By Greg DiBernardo
As a remodeler who works mostly inside, I can generally reach whatever I need to from a 2-foot stepladder. And occasionally my crew and I haul out an extension ladder for our exterior work. Lately, though, we've had a few projects where mature landscaping or proximity to fences and property lines made a ladder impossible to use.
Rather than turn down such jobs or resort to scaffolding, we've taken to leasing articulated man lifts from our local rental yard. The Genie Trailer-Mounted Z-Boom costs about $200 per day in my area. As far as I'm concerned, the productivity gains make that money well spent.
I prefer the tow-behind units — which connect to my truck with a 2-inch ball — because they don't involve any delivery and pick-up fees, as the self-powered lifts do.For about $200 per day, the author uses a Z-Boom articulated lift to reach high areas when a ladder isn't practical. The model shown here — TZ-34/20 — has a maximum height of 40 feet and a basket capacity of 500 pounds.
Working height: 40 feet
Horizontal reach: 18 feet 4 inches
Up-and-over reach: 16 feet 1 inch
Basket capacity: 500 pounds
At the site, I position the lift as close as possible to where we need it. Even though the boom has wheels, moving it is nearly impossible without at least two people (three is better). Pushing the machine up anything but the slightest grade is even harder. So when a site is steep, we bring plenty of manpower for positioning.
The Z-Booms have outriggers that take weight off the trailer's suspension and level the base. Deployed, they make the unit's footprint significantly larger — something to keep in mind when positioning the machine. We put 3/4-inch plywood scraps under the outrigger feet to prevent damage and keep the feet from sinking into the ground.
The user controls are pretty simple; the trick is getting the workbasket in just the right spot. Maneuvering the arm and basket can be counter-intuitive — sometimes, because of the Z-shaped boom, you have to go up and over a roof to get under a soffit. It's a slow process. Moving the basket into position can take five minutes or more. And once it's up there, it's an island in the sky — getting materials can require another five-minute trip. This back-and-forth eats up a significant amount of time.
Repositioning the base is a time-killer, too, because the arm has to be fully bedded and the outriggers retracted. We always plan the initial placement carefully, so we can access everything with as few base-unit moves as possible. Knowing the machine's exact reach and taking careful measurements helps when figuring out placement.
The units we rent have two 110-volt receptacles in the workbasket for tools and lights, but we use cordless tools whenever we can. With two people in the basket, cords tend to make the space feel even smaller.
Allow for Time and Cost
After using the Z-Boom a few times, I have become expert at predicting how suitable it is for various tasks. When a job warrants it, I factor the cost of the rental into my proposal and allow extra time for picking up and dropping off the lift at the rental yard.
Greg DiBernardo owns Fine Home Improvements of Waldwick in Waldwick, N.J.
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