The so-called zigzag theory has been developed in recent years as an extension of the classical layer-wise theory for modeling composite laminated beams, plates and shells. An advantage of the zigzag theory is that the number of kinematic variables is independent of the number of layers. In this work we present a simple linear two-noded beam element adequate for the analysis of composite and sandwich beams based on the combination of classical Timoshenko beam theory and the refined zigzag kinematics recently proposed by Tessler et al. [19]. The accuracy of the new beam element is tested in a number of examples of applications for composite laminated beams.