How are Brick Wall Openings Supported – Lintels, Arches, Steel Beam

When it comes to brickwork, it’s a must that it should be supported over openings. This can be done in 5 different methods, including directly from the reinforced concrete structure, prefabricated brickwork, prefabricated reinforced concrete steel angles or bars and brick arches. The support required for the brickwork can be completely provided by the steel angles, but they can also be attached to the main structure so the load can therefore be transferred to it.

Brick arches

How are Brick Wall Openings Supported Lintels Arches Steel BeamCarrying brickwork over an opening is traditionally done by using brick arches of different curvatures. However, in order to build an arch, you need to build a timber formwork first and then, after the arch is completed, you should remove it and make sure the mortar is properly set. The good news is that this can also be achieved using regular rectangular bricks with moderately tapered joints, but only if the curvature’s radius is large enough.

On the other hand, if you’re dealing with a tight arch, then you should taper the bricks which undoubtedly increases the amount of time required to complete the project. On top of that, arches also need a massive amount of adjoining wall to stabilize it against the arch’s outward thrust.

Steel supports

If you’re dealing with short spans of up to 3feet, then they can be easily spanned by using a flat bar. If your spans are longer than that though, then you’ll need to consider using stronger sections or angles. Since the lintel is going to increase to a minimum of one hundred millimeters over the opening, the width of the leg in the bed joint needs not be larger than the width of the joint (usually ten millimeters). The steel needs to be properly protected against corrosion by using hot dip galvanizing which’s density is going to be influenced by the environment’s corrosion level. The good news is that when it comes to highly corrosive environments, stainless steel can definitely be used without any problems.

In the majority of cases, the bottom of the steel angle is going to be exposed at bed joint level. While some people may decide to leave it as is, if you don’t like it then you could paint it in order to improve its aesthetic appeal.

Brick only soffit

Depending on the project you’re working on, you may want to consider a brick only soffit and in this case you can also reinforce the bed joints of a few courses above the opening by using proprietary stainless steel helical strips or better yet, galvanized steel rods. Keep in mind that if you decide to go down this route, it’s essential to hire an engineer to design it who will probably recommend you to use fifteen millimeters of cover to the steel.

Proprietary galvanized steel bar lintel system

If this is not something you may want to consider, then you could go for a proprietary galvanized steel bar lintel system. What makes this different than the previous one is that it’s embedded in the bed joint above the opening. In terms of the amount of lintel you’ll need per leaf, one should be more than enough. Keep in mind that when doing such installations, it’s vital that you follow the instructions laid out by the manufacturer or engineer.

Article by Echevarria Mendez

I've been working with concrete all my life. It's a material to admire for its strength and beauty.