Why did you quote me for scaffolding if others can do the same from ropes?
HiSolution has grown from rope access and we are still very proud of our rope access roots. Some of the best practices used nowadays in working at height originate from the rope access industry standards. We still provide a range of “classic” rope access services, as well as using rope access in many of our roofing or gutter-maintenance related jobs.
Why did we quote you for scaffolding then?
We have been looking after Edinburgh’s roofs for close to 20 years now. This makes for a lot of experience, and a lot of learning, both on formal courses from true experts and master artisans and learning-by-doing, and learning from mistakes too.
With the growth of the roofing part of our business, oftentimes the optimal solution to our customer’s problem simply requires the use of traditional scaffolding. We do more large-scale projects nowadays, and those projects either definitely need scaffolding to complete at all, or the best solutions involve scaffolding.
And that is why we often quote for scaffolding in our current estimates. We have not changed our minds about rope access being often the possible and realistic solution. But we have become more and more aware of the advantages of scaffolding.
We always propose solutions that, based on our professional expertise, are the most likely to lead to the best long-term results for our customers.
The choice between the two access options in many cases depends on the priorities of the customer. In this article we will look at the benefits and drawbacks of each method in terms of cost, crew safety, pedestrian safety, inconvenience, speed, quality/long-lasting results and other aspects.
Let us start with the one factor that is often the most contentious. The price. People look to rope access roofing services because they expect them to be cheaper. And yes, scaffolding is generally more expensive than rope access, as it requires more materials and labour to set up. For example, setting up scaffolding for a typical 4-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh or around will cost between £1,000 and £5,000, depending on the size of the structure.
On the other hand, rope access requires minimal equipment and can be done quickly, making it a more cost-effective option for many smaller roofing jobs.
When discussion costs though, we cannot forget the less direct costs of rope access. From the cost of suitable high-quality harnesses and ropes, to the requirements of regular training and certification for the technicians and the equipment, properly run rope access operation is not cheap. When obtaining quotations from rope access roofing operators, it is worth asking for their credentials and certifications. Do they use IRATA certified techs? What level? What about the supervisors? What is their process for gear checks? Do they follow the IRATA code on site? Can they demonstrate that they actually do this, or is it just declarations?
Safety of the crew
Both rope access techniques and scaffolding provide a safe working environment for roofing crews. Rope access is generally considered to be the safer option. This is based on the accident record of roofing vs. traditional construction industry. Rope access technicians are highly trained -- WHEN properly trained and certified -- and qualified to work at heights.
They use specialised equipment that is designed to ensure their safety. With the use of safety harnesses and ropes, the technicians can move around the roof more easily and safely, which minimises the risks associated with working at height.
At HiSolution we believe that we combine the best of both worlds. Our crews include roofers who are also IRATA certified rope access technicians. The rope access culture with its focus on safety still guides our daily practices, even when working on scaffolding. And whenever it’s needed, we will use rope techniques to make ourselves safer.
Safety of pedestrians and general public
Scaffolding is a better option in terms of the safety of pedestrians and the general public. By its very nature, scaffolding creates a physical barrier between the public and the work area. Even when scaffolding is not necessarily needed for access, a so-called “crash deck” is often used below the work area, or parts of the pavement or road need to be cordoned off. All this is especially important if the roofing work is being carried out in a busy area with a lot of foot traffic. Depending on the type of the job, some tasks theoretically suitable for rope access simply cannot be done without scaffolding/crash deck and sometimes also netting, because the risks to pedestrians (and also the risk of damage to cars) is too high.
In terms of being obtrusive, scaffolding can be inconvenient for building occupants as it takes up a lot of space and can obstruct access to the building, parking, and impact privacy of the occupants. Additionally, the building of and taking down scaffolding can be noisy and disruptive. Rope access, on the other hand, is less obtrusive, and it does not take up as much space, though cordoning off the areas below the work space will still be required while the work is being done.
Rope access is in principle faster than scaffolding as it doesn’t require anywhere near as much setup. Scaffolding, on the other hand, takes longer to set up and dismantle.
On the other hand, many jobs become much harder and thus slower to do without scaffolding. It makes transporting heavy materials such as slates or lead, tools and other gear, for example gas bottles for soldering, much easier and, effectively, faster.
While processes that can be easily done using rope access can provide a quick fix to many roofing problems, scaffolding is often needed to provide enough of full, safe access for jobs that require a long-lasting and high-quality solution.
For instance, a cement skew can be replaced using rope access, while installing a lead watergate requires scaffolding access. While more expensive, the solution achieved by installing a lead watergate is by far longer lasting and more reliable. Where the quality and longevity of the repair are paramount, rope access tends to be less suitable.
Rope access is more flexible than scaffolding, as it can be used on a variety of building types and structures, including historic buildings and those with irregular shapes. Some places simply cannot be reached using traditional access methods, or getting up to them using scaffolding would be prohibitively expensive. Scaffolding, as we have already indicated, is better suited for larger roofing projects that require a lot of equipment and materials.
How to decide?
At HiSolution, we decide on the optimal access method guided by our aim to provide optimal results. We don’t have a specific preference for ropes or scaffolding, as we are equally skilled and proficient in using both, and we employ technicians that have necessary training and certification for both.
Where rope access is the best solution, we will recommend rope access. Where scaffolding is required, we will recommend scaffolding. Sometimes combined approach will be needed, with scaffolding providing the main access, but ropes being used to reach some parts of the structure. In some cases, different solutions are possible, and the right choice will depend on the priorities. We will never compromise on safety, and we tend to prioritise quality and long-term results, but we understand that budgets matter for our customers.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask.
Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of lead watergate vs. cement skew.
Get a quote, with the access method most suitable for the job.