Beams and columns are the main parts of the structural frame. Beams transfer the total loads from the slab to the column and columns carry it to the foundation and provide stability to the structure.

Beam vs Column

Beam and column have several differences. Sources of main differences between beam and column are definition, types of loads to carry and transmission, response to loads, confinement bars, types, importance, design criteria, etc.

In the following table the main differences between beam and column are given:

1 Definition

Horizontal load-bearing members that transfer loads from slabs & walls to the columns beneath it.

Vertical load-bearing members of the building structure which carry the beam loads and transfer the loads down to the foundation.

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2 Types of loads to carry and transmission

The beam carries all the dead loads (loads from the slab, walls, etc), live loads along with the lateral loads (earthquake, wind loads). Beams transfer those loads down to the attached column.

Columns carry all the loads transferred by the beams on top of it. Columns also directly carry the lateral loads (earthquake, wind loads, etc.) Columns transmit those carried loads to the foundation which are located beneath the ground surface.


Response to loads

In response to the loads shear force & bending moment is produced on the beam. Compressive & Tensile stress occurs at the top & bottom of the beam respectively. These forces and stresses cause strain & deflection of the beam. Also, reaction forces occur at the beam supports.

Unlike the beam, only compressive stress occurs at the column. Because Column carries loads through compression. Lateral deflection occurs due to the lateral loads (earthquake, wind, etc.)


Confinement bars

 Longitudinal bars required to confine with confinement bars. For beams, confinement bars are called stirrups. Stirrups are necessary to resist shear force and torsion acting on the beam.

 For columns, confinement bars are called ties. Ties are required to hold the longitudinal bars in position during the construction. Ties also prevent the bars from buckling.

Read more: 

Why column ties are used in reinforced concrete columns?

Why spiral column can support more loads than a tied column?

5 Types

The main classification of beams is defined according to the types of supports under them. Such as: Simply supported, Continuous, Fixed supported, Cantilever, Overhanging, etc.
Beams can also be classified according to the construction materials: Reinforced Cement Concrete Beams & Steel Beams. Steel Beams also come in different shapes like C, I, L, etc.

Columns are classified based on materials, shape, reinforcement, loading method, slenderness ratio, and others.

  1. Based on Loading: Axially Loaded ColumnsEccentrically Loaded Columns: UniaxialEccentrically Loaded Columns: Biaxial
  2. Based on Column Ties: Tied ColumnsSpiral Columns
  3. Based on Slenderness Ratio: PedestalsShort Reinforced ColumnsLong Reinforced Columns
  4. Based on Shape of Cross Section: Geo-matric shaped –Rectangular, Round, Octagonal, Square, etc.L-shapedT-shapedV-shaped
  5. Based on Construction Materials: Reinforced Concrete ColumnComposite ColumnSteel, Timber, Brick Column
  6. Based on Frame Bracing: Braced ColumnUnbraced Column
  7. Other Types: Prestressed Concrete ColumnGreek And Roman Column

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6 Importance

Beams are necessary to transfer the loads to the columns. But a building structure can be made without the beams by providing a flat slab and drop panel column by following proper guidelines.

Columns are the mandatory elements of the structure. A huge amount of loads (both compressive and lateral) are transferred through columns. Failure in columns will result in the collapse of the whole structure.

7 Design Criteria

 In Finite Element Method based analysis DC ratio, longitudinal, Shear, torsional reinforcement check is required while designing a beam.

For designing a column in the PMM interaction ratio, rebar percentage etc.are need to be checked.



Please note that the information in is designed to provide general information on the topics presented. The information provided should not be used as a substitute for professional services.

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