Cost to Install Steel Beams
Using steel beams for structural support is common practice among commercial builders and in industrial applications. And although they’re less popular in residential construction, the use of steel beams when building, renovating or adding an addition to a home carries several benefits when compared to wood beams. Because of the precise nature and engineering required, adding a steel beam to a home is a job reserved for professional contractors, not DIYers. Therefore, homeowners considering the use of steel beams need to understand the costs and benefits of this option, especially in comparison to typical wood beams.
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National Install Steel Beams Costs
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Table of Contents
- Steel Beam Costs
- Steel Beam Cost Factors
- Steel Beam Costs Compared to Wood
- Types of Steel Beams
- When to Use Steel Beams
- Advantages of Steel Beams
- Disadvantages of Steel Beams
- Find A Pro
Steel Beam Costs
Installing a steel beam in a home can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the size of the beam, the location of the structure, labor rates and market prices. With such great variation, understanding the circumstances surrounding your specific foundation project, especially the size and quality of the steel beam itself, is even more critical. This is because the price of steel beams fluctuates along with the commodities market. As a result, the cost of a steel beam can go up and down, dramatically, along with the pace of the stock market. However, on average, users report steel beam installation costs around $2,100 on average.
Steel Beam Cost Factors
There are two major factors that affect the cost of a steel beam installation project: the cost of the beam itself and the cost of all the associated labor needed to install it. It’s helpful to look at each of these categories separately:
The Cost of Steel
Because steel, in its raw form, is a commodity, it’s subject to the fluctuations of that market, along with the rise and fall of supply and demand worldwide. In other words, both general market conditions along with the demand for steel as far as China affect the price of a steel beam used in the United States.
The good news for homeowners considering the use of steel beams is that its price has dropped significantly in a short period of time. While the price of steel in 2008 reached a high of $1,265 per ton, in the early part of 2016, that figure had dropped down to a new low of only $90 per ton. While these prices are only for steel as a raw material, not the actual beams used in construction, they clearly indicate how important it is to consider the current market when deciding whether or not to use steel beams in home construction.
The Cost of Hiring the Pros Needed to Install A Steel Beam
In addition to the beam itself, there’s a number of pros whose expertise is essential for the safe installation of a steel beam. Each of them may charge more or less according to the needs of your project, so it’s important to note the range of costs commonly incurred:
- Engineer or Architect: A structural engineer or architect must evaluate the worksite and advise contractors on the size and strength of the steel beam needed for a particular project. These pros charge between $400 and $600 per assessment.
- Contractors: The professionals who physically install the steel beam, along with the equipment they use to lift and place it, all contribute to the overall cost of this project. On average, the labor rate for contractors completing this type of work ranges from $200 to $400 per beam.
- Delivery: Getting a steel beam to a building site from a steel mill is an exercise in logistics. Pros must consider the weight of the beam, the size of the truck, the distance the truck must travel and the physical challenges of unloading it at a site. Delivery and transport of a steel beam costs between $600 and $1,200 on average.
Steel Beam Costs Compared to Wood
With the exception of the beam itself, the cost to install wood beams compared to steel beams is pretty much the same. In both instances, architects or structural engineers need to determine the types of beams needed, contractors must install them and trucks must deliver them. Wood beams often take less time to install, however, which lowers total labor costs.
The costs of wood beams vary, though not as greatly as steel and, oftentimes, homeowners can get a discount on the per-unit price when they purchase more than one wood beam. On average, homeowners can expect to pay between $40 and $100 for the beams themselves and between $300 and $1,100 for installation of wood beams.
Types of Steel Beams
Steel beams come in a variety of shapes and sizes as well as weights designed to provide different levels of support for different structures. While there are two main types of steel I-beams, there’s an additional numeric designation that users must pay attention to. This number defines the height, weight and ultimately, strength of an I-beam, which can be cut to any length. An 8x17 beam, for example, is 8” high and 17 lbs. per linear foot. This beam is much lighter and not as strong as a 10x31 beam, which is 10” high and 31 lbs. per linear foot.
This is the most common I-beam design used in residential construction. The S-beam is easy to identify by its tapered flanges, which supply a higher degree of support at a lighter density. Contractors commonly refer to S-beams as “junior beams” because of this increased strength at a lighter weight. S-beams are available in all sizes, usually up to 100 feet.
Called an “H-beam” because its flanges are straight on either end, resembling that letter, H-beams are more commonly found in commercial construction because their design is much wider than the S-beam, which conforms to code requirements for these larger structures. H-beams are available in lengths up to 330 lbs. and are usually much heavier than S-beams because of their design and longer size.
When to Use Steel Beams
Using steel beams over wood beams has become more and more common among residential builders as the price of steel has gone down. This is because steel provides superior support at a much smaller size compared to wood. Builders may choose to use steel beams in general construction to take advantage of this slimmer profile, which allows them to create a more open space with the same level of support with slimmer, smaller load-bearing walls.
In addition, when securing masonry, the benefits of the stronger steel beam are hard to deny. Wood beams are subject to rot and deflection, which can impact the structural integrity and destroy masonry work. What’s more, using wood beams in this circumstance may actually be a code violation.
Advantages of Steel Beams
The properties of steel make it an ideal building material. It’s strong at a smaller profile and resistant to rot, fire and pests. As a result, steel beams represent a safer, longer-lasting option compared to wood that are less likely to need replacement over time.
The stronger support steel beams provide are ideal for home designs that require large, open floor plans. They’re also critical elements for the safe, long-lasting support of masonry work. In recent years, as the price of steel has fallen, these benefits and the fact that homes using steel beams actually need fewer beams than those using wood, have also made this a cost-effective building choice.
Disadvantages of Steel Beams
Most of the disadvantages related to using steel beams take place at the foundation installation phase. Steel is incredibly heavy and hard to manage for any worker not accustomed to it and can crack a foundation if dropped. Delivery and engineering can also drive up the final cost of a project if a home is in a remote location or the beam size needed isn’t standard.
Find A Pro
Working with heavy steel beams isn’t a job for DIYers, no matter how experienced you are in support construction. Therefore, finding a qualified contractor who has experience working with steel beams or foundations is essential for success.
Be sure to check out our free lead generator today and get in contact with pros near you who can help with your steel beam installation project.
Last updated on Nov 17, 2016
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