Window and Door Lintels: What Are They?

31 October 2023

When it comes to construction or renovation, terms like “lintel” can often baffle the average homeowner. While the lingo may seem obscure, understanding what a lintel is and its function can significantly benefit your project. Whether you’re looking to refurbish your Victorian townhouse or build a sleek new home, lintels are key structural components that you ought to know about.

What is a Lintel?

In its most basic form, a lintel is a horizontal block that spans the space or opening between two vertical supports. It commonly sits above windows and doors to distribute the load away from these openings, ensuring the structural integrity of the building. Lintels can be made from various materials such as timber, steel, and stone, each having its unique advantages and aesthetic values.

Why Are Lintels Important?

A lintel’s primary function is to bear the load above an opening, be it a window or a door, and to divert this weight onto the adjacent structural supports. This ensures that the opening doesn’t compromise the building’s strength or safety. A poorly designed or incorrectly installed lintel can cause significant issues like cracks in the walls, sagging, or, in extreme cases, structural failure.

Types of Lintels

Concrete Lintels

These are generally pre-stressed and are excellent at supporting heavy loads. They are often used in commercial buildings but are increasingly popular in modern residential construction as well.

Timber Lintels

Traditionally used in older homes and particularly period properties, timber lintels add a rustic touch. However, they generally aren’t as strong as their concrete or steel counterparts.

Steel Lintels

These are used for their high strength-to-weight ratio and are commonly found in modern buildings. They can be easily concealed within a wall, offering a sleek finish.

Stone Lintels

Typically found in historic or period buildings, stone lintels are prized for their aesthetic value. Though strong, they can be vulnerable to weathering over time.

Installation Considerations

The installation of lintels requires a keen eye and professional experience. Several factors need to be considered, such as:

  • Size of the Opening: The wider the gap, the stronger the lintel needs to be.
  • Load Above: Understanding the weight that the lintel has to support is crucial for choosing the right type.
  • Material Compatibility: The lintel should be compatible with the other construction materials used to ensure an effective load transfer.
  • Building Regulations: In the UK, lintel installation must comply with specific building regulations and standards.


Like any other part of a structure, lintels require periodic inspection for cracks, corrosion, or signs of distress. Timely maintenance can prevent costly repairs in the future.

Lintels may not be the most glamourous aspect of construction, but their role is undeniably vital. Understanding what they are and their importance can save you both time and money, while ensuring your building stands strong and secure for years to come. Whether you’re dealing with a new build or a refurbishment, make sure to consult with professionals to ensure your lintels are up to the task.