The Adjustable Scaffolding Advantage
Cut costs, jack up production, fit into confined spaces and work safely
By Brett Martin
Mason contractors looking to reign in costs during this recession should take a new look at adjustable scaffolding. While these scaffold systems can’t compete with high-tech mast climbers on high-rise commercial buildings, they do offer ways for contractors to hold the line on costs on most other jobs.
Adjustable scaffolding manufacturers say their systems can help mason contractors make almost any project more efficient by offering quick set-up times, matching any building configuration, and fitting into tight spots. The scaffolding also allows brick and block layers to work at comfortable heights on walls, so they’re more productive.
“We provide the only crank-up scaffold that meets [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] specifications to climb and access,” says Clint Bridges, VP for EZ Scaffold in Columbia, Tenn. “Working through winter, hoisting needs, cut-up jobs, we have solutions for all those situations. We have been doing this long enough that you can bet if you have a problem, we have seen it before and can help you with it.”
Some manufacturers can even customize scaffolding for particular masonry projects.
“BETCO Scaffolds’ award-winning engineering team can design scaffolding to tailor your scaffold needs,” says Ben Cantu, VP of operations for the Houston-based company.
Save Time and Money, Increase ProductionAdjustable scaffolding can cut mason contractors’ labor costs, compared to other scaffold systems, while simultaneously boosting production, manufacturers say. The scaffolding is able to hold down costs and increase productivity, since it’s fast and easy to set up, move and place in constricted areas.
“Adjustable scaffold saves you two to three times the scaffold labor versus frame scaffold and increases production by 30 percent or more,” Bridges says.
He says his company’s crank-up scaffolding is simple to assemble and, once it’s together, the unit can be moved around the jobsite without having to be taken apart.
“It does not require a lot of work (to assemble), is done mostly on the ground, and is moved partially or fully assembled,” Bridges says. “We have a light-duty crank-up that is great for partition walls. It gives a contractor the advantage of a crank-up scaffold in areas where they never had it before. It also is easier to set up by hand.”
Christian Fortin, CEO for Scafjack in Lavaltrie, Quebec, says his company’s Scafjack system also can increase production for mason contractors. The Scafjack is a side bracket, available in mechanical or hydraulic models, that attaches to the scaffolding to raise the planks as the mason contractor completes the wall.
“The main benefit of the Scafjack is that it’s a small investment to improve their production considerably,” Fortin says. “The guys already have the scaffolding, so they don’t have to buy new.”
With the Scafjack, workers never have to leave the scaffolding or remove planks. Instead, the planks are raised in place, Fortin says. Scafjack is ideal for medium-sized masonry firms that regularly use scaffolding, but don’t want to spend a lot of money buying new equipment.
Bridges says that training allows mason contractors and their employees to use scaffolding even more effectively. EZ Scaffold provides free training for its customers.
“When your employees understand how to use the scaffold and what it can do, they will be more efficient as well as safer,” Bridges explains. “We also have a program for EZ customers, free of charge, in which we will layout your job on our CAD system so that you can see how much equipment it will take. This helps all the way from the bid process to providing the drawings to your employees during installation.”
Work Safer With New AccessoriesNew safety products have improved fall protection and made scaffolding safer. BETCO Scaffolds is now offering ladder cage hoops for its tubular ladders that protect workers while they climb onto the scaffolding.
“We have adapted the ladder cage hoops for the flat-type ladders used in the commercial market,” Cantu says. “The ladder cage hoops form a temporary cage around the access ladder, enabling the worker to safely climb the ladder and egress safely to the work platform. Though not commonly used in the commercial industry, with today’s emphasis on fall protection, in time this ladder accessory will be a common staple with scaffolding.”
The company has also improved and modified its adjustable gate, which will clamp onto open-end frames from three feet, six inches wide to five feet wide, Cantu says. “The gate is spring loaded and will open outward and close behind the worker as he enters the platform.”
Scafjack offers a guardrail that’s similar to the guardrails used on mast climbers. The guardrail simply slides over planks at the end of the scaffolding to provide height protection up to 40 inches.
“It’s very light at the end of the plank. There’s nothing like it on the market in the United States,” he says. “It’s easy to manipulate to install. At 17 pounds, it’s also easy to move.”
Mason contractors sometimes nail 2-X-4 lumber together to provide guard railing at the end of planks. Scafjack’s guardrail offers a safer, more convenient solution, Fortin says. “A lot of masons really like our guardrail.”
Adapt the Scaffolding to Any ConfigurationAlthough mast climbing scaffolding is becoming increasingly popular within the masonry industry, adjustable scaffolding still has its advantages. EZ Scaffold’s Bridges says that, compared to mast climbers, his company’s crank-up scaffold offers “more linear footage for the money, which means a lot right now, while still getting a tremendous increase in production.”
Crank-up scaffolding also fits in tight spaces and can be used on buildings with a lot of short walls, Bridges says. “[Crank-up systems] are more versatile than mast climbers. You can use them anywhere. The more cut up a job is, the better.”
Cantu says the biggest advantage of frame- or system-type scaffolding is the multiple deck areas.
“The majority of mast climbers can only be assembled to have one or two multiple-tiered deck levels,” Cantu says. “Though most masons only work on one deck level at a time, and then move the decking as needed, multiple deck levels are often needed for renovation and restoration work.”
In addition, system-type scaffolding can be assembled to fit almost any building shape and hold the heavy weight of brick or stone, he says.
“System-type scaffolding such as the bladelock or ring systems can adapt to different configuration, and the capacity is higher than standard frame scaffolding,” he says. “Utilizing metal grating on this type of scaffolding will accommodate the weight of large cap stones.”
Originally published in Masonry magazine.
About the Author
Brett Martin is a freelance writer located in Shakopee, Minn. with several years of construction and writing experience.