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Scaffolding Review for the Homeowner

Construction How-To, Ladders, Projects March 6, 2015 Sonia


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The Sky is the Limit

By Clint C. Thomas, Esq. Photographs by Zoe Thomas

The old adage, “having the right tools for a job makes the job easier,” still holds true today. Anyone who owns a two-story house understands how difficult it is to perform any type of maintenance twenty or more feet in the air. Working from a ladder greatly limits a person’s work area to the space that is in their immediate arm’s reach, not to mention having to move a ladder more times that you can count. In addition, safety considerations dictate that one hand is always required to hold onto the ladder, thereby leaving only one hand to do the work when two hands are usually needed.

Scaffolding, on the other hand, provides a safe and expedient alternative to using an extension ladder, and is safer than two extension ladders that are connected by an aluminum extension board. Scaffolding can be purchased in single sets or as complete units. I recently purchased a rolling 30-ft. tower scaffolding from an online supplier (www.thescaffoldwarehouse.com) that I used while painting my house. My house has four gables on it. The rear gable

is the only one that is accessible without a ladder or scaffolding, and one of the gables is over 30 feet in the air, making scaffolding a necessity.

Scaffolding can be set up on the ground level or on a lower roof.

Scaffolding can be set up on the ground level or on a lower roof.

Configurations

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular scaffolding system.

Scaffolding is joined together one section at a time with tubular cross-braces that look like a giant letter “X” turned on its side, and usually consist of panels that are 5 ft. by 6 ft.-4 in. or 5 ft. by 5 ft. The particular model that I purchased came with six S-Style double ladder sections that are 6 ft.-4 in. high, as well as four single ladder sections that are 5 feet tall.

The great thing about scaffolding is that the sections can be assembled in almost any configuration. For example, if height is needed then all of the sections are connected together vertically. However, let me caution that it is very important to use outriggers on the bottom of each leg, or at least on the legs that are not up against a wall. Outriggers are best described as extra legs that attach onto the corner posts of the lowest level of scaffolding. They reach outward from the scaffold about 30 inches and provide additional stability to the overall unit because they increase the size of the scaffold’s base. The use of outriggers makes a measurable difference in how much wobble a person experiences while on the uppermost level of the scaffolding.

On the other hand, if width is needed, then the various sections can be connected horizontally. In some cases it may become necessary to even offset different sections of scaffolding to accommodate various obstacles. I had to do this in order to paint the front gable on my house. The porch roof prohibited me from getting close enough to the gable to paint it, but by erecting two sections of scaffolding in front of the porch roof and then connecting those sections with two sections directly over the porch roof I was able to reach the area needed.

When positioning on a roof, it's smart to protect the finished surface from damage by the scaffolding.

When positioning on a roof, it’s smart to protect the finished surface from damage by the scaffolding.

Offsetting can be accomplished by laying 2×12 boards from one set of scaffolding to another object, in my case the slanted porch roof, and then placing the other scaffolding sections on top of the 2×12 boards.

End brackets hook and bolt onto the scaffolding frame to extend the work area.

End brackets hook and bolt onto the scaffolding frame to extend the work area.

The other alternative, if the physical area around you permits, is to set up a vertical section of scaffold and then connect another set to it using only two of the four corners of the vertical scaffolding, and then resting the remaining two legs of the upper section on some other object, such as a porch roof.