How to erect scaffolding

Updated February 21, 2017

Scaffolding is erected to safely support workers on a level surface that's elevated for construction or painting jobs. The most common type of scaffold, or pipe staging, in the UK is a steel tube frame scaffold erected on the outside of a building. Scaffolding can be built to reach the upper level of a single storey building, or as high as the upper floors of a skyscraper.

Suit up for the job. Put on work gloves and a hard hat before you begin to work with steel tubing frames.

Prepare the foundation. Level the ground where you plan to erect scaffolding as much as possible. Put steel base pads on an end or two of the frame sides as required.

Stand the first section. Have a helper stand one of the frame sides on its base pads and connect the braces to both sides of it with the locking pins. Stand up the other frame side and attach the braces to it.

Stabilise and support the bases. Place a 30 cm (1 foot) length of 5 by 25 cm (2 by 10 inch) plank under each base pad. Nail the base pads to the footer boards by hammering 6.5 cm (2 1/2 inch) nails through the holes in the pads.

Stabilise the staging level to prevent workers from losing balance and falling. Lay a plank on the upper platform supports and check it with a level. Use screw jacks between the base pads and the framing tubes to correct any imbalance.

Lay out a sturdy platform that will hold the weight of workers and construction supplies. Aluminium or framed plywood decks are available that lock onto scaffold supports. Follow American National Standards Institute guides for lumber safety if wood planks are used. Lay planks on the support bars with no more than 2.5 cm (1 inch) between the boards.

Run toe boards and railing to hold tools and workers on the platform. Cut 5 by 10 cm (2 by 4 inch) lengths to fit between the framing sides and across the ends of the frames. Lay the toe boards at the base of the platform. Place crash barriers 47.5 cm and 105 cm (19 inches and 42 inches) up from the platform. Run additional crash barriers between the building and any opening in the scaffold. Secure rails and toe boards with tie wire #18. California law requires railings in place for all scaffold platforms over 2.1 m (7 feet) high. Other states call for railings on platforms over 3 m (10 feet) high.

Use ladders to reach the platforms instead of having workers climb up the frames. Place a ladder firmly against the platform end and secure it on the frame with wire.

Build the staging up to a second level. Set coupling pins on top of the open frame tubes on the first level. Place a frame side over the pins and lock it on with cottar pins. Have your helper hand the frames and braces up to you from the lower level. Work with your helper as a team to attach the cross braces at both ends of the upper level. Move the platform deck or planks from the first level up to the second. Affix toe boards, crash barriers and an access ladder for the second platform.

Secure the staging against the building. Clamp wall brackets to the scaffold framing and nail them into the frame of the building every 40 cm (16 feet) up and every 40 cm (16 feet) across. Wire ties help support building braces, but are not secure enough to be used exclusively as braces.


Use only one type of scaffold framing to build the entire staging. Frame sides from differing sets may not fit together well enough to stack safely.


Do not stack bricks or scrap wood under the base pads to level the staging. Do not build staging over shrubbery that prevents walking under frames.

Things You'll Need

  • Helper
  • Hard hat
  • Work gloves
  • Base pads
  • 30 cm (1 foot) lengths of 5 by 25 cm (2 by 10 inch) footers
  • 6.5 cm (2 1/2 inch) nails
  • Hammer
  • Screw jacks
  • Level
  • Extension ladders
  • 5 by 25 cm (2 by 10 inch), or 5 by 30 cm (2 by 12 inch) planks
  • #18 tie wire
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About the Author

Jonra Springs began writing in 1989. He writes fiction for children and adults and draws on experiences in education, insurance, construction, aviation mechanics and entertainment to create content for various websites. Springs studied liberal arts and computer science at the College of Charleston and Trident Technical College.