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8 Types of Construction Lifts and Their Uses

8 Types of Construction Lifts and Their Uses

Construction lifts are powerful tools. Encompassing boom lifts, scissor lifts, forklifts and other types of aerial and man lifts, construction lifts refer to any lifting machinery that features an aerial platform supported by a vehicle-mounted extension. They can perform countless tasks, from moving materials during preconstruction to lifting workers to hard-to-reach areas during final inspections.

With so many types of boom and construction lifts to choose from, it’s essential to understand the functionality and features of each option when selecting the appropriate machinery for a task. Consider the following versatile boom lifts for your next aerial project.

1. Articulating Boom Lifts

articulating boom lift height and uses
Articulating boom lifts, also known as knuckle lifts, are known for their distinctive arm shape. The base of the arm is mounted to a turntable, allowing it to make a full circular rotation. The arm itself features multiple joints that allow it to bend in various directions. The flexible design bends around and over obstacles, lifting the worker so they can access tight and hard-to-reach areas.

Common uses for articulating boom lifts include electrical and piping repairs, exterior cleaning jobs and maintenance projects. Atrium lifts, or spider lifts, are another type of articulating boom lift used for small spaces. Extremely narrow and lightweight, these aerial lifts are mounted on four “legs” to provide maximum elevation in small indoor areas.

Some of the most popular boom lifts come from manufacturers JLG, Skyjack and Genie. JLG’s award-winning 340J, for example, balances a compact design with a 500-pound capacity and up-and-over extension of 17 feet.

2. Telescopic Boom Lifts

telescopic boom lift height and uses
Telescopic boom lifts feature an extendable arm that can reach varying heights. Unlike articulated boom lifts, the telescopic boom features a straight arm attached to a freely rotating turntable.

The bucket on this lift is typically small, holding one or two people at a time. Telescopic boom lifts are known for their exceptionally long reach and are best suited for specialized work handled by a single worker, like electrical repairs or tree trimming. Most manufacturers offer an electric-powered option with solid tires for interior use and a gas-powered option with inflated tires for rough exterior use.

A boom’s lift height is important to consider when selecting a machine. The JLG 400S is one of the manufacturer’s bread and butter models, boasting a 40-foot lift and a 600-pound capacity. For more height, JLG’s 1500SJ is currently the largest boom lift in the world, with a platform height of 185 feet. The Genie S-60X offers a 1,000-pound capacity for heavier jobs.

3. Cherry Pickers

cherry picker height and uses
Cherry pickers, also known as aerial lifts or bucket trucks, are wheeled vehicles that feature a railed aerial platform attached to a hydraulic crane. Workers most commonly use cherry pickers to access trees, utility lines and fruit in orchards. However, they can also be used for maintenance work, remodeling and warehouse installation jobs. Haulotte, Niftylift, Genie, Snorkel and Skyjack are some of the top cherry picker brands.

4. Electric Scissor Lifts

electric scissor lift height and uses
Instead of having an arm like a boom lift, electric scissor lifts feature a wide platform supported by cross-brace supports. The platform moves straight up and down, so it must be placed directly beneath the work area. This can limit its uses, but the large platform is an important feature for teams that need to reach one work space at the same time. Typical uses for scissor lifts include exterior building repairs, cladding installation, window installation and window cleaning. They’re also one of the best lifts for painting.

Skyjack is the leading electric scissor lift manufacturer, producing most machines in the 41-foot to 50-foot category. Their best-selling SJIII 3219 model has a compact design that is only 39

5. Rough Terrain Scissor Lifts

rough terrain scissor lift height and uses
Rough terrain scissor lifts perform the same basic functions as electric scissor lifts but have more stable tires designed for exterior environments and rugged conditions. If you need several workers to reach an uneven 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 mid-size 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 feet of working height.

6. Telescopic Forklifts

telescopic forklift height and uses
Telescopic forklifts, also known as telehandlers, feature an extendable boom equipped with a lifting attachment. These combine the features of a telescopic boom lift with a traditional forklift, allowing you to use forks at extended heights. The additional upward and forward capacity of this forklift 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 lift height of up to 55 feet for jobs where aerial work is key.

7. Rough Terrain Forklifts

rough terrain forklift height and uses
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 challenging terrain.

Capable of exceptional balance and powerful lifting, these forklifts can typically lift items up to 21 feet and carry loads up to 8,000 pounds. The forks themselves are adjustable, allowing you to move them closer together or farther apart as needed to provide a stable surface and strong support for items of any size.

8. Heavy Duty Forklifts

industrial forklift
Heavy duty forklifts have an upward lift that moves items vertically. These lifts often feature durable pneumatic tires and offer support of up to 36,000 pounds. They are usually designed for indoor use within warehouses or for industrial projects.

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

When looking for a construction lift, it can be hard to decide which type is best for your job. While size is an important factor, you should also consider movement type, weight capacity, site conditions and available power sources.

instructions for choosing the right boomlift

  • Space Restrictions: Some lifts are better suited for small spaces than others. For example, tall buildings with narrow doorways will require a different aerial lift than 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: Aerial lifts can either be single-mast or have multiple masts. Single-mast machines can only move vertically, while multiple masts allow for vertical and horizontal movement.
  • Power Source Compatibility: Construction lifts can use varying power sources. 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 can 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 feet to machines that can take a group of workers as high as 150 feet, there are many aerial lift options to choose from. Whether you need a lift for a large construction project or a warehouse, you’ll want to consider the strengths of each type of boom lift to choose the one that best suits your needs.

For additional information on construction lifts and pricing options, you can contact a local equipment supplier or request a quote from an online rental marketplace.

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