What are Universal Columns & Universal Beams?

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Steel and Aluminium Pipes — Top End Steel Supplies In Pinelands, NT

It is important to know the difference between steel UC and UB to make sure you source the right product. Knowing this key difference can save you and your customer both time and money. You don’t want to recommend a product that doesn’t meet their specification, so let’s take a look at what separates these two structural steels from one another.

Although they share many properties, Universal Columns & Universal Beams are designed with different properties in mind – namely:

  • Universal Columns: heavier load-bearing capacities
  • Universal Beams: lighter load-bearing capacity; used more often where weight is a consideration

Universal Columns

Universal Columns are “C” shaped sections that are not typically used as beams. Universal Columns are often used for structural support in commercial construction, such as:

  • Supporting floor joists
  • Supporting the rungs of ladders and stairs


These columns come in a variety of sizes and are usually made from Australian Steel. This steel is widely known & respected for its consistency, reliability & strength to weight ratio.

Universal Beams & Columns

The terms ‘universal beam’ (UB) and ‘universal column’ (UC) are used in Australia and New Zealand to refer to [I-beam] and [H-beam] respectively. A universal beam is a beam of the same cross-section along its length. In other words, the steel beam has the same dimensions from end to end. The height of the I‑beam is greater than or equal to its width at any point along its length, whereas a universal column has an equal or greater width than height. The universal column is also known as H‑section, I‑section, W‑section or double T‑section.

Universal Columns (UC) and Universal Beams (UB) are both structural steel shapes. They have a load-bearing capacity which makes them ideal for use in construction, engineering and other similar industries. If you’re in one of these industries and you need to source either UC or UB products, it is important that you know the difference between the two so that you can purchase the right product for your specific application.


Lintels are the horizontal structural elements that support the structure above them. Their purpose is to carry loads from the structure above it, transferring its weight.

Lintels are most commonly made from rolled steel sections but can also be made from beams or universal columns.

Universal columns, also known as UCs, and universal beams, also known as UBs or I-beams have similar shapes, but very different uses.

The unique shapes of these steel sections allow them to carry a heavy load without needing extra support in high-rise buildings and large factories requiring only a small amount of space for construction.


The main difference between a universal column and a universal beam is that universal columns generally have an H shape whereas universal beams have an I shape. In addition, the dimensions of a UC are determined by the size of the web and flange. However, the dimensions of UB are determined by the depth of the web height and width. Their overall strength is less than UC due to their reduced section modulus.

Girders are used in construction to support beams that in turn support floors or ceiling loads. Universal columns find more applications in girders because they possess a higher moment of inertia compared to UBs, which makes them more resistant to bending moments that girders experience due to various construction loads including self-weight.

However, in some situations where bending moments are low (such as when two ends of a girder are supported by walls), UBs can be used for girders instead of UCs.


Now that we’ve gone through the differences between Universal Columns and Universal Beams, you’re ready to pick out the right steel section for your project. Make sure you consider the way your beams will be used and how much weight they’ll need to support before making a decision. If you have any questions about UCs and UBs or if you’d like advice on choosing between them, please get in touch with us today at: topendsteelsupplies.com.au