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Types of Beams

Types of Beams in Structural Engineering

Support Configuration

The most common way that structural engineers classify beams is by their support configuration, there are many possible configurations however, these are the 5 most common types:

    1. Simply Supported
    2. Cantilever
    3. Continuous
    4. Fixed
    5. Overhanging

Simply Supported Beam

simply supported beam example

Simply supported beams are defined as having two supports at either end – one pinned and one roller. This is generally considered as being the most simple type of beam. This is a very common type of beam and is determinate because there are three equilibrium equations and only 3 unknown reactions. 2 from the pinned support and 1 from the roller support.

Cantilever Beam

example of a cantilever beam

Cantilever beams are supported from one end, using a fixed support. This is the only type of support that can be used in this scenario as it offers the moment resistance required for the beam to remain stable. If a pinned or roller support was used, it would not offer the moment restraint that the beam would need. A good example of a cantilever beam is a shop awning – where the beam is bolted directly into the wall. This is also a determinate beam because there are only 3 unknown reactions which, is equal to the number of equilibrium equations available.


Check out SkyCiv’s Free Beam Calculator

Continuous Beam

Image showing an example of a continuous Beam type

Continuous beams are multi-spanned beams that have multiple supports across the length of the beam. An example of a continuous beam would be a single beam that is supported by a number of columns along its length. This beam is indeterminate since there are more unknown reactions (6) than equilibrium equations available (3). This is then called a level 3 indeterminate beam.

Fixed Beam

Image showing an example of a Fixed Beam

Fixed beams have fixed supports at either end – offering moment resistance at either end. This type of beam may be used when the designer wants to control the deflection at the mid-span because the two fixed supports prevent rotation. This beam is also indeterminate as the unknown reactions (6) are greater than the equations available (3). This is also a level 3 indeterminate beam.

Overhanging Beam

Image showing an example of a overhanging Beam

Overhanging beams are those with two supports, but unlike simply supported beams, one of the supports is not at the end of the member. A typical example of this is a balcony that is being extended from a frame structure. The frame offers the two supports, yet no support exists at the end of the member – allowing it to ‘overhang’ as the name suggests. This too is an indeterminate beam as the number of unknown reactions (4) is greater than equilibrium equations (3). This is a level 1 indeterminate beam.

Overhanging Beam

Learn more about beams with our beam tutorial series, covering topics such as:

SkyCiv Beam Software

SkyCiv Beam Analysis Software allows users to analyze beam structures easily and accurately. You can get a simplified analysis of your beam member, including reactions, shear force, bending moment, deflection, stresses, and indeterminate beams in a matter of seconds.

If you want to give it a try first, Free Online Beam Calculator is a great way to start, or simply sign up for free today!

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