Temperature gradient will occur when the steel framed column is heated from three sides in a fire. Current design codes provide the design equations to calculate the temperature elevation of the steel column unevenly heated in a fire. However, the design equation is based on the assumption that the temperature is uniformly distributed across the section. The temperature field of a steel column protected by sprayed fire retardant coating with three sided exposed to fire is analyzed using a verified finite element model. Parameters that affect the temperature distribution across the section are investigated, which include the section height, the web thickness, and the fire protection thickness. The coded equations based on the element factor approach are modified according to the finite element simulation results. Different temperature distribution profiles are proposed through using the heated flange temperature, the web temperature, and the protected flange temperature. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.