A material lift is machine with 2 forks and a crank which will elevate, position, and install a wide range of materials in all types of commercial and industrial applications. They are a big help when lifting heavy and bulky items up to 25 feet in the air. These lifts are ideal for installing air ducts, electrical fixtures, AC units, plumbing, chimney pipe, sheetrock, heaters, construction sites or ceiling panels.
What lift height do I need?
One of the most important questions is how high you need to lift your material for an application. It’s also a good idea to take into account future lifting applications as well when you make your decision. It’s crucial to take accurate measurements and round up to give yourself some wiggle room. For example, if you need to lift approx. 9 feet it’s good to round up to 10 feet to be safe. Tip: the higher the lift can reach the lower the weight capacity it can hold. For example, a 10-foot lift has a lifting capacity of 1000 pounds while a 20 lift has a capacity of 650 pounds. Most popular sized lifts are typically 10 feet, 12 feet and 18 feet.
What lifting capacity do I need?
Equally as important as height, you need to know exactly how much your load weighs. If an accurate weight of the load is unknown, always round up on your best educated estimate. Remember the higher lifting height of a material the lower weight capacity it can hold that is due to the center of gravity of the lift. Some material lifts can reach loads up to 1100 pounds. A rule of thumb is to always overestimate the amount of load, so you don’t create an overload situation.
This is one question that is commonly overlooked. Unless you're always utilizing a flat bed or big box truck from job to job, you need to consider the maximum height of your truck or cargo van. Underestimating the size of your lift can make it difficult to fit and maneuver it into your vehicle. It’s a good idea to review the stored dimensions before making a decision. Some machines are actually designed to fit in trucks and vans and are light weight compared to larger contractor lifts.
Lifts that are over 15 feet tall are mandated by law to have stabilizers built in since the center of gravity is high. Smaller lifts are not required to have side stabilizers, but if the material being lifted is oversized or bulky, adding on stabilizers would be a necessary safety feature.
Fitting through a doorway:
Larger machines like contractor lifts are typically used in a warehouse or shipping facility, these machines vary from 10-25 feet in height and have capacities from 650 – 1000 LBS. But all are not alike, manufacturers like Sumner, Liftsmart and Genie make 2 styles. The lesser expensive contractor lift cannot roll through a doorway without tilting it on its transport wheels, the more heavy duty versions of these lifts have more mast sections, typically weigh more but when in a stowed position will roll through a standard doorway or elevator.
Safety is always a concern when lifting heavy items overhead, one overlooked safety accessory is the safety brake. It’s a factory installed brake that in the event of a cable breaking during regular operation the mast sections will lock in place preventing possible injury. Think of these brakes as the brakes on an elevator in the event of a cable or motor failure.
Buying a material lift is a large investment, if unsure of what size machine you will need, try renting one from a rental house, Home Depot or Lowes. This way you can also speak to an expert about the costs of ownership for replacement parts or what customers near you are purchasing and what the sales have been on certain machine sizes.