5 Tips for Choosing a Boom Lift to Rent

Pick the right machine to reach a particular spot in the sky. 

Boom lifts raise you up to where your work is. These aerial work platforms are an essential piece of equipment on a wide range of projects, from construction, painting and glazing to industrial maintenance, landscaping and electrical. 

A boom lift, with its hydraulic arm, can move a work platform both horizontally and vertically, giving you significant reach in three dimensions. It can be far more versatile than, say, a scissor lift, which can only go up and down.

When renting a boom lift, one of the first questions you’ll likely consider is “how high do I need to go?” But there are other factors to weigh before deciding on specific unit. Here are some these tips to use when renting a boom lift.

Choose your boom

There are several boom designs to choose from. The most common are telescopic booms and articulating booms. A telescopic, or straight, boom (sometimes called a stick boom) is best when you don’t need to maneuver around obstacles to access the work area. Since some models can reach heights of 80 feet, and some large, specialty models can reach as high as 185 feet, they’re often the right choice for projects that require accessing significant heights, like those involving work on bridges, hangars, stadiums and high-rise buildings. 

An articulating or “knuckle” boom lift features bendable joints that let you maneuver the boom around obstacles that would otherwise block access to the worksite. The tradeoff is that most general-purpose articulating booms can’t reach as high as telescopic booms. That said, United Rentals offers a 125-foot articulating boom lift and a 135-foot articulating boom lift. Articulating lifts tend to have a larger footprint. The base can be as wide as 8 feet; so be sure your worksite can accommodate the lift you have in mind. 

Consider size carefully 

You need to know, of course, how high you need the platform to reach.  However, you should also identify how far, horizontally, you might need it to extend from the base. Telescopic booms list their maximum working height and horizontal reach. Articulating booms list their maximum working height and an “up and over” height that indicates how high it will reach when the boom is articulated. 

Other specs you may need to consider include stowed height (the lowest height for which the unit can be configured, which might be a consideration for storage), as well as width and weight. Make sure the machine isn’t too wide for your work area (compact lifts, about 3 feet wide, can fit in narrow workspaces). The ground bearing pressure, measured in PSI, is important for calculating whether you can safely operate the lift on the planned surface.

Electric or diesel?

You need to know where you are planning to use the boom lift. If you’re working indoors or in confined spaces, an electric boom lift is a good choice because of the lack of exhaust. Electric booms are also generally compact. 

Electric lifts can go outside, but the great outdoors is generally the domain of lifts powered by internal combustion. Gasoline, propane and diesel units travel faster than electric units and you don’t need to worry about recharging batteries. 

Self-propelled or towable?

Most boom lifts are self-propelled. But, trailer-mounted towable models can come in handy if you need your lift to be highly portable or you need to move it quickly between jobsites. They can be connected to a work truck with a towing hitch. Lightweight, with simple controls, they’re useful for a variety of applications, from tree work to exterior painting and maintenance. They also are quite compact for storage. Outriggers offer support in place of the counterweights of self-propelled models.

Investigate options and accessories

You’ll need to have a thorough understanding of the environment in which you’ll be working and the work you’ll be doing. For example, you may want non-marking tires or rubber-footed tracks to protect flooring if you’re working indoors. If you’re working in a confined space, you might be interested in a jib boom extension. Added between the end of the boom and the platform, it adds another articulation point that you can use to move the platform up and down or side to side. This gives your boom more degrees of mobility for precise positioning. Working at night or in dark conditions? You can get a platform-mounted with work lights. 

Racks and trays can make work on a boom lift more efficient. For plumbing and electrical work, for example, a pipe rack mounts above the railings of the boom lift to store piping and conduits off the platform. A glass and panel tray lets you store glass or panels outside the lift. For welding, you can even get a lift-mounted welder.

Dave Johnson is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who has been writing about all aspects of business and technology since before there was an internet. 


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