What is a lintel? How and with what is it made? What is it used for?

Present in most constructions, the lintel is a fundamental part which makes it possible to form the upper part of the opening in a wall. The constitution of a lintel can be carried out with various materials (whether with wood, steel, concrete) and with several techniques (ranging from the prefabricated pre-lintel to the concrete block). This article will allow you to know a little more about this construction element, its characteristics as well as the different materials that can complete it.

What is a lintel?

Basically, the lintel was just a simple wooden beam that was laid horizontally between the two vertical uprights to provide a stable support. Originally, the wooden lintel was used following the creation of a fireplace hearth and in the upper part of all the openings (window and door).

Over time, construction techniques have evolved. Among the techniques that have known great progress, we find that of the enlargement of the openings. This prompted builders and manufacturers to find another material more resistant than wood for the composition of the lintels.

Today, any home will have the possibility of creating an opening in masonry, based solely on the different lintels available on the market. Everyone can either buy a prefabricated model in the store or make their own lintels, using specific materials.

Characteristics of lintels

The specificity of the lintels depends on the width of the opening you want to create. The opening will define the maximum length of your lintel as well as the thickness of the wall in which you wish to integrate your lintel. The maximum length of a lintel will also depend on the technical characteristics of the material you have chosen. Indeed, it is important not to let the lintel sag (curve) once you have laid the masonry. The choice of the lintel will therefore be made according to the materials and the technical constraints of the latter.

What are one-piece lintels?

One-piece lintels are lintels made from a single piece that will be placed on the vertical supports of an opening. Users can find several types of lintels in this category:

The wooden lintel

This type is the traditional lintel. It allows the user to create a one-piece ridge of an opening without the need to use other works for the installation. Generally, the wooden lintel is a piece of beam that is left exposed on a stone construction.

The steel lintel

For the steel lintel, the user will have to replace the wooden beam with a steel IPN (or normal profile beam). Subsequently, he will obtain a solid lintel available in several sections and several lengths. Being in the category of one-piece lintels, the latter exempts the user from heavy work. The length of the steel lintel can be up to 12 meters in total span in the various sections. This length is sufficient to fit into masonry and make the support more stable.

The one-piece concrete lintel

As its name suggests, this lintel is made from reinforced concrete. Even if its span is not greater than that which can be had with an IPN (approximately 1.4 m), the one-piece concrete lintel can be installed more easily and this for the majority of windows and doors on a classic construction. The other advantage of this type of lintel is that it can be integrated into any masonry of the walls.

As a user, you must understand that the one-piece lintel (whether in wood, steel or concrete) can represent a significant weight which can be an obstacle to its installation if you do not have means adequate lifting. But once you have installed it, it allows you to resume your work almost immediately without requiring any drying time.

What are the more elaborate types of lintels?

Currently, there is a category of lintels on the market that can be classified into several segments. The difference of these lintels with the first type is that they require additional work, once you have finished the installation. We find in particular:

The reinforced concrete lintel

This lintel is made thanks to the end-to-end alignment of the chaining blocks. It will then be filled with iron-reinforced concrete. If you have in-depth knowledge of masonry, it will be very easy for you to make this type of lintel without requiring great resources. On the other hand, if you opt for this type of lintel, you need maximum drying and hardening time. Indeed, these two stages can be spread over 28 days. And when you resume construction, don’t forget to remove the props and the cofferdam.

He preliminaries

Halfway between the prefabricated one-piece concrete lintel and the chain block lintel, this type of lintel can replace the cofferdam which is supposed to support the blocks. You just have to place it between the two uprights and then mount it on the breeze blocks without hindering future constructions. Even if the drying time is also important, the prelintel remains the type of lintel that provides the most rigidity.

The chain lintel

Made mainly of concrete, the chaining lintel is one-piece U-shaped. You can install it as is and then fill it with concrete and irons. Its greatest advantage over other types of lintels (including the pre-lintel) is that it offers the possibility of obtaining a large span.

What criteria should be taken into account?

Although this is an important point, the price should not be a decisive criterion for the choice of your lintel. Indeed, the ideal lintel must be able to respect some construction characteristics: the length of the opening, the thickness of the walls as well as the architectural constraints.

When you have considered your purchase budget, you must also include another budget for the installation of your lintel. It is also important to take into account the exposure time that it will require of you as well as the time necessary for hardening and drying.

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