A Quick Guide To Lintels And Their Installation

If like me you’re a lover of renovation programs on the TV you may have heard on more than one occasion that the owner needs to install a lintel before they make any major restorations. But do you really know what a lintel is and more importantly, why and when it’s used? Let’s take a closer look.

Firstly, what exactly is a lintel?

In essence it’s a solid structure which supports an opening. The lintel allows weight bearing loads to be transferred evenly through the foundations without unnecessary stress being placed upon features such as door and window frames. In addition it needs to be solid and strong enough to support the masonry which it is effectively holding in place. Common materials for lintels include…

  • Reinforced or prestressed concrete
  • Reinforced or prestressed masonry stone
  • Galvanised or stainless steel

How do you know when you should install a lintel?

Building regulations state that lintels are needed for all timber frame openings over 600mm in width and all steel frame openings over 900mm in width. In addition if you’re taking down a supporting wall or any part of a supporting wall, then a lintel also needs to be fitted.

How is a lintel installed?

Being solid, lintels aren’t exactly light. Therefore they can either be lifted into position by a team of people, or better still, using the assistance of a portable lifter. Usually a small gap is left between the window, door frame, or top of the opening. This ensures that not only is the lintel evenly supporting the load, but it allows for minor movements such as foundation settlement. The lintel should also be installed centrally enough to ensure adequate bearing and support either side of the load.

In addition the following best practices should also be adhered to.

  • All lintels should be coated to ensure against corrosion, so it’s important to take care not to chip off the outer layer or coating during the installation process.
  • Always ensure the vertical leg of a steel lintel is the highest – This is the best and proper way to support the load above it.
  • Ensure brickwork doesn’t overhang lintels by more than 25mm otherwise it may cause cracking
  • Any brickwork containing a steel lintel needs mortar packing.

At Metro Steel we fabricate and sell a wide range of reinforcing products including steel lintels. So if you have a construction project and are in need of an ‘off the peg’ or bespoke lintel, then we can help. Call us on 07 3204 1000 and talk to our team of friendly experts today.

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