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Raising a heavy beam

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Raising a heavy beam

Postby Mike G » 02 May 2021, 20:47

This is how I raised a 200+kg beam into place 2.2 metres up in the air. I thought a thread on the subject in the workshop build section might help new shed builders see the principles involved, particularly as many workshops seem to include structural ridge beams.

The over-arching principle of raising a heavy beam is to see-saw it up into place on a pair of fulcrums either side of the centre point. This means that you never have to actually lift the whole weight of the beam. You are only lifting the difference between the long side of the see saw and the short side. Here is the set-up I used:

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Note the robust frame/ scaffold, with bearers about 1.2m apart in this case (6m beam). Note also the vertical pieces screwed or clamped in place. These are to stop the beam going anywhere you don't want it to, and to restrain the growing pile of stuff at each fulcrum.

You move from end to end of the beam, raising it a small amount whilst a helper puts in a packing piece on the "free" fulcrum. Each lift was only lifting about 1/(6m / 1.2m) x 200kg = 40kg, because the see-saw counterbalances the remainder. However, you can't place the fulcrums too close together (to try to further reduce the weight of each lift) or things get quite unstable. Before EVERY move, you check everything, describe the move to your partner and agree the course of action. Here's the beam inching its way up:

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I made some robust boxes to take the place of a stack of off-cuts, and the whole pile was securely clamped in place each time. Bear in mind that when you rock a beam, there are sideways forces applied to the fulcrum (inwards), so you need some solid restraints for the pile. If in doubt, clamps. Lots of clamps.

When you get to full height, you have a different set of problems:

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DON'T be tempted to swing one end onto the final resting place when the beam is tilted. It MUST be horizontal when you make the sideways movement, otherwise you will be lifting the entire weight of the beam when you try to deal with the other end. You really don't want to be trying to lift 200 kg when it is 7 feet up in the air.

So, get the beam horizontal first, just above the level of the final resting place. Swing one end into place and restrain it (that bit is easy). At the other end you now have 200 kg to shift......but at least it only has to go horizontally, and only some 12 or 15 inches. I used clamps, with my friend helping with a pry bar ("the persuader"). Before that move, though, you'll find you've got verticals in the way. When you remove stuff, with an unrestrained beam, you need to be very sure that you don't need it any more. If you do, put up another one in its place (but out of the way) before you take the first one down.

Before you know it (it took us 45 minutes), your beam is in place:

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Whatever you do, THINK. Big lifts like this are serious, and can be dangerous. If you haven't done one before, make a model. Do it on your bench, where you can't get hurt. Understand precisely what you need to do before you do it with a massive weight above your head. But also understand that with thought and care you can put some big pieces of wood, steel or concrete up into place even if you haven't got hoists or big pieces of machinery.
Last edited by Mike G on 02 May 2021, 21:19, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby AJB Temple » 02 May 2021, 20:59

Superb thread. This is exactly how we do it if the lift is higher than our tripod and winch capacity.

I would add (and you seem to have addressed this) is that beams that are taller than they are wide, can rotate surprisingly easily, so vertical posts or scaffold poles preventing this as Mike has used, are necessary until the final rotation occurs.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby Blackswanwood » 02 May 2021, 21:03

That is ingenious. :text-goodpost:
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby Peri » 02 May 2021, 21:08

Sorry if it's not entirely on topic, but looking at those pictures, and speaking as a city-boy who lives in a flat without a garden, I am incredibly and intensely envious of all that open space !!!
Two thirds of people don't have a clue about fractions - and the other half aren't much better.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby Mike G » 02 May 2021, 21:16

Peri wrote:Sorry if it's not entirely on topic, but looking at those pictures, and speaking as a city-boy who lives in a flat without a garden, I am incredibly and intensely envious of all that open space !!!


Steve, I can say in all sincerity that we have luxuriated in lockdown because of our location, but have agonised for everyone who was stuck in a flat or terrace house without any outdoor space. We very much know how lucky we are.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby Mike G » 02 May 2021, 21:27

I would just add that each move you do, ask yourself "what happens if I drop it?" In this case, it could only fall 2 feet onto the lower wall, and because of the temporary verticals, it couldn't fall sideways. If the answer you get for that question is......"it'll squish me"......then you have to put something temporary securely in place such that it can't. One approach to this is to screw horizontal bits of wood just below your beam to lock-in the gains you have made. This approach also allows you to dismantle your temporary scaffold and bring in a new taller one if you need to. If you are using a tower scaffold this happens every time you need to add another lift.
Last edited by Mike G on 02 May 2021, 21:39, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby Lons » 02 May 2021, 21:29

Mike G wrote:
Peri wrote:Sorry if it's not entirely on topic, but looking at those pictures, and speaking as a city-boy who lives in a flat without a garden, I am incredibly and intensely envious of all that open space !!!


Steve, I can say in all sincerity that we have luxuriated in lockdown because of our location, but have agonised for everyone who was stuck in a flat or terrace house without any outdoor space. We very much know how lucky we are.

+1
We have felt exactly the same for the last 12 months especially for some family members who don't have a garden and a 93 year old MiL who's effectively been a prisoner in a care home including several weeks in isolation in her room, it's only when thinking of others we realise just how lucky some of us are.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby Lons » 02 May 2021, 21:42

This thread brings back a few memories Mike as we've done the same many times though usually with steel.

The most difficult was a large cash & carry extension on an old building where we needed to locate 3 no 250mm x 150mm x 7.5m steel I beams 4 metres up, we used scaffold to form the centre support and there were 4 of us, 2 at each end, it wasn't easy but access for a crane would have been difficult and very expensive. We had to roll the beams into position on the ground over short lengths of scaffold pipe as the delivery driver couldn't get them in either.

Some days thinking back I'm not half glad I'm retired. :)
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby Mike G » 02 May 2021, 22:05

Whoa......that's big, Bob.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby AndyT » 02 May 2021, 23:26

Thanks for this explanation Mike. I didn't quite get it from your earlier brief reference but I do now.
I still have no likelihood of ever needing to apply this knowledge but it's interesting all the same, just as reading about medieval cathedral construction is interesting.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby Lons » 03 May 2021, 01:10

Mike G wrote:Whoa......that's big, Bob.


It took us more than 5 hours to get all 3 beams into place and fixed on to the pad stones Mike, I think I have some photos archived somewhere. Me, 2 brothers and my nephew, we were being ultra cautious and 2 of us only lifted each end about a foot at a time while one was at the other end and my nephew bolted a cross bar in place. Because of the height we also had to use towers at each end made it more difficult
It worked very well with no drama though no question a crane would have been cheaper had I been able to get one in, I did have a mini digger on site and looked at options with that but just too dangerous to attempt. Had a bad back for a week after it.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby novocaine » 03 May 2021, 07:27

The lads that lifted the 3m steels in our extension used a fancy lift (genie) Hand cranked. Cost 80 quid for days hire.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby wallace » 03 May 2021, 08:39

I move quite a bit of heavy stuff and if at all possible I like to do it by myself, then I can visualize what could happen if it went pear shaped. I like to be methodical and plan everything.
A friend of mine sent me some pics of a loft conversion he was doing and the architect had over specked the steels, they were huge about 6OOmm high and had to go through the house. It was a new build and they were going to remove some of the roof and use a crane but there wasnt room.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby Mike G » 03 May 2021, 08:46

wallace wrote:I move quite a bit of heavy stuff and if at all possible I like to do it by myself, then I can visualize what could happen if it went pear shaped. I like to be methodical and plan everything.
A friend of mine sent me some pics of a loft conversion he was doing and the architect had over specked the steels, they were huge about 6OOmm high and had to go through the house. It was a new build and they were going to remove some of the roof and use a crane but there wasnt room.


In defense of architects ( :) ), we don't specify steel. That would be the structural engineer's fault, not the architect's.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby Tiresias » 03 May 2021, 09:35

Mike G wrote:
In defense of architects ( :) ), we don't specify steel. That would be the structural engineer's fault, not the architect's.


Defense? Is that like defence? (erm, actually I think I did the same thing myself a day or so ago, so that's fine then...)
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby Mike G » 03 May 2021, 13:30

Yes, thanks Tiresias. That's one of those damned annoying ones which won't stick in my brain. Like mortice or mortise. I know I'm going to be wrong only 50% of the time if I spell them differently at random each time.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby AJB Temple » 03 May 2021, 13:46

For those thinking about hiring a Genii cranked telescope lifter, they are very good, but pretty useless in many lifting applications if you are doing timber framing. This is because for balance they have big forks poking out at ground level, and so the walls around the edge of your building get in the way.

If anyone knows of a hand cranked site crane that can get right up to a wall I would be interested.

When I am doing heavy lifts, I like to make a safety cradle as well. This is only because a) my wife is often my helper and I get in a bit of trouble resulting in privileges being withdrawn if stuff falls on her and b) I am accident prone (hence broken foot). I use two methods. One is the very high tech pile of pallets: I have a big collection of pallets from numerous deliveries here. The other is a tripod and webbing straps. If the beam falls, the idea is it can't fall far.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby droogs » 03 May 2021, 13:59

It makes me so sad these days. When I was young lifting that would not have been a problem in any way and now it takes 3 days of planning to lift a 200 gram bar of chocolate
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby Cabinetman » 03 May 2021, 15:49

I’m sure you’ve all seen it, but just in case, Wally Wallington recreating Stonehenge on his own. Some very ingenious methods of moving and lifting some obviously extremely heavy things. Ian
Even bars of chocolate, I do it the easy way one little square at a time.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby MikeJ460 » 03 May 2021, 19:49

Great technique and advice Mike. :text-goodpost:

I was planning (hoping) to persuade a local farmer with a seriously large front loader to lift mine into place but yours is a great Plan B.
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby wallace » 04 May 2021, 08:22

Mike G wrote:
wallace wrote:I move quite a bit of heavy stuff and if at all possible I like to do it by myself, then I can visualize what could happen if it went pear shaped. I like to be methodical and plan everything.
A friend of mine sent me some pics of a loft conversion he was doing and the architect had over specked the steels, they were huge about 6OOmm high and had to go through the house. It was a new build and they were going to remove some of the roof and use a crane but there wasnt room.


In defense of architects ( :) ), we don't specify steel. That would be the structural engineer's fault, not the architect's.


The architect I mean engineer also forgot to measure the lengths properly and when he was called out to check measurements said just weld a bit on the end :D
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Re: Raising a heavy beam

Postby heimlaga » 04 May 2021, 09:10

That is one of the tricks every carpenter had to learn in the past to avoid wearing out his body completely before age 30.
Glad you brought it up to prevent it from being forgotten.
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