Steel lintels?

Should primed steel lintels be painted? If so, any documentation to back this up? Appreciate any and all responses.

Thanks, Steve

It is a good idea to keep them well painted to avoid rusting. When metal lintels rust, they expand which will lead to masonry cracks. If primed that should suffice for a while.

Thanks Dave, do you know of any documentation to back this up? A friend just built a 1.4 million dollar home and the lintels are not painted, just the primer that comes on them. They were told by the brick mason that you are never to paint them as they will rust sooner if painted.

Brick lintels should always be primed at minimum or galvalum at best.

Page nine.

Hope this helps.

Marcel :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Thanks Marcel, that was just what I was looking for. Again, greatly appreciated.


Anytime you have steel exposed to the weather there is the effect of oxidation. Oxidation = rust. In the chemical reaction, the steel will expand with the result of placing extreme pressure on the surrounding and/or ajoining masonry structure. These stresses can exceed 10000 lbs per sq inch depending on the application, location of the oxidation and age of the structure. The primer that comes on the steel lintels, if marred in any way creates an entry point for moisture to begin the chemical reaction. Therefore, the steel lintels should, as a matter of best practice be sealed using at miniimum a paint specific to use on exterior steel which could mean an epoxy paint with the most ‘solids’ for best protection from oxidation. Also, those steel lintels need constant monitoring for exposure to the elements as even the slightest settlement could expose unprotected surfaces. For this reason, and many others, precast/prestressed lintels in masonry structures are the lintel of chise unless of course the application is to support brick veneer on the outside of a stickbuilt structure.

Hope this helps.

Why do I get a thank you here and a red square at the same time?

Thank you.

boston is full of steel lintels in good shape and some in not-so-good shape.
same goes for precast and stone - some good, some cracked.

these days, though, it is silly not to use painted galvanized steel lintels (well, maybe not for “green” buildings) to support brick veneer.

more importantly tho is flashing and weep holes that direct water away and off of the lintel. regardless of the protection, if water is allowed to run across the steel (or whatever) it will eventually wear it out like the grand canyon.

that said, the primed lintels, if properly installed, on your friends house will probably outlive your friend.

another thought - if they were painted would you consider if they were properly sized? how do you know they were engineered for the width of the opening?? :wink:

If there was deflection, I would note it.


I’m not sure as to what you are referring to with the red square. All I did was reply with a thank you. Don’t even know how to give someone a red square. BTW what the hell does a red square mean?


Thanks Steve.

Red squares and green squares are all part of this reputation points for helping out someone.

When you click on the stars, you can either approve or disapprove.

I guess someone felt that my post was of no help and disapproved.

The jerk could of asked for more help instead. Did not leave his name either.

Feel free to ask any questions if I can help you.


Marcel :slight_smile:

Another point about lintels that is often seen as a problem: steel lintels should bear on at least 8 inches of masonry either side of the opening. Often you see lintels with three or four inches of bearing, and you see a crack in the masonry at the corner of the opening. Extending the ends just a few inches can prevent such cracking.

And as pointed out above, flashing and weep holes are vitally important. The flashing of choice is neoprene flexible flashing, because it tolerates different expansion rates between the masonry veneer and the substrate.

Do you have a cite for that? … not saying it’s wrong, but AFAIK 4 inches is standard, pp 9

and I’m skeptical that an additional 4" would prevent oxide jacking - I’ve seen rusting lintels lift 3 stories of a structural brick wall, and if anything an additional 4 inches would seem (to me) to just increase the area exerting a lifting force.

4" bearing on each end of the lintel is standard on typical openings you would find in a house.

i’m not sure what you mean by “crack in the masonry”. are you saying that lintels with a 4" bearing cause the masonry (brick or block) to crack? or that it is causing the mortar to crack.

there’s a lot of stress going on in any inside corner, and esp at the head of a masonry opening. buildings are living moving things and that shows up alot at the headers of openings. add thermal movement to the brick/steel/mortar, add movement of the door or window frame, pressure from freeze thaw – jeez it’s a wonder it doesn’t just quit!:wink: but somehow, they just seem to be able to, if properly built, last for years and decades.