How to Scope Your Scaffolding Project

For the safety and efficiency of your commercial project, don’t let scaffolding be an afterthought.

The successful completion of any commercial construction project relies on every component to be on time, on budget and right on the mark when it comes to safety. That means proactively planning for all stages and phases of the project—including a phase that often gets overlooked: scaffolding.

With a wide variety of scaffolding options available for all different types of construction work--single, double, cantilever, suspended, trestle, steel and patented—all consisting of an assortment of materials, from beams and brackets to poles, posts, platforms, legs, uprights and more, the determination of what type of scaffolding to use depends mainly on the size and scope of the project.

No matter how large or small your commercial project—from storefront renovation to shopping center development to hospital expansion—the importance of considering the design, engineering, erection and dismantling of the required scaffolding cannot be underestimated. Use this guide as your resource and reminder to plan your scaffolding services early on in your project to acquire the best price, ensure safety on your job site and stay on top of your project’s budget of both time and money.

Download the free guide to scoping your scaffold project. Maximize your time and budget with insights engineered to help you choose the right type of scaffolding for the job, ensure structural stability in inclement weather, and stay proactive and on schedule.

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How Plan Your Scaffolding Project: 5 Considerations Before You Build

Scaffolding may, by definition, only be temporary, but its importance on a job site is equal to that of the other more permanent materials involved in the construction process. For that reason, scaffolding should never be an afterthought.

  1. Consider the Type of Project: To determine your scaffolding needs prior to the beginning of the project, first consider what type of project you’re working on. What are you trying to achieve? This helps determine what type of load bearing the scaffold needs to be, the dimensions required, the decking and storage necessary, and what type of access is required, whether vertical or horizontal.
  2. Consider the Foundation: Then, take into consideration the foundation you’re working on. Is it flat? What is the base material made of—is it dirt, soil, concrete? Is it capable of bearing the weight of the scaffolding system? All of these considerations help determine the type of scaffolding to use and the materials necessary to erect the scaffold safely and effectively. If the foundation isn’t able to support the scaffolding materials, the job may require the expertise of a structural engineer to devise an appropriate alternative solution.
  3. Consider the Structural Elements and its Surroundings: Next, consider all the elements of the structure and its surroundings to uncover what may be impeded by the scaffolding and how to mitigate any disruptions to productivity—both to the work that’s being done on the job site and to any surrounding activity that may need to continue during the construction process. Is the building on a main street with pedestrian access? Are there open businesses that still need to be accessible while the scaffolding is in place? Are there offsets in the building or window units that jut out? The answers to these questions will help determine the design, size and scope of the scaffolding project.
  4. Factor Weather In: While it’s a variable beyond control, weather must also factor into the equation. Is it the rainy season, when too much water might wreak havoc on the foundation? Is it the middle of winter, when the scaffold needs to be contained and heated? Weather often stands in the way of projects being completed on time and on schedule. Building days into the schedule based on the season and its potentially unpredictable weather will save weather-related headaches down the line.
  5. Consider your Budget: Last, but certainly not least, are budgetary considerations. Budgeting scaffolding into the project from the very beginning is the best way to negotiate price—considering that the longer a project is, the lower the equipment rental fee will likely be—and to avoid trying to find miscellaneous funds to cover an unplanned scaffolding emergency. Getting into the habit of considering scaffolding a need, not a luxury, in every job is the most cost-effective way to financially fit scaffolding into any commercial project.

How to Choose a Scaffolding Provider - The Build Out

Once you’ve weighed all considerations regarding your project needs, you’re ready to choose a scaffolding solution provider. Armed with all the information above, you can begin your search for the most appropriate bidder for your project, keeping in mind four important factors: performance, safety, labor and time. Vet your scaffolding company for their performance and safety record, their professionalism and their labor practices, using a variety of sources, from word of mouth to public data.

Time is of the essence with any commercial job and keeping every task on the project’s critical path on track is essential to the successful completion of the project. Scaffolding is no exception. As with every other critical path milestone, completing the scaffolding in the right timeframe impacts the rest of the project. That’s why proactively planning out your scaffolding needs is so important. Clearly state your project’s timeline and ensure your scaffolding partner can meet that timeline. While weather is often a roadblock to timely workflow, labor is also a key element. Does the company have enough workers to do the work on time? While some service providers have a trained crew, specializing in scaffolding, others may recruit workers from day labor offices. Knowing you have a full crew of skilled workers at the ready to complete your job on time is a plus when selecting a partner.

Finally, as with any construction project, safety should be your scaffolding provider’s top priority. Ask for safety records and accident history and ensure the team complies with OSHA standards (see sidebar for more information). A safe company is a professional company—and one that you want to enlist for your scaffolding solutions.

Scaffolding Safety

When enlisting scaffolding services, it is essential to learn about their safety practices, which, at a minimum, should comply with OSHA’s standards—all of which are outlined in great detail on the OSHA website. Companies with a track record of safety often go above and beyond with the development of their own organizational standards related to scaffolding. Understand the risks and mitigate them as much as possible by selecting a scaffolding service provider that is transparent with its safety record, complies with OSHA standards for scaffolding and establishes their own parameters for scaffolding safety. 

Sources: Shawn Nuckols, Scaffold Regional Sales Manager, Sunbelt Rentals, Inc.; Vins Thornhill, Scaffold Regional Sales Manager, Sunbelt Rentals, Inc.