Types of Construction Lifts and Boom Lifts
Construction lifts are powerful tools. Encompassing boom lifts, scissor lifts, forklifts, and other aerial lifts, construction lifts refer to lifting machinery that features an aerial platform supported by some form of an extension and mounted on a vehicle. They can help with everything from moving materials during the early stages of a project to lifting workers to hard-to-reach areas to making fine finishing details.
With many different types of boom lifts and types of construction lifts to choose from, it’s important to understand the functionality and features of each option. When you’re managing the diverse needs of a construction worksite, you must choose the appropriate machinery for every task. Consider these versatile boom lifts for your next aerial project.
Articulating Boom Lifts
Articulating boom lifts are also known as knuckle lifts for the distinctive shape of the arm. The base of this arm is mounted to a turntable so it can make a full circular rotation. The arm itself features multiple joints that allow it to bend. The flexible design bends around and over obstacles, lifting the worker so they can reach areas that might otherwise be impossible to get to.
Common uses for articulating boom lifts include electrical and piping repairs or exterior cleaning and maintenance projects. Atrium lifts, or spider lifts, are another type of articulated boom lift. Extremely narrow and lightweight, these aerial lifts are mounted on four “legs” to provide maximum elevation in a small indoor area.
Some of the most popular boom lifts come from manufacturers JLG, Skyjack, and Genie. JLG’s award-winning 340J balances a compact design with a 500 lb capacity and up-and-over extension of 17 ft.
Telescopic Boom Lifts
Telescopic boom lifts feature an extendable arm that can reach varying heights. Unlike an articulated boom lift, the telescoping boom has a straight arm that is attached to a freely rotating turntable. The bucket on this type of lift is typically small, holding one person at a time. Telescopic boom lifts are best suited for highly specialized work like electrical repairs or tree trimming in which a single worker can handle the job. Telescopic boom lifts have a longer reach than other options. They are available with an electric operation and solid tires for interior use or gas operation and inflated tires for rough exterior use.
The lift height of your boom is important to consider when selecting a lift. The JLG 400 S is one of the manufacturer’s bread and butter models, boasting a 40 ft lift and 600 lb capacity. For more height, JLG’s 1500 SJ is currently the largest boom lift in the world with a platform height of 185 ft. The Genie S-60X offers a 1,000 lb capacity for more heavy jobs.
Cherry pickers, also known as aerial lifts or bucket trucks, are wheeled vehicles that feature a railed aerial platform attached to a hydraulic crane. Cherry pickers are most commonly used for workers to access trees and utility lines and reach fruit in orchards. However, these aerial lifts are also used for maintenance work, remodeling, and installation of warehouse racks, systems, and lights. Haulotte, NiftyLift, Genie, Snorkel, and SkyJack are some of the top cherry picker brands.
Electric Scissor Lifts
Instead of having an arm, electric scissor lifts feature a wide platform supported by cross-brace supports. This is the main difference between a scissor lift and boom lift. It moves straight up and down, and thus it must be placed directly beneath the area you’re working on. This makes it more limited in its uses. However, the large platform is an important feature as it allows a whole team to reach the project at once. Typical uses for these lifts include exterior building repairs, cladding installation, window installation, and window cleaning.
Like other aerial lifts, electric scissor lifts are made by some of the most recognized brands. SkyJack is the leading manufacturer, producing most machines in the 41 ft to 50 ft category. Their best-selling SJIII 3219 model has a compact design that is only 39 inch when lowered but that can fully extend up to 25 ft. To choose the best type of scissor lift, you’ll want to consider the weight capacity, platform size, project type, loading method, and power supply.
Rough Terrain Scissor Lifts
Rough terrain scissor lifts perform the same basic functions as electric scissor lifts. The primary difference is that these have more stable tires designed for exterior environments and rugged conditions. You will generally need flat ground to use a scissor lift, but the rough terrain model can help you navigate some of the ground leading up to your worksite. If you need several workers to reach an exterior site at one time, this type of machinery may be the perfect option.
Along with equipment giants like JLG, SkyJack, and Genie, MEC is a pioneer in midsize rough terrain scissor lifts. Their Speed Level Sigma Lift features one folding arm instead of the traditional cross brace pattern. Similar models can offer up to 50 ft working height.
Telescopic forklifts, also known as telehandlers, feature an extendable boom lift equipped with a lifting attachment. These combine the features of a telescopic boom lift with a traditional forklift, so you can use the forks of the lift at extreme heights. The additional capacity of this forklift both upward and forward makes it an efficient choice for construction projects that require moving items in tricky locations.
JCB, Genie, Bobcat, Haulotte, and Caterpillar produce a variety of top-tier telescopic forklifts. Models like the JLG 1644 are adept at larger capacity jobs, while the Genie GTH-1256 has both a large weight capacity and light height of up to 55 ft for jobs where aerial work is key.
Rough Terrain Forklifts
Rough terrain forklifts are used to move building materials and other items over rough terrain. They can traverse long distances, efficiently carrying items from one end of the worksite to the other, despite possible challenges in the terrain. Construction teams commonly use these forklifts to move materials around the site.
Capable of outstanding balance and powerful lifting, these forklifts can typically lift items up to 21 feet and carry loads of 8,000 pounds. The forks themselves are adjustable. You can move them closer together or farther apart as needed to provide a stable surface and strong support for items of any size.
Industrial forklifts have an upward lift used for moving items vertically. These lifts often feature durable pneumatic tires and offer support of up to 36,000 lbs in weight. They are usually designed for indoor use within warehouses or for industrial projects. You might use these construction lifts for some of the finishing touches inside your building.
Because of their versatile use, there are over 20 popular forklift manufacturers on the market. Well-known brands include NACCO Industries and Mitsubishi.
How to Choose the Right Construction Lift
So you need a boom lift or scissor lift, but what is the best type? Size is an important factor to consider. You want sufficient range but a size that fits safely and comfortably in your workspace. In addition, you’ll also want to consider movement type, weight capacity, job site conditions, space restrictions, and power source.
- Space Restrictions: Consider the space that your lift is moving through. Tall buildings with narrow doorways will require a different aerial lift than one used in a wide-open job site.
- Weight Capacity: To prevent overloading, you’ll want to account for how many workers (elbow room included) and gear that will be loaded on the aerial platform.
- Movement Type Needed: Aerial lifts can either be single-mast or multiple masts — in other words, its movement is either only vertical or both vertical and horizontal. The movement will determine the lift you need.
- Power Source Compatibility: Diesel is a popular choice for its availability and torque. However, if you are working indoors, electric motors are quieter and have no emissions. You could also choose dual fuel motors for more flexibility.
- Job Site Conditions: Is your terrain steep and tricky, or is it delicate and soft? The conditions will determine the type of lift you’ll need. Like any vehicle, tires are also important. Flotation, non-marking, standard pneumatic, solid rubber, and foam-filled are just a few of the choices.
Boom lifts and construction lifts cover a wide variety of applications. From lifts that raise one individual up to 12 ft to machines that can take a group of workers as high as 150 ft, there are many options with aerial work platforms. Whether you are looking for one for your large construction project or for your warehouse, you’ll want to consider the strengths of each type of boom lift to choose the best one for your needs.