Structural Steel Shapes

There are a wide variety of steel shapes available.  The most common shapes are listed below; however, many manufacturers have special shapes. 

The nomenclature for steel shapes follows two standards:

  1. For wide flange, bearing pile, S-shapes, channels, and tees: the letter indicates the shape, the first number indicates the nominal height, and the second number indicates the weight per 1 foot of length.  For instance, the W12x36 listed in the table below is a wide flange shape that has a nominal height of 12" and weighs 36 pounds per foot of length.
  2. For steel tubes, pipes, plates, and angles: the 3 numbers indicate the height, width, and thickness of the steel. 
Graphic of a Steel Wide Flange

Wide Flange

Nomenclature: W12x36

Flange surfaces are parallel; flange thickness is not necessarily equal to the web thickness.

Graphic of a Steel Bearing Pile

Bearing Pile

Nomenclature: HP14x73

Flange surfaces are parallel; flange and web have equal thicknesses.

Graphic of an American Standard Beam Steel Shape

American Standard Beam

Nomenclature: S15x50

The inner flange surface is sloped.

Graphic of a Steel Channel


Nomenclature: C12x30

Standard AISC flanges have sloped inner flange surfaces.

Graphic of a Steel Tee


Nomenclature: WT12x38, ST12x38, MT12x38

WT shapes are cut from a wide flange.

ST shapes are cut from American Standard Beams.

MT shapes are cut from non-standard I-shapes.

Graphic of a Hollow Steel Section or Steel Tube

Hollow Steel Section or Steel Tube

Nomenclature: HSS12x6x0.5, TS12x6x0.5

Either nomenclature is acceptable; however, HSS is more common.

Graphic of a Steel Angle


Nomenclature: L2x2x0.5, L6x3x0.5

Angles come in equal leg or unequal leg sizes. The diagram at left shows an unequal leg.

Graphic of a Steel Pipe


Nomenclature: Pipe 4 STD

Graphic of a Steel Plate


Nomenclature: PL 0.5x12"x30"

Very small plates can also be called bars.

Article Updated: May 16, 2021

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