If you are planning to hire scaffolding equipment, the question of whether to use aluminium or steel is one that you have probably deliberated on already. The truth is that there is no distinct winner among the two options, and this can be evidenced by the many debates that have hovered over the subject for years now. That said, the best way to dissect the subject is to evaluate the pros and cons on a step-by-step level:
Cost to hire
If you have browsed around for scaffolds, you have most likely discovered that aluminium units cost more to hire as compared to their steel counterparts. This can be attributed to several factors such as demand, cost of production, and availability. As such, steel scaffolds are more cost-effective and budget friendly, especially when undertaking long term work. On a cost basis, aluminium scaffolds still remain viable for short to medium term projects.
One of the biggest distinctions between steel and aluminium scaffolding is the weight factor. Aluminium scaffolding is much lighter compared to its counterpart. This has many effects when it comes to use. For one, it means aluminium scaffolds are easier and cheaper to transport, be it on trucks or when lifting using cranes. They are also easier to handle on the jobsite, take shorter times to set up and require less labour.
Maintenance is not a key issue when hiring scaffolding equipment because the responsibility lies squarely with the supplier company. However, even when hiring, you will want to know how the two compare while in use. Aluminium is basically maintenance-free. However, steel may chip on the surface when joining or dismantling the setup. Steel scaffolding can also rust if not well galvanized. While this will not affect performance or safety in the short term, it can make handling the pipes a messy affair.
Strength and safety
Structural integrity is key when choosing a scaffolding system. Generally, both materials handle well when in use. The key differences will depend on the particular grade of material you're using (light, heavy or medium), and the scale of the job. For small systems such as mobile towers, aluminium is a better pick because it's lighter and therefore safer as well as easier to use. However, with large scale A-frame systems, steel comes off slightly better due to its rigidity.
Not sure which of the two to go for? Consider consulting with your scaffolding hire supplier. If you are using a builder for the project, ask them which they prefer, and why.