Which Scaffolding System Is Best?
An Overview Of Scaffolding Products And Installations
There are many different types of scaffolding available on the market today. Many brands are available, making it hard to understand what product and scaffolding design suits your needs. So which scaffolding system is best?
In this article, we’ll review the most common types of scaffolding systems, products and typical designs and installations. We’ll also discuss a few things to consider when choosing an appropriate, high-quality scaffolding system for your project.
Understanding The Most Common Types Of Scaffolding Products
Hundreds of scaffolding products are built by nearly as many brands are on the market. However, they fall into the following two sections:
Tube and coupler
- Tube and coupler scaffolding is usually relatively inexpensive, offering rock-solid reliability and performance. It’s built entirely out of strong steel tubing, using a variety of couplers to create vertical, horizontal, and diagonal supports.
- Each tube is joined to a coupler, which is locked in place. Then, multiple tubes and couplers are used to build the superstructure of the scaffolding. Because it’s highly modular and can be custom-built to almost any specification. Tube and coupler scaffolding are very useful for projects with unique requirements that cannot be fulfilled by off-the-shelf products. However, tubes and couplers usually must be assembled by a professional scaffolder. Even if you do not hire a professional, it takes more time to set up compared to a pre-built product.
- Prefabricated scaffold is much more popular for smaller, shorter projects compared to tube and coupler scaffolding. There are many different types of prefabricated scaffolding, all using different designs, architectures, and structural support methods.
- As the name implies, prefabricated scaffolding consists of unified sections of scaffolding, which can quickly be assembled into a working installation. Usually, scaffolders are not required to assemble this scaffolding, especially for shorter installations that are only a few stories high. Workers can set them up quickly and easily, saving on installation costs. The primary drawback is that A-frame, H-frame, and similar prefabricated scaffolding installations often are more expensive per component compared to tube and coupler scaffolding.
Depending on your construction project, either type of scaffolding may be appropriate. As long as they conform to WHS regulations for health and safety and worker protection.
Common Scaffolding Designs – An Overview
Now that we’ve discussed the primary scaffolding materials used in construction in Australia, it’s time to discuss the different designs that are most commonly used for construction projects of all sizes.
- Birdcage scaffold – This type of scaffold is typically used for work on a single level, such as painting a ceiling. It consists of two or more rows of vertical members connected by horizontal braces and transoms, which hold the platform. They may require a professional to assemble and disassemble, depending on the construction method used.
- Trestle scaffold – A trestle scaffold uses preb built A frame or H frame scaffolding, which typically supports a single transom and a working platform. Because this type of scaffold usually requires minimal assembly, and is very simple to install, it does not usually need to be put together by a professional scaffolder.
- Hung scaffold – A hung scaffold is any kind of scaffold platform that is hung from a support structure independently, and cannot be raised or lowered when in use.
- Single pole scaffold – Single pole scaffolds consist of only a single row of standards or uprights, which are connected by ledgers. These ledgers are then affixed to the wall of a building or other structure using putlogs. Due to this design, single pole scaffolds are very simple to put together. However the structure is reliant on the building upon which it leans for support, so this structure must be kept intact. In addition, no components of the scaffold should be removed until the entire structure is dismantled to keep it safe and structurally secure.
- Suspended (swing stage) scaffold – Suspended, also known as “swing stage” scaffolds, are often used for mast climbing, as they can be used as a mast work platform. They are suspended from a crane, which allows them to swing freely, raised and lowered when in use. These are often used by window washers and others who work on large buildings. Traditional scaffolding simply cannot reach the heights required for these jobs.
- Tower/mobile scaffold – Mobile scaffolds can be built using four vertical standards, which support a single upper platform. These platforms are usually mounted on wheels, creating easy movement of the platform. These towers can be built without a professional scaffolder if they are under the height of 4 metres, but a licensed scaffolder is required for heights exceeding 4 metres.
Choosing The Right Type Of Scaffolding For You – What To Consider
So, what type of scaffolding is right for you? Here are some things to consider when picking a system for your next construction project.
- Budget – Your budget should be a primary consideration in the type of scaffolding you use. For a shorter term project, invest in modular scaffolding that can be put up and taken down quickly. This reduces assembly costs. The cost of using a tube and coupler system that’s assembled by a professional can be lower in the long term, but offers few advantages for short term projects.
- Time to erect and dismantle – Related to the above point, you must also consider how long it takes to put up a scaffold and how long it takes to disassemble it. This is one reason that prefabricated A frame and H frame trestles are so popular among painters and home contractors – they can be put up and taken down within minutes, making them more flexible and portable. Tube and coupler scaffolding takes longer to erect and dismantle, making it a poor choice for professionals who often move their scaffolds. Also, making it harder for those who only work on a project for a few days or weeks.
- Length of construction projects – If you are working on a long project that may take months or even a year to complete, it may be a good idea to invest in tube and coupler scaffolding. Heavy duty steel scaffold structures using cross braces, built with tubes and couplers, offer very strong working platforms that are much better alternatives to more temporary structure solutions. This is not to say that prefabricated scaffolding is a bad idea. But, in the long term, it often makes more sense to build your own scaffolding from scratch in the construction industry, especially if you are going to be using it for a very long time.
- Load capacity– Your scaffold working platforms must be able to handle the proper load – as does the rest of the structure. This is absolutely critical for scaffolding safety. As a rule, both types of structures can support similar loads. However, some types of tube and coupler scaffolding can be made with shorter and thicker vertical and horizontal supports. Also including more diagonal lashing and attachment points, increasing flexibility and allowing for more load capacity. As a rule, if you are concerned with load capacity, you should consult with a structural engineer and a professional scaffolder to design a system that will fulfil your needs.
- Configuration of the job site– Pre built systems cannot be used in every situation. If you must create a scaffold that is oddly shaped or otherwise must be created in an uncommon configuration, tube and coupler systems are usually a better choice, as they are more flexible.
- Health and safety code of practice adherence– No matter what system you use, it must be regularly checked to make sure it adheres to the Scaffolds and Scaffolding work guidance materials from Safe Work Australia.
What Scaffolding System Is The Best?
There is no clear answer. What may be best for one project may not be the best choice for another. Depending on the scope of your project, your budget, and the other factors outlined above.
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