Abstract The strength and stability of steel columns that have suffered localized damage are investigated through analytical and computational means. An analytical model based on the Rayleigh–Ritz technique is employed in conjunction with detailed finite element models that were validated using available experimental results. A parametric study is performed using the finite element models to assess the effect of location of damage, extent of damage, role of initial imperfection, as well as asymmetric damage on the stability of a steel column. Design guidelines utilizing commercial software typically found in a design office are presented to provide a practical technique for approximating the results obtained using the analytical and computational models. Analytical and simulation results show that localized flange loss in a steel column could lead to a severe reduction in its axial resistance.