The Drywall Lift

It goes by different terms, the “drywall lift”, or the “panel hoist”. It has become an indispensible tool for the installation of wallboard on ceilings and wall areas. Prior to the its invention, and subsequent innovations, installers were faced with manually carrying and balancing the wallboard from scaffolding, stepladders, stools, makeshift stands and what have you and by whatever means available. A number of manufacturers produce lifts, putting out a variety of designs. It has become the mainstream method for raising and positioning wallboard due to its abilities of reducing the time, physical effort, and labor required for an installation. Typically, substantial savings are realized while lending increased measures of safety. The drywall lift is commonly available at rental outlets and retail establishments.

Features and Functions:
The following components aren’t available on all units on the market today, as some are either present or absent by virtue of design. Each make and model does vary. It is therefore up to the individual operator to decide on which hoist is most suitable.

Drywall Lift(1) Crossbar – stabilizes the width of the board.
(2) Outrigger – gives support, accomodating the board length. Most outriggers are adjustable and some offer lockable points for added stability.
(3) Support Hooks – are instrumental for loading sheets, and for retaining the load when on slopes or for wall applications.
(4) Cradle Pivot – makes the cradle tiltable. Having a locking pivot translates to the ability of maintaining positioning angle.
(5) Telescoping Column – extends the panel vertically. Some kits are offered that augment reach per maker.
(6) Cable – when wound, lifts or lowers the load. Usually the cable is replaceable when needed. On certain models, its task may be performed by a chain, intended for heavier usage.
(7) Cable Brake – secures cable to prevent movement.
(8) Wheel – for manually raising and lowering.
(9) Winch Post – on some lifts the post doubles as a brake arm. Many users find the fixture convenient for steering the lift around however recommended.
(10) Central Backstop – when set, it makes the tripod base center stationary.
(11) Caster Steplocks – each are depressed to prevent rolling.

Basic Operation
Many single-person operators feel comfortable utilizing the lift. For reasons of production though, especially at greater working elevations; having one lift operator to load and position the wallboard while another secures by fastening from above, is optimal. But lower ceilings, might make it feasible for both hangers to load the sheets thus sharing in the dint of workload

Wallboard Sizes
At minimum, the hoist should handle 4′ x 12′ sheets of wallboard. Where larger size boards are being transported, such as 4′ x 16′ dimensions, lifts that accomodate the increased lengths are equipped with outriggers for support that extend outward. This is a must for ceilings applications where taping joints are to be minimized. For stability, the broad, weighty boards combined with increases in range of securing height deem that the tripod base be supportive and the overall construction of the unit be sufficient to where tipping is prevented while maneuvering around with greater, top heaviness. The heavier gauge steel units more aptly handle the higher loads.

Lifting Heights
Typical maximum heights are at 11′, 15′ and 19′ increments. While the absolute minimum level will determine just how easy the sheets are to be loaded onto the cradle, loading them on, two person across-level as opposed to a single person upright-tilt. Too, working height for wall operations is normally taken to be higher than that for ceilings. Although this does depend on slope and can go in theory to a maximum of 4 foot higher than for ceiling that may depend on manufacturer and hoist tiltability.

Load Capacities
For the manual tripod design, a common weight capacity is 150lbs but this is also offered at 200 lbs lift capacity. Noting that upward movements and the force against ceiling, add to the weight of load placed on cradle.

Standard sheets: the 4 by 8 foot panel at 1/2 ” weighs in at around fifty-two pounds while 5/8″ is about seventy-four pounds.

Storage Considerations
There is an enormous advantage to having a unit that collapses for convenient storage and transport. This is a major advantage for those with little in the way of storage. Outriggers on most models retract, for storing and travel to-and-from the jobsite. Tilting cradles turn downward. Models of late, even break down in-as-small as a carrying tote. Yet still offer quick setup. Entirely collapsable units though might not be expected to bring the same rigid sturdiness as a hoist with welded junctures.

Wall Lifts
Found as a lightweight and easily transportable alternative, the function of the wall lift is directed toward those who work either as single-person installers, or two-person teams who want a basic assist for raising and steadying while the board is being asfixed to studs or metal framing. Typically, the wall lift is placed at the bottom board edge, placed at center length, and either foot-pumped or cable-cranked upward alongside the framing into what should be, a balanced position.

Automated Lifts
In service for mainly commercial purposes, with the purpose of installing at heights, and to achieve greater efficiences of production, the automated scissor lift can handle most any task. It provides enhanced stability at height for workers and is practical for raising multiple panels depending on load rating. Although, a drawback is that it cannot position the wallboard and as such two persons are required to handle the panels.

The platforms can extend to as much as 50′ and more, and down to 15′ ceilings. Carrying capacities go from 600 lbs on up to 1500 lb ratings depending on particular model.

Power choice is by rechargeable, electric-batteries, and gas and propane driven models, giving the option for where there is the common case of having no power at the site yet. “Dual models” accept both fuels.

Automated lifts are operated either by lever on older models, or by electronic relay box, receiving direction from the leveling platform itself. Essentially they do away with any physically-driven up and down movements, making them ideal for installing and finishing the wallboards given their extreme ease-of-mobility. Cost factors, however, normally are only justified on larger square footages or if, time is of the essence, or for installs that are at the least, greater than manual-lift altitudes.

The above representation and contents are in no way intended to be a replacement for any manufacturers’ documentation or recommended practice(s).

See Also

Taping, Mudding and Texture Topics