The scaffolding is a temporary structure installed at the beginning of a construction project or maintenance work. Scaffold structures should be stable and robust because they serve many different purposes. Some of the most popular goals of scaffolding include:
– To get access to structures at height during construction,
– To support the original structure,
– To support building materials, such as bricks, blocks, etc.
Types of scaffolding vary with the construction work and should offer a safe and secure setting for workers who work at a considerable height. Many materials are used for this purpose; timber, steel, or metal are the more common. Yet, even though there are many different types of scaffolding, new variants made with other materials appear reasonably often. For this reason, we will discuss the three best materials used for scaffolding in 2023.
Properly selecting scaffolds made with the proper materials is crucial because workers constantly risk suffering incidents causing injury or death. For example, a wrong scaffold selection often results in either the planking or support giving way, the worker slipping, the absence of fall protection, or being struck by a falling object.
Scaffolding often is constructed of wooden planks and metal poles. Yet, modern construction scaffolding utilizes several materials, such as high-quality wooden planks, aluminum, and steel, and advanced designs, such as a tube, clip, and cup lock, to achieve its purpose.
Wood and Bamboo
Pre-cut lumber was the first and most common type of scaffolding worldwide. Wooden scaffolding was widely used until 1922. In the United States, fir or pine was the most common material for scaffolding until steel and the fabrication of materials became much more affordable. In contrast, even today, Hong Kong prefers to use bamboo scaffolding to build since it’s favored for strength, flexibility, and eco-friendliness.
One of the newest types of scaffolding material is aluminum. With many desirable features, aluminum is well-known as a soft, ductile, corrosion-resistant metal. It can naturally form a protective layer of aluminum oxide when exposed to air, protecting against weather conditions. Besides being much lighter than steel, it is a versatile and low-maintenance material. Being a lightweight material is suitable for suspended scaffolding, which requires frequent mobilization—commonly used in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. In addition, it reduces labor and transportation costs. However, it has reduced stability due to its lightweight nature. Therefore, it’s not recommended for tall staging that requires weighted strength. It’s also an expensive investment, as aluminum is twice as expensive as steel.
Steel is the most common, relied-upon material in the modern scaffolding industry. It’s three times heavier than aluminum which confers excellent strength to support hefty loads and provides structural stability for the scaffold. Steel scaffolds can withstand the strongest winds, even at tall heights, when adequately secured with ties and bracing. However, while the heavy material provides stability to tall structures, it also poses a challenge to transporting and erecting them. Another drawback is that it’s susceptible to corrosion when exposed to humidity for long periods. Several companies have manufactured scaffolds in steel and aluminum, stainless, painted, or galvanized steel options to prevent this. So choosing the best metal material truly depends on the project’s requirements.
Fiberglass is the newest and lesser-known material used in scaffolding. Since fiberglass has excellent insulating properties and high resistance to fire, it is a material for specific use in scaffolding tubes where there is a risk of electrocution by overhead electric cables. However, it’s much more expensive than steel tubes because it is such a specialized material.
As we can see, materials selected for building scaffolding are one of the most critical aspects of construction because of the risk for workers. So now we must discuss the parts needed to make a stable scaffolding.
Main parts of scaffolding
Many different parts form scaffolding because scaffolding can take many other forms, and every form needs specific components to ensure workers can operate safely and efficiently.
Scaffolding can be composed of standards, ledgers, braces, putlogs, boardings or platforms, guardrails, toeboards, etc. But, the main components involved in the typical tube and coupling scaffolding are standards, ledgers, and transoms. So let’s explain a little bit about these parts of the scaffold.
A standard is a long pipe or vertical tube anchored to the ground, connecting the mass of the scaffold directly to the bottom to keep the entire structure upright. Each standard is connected to a base plate transferring the structure’s weight to the ground. Standards typically come in a fixed height of 21ft, so that taller structures would require multiple sets of standards connected on top of one another.
The ledgers are the horizontal supports that connect the standards. Ledgers serve to keep the structure in place and ensure scaffold stability. In between each standard is a ledger (also known as a runner) that adds further support and weight distribution. Each bay is fixed with ledgers at the front and back of the scaffolding framework. The placement of ledgers defines the height at which the worker platforms are staged.
The transoms (or bearers) are horizontal tubes placed across and perpendicular to the ledgers to give the structure more strength and to provide support for standards by holding them in position. Transoms are placed on top of ledgers, and at right angles to them, they run horizontally and define the bay width. In addition, the transoms support placing boards (or planks) on which the workers can walk.
Putlogs are the short pieces connecting the ledger to the structure in single-frame scaffolding. To attach a putlog to the ledger, a hole is made in the side of a building to receive a putlog.
Boarding or platforms
Boarding is the broad flat horizontal platforms workers walk on during the working process. Boardings serve to support materials and workers.
Guardrails are the pieces connecting the standards horizontally at about waist level to help prevent falls. Guardrails are set up at the same level as a ledger.
Toeboards are a parallel set of narrow pieces of wood that run horizontally supported on putlogs, which protects to prevent falls.
Types of scaffolding
Like materials or parts of scaffolding, many different types can be found worldwide. Let’s see some of the popular types.
Often referred to as bricklayer’s scaffolding. Single scaffolding is one of the oldest construction methods and is commonly used for brick masonry and is also called brick layer’s scaffolding. Single scaffolding consists of standards, ledgers, putlogs, etc., parallel to the wall at a distance of about 1.2 m.
Double Scaffolding is generally used for stone masonry, where it is difficult to make holes to support scaffolding. As making holes in the wall to support putlogs is hard, two rows of scaffolding are constructed to make it strong. The first row is 20 – 30cm from the wall, with the other 1m further away. Then putlogs are placed and connected with cross beams and braces to ensure a sturdy structure.
As their name indicates, steel scaffolding is constructed with steel tubes fixed together by steel couplers or fittings. This type of scaffolding offers outstanding durability, strength, fire resistance, and safety for workers. It is not economical but will give more protection for workers. So, it is the most commonly used type of scaffolding.
As we can see, many different types and scaffolding materials can be found worldwide. Over the years, wood scaffolding has given way to steel, aluminum, and fiberglass. Scaffolding Will undoubtedly continue to evolve this 2023 and the following years as humans strive to build taller structures.