A lintel is a structural horizontal support used to span an opening in a wall or between two vertical supports. It is frequently used over windows and doors, both of which represent vulnerable points in a building's structure. Lintels are generally used for load-bearing purposes, but they can also be decorative.
The most common materials for lintels are timber, steel and concrete.
Timber is low cost, readily available and can be easily cut to size on site. However, it is generally only suited to small openings with low loadings.
Precast concrete lintels are economical and provide robust support for structures such as masonry over door and window openings. They are able to accept a wide range of surface finishes.
Steel lintels are generally made from pre-galvanised steel which is cut and either roll-formed or pressed into the required shape. Steel has the advantage over concrete in that the lintels are usually lighter and are easier to handle on site. The lintel can be shaped so that it is not visible above the opening. Steel is also versatile and can be custom-produced according to the specific building requirement, whether arched, in a corner, forming a bay window, and so on.