If your project is within reach of a ladder and can be safely installed from a ladder, then use a ladder. But if the job site conditions require another solution such as a scaffold, electric lift or large, multi-person electric lift, carefully plan your project to avoid delays and even disasters. Never compromise safety. Never put your installer or the building occupants at risk.
Following are some real life experiences with different equipment needed for out-of-the-ordinary projects.
FIXED SCAFFOLD TOWERS
A large residence was to receive six motorized Roman shades with a drop of 175 inches. The electrician was to run conduit across the entire installation area and my installer planned to spend many hours mounting the shades. Speed and ease of installation for wiring and mounting the electric shades meant a stable platform was needed. Ladders were out of the question.
For this out-of-town project, a nearby scaffolding supplier delivered the parts to the job site and showed me how everything was to be assembled. When some mismatched wheel sizes were discovered, I was glad the supplier was nearby to immediately deliver the correct parts.
Several stationary towers were assembled side by side. A fire pit had to be bridged with the towers. The pit also eliminated the possibility of using a rolling scaffold.
It can take hours to assemble and disassemble scaffolding. Be sure to build this cost into your project. Have the scaffold company deliver, assemble, disassemble and return it, if it offers that service. In any case, make sure the company is insured.
ROLLING SCAFFOLD TOWERS
On another residential job site, my installer was working on a 15-foot high scaffold tower that was owned by the home builder. The builder agreed to have the scaffold on site for my measure and installation. This saved the home owner a lot of money.
The shades were to be installed prior to carpet installation. The builder's rolling scaffold tower was fairly easy to move around the room to the windows to be covered. I was careful to lock the wheels after each move. Safety first!
In one case, a Genie lift was used to place my installer at a 28-foot height to work on an installation in a bank building. The bank's freight elevator was large enough—and powerful enough—to accommodate the 600-pound lift. While heavy, one person can push this Genie lift into place.
As part of the bid, I had the bank's maintenance personnel temporarily remove all of the lighting fixtures that blocked the lift's vertical path.
The floor area in the vicinity of the windows was open enough to allow the required stability outriggers to be attached to the base of the Genie lift. These outriggers stick out a good distance from the base of the machine. A safety interlock prevents the machine from operating if the outriggers are not installed.
LARGE, MULTI-PERSON ELECTRIC LIFT
At another location on the same floor of this bank, a fixed ceiling over an entryway posed a unique challenge. A very large, electric lift of a different sort was used to both lift and reach my installer over the fixed ceiling.
This lift weighs two tons. The floating concrete floor below it would not safely support this machine. The building's engineer required that it be driven over sheets of plywood in order to distribute the load. Every move of the machine took over half an hour as the plywood sheets had to be leap-frogged in front of the wheels.
Just bringing this multi-person lift into the building was a major challenge. The elevator could not accommodate its weight and it couldn't climb the granite stairs outdoors. This is an example of a situation in which the rental company's consultant can recommend a solution. A heavy-duty fork lift was called in to reach the electric lift 20 feet horizontally over two sets of stairs and place it on the landing outside the front door. The electric lift then was able to drive through the front door of the building and onto the plywood sheets.
Sometimes none of the above solutions will work. Recently, a cramped commercial office site was especially challenging. It was on an upper floor of an office building with no freight elevator. Three fixed workstations below the work area could not be removed during shade installation. In fact, office workers would be in the room throughout the installation. This room had a 19-foot vaulted ceiling and only had two spots that would accept a ladder—neither of which would serve the installer when working at the ceiling's peak.
But sometimes things just go your way. Two existing, parallel, four-inch wide ledges ran the entire length of the room 12 feet off the floor near the low side of the skylight installation. I decided to temporarily deck the entire ceiling of that 99-inch wide room with eight-foot long two-by-fours and three sheets of four- by eight-foot plywood. This eight- by 12-foot deck provided a safe place for everyone to work.
The platform was used to stand on while removing the old skylight system, while measuring for the new skylight, while installing electrical outlets, and then while installing the finished shades. The platform also served as protection for the office occupants and shielded them from the sun while the new shades were being fabricated.
For this job bottom-up stack skylight shades by Castec Window Shading was chosen to provide a view when the shades are not needed. Placing the shades lower saved wiring costs by putting the electric motors nearer the floor.
Whatever your installation challenge, there's a solution. You just have to carefully plan the project, think through each step, and charge enough to cover the special costs of installation.
Steve Walton is the owner of Shades Of The Future, Inc., a window coverings retailer based in Beaverton, Oregon; www.shadesofthefuture.com.