Difference between Beam and Girder

Beams and girders are the structures made of timber, steel, or concrete that support and act as a primary structural system for buildings, bridges, and many other heavy structures. Even though both the members are used for the same purpose, and the terms are used synonymously, they come with distinguishing factors.

For any engineer, builder, contractor, or architect who is working in the construction industry, it is very important to understand the difference between both them.

An interesting fact is that all grinders can be beams, but all beams are not grinders because grinders are horizontal structures that are used in supporting the smaller beams. Confused??? Don't worry, we have your back. In this article, we’ll help you understand what beams and grinders are and their differences.

What is a Beam?

The beam is a primary and basic part of a structural framing system typically designed to carry heavy distributed loads such as walls and roofs. In engineering, it is one of the commonly designed elements that is used in resisting the load, resisting bending moments, shear forces, and vertical loads. In simple terms, a beam is used to resist lateral loads by calculating the primary requirements to form a structure.

What is a Girder?

A girder is basically a horizontal beam that supports other small beams. Unlike beams, a girder's load-carrying capacity will be much higher than that of other beams. Girders can be made from various materials such as concrete, and stainless steel, or can be a combination of both.

Difference between Beam and Girder

Though both have the same purpose and have a lot of similarities, let's try to understand the difference between them.

Beams are horizontal primary structures that are designed elements of a building.
Girders are a larger type of beam that carries smaller beams.
In a structure, if there are larger beams supporting smaller beams, then smaller beams are beams and larger ones are girders. Beams are smaller than girders
Generally, a large horizontal beam supports smaller beams; the large beam is the girder. Girders are larger than beams and can only be called girders when they are supporting smaller beams.

It is used for carrying distributed loads of roof systems, parallel walls, and tributary areas.
It is used as major horizontal support of a structure. It carries major loads such as columns and beam reactions.
Beams are used in the construction of residential projects such as buildings.
Girders are used for commercial structures such as bridges and flyovers.
Construction or fabrication
Beams do not need consideration of additional requirements. They are mainly smaller and can be either cast on-site or fabricated.
For the fabrication of girders, additional factors have to be considered such as erection, plate sizing, deck placement sequence, welded connections, stability, and more.
Beams can be of three types simply supported beam, cantilever beam or fixed beam
Girders are mainly smaller I- Beams or box girders mainly used in bridge construction
Beam is strainer that can bend to accommodate shear stresses.
Girder, on the other hand, is more rigid to support smaller beams.
Load bearing capacity
Beams can carry weight but when compared to girders it is very low. It cannot hold the weight that girders can hold
Girders are designed to carry heavy and rolling loads.


Beams are considered to be one of the most used elements for residential purposes. They are horizontal structural elements with dynamic load-bearing capability. Beams are also known by their alternative names based on their location of use. A beam that supports other smaller beams is called a girder. Girder is mainly used for commercial purposes and can carry solid loads. In short, all girders are beams but not all beams are girders.

Updated on: 08-Jul-2022

2K+ Views

Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started