Hollow Structural Sections vs. W-Beams

Weathering Steel Hollow Structural Sections

Hollow Structural Sections vs. W-Beams

The practical and aesthetic benefits of using weathering steel Hollow Structural Sections make it an ideal material choice for structural applications in buildings and other structures such as bridges, architecturally exposed buildings, fencing, railings and more. 

When it comes to steel construction Hollow Structural Sections, often referred to as square and rectangular tubing and pipe, are greatly under-utilized in the U.S. construction market. Architects, engineers, and contractors are still opting for  W-Beams, or Wide Flange beams, even though Hollow Structural Sections, especially in High Strength Weathering Steel, offer several advantages and are often the better choice for construction and structural applications. 

What are Hollow Structural Sections?

Hollow Structural Sections, or HSS, are cold-formed, welded steel tubes used for welded or bolted construction of buildings, bridges, and other structures as well as a wide-range of manufactured products. They are produced in square, round, and rectangular shapes to meet structural design requirements. 

The corten-equivalent or weathering steel ASTM specification for HSS is ASTM A847. The atmospheric corrosion resistance of this steel is substantially better than carbon steel with or without a copper addition in most environments. ASTM A847 is intended for welded, bolted or riveted construction where high strength and enhanced corrosion resistance are required. 

Advantages of using HSS

Hollow Structural Sections add strength and beauty to any steel structure. From cost savings to flexibility, using HSS for construction and structural applications offers several advantages compared to using W-beams:

Cost savings 

In every construction project, keeping costs down is crucial. Using Hollow Structural Sections yields significant weight savings that then lead to significant material cost savings. It simply takes less steel to do the same job. When working with HSS, less steel is required to support a given load, which translates directly to material cost savings. Lastly, if unpainted weathering steel is specified along with the Hollow Structural Section, you receive a double dose of cost savings on the initial construction and additional life cycle cost savings due to the very limited ongoing maintenance costs when compared to a painted structure. Also, when there is less weight involved, you will save money in transportation, handling and erection costs. 


HSS, in weathering (ASTM A847) and non-weathering (ASTM A500 and 1085) are readily available from many steel distributors and can be easier to source for your project compared to W-Beams.  


Because there are countless size options associated with W-beams, selecting the appropriate size for your application can become complicated. With HSS, there are only 40-60 square and rectangular tube sizes produced. The straight sides of square and rectangular tubing or HSS make fabrication simpler, as well. 

Aesthetic appeal and flexibility 

Weathering steel HSS provide increased aesthetic appeal and flexibility for architects, engineers, and contractors. Weathering steel is extremely durable and versatile. Plus, the patina weathering steel acquires over time blends well with stone, wood, plants, and other outdoor elements. 

Contact Central Steel Service for ASTM A847 corten-equivalent weathering steels 

Central Steel Service stocks high-strength, corrosion-resistant weathering steel Hollow Structural Sections, including pipe and tube, in a variety of sizes. If you are not leveraging the advantages of HSS in your projects, we encourage you to reconsider. Contact one of our experienced sales associates to learn more about our ASTM A847 availability and the advantages of Hollow Structural Sections!