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Rent or Build Scaffolding

this_page_left_blank | Posted in General Questions on

I need to mount a cell booster antenna above my roof. I plan to mount a structure to the roof rake fascia which will extend about 4 feet above the peak. I tried going up there with a ladder, and quickly decided it was not safe.

There’s an attic hatch on the wall below, so I was thinking I could use it to attach a platform. The other end support could either go straight down about 12′ to the balcony below, or brace to the wall with diagonal supports. The latter seems like a more sound structure, but it means permanently marring the Hardie siding. I could repair the damage somewhat, but if I ever want to use the platform again the damage and repair will get repeated. With the former option, I could use extra long supports extending past the platform to form uprights to attach the railing, making the railing a little more simple and sturdy.

I guess a third option would be to build a free standing scaffold, but that’s a much bigger job. I’d probably still have to use the hatch to attach a stabilizer.

Anything obviously wrong with these plans, and any opinions on which one makes the most sense?

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  1. Expert Member
    NICK KEENAN | | #1

    Have you considered renting scaffolding? I have a local rental place that rents it for practically nothing. I rent a trailer from U-Haul to transport it but that's only about $20 a day.

  2. Expert Member
    NICK KEENAN | | #2

    If I were to put a platform there I would run it into the attic and cantilever it. Make it twelve feet long with four feet sticking out. Leave it in the attic for future use when done.

  3. Expert Member


    Rent some scaffold, or buy some used on Craigslist and become all your neighbours best friend by loaning it out. Site-building scaffolding is asking for trouble.

  4. Expert Member
    RICHARD EVANS | | #4

    If it is paved (flat and smooth) below, then an indoor style scissor lift can be rented pretty cheaply for a half day. Saves you the hassle of assembling scaffolding.

    On an unrelated note, I really, really like your siding. Your house looks great from what I can see.

  5. this_page_left_blank | | #5

    Thanks for the suggestions.
    -no used scaffold of the correct size for sale here
    -ground is not flat or paved, so scissor jack is out
    -not fond of the scaffold rental idea; not confident in my ability to get the job done in a day, transport to and from site would be a concern, plus I'm probably going to end up going up there multiple times for tweaking the aiming

    Edit: got confused about the term cantilevered, now I realise that means unsupported on the far end. Don't think I'd feel comfortable with that arrangement.

  6. this_page_left_blank | | #7

    Not too keen on buying metal scaffolding. It's about a $500 hit, I'd have to lug all of it up through my house and onto the balcony, then back down again, and then I don't have a good place to store it. It's got no railing.

    I'm warming up to the idea of the cantilevered platform. If I make the horizontals out of 2x6, it should be pretty rigid.

    1. Expert Member
      NICK KEENAN | | #24

      You have the home team advantage. If you build something that slides out you can store it in the attic and slide it out when you need it. The other alternatives people are tossing around are geared toward portability.

      I would go with a 12' long platform with 4' sticking out. With a 200 lb load on the end you'd need 100 lbs of downforce on the inside end -- and 300 lbs bearing on the fulcrum. I'd make it out of two 2x6 with a 1/2" plywood floor and pieces of 2x4 every 24" to brace it. At the inside end I would bolt vertical angle iron to the 2x6's and to an attic joist. I would put a railing around the entire outside section, 32" high. You could even put wheels at the fulcrum to make it easier to slide in and out.

      I can't tell from your picture whether a platform at attic floor level would be high enough to do what you need or whether you would have to stand higher.

      It looks like the hatch is the only way of getting into the attic? Then the process of deploying it would be to use a ladder to get into the hatch, slide the platform out, do your work, slide the platform back in and go down the ladder.

      If you find the cantilever unsettling you could run a single post to the ground to hold up the outer end.

      1. this_page_left_blank | | #28

        Thanks for the tips. The height at the hatch bottom, plus the 6 inches the platform adds will be adequate to perform the work. Instead of angle iron, I was going to run a 2x4 horizontally across the tops of the 2x6 cantilevers and secure it to roof trusses. I don't have access to the joists as they are under 32" of cellulose.

  7. vashonz | | #8

    I bought 2 sections of "oudoor" 5'x7' scaffolding new for ~$500, rental would have gotten more than that expensive very quickly. Has been invaluable for doing indoor ceiling, ourdoor work on one side of my house, and wiring in my pole barn.

    Have you looked at renting a Mobile Elevated Work Platform (MEWP)? We rented one for doing the soffits on our house (cedar t&g, 3ft overhang).
    TZ-34/20 was towable with my truck, backed it around the house, self contained, hydraulic stabilizers didn't require perfectly flat ground, 34ft height reach, and 20ft horizontal meant that it required minimal repositioning. Much less expensive to rent (was about $220/day (and didn't require delivery on a flatbed like larger self propelled ones do.

  8. capecodhaus | | #9

    Here's your answer: PUMPJACKS.

    Use a short step ladder if need. Wear a harness and tie off to some framing.

    Bingo idea!

  9. this_page_left_blank | | #10

    MEWP is not ideal for the same reason as renting scaffold, I don't think I can complete the job in one day. Also not sure I could get it close enough to where I need it based on the landscape. Edit: called around, don't seem to be any available anyway

    Pump jacks are fine for an unfinished house. I'm not going to screw supports onto my siding. Also by far the most expensive of any option.

    1. Expert Member
      NICK KEENAN | | #23

      The aluminum pump jacks are way expensive. You can get pump jacks that use wooden posts that are pretty cheap. But there's still the point about screwing into the building. Plus, to use pump jacks you have to get up on a ladder and put the brackets in first.

  10. GBA Editor
    Kiley Jacques | | #11

    Here's an oldie but goodie from Fine Homebuilding/Mike Guertin that might be an idea for you: Simple Homemade Scaffolding.

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #14


      I'd forgotten those. Always intended to make a pair. I've got some siding replacement coming up. Perfect timing.

    2. Expert Member
      RICHARD EVANS | | #15


      Those are ingenious! Thanks for sharing

  11. the74impala | | #12

    What about one of those ladder stand off stabilizers? They would make it much less wobbly and could get you in a better spot in relation to the facia.

    1. this_page_left_blank | | #13

      I used that on my first attempt with the ladder, but my ladder is only long enough to reach just below the roof peak, so it was leaned against the wall. It didn't get me out far enough. If I had a longer ladder, I could lean it up past the rake itself (equally spaced on either side of the peak), but it would still involve working with the mount in one hand and a drill in the other, with no hands on the ladder. If I already had such a ladder, I might be tempted to try it, but since it seems a little sketchy I'm not going to buy a ladder just for that purpose.

  12. MattJF | | #16

    Might be worth hiring out. Many electricians that do exterior lighting service own bucket trucks. Could a bucket truck get near enough? The work would be pretty quick that way.

    Could an off road articulating man lift get to the location needed?

  13. walta100 | | #17

    I say rent the towable man lift for the day about $300 around here.
    It will be fast safe and easy even on your uneven ground.

    If you fell off a ladder or homemade scaffolding the ER co pay would likely be more than the rent.

    I attached photo of a dead man’s scaffold and the view from the same. Not my work and not the way I would work.


    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #20


      Trevor lives in Canada where we don't have to worry about ER expenses.

  14. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #18

    I highly recommend renting a small boom lift or scissor lift if you aren’t confident you can do the work safely from a ladder. Either lift will be MUCH safer, lots easier, and let you work with both hands from a safe platform with a railing. Boom lifts are much more maneuverable, but also a lot bouncier and more complex to operate. The boom lift, however, is capable of going up and then extending out over the top of something to reach where you need to go. Scissor lifts, while more stable, can only go straight up and down and that’s it.

    If you want to try a ladder, a stabilizer bracket is a big help. Tie the ladder off securely, then use a large (I use 5/8”) braided nylon rope to run under your arms around behind you to secure you to the ladder. You can then lean back into the rope to use both hands while staying secure. It is imperative that you tie the ladder securely to the structure for this to work. I’ve used this method lots of times when working in trees.

    I would avoid building a temporary platform. You’ll probably find that after the labor and materials required to do that safely, you could have just rented a lift and been done with it. You won’t have to take the lift apart when you’re done either.

    BTW, if you just have a small antenna to mount, use one of the eave mounts that come with a short piece of mast. They’re easy to install and they’re cheap. If your booster uses RG6 coaxial cable, I recommend using the polyethylene jacketed kind outdoors since it will last longer than the PVC jacketed kind. Black cable lasts longer when exposed to sunlight too.

    From past experience with cell booster installation, you’re going to want to play with the placement of that antenna a little before permanently mounting it. I found that some locations work a lot better than others because you don’t want the indoor antenna to “hear” itself through the outdoor antenna. I had to use one of these for my wife’s cellphone to work at home until I got a picocell and put it in the basement.


  15. Expert Member
    NICK KEENAN | | #19

    Can you get up on the roof? It's generally easier to work from above than below.

  16. Expert Member
    MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #21


    What is the roofing? Following up on DC's comment - if it's asphalt shingles, you might think of getting a couple of these:

    1. Expert Member
      NICK KEENAN | | #22

      Interesting. You'd still have to wear a harness though.

      1. Expert Member
        MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #25

        Oh yeah!

  17. this_page_left_blank | | #26

    Working from the roof seems like the most dangerous option. In fact, I'd say falling off the roof would be far more likely than completing the task (which is going to hurt, even with a fall arrest system that I don't currently have). I'd have to lean out over the roof at least a couple of feet while holding a mount in one hand and try to drive screws through it with the other, holding the drill backwards. It's a steel roof, so no help from the Pitch Hopper.

    I'm pretty surprised at the universal thumbs down to building the platform. I don't understand the arguments against it.

    If I build a platform with a railing, my chances of falling are virtually zero. I've already priced out the pieces, and it's about $75. Renting a boom lift, once I add on pick up and delivery charge is going to be at least 10 times that. The platform can be constructed and deconstructed in about the same time as driving to the rental place and back. I've had a civil engineer look my drawing and said it was structurally sound.

    1. Expert Member
      NICK KEENAN | | #27

      See my post #24 above.

    2. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #29


      If you are more comfortable building the platform I'd go that way. DC's post #24 has good advice.

      I think a lot of us got caught up in how we would do it, not someone uncomfortable or not used to working off ladders, or on roofs.

  18. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #30

    Malcolm is right, professional contractors need to think about the labor savings of NOT building custom one-off platforms that they can't necessarily bill through to the customer. Boom and scissor lifts are quick and easy, ALWAYS get you where you need to go (well, almost always :-), and can be easily passed through as an expense. When I say they "always" work, I mean you can do a quick look at a job, think "I can't reach that with a ladder, I need a lift", rent a lift, then go to the job. Figuring out how to build a platform involves potential mysterious time and money sucks that can sink you on a job.

    I have right now a project at a heat treating plant and spend all day on a lift pretty much. It's fun in a way, a little less boring than walking around, but it gets the job done. An upcoming project in a church might also need a lift. I just put on my quote that if we need a lift, we'll add the rental cost to the project and pass it through to the customer.

    For a home DIY project, you can trade off your time against the cost of a lift. Just be careful and make things SAFE. If you fall off, you've immediately canceled out all cost savings.


  19. this_page_left_blank | | #31

    I built and used the platform yesterday. My 5-year-old daughter saw and immediately asked if I was going to jump off it; it does kind of look like a diving board. Then she was concerned about me falling, so she placed "safety pillows around the ladder.
    I ended up leaving the floor slid out over the edge so that I could go up and down the ladder. I had to do that about 30 times, testing the signal strength at various directions.

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #32


      Nice - especially the workers compensation rated fall mats. You should have just ignored us and built it last weekend.

      1. this_page_left_blank | | #33

        Yesterday was the earliest I could get to it. It took longer than I expected, mostly because I was very deliberate due to my fear of heights. Took a long time to get the courage to step out onto the platform to secure the railing. No regrets though.

    2. Expert Member
      NICK KEENAN | | #34

      Good job. I was hoping you'd come back with pictures, there are so many posters we never hear from again. I expect you'll find the platform useful for as long as you live there.

  20. MattJF | | #35

    Nice work. That ground view square on photo makes it clear that this is a perfect solution. The original image certainly made it look like that hatch was offset from the peak you wanted to get to.

    1. Expert Member
      NICK KEENAN | | #36

      Perfect height too. The original photo made it look like the hatch might be too low to reach the roof but it's right at a good working level.

  21. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #37

    Trevor, I used to have a cell booster with that exact same antenna. Did you make sure the drain hole is on the bottom? If not, the antenna will fill with water and quickly fail. I didn’t notice the hole at first and the antenna did not last long.


    1. this_page_left_blank | | #38

      Yes. They were nice enough to put a "this end up" sticker on it.

  22. Puhovpeny | | #39

    Hi guys! I would be grateful if you could answer my question about renting. Is investing in a fourplex worth it? I was planning to build a built-to-rent house, but I saw an article about fourplexes I think it might be a good option in my area because many people are looking for cheaper housing here now. I like the idea more because all the maintenance you have to do is under one roof, and there is a lower vacancy risk because the mortgage rate is lower. Would it be better to buy or build a fourplex from the ground? What are your thoughts about this type of housing?

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