Out-of-flatness of steel plate girder webs, part I: Tolerance review and measurements

Parfait M. Masungi, Maria E.M. Garlock, Spencer E. Quiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Slender webs in welded steel plate I-girders (often used for long spans or load transfer in bridges and buildings) develop initial out-of-flatness imperfections as a result of fabrication (e.g., rolling, forming, welding, and assembly). Previous research has suggested that these imperfections can reduce the shear strength of the web; therefore, various specifications since the 1960s have included out-of-flatness imperfection tolerance limits for webs in steel plate girders. The research presented in this paper (1) provides a comprehensive review of current web out-of-flatness tolerance limits and measurement approaches, (2) introduces an alternative measurement technique for the out-of-flatness of webs (which collects a wide array of equispaced measurements), and (3) presents field measurements of 23 web panels (bounded by transverse stiffeners) across 12 different girders (with depths ranging from 0.914 to 2.08 m) that were commercially fabricated for bridge applications. The peak value for the out-of-flatness of the web, averaged across all measurements for each panel, was d/170 (where d represents the least panel dimension). However, the location of peak out-of-flatness is seldom at the middle of the panel and has a ‘dimpled’ shape, meaning that the peak out-of-plane bulge covers only a small portion of the panel. The measurements demonstrated in this paper provide significantly more data resolution, thus enabling a better evaluation of the true impact of realistically irregular imperfection shapes and magnitudes on the shear strength of the plate. Such an evaluation based on the measurements presented in this paper is documented in a companion paper and is performed via numerical finite element analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108543
JournalJournal of Constructional Steel Research
StatePublished - Apr 2024
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Metals and Alloys


  • Bridges
  • Measurements
  • Steel plate I-girders
  • Tolerance limits
  • Web out-of-flatness


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