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Scaffolding: What Types Are There?

The simple definition of scaffolding states that it is a "temporary platform on which workers stand or sit to perform a task at heights above ground level." While this is true enough, choosing the right scaffolding for the task at hand is not as simple and is an important decision to make, since workers' lives are at stake. There are many types of scaffolding to choose from. Which type is right for you? 


Types of Scaffolding

There are three basic categories of scaffolding you would use:

  • Ground supported scaffolding: This is any kind of scaffolding that is build or erected from the ground up and fully or primarily supported by its ground structure. Technically, a ladder is included in this type of scaffolding, but the best example of this type of scaffolding is the "birdcage" scaffolding we often see this outside large high-rise developments. The complex structure of this type of scaffolding is often as much of an engineering marvel as is the building that is being erected.
  • Suspended scaffolding: One of the maintenance dilemmas posed by highrise steel and glass structures is how to keep the windows clean. In many cases, this problem is solved by the installation of suspended (or swingstage) scaffolding on the roofs of the buildings. Window washing crews, painters and maintenance crews gain access to the upper levels of windows by means electronically controlled steel pulleys that control the movements of the scaffolding "stage".
  • Cantilever scaffolding:  When work has to be done outside of a single level of an open structure, often the most time and cost effective way to gain access is by way of cantilevered scaffolding. This type of scaffolding has a rigid support system that extends horizontally outward from the interior of the structure that is being worked on.
A variation on these basic types of scaffolding is hanging scaffolding. Sometimes called "bracket scaffolding," this type of scaffolding is often supported from above and below. It has the advantage of needing less ground support and less support from above. It can also be a suitable substitute for cantilever scaffolding, with the bracket hooking on to a beam or other strong horizontal structure.
Because scaffolding is usually a temporary construction, far more of it is rented or leased than is purchased. When choosing scaffolding, it is a far better an idea to rent than to attempt to build a system from scratch using materials from around your work site. The engineering and materials used in scaffolding are critical to its safety and a mishap is sure to cause an injury and could even result in a fatality. The quote will include delivery, erection and dismantling, so you can work in confidence, knowing that the system will not fail.

Remember that all scaffolding should be erected by a scaffolding contractor and you should always hire scaffolding from a scaffolding specialist.


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