Catwalks are a vital part of any project involving scaffolding. They provide the platform between 2 areas, acting as a place to stand and work. Based on their size, you may see them called planks, decks, platforms. Whether you're doing repairs to a small structure, but need solid ground to reach high areas, or working on a multi-story project, the materials you use in your catwalks can affect your team’s performance and your budget. Wood, metal, composite, or fabricated planks each have positive and negatives associated with using them, knowing which ones to choose for your project isn’t always easy.
For thousands of years, wood has been the material choice when it comes to catwalks. In fact, some of the most recognizable buildings and works of art have been built or created using scaffolding with not only wood planks, but full wooden structures. We’re talking about the Sistine Chapel and Cathedral of Notre Dame, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best choice today.
Wood planks are very easy to use and can be cut in the exact size needed. They can be nailed into and are relatively inexpensive. They’re light enough to be handled by one worker and do not conduct electricity or retain heat. They also tend to be the most economical option.
While these benefits could sway you towards choosing wood, be sure to consider the negatives. Wood planks are flammable, and while you can chemically treat them to reduce their flammability, it also reduces their strength. They retain moisture, which makes them heavy in the rain or humidity, and may cause warping. They are limited to a maximum length of 10 feet and do not fit snuggly, so they create trip hazards. Like all other options, they do require maintenance.
You can also invest in metal planks. They are generally stronger and hold more weight than wood. Metal planks can be handled by a single worker and do not pose a trip hazard. They don’t absorb moisture, are not flammable, and require very little maintenance.
While metal planks may begin to look like a better option, don’t forget the downsides. Metal planks are more expensive. They cannot be cut to size, like wood, so your sizing is limited, and they cannot be nailed into place.
Composite planks hold many of the positives of wood planks, but they are not flammable and do not retain moisture. They don’t rot, are stronger than wood, don’t hold moisture, or conduct electricity. They can be repaired on-site and have a non-slip surface for safety. Like metal, they are more expensive than wood, cannot be nailed into, and are limited to manufactured sizes.
Fabricated decks are made with a mix of materials or are all metal. Smaller setups may contain metal frames with wood or aluminum planks, while larger ones rely on metal platforms. They are generally wider, stiffer, and stronger than standard wood versions.
Because of their flexibility, we often recommend them for projects. Able Scaffold’s fabricated catwalks are made of aluminum. Our catwalks:
- Are strong, rigid, and built to last
- Have a 100 lbs. per square foot load capacity
- Are Lighter than wood and steel planks
- Have hooked ends that provide a flush work deck, no trip hazard, and we even have replacement hooks
- Do not absorb moisture
There are some drawbacks to consider. Fabricated planks are limited to manufactured sizes and are more expensive than wood. They need to be handled in a professional manner as they are easily damaged. They can’t be cut, notched, or nailed into.
How Do You Choose?
There are many options to consider when choosing the appropriate catwalk components for your project. The good news is, you don’t have to be an expert! You just need to rely on a good one. At Able Scaffold, part of our job is to make sure you get the best components to fit your project, budget, and long-term goals. Contact us today to find out how we can make your next job easier.