadcast over the airwaves, as in radio or television;
We cannot air this X-rated song

Beam

Especially of the complexion: show a strong bright color, such as red or pink;
Her face glowed when she came out of the sauna

Beam

Experience a feeling of well-being or happiness, as from good health or an intense emotion;
She was beaming with joy
Her face radiated with happiness

Common Curiosities

What is a girder?

A girder is a large principal beam used as the main horizontal support in a structure, designed to bear heavy loads.

What is a beam?

A beam is a structural element that helps distribute loads across space to support floors, roofs, and walls.

Can beams and girders be made of the same materials?

Yes, both can be made from steel, concrete, or wood, depending on the requirements of the structure.

How do girders differ from beams?

Girders are larger and designed to support heavier loads, including the structure's weight and other beams, whereas beams distribute the load across space to support specific parts of a structure.

Why are girders considered more critical than beams in a structure?

Girders are considered more critical because they act as the primary support for the structural load, including beams, ensuring the overall stability of the structure.

Can a structure have both girders and beams?

Yes, most large structures use both girders for main support and beams for distributing loads across different parts.

Is the design of girders and beams the same?

No, the design varies because girders need to support greater loads and spans, requiring them to be more robust than beams.

How are girders used in construction?

Girders are used as the main horizontal supports in buildings and bridges, transferring weight from the structure to the columns and foundations.

What roles do beams play in a building?

Beams support the weight of floors, roofs, and sometimes walls, distributing the load to girders or columns.

How does the size of girders compare to beams?

Girders are generally larger and heavier than beams to accommodate greater loads and longer spans.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger
Link
Previous Comparison
Piscina vs. Washbasin
Next Comparison
Hotmail vs. Gmail

Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at AskDifference.com, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms