The Self Build Self Help Site wall structure


Lintels, to bridge window and door openings, can be concrete or steel. Which type to choose?

Concrete Lintels

For all doors and window openings, including internal doors in block walls, these will be 4" by 6" (100mm by 150mm). They are much cheaper than steel and the total price difference for a complete house will be significant.

They are heavier, but - they are maneagable and even longish ones, say 2.1m can be carefully handled and put in place by 2 people (2 brickies plus labourer is easier). But longer than that and they will be very difficult to manage - and more so if the length dictates bigger than a 4" by 6" cross section. So, for a garage door opening steel lintels are the only practical option.

Cannot be used for a brick finish as the lintel will show

Being 4" by 6", two are required for each opening on the external walls. Take this into account when comparing price with steel. This does have the advantage that the outside and inside leaf can be built independently and taken to different heights.

Just one lintel required for internal walls, as in the photo to the right.

Diagram of structure of soffit

The inside leaf has been taken up to one
block above the lintel. The blockwork on the
outside leaf is just halfway up the window opening.

Diagram of structure of soffit

Where 2 doors are adjacent, an option is to use one
lintel across both - a bit heavier to handle but quicker

(Click on photo for a larger view)

Steel Lintels

There are a number of different profiles but, for a new build, you will most likely need one for a standard block cavity wall or for a timber frame. When ordering you will need to specify the various dimensions - width of cavity, width of leaves, opening size (need at least 150mm extra at each end of the opening) etc.

Compared with concrete they are light, and 2 people can quite easily handle a steel lintel 3m long, such as might be required for a single garage opening. For the span of a double garage door then a much heavier profile lintel is required.

Steel lintels will be required for a brick faced finnish

A steel lintel provides extra strength to the wall as it bridges the cavity - more important for a very wide opening

As is indicated above, both leaves need to be brought up to the required height before a steel lintel can be put in place.

If you wish to change from the architects requirement, e.g. steel to concrete, then this should be no problem but you'll need to discuss it with the architect.
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