For many construction projects involving concrete blocks with odd shapes, rough edges, difficult sizes (and any other number of issues), it’s never advisable to lift by brute force. You’ll only cause yourself serious injury, not to mention damage the concrete.
Better to use the muscle in your head instead. The following three tools will move the concrete and keep you safe, regardless of the size of the job at hand.
Hand clamps are tools designed for a single person to lift smaller, lighter pieces of concrete. These are most commonly used in smaller home improvement jobs and not large-scale commercial construction.
Hand clamps work by automatically increasing the pressure of their grip on the concrete as you lift. The scissor-like design of the clamps use the weight of the concrete pulling downward to actually pull the clamps tighter on it, ensuring that it will not slip free.
Thanks to comfortable grip handles on each clamp, you can then lift and move the concrete without the risk of dropping it.
Hand clamps do have some limitations when it comes to lifting concrete, however. Because they are hand operated, the clamps don’t actually make the concrete feel any lighter. You’ll still need to do your best impression of the ‘Incredible Hulk’ to lift heavy stuff.
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This also means hand clamps can only handle concrete up to a certain weight. Each clamp has its own weight limit, and for anything exceeding that you will need to upgrade to a more robust lifting tool.
Scissor lifts are an ideal concrete lifting tool for those slabs that are too big, heavy, or misshapen to lift with standard hand clamps. The scissor lift is actually just a heavier-duty hand clamp. They are built on the same principle: to use the weight of the concrete to automatically tighten the grip as it is lifted.
The difference is that scissor lifts are larger and made of stronger material, meaning they cannot be operated by hand. Instead, the lifts are attached to machinery like a small crane or forklift. The machine then does the lifting. As it does so, the scissor lifts will grip tight on the concrete and pull it upward, just like when using hand clamps.
Scissor lifts do the heavy-lifting for all kinds of concrete slabs and blocks. They come in far more size and weight options than hand clamps and can typically expand to handle even the largest and most oddly shaped concrete.
The only drawback is the need for special machinery to do the lifting, as well as heavy-duty chains and ties to secure the scissors lifts.
The vacuum lifter is a very specialized, unique tool for lifting concrete slabs. It’s only useful on slabs that are flat and smooth. It’s the preferred option for heavy-duty construction projects, where big concrete panels are constantly being hoisted into place.
For smooth slabs that need to remain pristine, perhaps for exterior walls or walkways, the vacuum lifter is perfect. It uses soft rubber cups attached to hoses that in turn all attach to a high-powered air compressor. This compressor creates a very strong suction that allows the cups to attach to the smooth concrete surface, latch on, and lift without worry of coming undone.
The best vacuum lifters can be very expensive, and combined with their limited range of use this makes them impractical for many projects. Nonetheless, if you find yourself needing to lift seriously heavy concrete slabs, it’s a smart and safe way to go.