Steel channels also known as channel iron, are structural steel products that have a cross sections shaped like a “C,” as well as a vertical back, which is referred to as the web. There are also two horizontal extensions, which are called flanges and that can be found at the bottom and top of the part. Compared to products such as I-beams, the steel channel is not as heavy; however, it is also weaker. While this is true, the steel channel provides more support than a traditional angle iron or a flat bar, without adding too much to the total weight.
Often, steel channels are used as structural components in buildings, as studs, rafters, or for cross-bracing. They can also be used to create vehicle frames, trailer frames, and other structures. It is a component that is both affordable and versatile. You can find several steel channel options in different grades to ensure there is one that suits the needs of your project. Check out our steel channel size chart below.
Common Ways That Steel Channels Are Used
A steel channel is a versatile product that can be purchased in several thicknesses and sizes. The steel channel has several uses. Most of these are structural. Keep reading for some examples of how these are used.
A steel channel is commonly used for building walls for structures such as workshops, warehouses, garages, and other metal buildings. In these situations, they are used like studs would be with traditional wood framing.
The studs will be installed vertically from the bottom of the plate of the wall up to the top of the plate. The goal is to have these bear the building’s vertical load. When compared to a wood stud, the steel channel is able to support more weight and it is much more rigid. However, the difference in weight between the steel channel and wood studs is considered negligible. However, it can be more difficult to install the steel channel. After all, the process includes riveting, bolting, or welding, rather than just driving nails, which is necessary with wood.
Pole Barn Walls
Another use for steel channels is for pole barns. In this case, the channels are installed horizontally from one pole to the next, providing an attachment point for the exterior siding. Usually, this exterior siding is sheet metal. It can also be ran along the inside of the structure, providing support for all types of interior wall finishes, including drywall.
When the steel channel is used, rather than wood slats or another material, the distance between these poles can be increased without impacting the wall’s integrity. For longer lengths, it is not uncommon for wood to twist or warp, which can make a finished wall seem uneven, wavy, and reduce its overall rigidity and its ability to serve as a load-bearing wall.
For light-duty roofs, it is possible to use steel channel as rafters and run it from the roof’s eaves to the ridge. This is going to provide a high level of support for the roof deck. When a steel channel is used, rather than wood, the rafters can be lighter and smaller, all while supporting the same total weight.
When compared to wood, steel channels are longer-lasting and stronger, and they will not suffer damage because of moisture, fungal decay, or rot.
For heavier-duty roofs, I-beams are commonly used as rafters and the ridge. The steel channel is then placed perpendicularly at the top of the rafters, every few feet, and go from the ridge all the way down to the eave. This lets the steel channel effectively bridge the gaps present in between the rafters and lets them be installed further apart. It also provides a sturdy attachment point for the roof’s steel deck.
Door and Window Frames
The steel channels that are used today can also be used for creating secure frames for doors and windows in both wood- and metal-framed buildings. With this, four pieces will be cut, and miter joints will be located at every end. At this point, the channel can be slid over the wall in the door or the window opening. The result is a flat surface in the opening where you can mount a window or door. It is also more secure than frames that are made out of wood. A steel channel can be used to build frames for commercial fire doors, along with sub-grade basement doors depending on your specific needs.
Wood Beam Supports
If additional strength is required for a wood-framed building, a steel channel can be used to help increase the overall rigidity and the wood beam’s strength. With this, you can place wood beams along the inside of the larger steel channel, which creates additional strength. All this is possible while still allowing the easy attachment of joists, along with other components, to the wooden beam.
Another option is to put a smaller steel channel at the base of the beam, and supported with posts, to help increase the current strength of the current beam during a remodel. You can also use the steel channel at the top of a beam as a cap. This will add strength while a home is being constructed.
Steel channels may also be used for building vehicle frames. Sometimes, these are made specifically for this purpose. A heavier-duty steel channel is usually used for creating main frame rails that go from the front portion of the vehicle all the way to the back. With a lighter steel channel, you can use it to create cross members, braces, or you can use it to help with structural components, like the support for a radiator. When these are used for automotive manufacturing, the steel channel offers enough rigidity and strength to keep the vehicle from over-flexing, all while still ensuring some movement to provide compensation for the engine’s torque.
If you require steel channels for a project, of any type, be sure to purchase them from a quality supplier like Hamill Metals. This will ensure you get the high quality components you want and need for your project and that it meets your needs and expectations.
Steel Channel size chart