Difference Between Column and Beam

Column vs Beam

Structures are the foundations of a mega city. Structures are mainly in three categories namely steel structures, timber structures and concrete structures. Large structures, which are in different shapes and in different styles, stand on columns and beams, creating frames in handling different loading arrangements. With the capacity, which the structure is holding, the strength of material, the reinforcement requirements, and the area of the sections varies for both columns and beams.  The columns and beams are differentiated in a variety of ways in the structural design, which are going to be analyzed in this article.


In building structures, columns are connected to different footings to transfer the load of the building to the footings of the building. Columns are classified as slender columns and short columns. The slender columns were introduced with the finding of high strength materials. The column is said to be slender, if the cross sectional dimensions are small compared to its length. The load actions on the slender columns are prominent in the form of lateral deflection.

The columns are classified as short columns when the condition is opposite to that of slender columns. In practice, short columns are widely used than slender columns. In short columns, compression action dominates above the bending action.

In concrete columns,  whether slender or short, the main reinforcements are used parallel to the vertical loads, and rectangular or circular ties are used to prevent the bars buckling action. The vertical reinforcement has to be erected straight while pouring concrete.


Beams in a structure is used to carry the loads from the slabs to the columns. In a broader context, concrete beams can be classified as T beams, L beams and rectangular beams. The definition of either L , T or rectangular is got because of the shape of the cross sectional area. In steel beams there are I sections, L sections, U sections etc.

Beams are mainly designed for bending moments and shear stress that are the results of loading. In concrete beams, the transverse reinforcement is used to prevent the bending moments while the vertical reinforcement is used to prevent the shear stresses caused due to loading.

In the industry, pre-stressed concrete beams are widely used in Bridges, while in small scale in houses. The advantage of the prestressed beam is the higher load carrying capacity compared to the normal beam.

Colums vs Beams

- Both, the beams and columns are load carrying elements, but differ in the method or the way of handling the load by each member. That means, the columns bear the compression of the load, whereas  beams bear the bending moment and the shear force of the load.

- Similar materials are used in the construction of columns and beams, which are steel, timber and concrete.

- A building can’t stand without columns but a building can stand without beams.

- Design classifications of beams and columns are different. Column are classified as slender or short, while beams are classified as T,L or rectangular.

- The ties of the columns and the ties or shear reinforcement of beams act differently.

- One should be careful in stating the behavior of each, because the behaviors of the two elements are different.