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January 2007

Adjustable Scaffolding

Information for Masonry Contractors
Do not neglect the braking systems on adjustable scaffolding. Brake replacement will need to be completed by someone certified to weld them on.
Photo courtesy of EZ Scaffold
Taking Care of Your Investment

Adjustable scaffolding, elevating scaffolding or tower scaffolding ... no matter what you call it, it still needs to be maintained and ready to work at every job site. But for those mason contractors well versed in the use of adjustable scaffolding, maintenance is not as much of an issue as it can be for other types of scaffolding; in fact, its ease of use is a major selling point for manufacturers. But like any other job site tool, the more diligent you are about care and maintenance, the longer the equipment will last, allowing for uninterrupted use and, therefore, increased profits.

Two of the major players in this small but growing segment of the scaffold industry agreed to speak with Masonry about their adjustable scaffolding systems, the maintenance needs of these systems, the do's and don'ts of use, and how mason contractors can make their investment in this equipment last. But for those who may be unfamiliar with the practical advantages of adjustable scaffolding, let's explore this aspect briefly.

Information for Masonry Contractors

Because of its ease of use and relatively maintenance-free operation, Non-Stop adjustable scaffolding helps workers stay on schedule on the site of this Wal-Mart Super Center.
Photo courtesy of Non-Stop Scaffolding

The Working Advantages
The main advantage of adjustable scaffolding when compared with conventional frame scaffolding is that users can winch the working platform up the towers of the scaffold every couple of courses to keep the bricklayers working continuously at a comfortable, waist-high level. This process has been proven in a government study to increase productivity by more than 20 percent compared to fixed-frame scaffolding. The system also provides a larger workspace than traditional tubular scaffolds. With adjustable scaffolding, work decks have two distinct levels: a mason's deck and a laborer's deck. Further, adjustable scaffolding is advantageous when working on hard-to-scaffold projects, such as radius walls or cut-up work, where a fixed-frame system is not as easily manageable. Lastly, erection and dismantle time normally is less than other scaffold systems. Workers do not have to set up and tear down frames repeatedly, rehandling materials or resetting guardrails.

The Manufacturers
Non-Stop Scaffolding of Shreveport, La., and EZ Scaffold Corporation of Columbia, Tenn., are two of the most recognized names in the adjustable scaffolding business, having designed and manufactured their elevating scaffold systems for 30 years and 16 years, respectively.

Justin Breithaupt Jr., owner of Non-Stop Scaffolding, said his father — a mason contractor — built the company's first adjustable scaffold for use on his own masonry projects.

Information for Masonry Contractors

This Non-Stop scaffolding is easily broken down and clamped together in four-foot-wide modules for transport. Obviously, before and after every job, contractors should inspect their scaffolding using the manufacturer's inspection checklist.
Photo courtesy of Non-Stop Scaffolding

"The main thing he wanted for his own business was a scaffold that was more stable than anything on the market and was adaptable to cut-up work," Breithaupt said. "It was a very new concept to mason contractors back then because historically, this kind of scaffolding had been good for long, straight walls. But his design was different. It was made to set up on hard-to-scaffold projects just as quickly as long, straight walls."

The elder Breithaupt's original design soon turned into a viable business and the company as we know it today was born. Its reputation and its products have remained solid ever since. In fact, Breithaupt said Non-Stop's original unit, sold in 1976, is still in use in Milwaukee today.

EZ Scaffold shares a similar history with its competitor, having begun as a contractor's efforts to improve his own job site needs. That contractor's son, Clint Bridges, vice president of EZ Scaffold, said adjustable scaffolding is more durable and easier to inspect than other types of scaffolding, making the units an obvious choice for many masonry projects.

Information for Masonry Contractors

Cross-bracing and the trueness of the scaffold are easy things to check while the scaffold is on the wall, said EZ Scaffold Vice President, Clint Bridges.
Photo courtesy of EZ Scaffold

"Elevating platforms are much easier to set up correctly and to use properly," he said. "Everybody thinks of adjustable scaffold as just good for high, straight walls, but with our scaffold, the more cut up you are, the better off you are, because we have the ability for our scaffold to cut up walls by providing bearing points for your boards instead of guys out there having to rig something up."

Other manufacturers of adjustable scaffolding include Crank Up Scaffolding and Action Scaffold Manufacturing Co.

Information for Masonry Contractors

Masons' materials are easy to reach on this Non-Stop scaffold.
Photo courtesy of Non-Stop Scaffolding

Care and Maintenance
Every manufacturer of adjustable scaffolding likes to say a major benefit of investing in their systems is the lack of a requisite maintenance program. All a mason contractor needs, they say, is proper training on assembly and take down (provided at no extra cost by EZ Scaffold and Non-Stop), and he or she is ready to go to work. However, most companies provide daily and monthly inspection checklists that they recommend mason contractors follow.

"Inspections will reveal any problems they might have," Breithaupt said. "If there is a problem with a bad cable, they'll be able to spot it. Of course, that would be a replacement item rather than a maintenance item."

Information for Masonry Contractors

Safety equipment, such as end guardrails, travel with the work platform on this Non-Stop scaffolding.
Photo courtesy of Non-Stop Scaffolding

Bridges concurred with that statement. "We really don't have a lot of maintenance issues because we build such a strong, durable scaffold," he said. Of course, Bridges admitted that there are points of concern for which mason contractors should pay attention to keep a well-maintained scaffold. Further, EZ Scaffold and other manufacturers recommend that contractors inspect their scaffolding every time they set it up. "Cross-bracing and the trueness of the scaffold are easy things to check while it is on the wall because [problems are] very easy to spot that way," Bridges said.

For other points of consideration, first think about the materials used to manufacture the bulk of the adjustable scaffolding. Heavy-duty structural steel is the material of choice, resulting in durable scaffold systems that generally are not too cumbersome to store and transport when using the proper equipment. Naturally, depending upon the climate and how much use one gets from a particular elevating scaffold system, sandblasting and repainting might be in your future. The nature of the business is such that the wear on the scaffold's finish is unavoidable, Bridges said. But this is just a cosmetic issue; however, it's wise not to neglect the condition of the steel altogether.

Information for Masonry Contractors

The main advantage of adjustable scaffolding, such as this EZ Scaffold system, is that users can winch the working platform up the towers of the scaffold to keep the bricklayers working continuously at a comfortable, waist-high level.
Photo courtesy of EZ Scaffold

"If the steel is damaged in any way that compromises the strength or the ability to keep the scaffold straight and plumb, then it needs to be taken out of service," Bridges said. "You need to have a competent person on staff that is trained and knows what to look for." It is the cross-braces and the guardrails that get bent up more than anything, he said. "Cross-bracing really affects the trueness of scaffolding and the ability to keep it level and plumb."

Next, consider the hand crank systems and other moving parts such as the winch and gears. For these components, reliability is more important than anything else, Breithaupt said, and delays can be costly. "If they ever break a tooth off a gear, we Fed-Ex them a new winch the next day."

Additionally, all of the winches can be re-lubricated, so if you keep them well lubricated, it is easier to continually raise and lower the platform. Further, Bridges reminds mason contractors not to neglect the braking systems on the adjustable scaffolding. Brake replacement will need to be done by someone certified to weld them on, he said.

Tips to Avoid Repairs and Delays
Obviously, before and after every job, an appointed contractor crewmember should inspect the scaffolding using the manufacturer's inspection checklist. Also, because some elevating scaffold systems have a reputation for being strong and durable, people may be tempted to "push the limits," as Bridges said. "I do not recommend doing anything that is not in the safety installation manual and that you're not 100-percent sure of," he said. Bridges added that his company does not charge customers to call for advice or to request on-site visits. If there is ever a question, he said, "It is much better to take the time and call than it is to take a chance."

Information for Masonry Contractors
Heavy-duty structural steel is the material of choice for most adjustable scaffold systems, such as the EZ Scaffold pictured here. Generally, the systems are not too cumbersome to store and transport when using the proper equipment.
Photo courtesy of EZ Scaffold
Both manufacturers offer lifetime warranties and seemingly go out of their way to assist customers with maintenance questions or any other type of query.

"We spend a lot of time on the job teaching [mason contractors] the ins and outs of any special situations they may run into," Breithaupt said. "If they run into any kind of special situation in the field and we're not there, they can fax us or send us their plans. We'll show them how to lay out the scaffolding and send the plans back. We'll do the layout on the plans for them. I can't think of anybody who will go out on a limb like that."

Ease of use, versatility and simple maintenance are just a few of the advantages mason contractors can experience when using adjustable scaffolding. Current users know this, but for those companies still considering adding this equipment to their repertoire, Breithaupt offered the following guidance: "Take a daily material count and see how much [your] production goes up and see how [adjustable scaffolding] can beat systems like tilt-up," he said. Breithaupt tells his customers that they can enjoy a higher profit margin and perform the jobs competitively. "It's either do it more competitively or go away because there are a lot of wall systems competing for that dollar," he said.

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