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How to build a dead man lift

Hanging drywall on the ceiling during a remodel presents a challenge for those attempting a do-it-yourself project without a helping hand. A dead man lift provides that extra hand necessary when you are by yourself. A dead man lift is a tool used to help hold drywall in place while you secure it to ceiling joists. While you can rent a dead man lift, it is inexpensive and easy to make one at home.

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  1. Measure the height to the ceiling from the floor.

  2. Add the thickness of the drywall (usually either 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch) plus 1 1/2 inches for the actual thickness of a 2-by-4. Subtract that figure from your ceiling measurement.

  3. Measure, mark and cut one 2-by-4 to that length.

  4. Cut the other 2-by-4 to 3 feet 6 inches.

  5. Nail the shorter piece of 2-by-4 vertically to the end of the longer one so that the two pieces make a T.

  6. With the dead man lift leaning toward you, place one end of the dry wall on the cross piece and lift the sheet into place on the ceiling. The dead man lift will hold one end while you hold and fasten the other end.

  7. Tip

    Add a cross brace diagonally between the two 2-by-4s for added support.


    Always use caution when lifting heavy objects and working overhead.

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Things You'll Need

  • Tape Measure
  • 2 2-by-4 pieces of lumber (one long enough to reach from floor to ceiling and the other 3 feet 6 inches).
  • Circular saw or hand saw
  • Hammer
  • Nails

About the Author

Matthew Burch completed his undergraduate degree in English in 2007 and is currently working on dual Master of Arts degrees, one in English and one in rhetorical studies. He is a freelance writer and poet with past work appearing in the literary magazine, "The Albion Review."

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