A Lintel is a beam across the top of a door, widow or other opening in the walls of a building, and supporting the structure of the walls above the opening.
A variety of materials can be used for lintels. Stone or wooden beams will be found in older properties, but in modern properties steel or pre-stressed concrete are used. Steel lintels are usually covered by non-structural brickwork and plasterboard so that they are not visible.
Problems with lintels which may be revealed in a survey report include:
- Failure of the lintel – this can occur when a stone lintel cracks or a wooden lintel rots, causing cracking or collapse of the wall above.
- Rust or corrosion in a steel lintel – this can occur when the steel was not treated before installation, or the rust-proofing has broken down. When rust occurs this can cause damage to adjacent brickwork.
- Subsidence of the structure supporting the lintel – lintels rest on the walls of the building, so if these subside the lintel can be left unsupported.