Scaffolding is indispensable as safety and access equipment when working above head height. Many people look at the cost of scaffolding or staging and dismiss it, preferring instead to use a ladder.
Working from a ladder wastes time and is often unsafe. The operative will balance on the rungs, only able to work with one hand. Additionally, he will be continually moving the ladder. If he stretches too far or slips, the professional’s life will be at risk. Compare these negatives with the cost of providing scaffold staging at the correct height. Using safe scaffolding is easier and more efficient to use, and is money well spent.
At one time most jobbing builders used ladders for working above head height, but those days are long gone. It is now the norm for a trained person to do a ‘working at height risk assessment’. From this, they decide whether to use ladders or scaffolding. In general, you can use ladders in low-risk situations. Otherwise, only use them to access scaffolding and not as a replacement. Overall, scaffolding has increased the cost of building work. But it is offset by the reduced time taken for each job and the lower risk of accidents.
House scaffolding hire prices
You can’t just cobble together a few lengths of timber, build a platform and call it a scaffold. For most scaffolding requirements, the structure will be built to a set and standardised design, using specific components. If however, you can’t use a straightforward design, then a competent person must create a customised design. This will ensure the strength, stability and rigidity of the scaffolding remains safe while it is being assembled, used and dismantled.
The price of scaffold staging will depend on factors such as location, the height of staging, its configuration, and purpose.
- The location of the property will determine some of the cost. London and the Southeast always attract a premium and charges will be higher.
- The number of working levels is also a measure of how high you want the staging. If you intend painting a wall of a typical two storey house from ground level to roof, you will need walkways at various levels. The painter can then reach every point on the wall without stretching. However, if you install a new roof or clean the gutters then you will only need one working level at the eaves.
- Duration of hire. There will be charges for erection work at the start of the hire period as well as dismantling at the end. This will be a standard charge based on mileage and size of the job irrespective of the hire duration. Additionally, you will have a hire rate depending on the length of time you intend keeping the scaffold. For Instance, you must be careful when you have the scaffolding erected. You don’t want to pay for unused scaffolding, so order the erection just before the work starts and finish as soon as possible.
- The Configuration of the scaffolding will determine the price. Although the upright support poles have to be at set intervals to distribute the weight correctly, there will be times when it is not possible to take the poles to the ground. For instance, the scaffold may have to straddle a conservatory or encircle a chimney. In these circumstances, the designer will use special components to bridge the gap over a conservatory or distribute the weight onto another loadbearing support.
- You will need a Permit if the scaffolding encroaches onto public lands such as a footpath or a road. If there is a chance of the public coming into contact with the scaffolding then you will need further safety precautions which we will deal with later.
- Make sure there is Access for the scaffolders to bring their vehicle near to the building. They will charge extra if poles and boards have to be carried a long way.
- There will be Extras on top of the scaffold price that you should take into account. Edge protectors, ladders, toeboards and handrails start at £10 per metre.
Scaffolding over a conservatory
Many homeowners install a conservatory to make full use of the sun’s warmth. But what they forget is that access to the house above the conservatory roof will be very difficult. Conservatory roofs comprise non-loadbearing materials such as glass or polycarbonate sheets. It is therefore very difficult to access areas above the conservatory by ladder or normal scaffolding. The solution is to create a bridge above the conservatory roof supported on towers at either side of the structure. Luckily the cost of scaffolding around a conservatory is very reasonable considering the problems of structural support. It will only take a scaffolding team a couple of hours to construct the bridge. And typically will cost about £300 per metre per week.
Scaffolding around a chimney
Chimneys sometimes need repair and maintenance work such as re-pointing. Tradesmen will need access to this area of the roof and need a safe working platform where they can reach all parts of the chimney. As each chimney is different and access problems vary, it is very difficult to estimate an accurate price. As a rough guide assume the price will be from £70 per day or about £450 per week.
Chimneys are located anywhere through the roof, at the eaves, on the gable end or at the ridge. The eaves and a gable end are the easiest places for scaffold erection so, at these locations, chimney scaffolding costs about £600. Scaffolding up to and wrap around chimneys at positions in the middle of the roof will be more difficult and cost considerably more. You can expect to pay about £900 to £1,000 per week for this.
Scaffolding for a semi-detached house
Scaffolding around the three sides of a typical semi-detached house for a simple roofing job will need a different configuration depending on whether it has a gable wall or whether the eaves are at the same level all the way around. Remember that the operatives will require access to every point where the roof members touch the vertical walls. Additionally, there is also a boundary across the roof between your property and your neighbour’s. So always get permission before stepping onto someone else’s property.
It will probably make the scaffolder’s life easier if they have access to your neighbour’s land to place upright support poles or outriggers. Scaffold for this job will typically cost between about £900 to £1,200 per week. Make sure your roofer and the scaffolder have insurance to cover damage on your neighbour’s land
Gutter Repair Scaffolding
You will need only one working level for this job so make sure the level puts the gutters at waist height. But don’t forget access to the downpipe locations. Probably, you will also need a net placed between the toe rail and safety rail to prevent items from falling through onto workers and property below. Choose various ladder lengths to access the top staging from the ground level and for access to the downpipe work areas. The typical cost of this type of scaffold will be about £300 to £500 per week. However, an access tower might be enough to serve your purpose and this will probably only cost between £70 to £150 per week.
Scaffolding for a loft conversion
One of the commonest reasons why householders choose scaffolding is for access when they decide to build a loft conversion in their house. Loft conversions require removal of the roof’s weatherproof covering so that timbers can be strengthened and windows installed. This means that the house is open to the elements and will need protection. A scaffolding roof cover costs about £100 per square metre.
Scaffold Tower Hire Prices
Prefabricated sections make up scaffold towers (or access towers). Each section is made from welded steel tube and shaped something like a letter ‘H’.Each section connects to the section above and below to produce a tower. Between each layer, the user inserts cross braces to keep everything rigid. You can rent these from tool hire shops and you don’t need any special tools or qualifications to assemble them. As long as the user follows the supplied instructions to the letter there should be no problems.
Towers are quickly and easily assembled and come with a choice of feet or wheels. It is, therefore, relatively simple to move an assembled tower from place to place around the house. The structure will also need scaffold boards or decks to make a working platform and outriggers to increase its stability and prevent the tower from falling over.
A typical access tower costs from about £70 to £150 per week to hire or if you intend using one for a long time you might consider buying your own, either new or second hand. A brand new access tower about 5.2m high with a footprint area of 0.95m x 2.5m will cost you in the region of £1,500 plus VAT. To buy a second hand, reconditioned tower will cost about £950 plus VAT. This is often a very economical way of working because when you have finished using it, you will be able to sell it as a second-hand tower and get a lot of your original outlay returned.
Minimum Hire Times
The minimum duration for renting scaffold access towers from your local hire shop will be either daily or weekly depending on the size of the shop. Sometimes you may be able to rent a tower for a weekend for the price of one day. Ask your local shop for the best terms.
Larger scaffolding hired from a company usually requires a minimum rental of four to eight weeks. This is to recoup their costs of setting up and tear down. There are some companies who will rent for shorter durations, but then you will usually pay a fee for assembly and tear down as well as a scaffolding cost per day or week.
You should also remember when negotiating with the scaffolding company, to arrange terms if your project takes longer than expected. Make sure there is an agreement in place for extra days or weeks if needed.
Materials used in scaffolding
When you hire scaffolding, a team of operatives will assemble the finished lattice from a selection of separate components according to a plan. The performance and design of each piece must comply with the relevant European Standard BS EN 12811-1 to ensure they meet the required safety standards.
- Base Plates. These are the feet of the structure and are the load bearing supports.
- Base Collars. These are connected to the Base Plates and support the vertical standards.
- These are the galvanised steel upright poles that transfer the weight of the scaffolding down to the base plates.
- These are flat tubes that join between standards.
- These rest on ledgers and at right angles to them. They support the decks or boards.
- These are the bolted clamps that join the standards and braces together.
- Diagonal Braces. These cross-sectional braces are short lengths of steel that brace everything into a stable structure.
- Upright safety boards rising from the decks and fitted between the standards. These prevent the workers from slipping off the decks. Manufacturers make boards from wood, steel or aluminium.
- These make up the working platforms and are made from steel, wood, aluminium or fibreglass reinforced plastic.
The scaffolding foundation is probably the most important part of the structure. It transfers the weight down to the ground and provides a strong and stable footing. The user places large square wooden or plastic boards between the base plates and the ground. This increases friction between the two surfaces if the ground is hard and prevents the plates from sinking into soft ground.
Scaffolding Today (and history)
Up until the twentieth century, there were no industry standards. Each scaffolding company used different materials, standards and sizes. David Palmer-Jones revolutionised scaffolding by devising scaffolding practices, standards and processes. He also patented the Scaffixer (a coupling device) and then in 1919 improved on this by inventing the Universal Coupler. This does its job so well it has almost remained unaltered since then.
Today we have the European Standard (BS EN 12811-1). This specifies the performance requirements and methods of design of safe access, working platforms, and scaffolds. The standard does not specify construction materials, instead, it is intended to act as the basis of design. All scaffold structures and individual components must now comply with this standard and will provide access and a platform from which operatives can safely carry out their work.
How scaffolding works
Modern scaffolding provides a flexible system for working from otherwise inaccessible locations. As mentioned earlier, scaffold essentially relies on metal poles, couplers and boards. This lattice configuration of horizontal, diagonal and vertical poles, provides a safe access and working platform. The total weight of the structure, personnel and stored materials transfers from the boards through the horizontal and vertical poles into the ground.
Scaffolding Regulations & Legal Requirements
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 require a scaffold to be assembled into a generally recognised industry standard configuration. Otherwise, it must comply with the ‘NASC Technical Guidance TG20 for tube and fitting scaffolds’ (National Access and Scaffolding Confederation) or similar guidance from scaffold manufacturers. A competent person must design the scaffold configuration using calculations. Furthermore, it must also be strong, rigid and stable while being assembled, used and dismantled. The Health and Safety Executive website lists everything you need to know about keeping within scaffolding law.
Scaffolding can be very dangerous so by law, a competent person must check it to ensure it is safe:
- Before its first use.
- At intervals of seven days.
- After any alteration, damage or adverse weather conditions.
Additionally, in order to work safely at height, a competent person must:
- Appropriately plan and supervise all work.
- Ensure all personnel working at height or planning the work are competent professionals.
- Carry out a suitable risk assessment and from that select appropriate equipment.
- Control risks from fragile surfaces.
- Regularly examine the equipment and uphold the examination.
You will need scaffolding permits if any part of the scaffolding touches public land. This means public footpaths, roads or common ground. You can apply for one of these from your local council. The UK government has specified rules that must be followed over and above those specified by the HSE.
Additionally, if there is a risk to the public from the work or the scaffolding, you must only work during quiet times and apply for a road closure from the local authority.
What are the alternatives to scaffolding?
If the work will only take a few hours, and the risk assessment shows it is safe, you don’t need to hire a full scaffolding. You can erect and use alternatives.
- Access Tower. Almost anyone can hire and assemble this prefabricated scaffold. Although not as large or as versatile as a custom built scaffold, they are perfect for many jobs.
- Scissor Lift. These are motorised mobile units that can be adjusted to variable heights and moved to different locations. They are great if you have to regularly move the platform.
- This is a simple solution to many working at height problems. They are great for quick jobs but not suitable for long term solutions. Assess the risks before using one of these.
- Access Platform. This is an access tower, but with a larger rectangular working platform. Ideal if you need to move about during the work.
Will the company regularly check their scaffolding?
NASC registered companies will check the installation before it is first used. Thereafter, every week, and if exposed to extreme weather or altered in any way.
This is a condition of membership of the NASC to which all companies must adhere. It ensures that they conduct their business dealings openly and in the best interests of all parties. Access the link to read the full conditions.
Ensure the company you hire has NASC registration. They will have their accounts audited and will have suitable public and employer’s liability insurance. Their operatives will be fully trained in all aspects of the work and the required safety practices. They will always provide a risk assessment and method statement to ensure their staff follow the current regulations. Lastly, they will always charge you scaffolding hire prices within the range of the current industry standard.