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Any **horizontally oriented structural member** that primarily carries vertical normals ([[load loads]] caused by gravity), and secondarily [[LateralLoad lateral loads]] (winds, earthquakes, etc). Beams rest on [[column columns]], walls, [[girder girders]], and in some instances [[grade]] (see [[GradeBeam grade beam]]), which then transfer the [[load loads]] they carry to other members, eventually dissipating at grade.

Beams can be of any tensile material, such as metal or wood. When cast out of [[concrete]], it is typically necessary to [[reinforcement reinforce]] the beam; otherwise the beam must be [[prestressed]]. The most common type of beam is the [[WideFlangeSection wide flange section]], commonly mistaken for an [[IBeam I-beam]].

Beams, like many other structural members, are placed under multiple stresses within itself; the top of the beam will experience [[compression]], while the bottom will experience [[tension]]. Somewhere in between, commonly in the center for equally symmetric members, the [[NeutralAxis neutral axis]] will be present, which is the axis upon which all forces equal zero.

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