What is a Lintel and What Are the Different Types of Lintels?

30 November 2021

A lintel is something you might not have heard of before but it is in fact an essential part of a building’s infrastructure. In this article, we explain what exactly a lintel is, the different types of lintels that can be used.

What Exactly Is a Lintel?

Simply put a lintel is a beam that is usually placed above windows and doors. The lintel’s main job is to support the load from the structure above it. Both doors and windows are not constructed to structurally withstand massive loads by themselves. Lintels are mainly found in masonry or brick structures.

What Are the Different Types of Lintels?

There is a range of lintels that can be used for all types of properties. The type of lintel used can vary on the cost of the material and the availability of the material at the time of construction. The main types of lintels are: Brick lintel, timber lintel, steel lintel and concrete lintel.

Concrete Lintels

Concrete lintels are one of the most common types of lintels used in construction. The reason why concrete lintels are often used is that they are able to support heavy loads and larger spans.

One of the biggest advantages of using concrete lintels in the construction of your building is that they can adapt to any size and shape to fit above your windows and doors. Other advantages include that they are economical as well as durable.

Even with these benefits, this type of lintel can be susceptible to failure. If there is a horizontal crack within the concrete lintel, then this will need to be dealt with as soon as possible. If there is a crack in the lintel then over time it can allow water into the crack that can cause the steel reinforcement within the concrete to rust.

If rusting does occur within a concrete lintel, it might be worth either using a different concrete product or having it replaced altogether.

Timber Lintels

Timber lintels are mainly used in parts of the country where timber is most accessible and are most commonly used in barn conversions. Most properties now often replace timber lintels with modern materials.

There are a few problems that can arise from having timber lintels. One of the main problems is that they tend to be structurally weak and be less durable than other types of lintels. One of the biggest issues is with problems relating to dampness. When timber is affected by damp this can lead to rotting issues forming. There is also the possibility of a woodworm infestation attacking the timber.

When timber lintels are affected, this can mean the structural integrity of the building is vulnerable. It is important that the timbers are treated or removed as soon as possible. We would always recommend a specialist inspect the property to determine what the damp and timber problem is and then detail the type of treatment that is needed to rectify the issue.

Stone Lintels

A stone lintel is a common type of lintel and is used where the stone is easily accessible. They are not often used in buildings based in mountainous areas due to the fact they weigh too much.

This type of lintel is often used in areas of the country where stone materials are easily accessible. There are several problems with stone lintels.  They can be high in cost, vulnerable to transverse stress (bending) and difficult to transport due to their weight.

Steel Lintels

Steel lintels are used when the load above is heavy and the opening gaps are large as well. Unlike concrete lintels, they are much less affected by rust and erosion meaning after installation, they can prove to be reliable for many years.

Steel lintels are less labour intensive than installing more lintels within your building and is much more practical to manoeuvre.

Brick Lintels

Brick lintels are mainly used in properties where there is a light loading above and the opening gap is less than 1m. When the brick lintels that are frog filled with mortar provides shear resistance to the end joints than the standard blocks that are normally used.

Reinforced Brick Lintels

Reinforced brick lintels are used where there are heavy loadings, and the span length may be a problem for brick lintels. Reinforced brick lintels provide more support than brick lintels.

How Can a Lintel Be Repaired?

If you have damaged lintels within your building they should be rectified as soon as possible before they lead to further structural issues. The quicker the lintel failure is identified and the lintel is repaired or replaced then the less expense you will have to pay in the future. Each type of lintel can be repaired differently.

However, if the wrong repairs are carried out for your type of lintel, then this will lead to further problems that could have been resolved sooner.

To contact our team of lintel repair specialists at Timberwise you can either call on 0800 288 8660 or contact us online.