What is a lintel?
Lintels are horizontal beams that are installed within the structure of a building. They span across to top of openings to walls such as doors, windows, and archways, supporting the structure above. They are important for the following reasons:
- Structural support: Lintels distribute the load from the structure above, ensuring that the weight is transferred to the surrounding walls or columns without causing any deformation or collapse.
- Opening stability: Lintels prevent the walls around openings from sagging or collapsing due to the concentrated load created by the opening.
- Architectural design: Lintels provide a finished appearance to openings, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of a building.
Issues can occur
It is essential to ensure that lintels are properly designed, constructed, and installed according to building regulations and engineering standards to avoid issues and maintain the structural integrity of the building. If a lintel is not installed into a building, is incorrectly installed or fails over time, significant issues can occur. These issues include:
- Structural instability: Without proper lintels, openings can cause excessive stress on the surrounding walls, leading to cracks, bulging, or even collapse of the structure.
- Sagging or deflection: Inadequate lintel design or construction can result in sagging or deflection of the lintel itself, causing problems with the opening, such as difficulty in opening and closing doors or windows.
- Water ingress: If lintels are poorly installed or damaged, they may not provide a proper barrier against water infiltration. This can lead to moisture issues, including dampness, mould growth, and potential damage to the building’s interior.
Construction can vary
Construction and installation of lintels can vary depending on the material and design of the building. Common types of lintels and their construction methods are listed below:
- Steel lintels: Steel lintels are often used in modern construction. They are usually fabricated off-site and then installed on-site. Steel lintels are designed to withstand heavy loads and are often shaped like an I-beam or a channel. They are placed horizontally above the opening, supported by the surrounding walls.
- Reinforced concrete lintels: Reinforced concrete lintels are made by pouring concrete into formwork supported by temporary props. The formwork is removed once the concrete has cured and gained sufficient strength to support the load. Reinforcing bars or steel mesh are incorporated within the concrete to enhance its strength.
- Precast concrete lintels: Precast concrete lintels are manufactured off-site and delivered to the construction site as pre-made components. They are made in a factory-controlled environment, ensuring consistent quality. Precast lintels are then installed by placing them on the supporting walls or columns.
Knowledge is key
When we inspect a property, structural defects and movement are just one of the significant issues we look for. Structural issues can be very expensive and inconvenient to repair so, it is important that buyers are made aware of any issues prior to committing to a property purchase.
Our surveyors are all RICS registered, experienced and approachable. We cover the whole of the North West and North Wales and would be happy to discuss your requirements and how we can help. You can see our range of services here and get in touch with us here.