Scaffolding has been used since the beginning of human civilization to enable the construction of tall buildings. It’s been speculated that the ancient pyramids of Egypt themselves were built using scaffolding made from timber.
Wooden scaffolding was widely used until 1922. At around this time metal tubes made from steel started to replace wooden poles.
Today, metal scaffolding is the norm. Tube scaffolding has been the industry standard since the 1950s. It’s lightweight without compromising strength. Tube scaffolding is quick and easy to assemble without the need for nuts and bolts. The metals used for scaffolding are typically steel or aluminum.
Steel scaffolding has great strength and durability. At the same time it has a certain amount of elasticity which helps prevent cracks. Steel can support very heavy loads, and workers can use it to transport heavy equipment and supplies. For tall structures, steel is a necessity as the weight of the scaffolding itself requires structural strength that only steel can provide.
For less demanding conditions, aluminum scaffolding can be a viable alternative.
With the use of metal scaffolding, workers are able to safely access high and remote locations. By incorporating diagonal bracing, structures of great stability can be built.
Metal scaffolding structures have three basic elements:
The standards are the vertical tubes which run throughout the entire structure and keep it upright. They transfer the weight of the structure to the ground via a square base plate which spreads the load.
The ledgers are the horizontal tubes connecting the standards to keep the structure in place and ensure stability.
The transoms are horizontal tubes placed across and perpendicular to the ledgers to give the structure more strength and to provide a support for the platforms on each level of the scaffold.
Metal Scaffolding Applications
Metal scaffolding is used during construction, maintenance and repair. Metal scaffolding allows workers to access high and remote locations of any building.
Metal scaffolding can come in many forms, depending on the project at hand.
Supported scaffolding is the most common type of scaffolding. It’s built from the ground up and is commonly seen at most construction sites. It’s the easiest, most convenient, safest and most cost effective scaffolding structure. Extra support can be added if the structure is extremely high or if very heavy loads need to be transported.
Suspended scaffolding is typically suspended from the roof of a building. It’s a good option for situations where it’s not possible to construct a base, or where the access requirements are limited to the upper levels and the building of scaffolding from the ground up would be impractical.
Rolling scaffolding is similar in structure to supported scaffolding. The difference is that instead of incorporating a stable base, castor wheels are used to allow mobility. This provides a good option if work needs to be carried out across the length of the building. It’s essential to lock the wheels whenever there are workers or materials on the scaffolding to ensure safety of all in the vicinity.
Metal Scaffolding Materials
Scaffolding materials include:
- Boards or decking
Tubes are normally made from steel or aluminum. The type of steel used is typically hot-rolled steel. In special circumstances where there is a risk from live overhead electric cables, filament-wound tubes of glass fibre in a nylon or polyester matrix can be used.
The main difference between steel and aluminum is the weight: steel is nearly 3x heavier than aluminum.
The metal tubes are held together by couplers. There are three basic varieties: right-angle couplers, putlog couplers and swivel couplers. In addition joint pins (spigots) or sleeve couplers can be used to join tubes end-to-end where necessary.
The floors of the scaffolding structure can be made of wooden boards or decking made from steel or aluminum. Where wooden boards are used, their ends are protected by metal plates known as hoop irons or nail plates.
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