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Rigging an overhead hoist

sasquatch55's picture

I'm considering installing a chain hoist in my garage. We just moved into a new home, and a three-bay garage came with the package.

I'm tying to set up a small shop for woodworking projects -- (e.g., cabinetry, furniture projects, etc.) I've been a general contractor for 30 years, so I know something about construction, but I've never installed a chain-hoist, and that's the route that I'm considering for removing these heavy machines from their skids, and installing them on mobile bases.

in most cases, the machines weigh under 1000 pounds, and they won't be lifted more than once.

I've ordered a Min Max MM16 bandsaw, a Powermatic 2000, a Grizzly 8" jointer, a drill press, etc., etc. Most of these machines weigh in the 400-600 pound range, so we're talking about significant weight in people terms, but not when contemplating mechanical lifting devices.

I want to install an overhead, mechanical chain hoist and use automotive, nylon recovery straps to pick up these tools, when necessary, and also to pick up the occasional heavy finished project for loading into delivery vehicles.

I'm looking for advice on the best, safest rigging techniques. The ceiling is 10' 2" high, I have 9' garage doors, and the ceiling framing members are 12" TJI floor joists laminated with 5/8" drywall.

I'm thinking I can use perforated steel angle iron and span several joists, then construct (also of angle iron) some kind of cradle for the chain hoist's upper attachment hook.

Has anybody done something similar, and can you point me in the right direction. I'm not locked into this approach, if there's an easier way. I'm looking for any sort of solution that is both manageable, safe, and repeatable.

The thing that worries me about these truss joists is that you have to be very careful about messing with their bottom chords, and I'm worried that drilling holes and attaching bolts through them might compromise their engineering.

As I said, though, I'm open to a non-ceiling method of hoisting this equipment. I don't have a lot of extra storage space, or I'd seriously consider purchasing a floor-mounted, portable engine hoist.

Any thoughts/advice would be greatly appreciated.

BarryO's picture

(post #116170, reply #1 of 30)

I was thinking about the same thing a few months ago.  I decided it was better not to attach the hoist mount to  existing roof framing, but instead install a new beam sized to handle the point load of the hoist. 

Then I realized for something tall like a new bandsaw, I couldn't fit the flatbed trailer with the bandsaw on it inside the shop - the door isn't high enough.   So I'm planning on putting together an upside-down U-shaped rig that I can setup up either inside or outside, and that can be knocked down at put away when not in use (which is most of the time).  These type of things are commercially availible in metal, although they are spendy:

For a DIY rig in wood, sites like can help you calculate the size of beam needed.

highfigh's picture

(post #116170, reply #5 of 30)

That rig looks pretty good but the size of the horizontal member looks kind of small. That worries me if the welds aren't great. Didn't know they had them for such a low price. Thanks for the link.

"I cut this piece four times and it's still too short."

"I cut this piece four times and it's still too short."
nikkiwood's picture

(post #116170, reply #2 of 30)

I would suggest you post this same question on Breaktime.

"It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts."

John Wooden 1910-

*** "It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts." John Wooden ,1910-2010

Pippins's picture

(post #116170, reply #3 of 30)

sasquatch, a friend of mine installed a beam in a garage ceiling specifically for the purpose of lifting heavy machinery. It worked well as long as he could drive the load under the chain hoist that was mounted to the beam. He did have several mounting positions for the chain hoist. Unfortunately, it did not work for tall equipment that would not fit under the garage door. And he was limited to placing equipemnt directly under the overhead beam.

In the end, he used both the overhead chain hoist and an engine lift on the same equipment. The chain hoist to get it off the truck and the engine hoist to move it into final position. 

The engine lift actually turned out to be the better overall solution. It can perform both lifting and moving functions. In addition, it was much cheaper.


DavidCockey's picture

(post #116170, reply #4 of 30)

Consider an engine hoist instead.  A relatively decent one can be had for around $200, perhaps a little more. Looke for one with legs which fold to reduce the footprint for storage. Also a boom which extends. We use ours for lifting woodworking equipment as well as removing engines. I recently used it to take down a Oneida 2 hp dust collector, the top of which was almost 8 feet above the floor. My wife thinks everyone should have an engine hoist.

sasquatch55's picture

(post #116170, reply #7 of 30)

Thanks, Dave, and everyone else for your helpful input.

I ordered a Northern Industrial Tool 2 ton, foldable engine hoist tonight.

I think that's going to be the best all-around solution for my small shop. The hoist cost About $350 delivered to my business in Basalt, CO.

Extends to close to 8', and will move anything dropped off in the driveway into the shop.

Thanks, again, for your help, guys.

diddidit's picture

(post #116170, reply #10 of 30)

jako17's picture

(post #116170, reply #6 of 30)

Why don't you install an I beam supported at either end on vertical  I beams,welded or bolted together.Then you can get a dolly that runs on the lower flange that is made specially for hanging a chain fall on.Secondhand steel is cheap ,strong and fairly light in small cross section.IMHO I think that you over estimate the complexity of moving machinery, we  have moved our cabinet saws (General 350's)with dollys and 3 guys  to large projects and the planer (2400lbs) using johnson  bars and sections of 4 inch steel pipe

moonraker's picture

(post #116170, reply #22 of 30)

I agree jako, a 6"x3" RSJ bolted/welded to its own columns each side of the garage/workshop with a small dolly and 1 ton chainblock would be safe and very usefull well into the future, but if you are spanning more than 20` go up a size to say 8"x4", this is assuming that you have space for the above.

We are a little different in Ireland so some of my terminoligy may be different.

Omah's picture

(post #116170, reply #8 of 30)

Just go rent a cherry picker when the big toys come, bring it back when your done.

diddidit's picture

(post #116170, reply #9 of 30)

OK, my claim to knowledge is based on having been an engineer at a major overhead chain and wire rope hoist company in my last job.

Don't do anything that will rely on the existing structure of your building to take this kind of loading. Don't don't don't don't. Seriously. You could pull your whole roof down right on top of yourself WAY too easily. Even hand-powered overhead lifting equipment is designed with a 4:1 safety factor (for electric or pneumatic lifting equipment, it's at least 5:1). Your shop is designed to hold up a snow-covered roof. The two don't mesh - the loads are totally different!

Either go the engine hoist route, or see if you can rent a small mobile crane, or hire a forklift for a day - anything but hang a chain hoist from your roof trusses!


forestgirl's picture

(post #116170, reply #11 of 30)

"I'm not locked into this approach, if there's an easier way."  Just to illustrate how creative people can be.....Last year, another forum member had a similar challenge and solved it by building a wood frame, taller than the cabinet saw he needed to hoist, and used BesseyK clamps to raise the saw!  Wouldn't have believed it 'twere it not for the pictures (click for a view).

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

cyberdust's picture

(post #116170, reply #12 of 30)

10 years ago I had the dilemma of getting large and heavy equipment into my basement shop. Since I have a walk-down from my garage I decided to build a wooden frame and located it at the top of the stairs using bundled together 2x6's (using Simpson ties) so as not to rely on any joists. I really overbuilt it for safety sake. I attached a chain to the top of the frame and hooked a chain-fall to it that I got from Harbor Freight. I don't care much for the quality of most of their stuff but since this requirement is occasional I decided what the heck for the price. I got a 1 ton 16ft chain-fall to satisfy my needs (

For the stairs I temporarily lay 16' long 2x6's on the stairs to act as a ramp for lowering or raising the equipment. So far I've used it for my tablesaw (contractor), 6" jointer, 14" band saw and drum sander (22"). I use heavy duty ratchet-type nylon straps to attach the items to the chain-fall.

No regrets so far. It works as anticipated.

Dox's picture

(post #116170, reply #13 of 30)

Go to your nearest rental center and pick up an engine hoist. Portable, manuverable and built for the job you want done.

DeGauss's picture

(post #116170, reply #14 of 30)

Here is a review of a $200 crane that can handle up to 4000 lbs.

mike4244's picture

(post #116170, reply #15 of 30)

Harbor Freight has an electric hoist for $79.00 that will lift 800 lbs using the double line and pulley or 400 lbs with a single line without the removable pulley. There is 33 feet of 3/16" wire rope on the drum. Get up into the attic ,span the joists with double 2x10's nailed to the engineered joists.Thru bolt the hoist so the hoist hangs below the ceiling.There is a five foot long cord on the up and down switch,you can easily reach it to hoist up and down.Runs on 115 volts.

Make sure if you go this method you order a hoist,not a winch. They have other models that will lift even more, I doubt you will need it.I 've had mine for about a year,works fine,no problems.


sasquatch55's picture

(post #116170, reply #16 of 30)

Thanks, everyone, for your help.

I bought a Nothern Tools engine hoist, and it arrived last week. It's their 2-ton version, and I assembled it, and have already used it to lift, move 60', and install a 16' long 10-quarter douglass fir top on a wall of base cabinets I installed. The beam was actually a 21" glu-lam (16' long, 21" tall, 6" thick) that I had the lumber yard resaw with their monster band saw. Makes an awesome looking counter top for my shop cabinets at about a third the cost of the maple top I was thinking about ordering (or making).

It's collapsable, and stores in a corner when I'm not using it. Really a terrific tool to have in the shop, and it cost $150.00, plus shipping.

Monday, FedEx is delivering my MiniMax MM-16, and my MiniMax combination jointer/planers (just reviewed by FWW). I have the new bases for these machines assembled and ready to go, and my engine hoist ready to be deployed.

I think this is the best, all around solution for my.

Thanks again.

forestgirl's picture

(post #116170, reply #17 of 30)

Congrats, Sasquatch!  You'll find the engine hoist to be handy over the years.  We used ours (which actually gets used on engines, believe it or not!) to lift and position my pellet stove.  Pretty sweet.

You here in Washington State?

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

sasquatch55's picture

(post #116170, reply #18 of 30)

We're in Basalt, CO

dustcollecter's picture

(post #116170, reply #19 of 30)



sasquatch55's picture

(post #116170, reply #20 of 30)


'Swat I did... Only I purchased the hoist, instead of renting it, because the daily rental on an engine hoist around here (after tax and mics "fees") is about $50.00

By the time you figure in the value of your time, the fuel (transportation expense), the multiple trips to/from the rental shop, it's pretty silly to rent a hoist—especially if you contemplate using it more than once. That's provided, of course, you have the shop-space to commit to its permanent storage.

In my case, the foldable Northern Tool hoist has already paid for itself. They're on sale (both and Northern's site) for $150.00. My 2 ton hoist just helped me install a 16' long, very heavy, doug fir countertop (see thread), and it actually allowed me to fit the top in place, scribe the back to the irregularities of the wall, cut along the pencil line with a DeWalt 36v cordless circular saw, apply silicone to the substrate, and reinstall the top in its final position without help and without picking the top up, multiple times.

Save labor cost (for helper), saved my back, and spared myself the aggravation of standing in line at the local rental shop.

Finally, I have no way of knowing what my lifting requirements will be in the future, so I figured it was smarter to assume I'd need the hoist multiple times, vs working on the assumption that I'd never move anything in my shop again. Machines break, need service, and shop-layouts evolve with time and need.

Also, I'm very lucky to have enough space to store this lift, and if space ever becomes a big issue, I'll rent it to my contractor buddies for half the prevailing commercial rate, or simply sell the sucker for what it cost me.

It's a "no-lose" deal, as far as I can tell...

(talk about "spitting into the wind"...)

tom21769's picture

(post #116170, reply #21 of 30)

Sasquatch, do you have a model number or brand for that hoist?
I'm having troule finding something that fits the description at the Northern Tools site.

sasquatch55's picture

(post #116170, reply #23 of 30)

Sorry, pard...

It's "Northern Industrial Tool," and the product description can be found at the link above.

highfigh's picture

(post #116170, reply #24 of 30)

The OP got what he needed but in case someone needs to lift big things on a regular basis, Harbor Freight has a one ton gantry crane.

Here's the link:

"I cut this piece four times and it's still too short."
"I cut this piece four times and it's still too short."
DustyGeorge's picture

(post #116170, reply #25 of 30)


That engine hoist looks like it might be just the ticket for a few "opportunities" I have and anticipate in the near future.  Right now I have a Grizzly GO586 jointer head setting on my shop floor waiting on a replacement for a cabinet damaged in shipment.  Lifting the head onto the cabinet should be a piece of cake for the hoist.

How high will it lift?  I am expecting a SawStop cabinet saw in a couple weeks.  I will bring it home in my standard size Chevy pickup.  Will the hoist be able to reach over the bed of the pickup and lift the SawStop enough so I can drive out from under it?

How compact does it fold and how easy is it to maneuver into a storage spot?

Thanks the idea, George

You don't stop laughing because you grow old.  You grow old because you stop laughing. - Michael Pritchard

You don't stop laughing because you grow old.  You grow old because you stop laughing. - Michael Pritchard<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

sasquatch55's picture

(post #116170, reply #26 of 30)

You've asked all the right questions, just the sort of things I worry about -- particularly whether or not it'll dismount stuff from truck-bed height.

Keep in mind that I've only had mine for a week, and used it once, so I'm still pretty much a neophyte with this baby.

The hoist has an adjustable top beam with holes punched in it. If you run the beam out to its fully-extened position, you can crank it skyward until the hydraulic ram reaches its (indicated by red line) limit, and the fully extended reach is an inch or two under eight feet. I would think that you should be able to retrieve what's in your pickup truck, but it would depend on the way the saw is packaged, I guess.

If the saw is knocked down, shipped in several boxes, and on oaken skids, then I think you should be able to get to it and hook it up no problem. The hoist has a lot of horizontal reach, so -- with the tailgate dropped, and the hoist's beam extended -- you should be able to push its front support legs under the truck's rear differential, and reach most of the way back to the cab; at least as far back as the rear wheel-wells...

If the crates are very tall, then you may have to improvise a little: I've unloaded heavy stuff from my Dodge RAM 2500 by using a couple of 10' long 2 x 12s (southern yellow pine), a scrap of 1/2" CDX plywood, and just pushed the cargo down the ramp. You wouldn't have to get the crates all the way to the ground before your hoist would be able to pick up the slack. I've accumulated a lot of crap over the years, so I'm confident that I can always bubble-gum and bailing wire myself into some kind of solution.

I have a steel cable "come-along," various ramps for my trailer, and other stuff of that nature.

Your situation may be different, so I'd hate to talk you into a product that won't prove satisfactory to your application.

The hoist is VERY easy to move around -- not much harder to push/pull than a grocery store shopping cart.

The extended support legs fold up and back by means of removable 5/8" steel bolts equipped with cotter pins. The hoist stores in a footprint that's about 21" x 32" -- Assume you're gonna have the equivalent of a 'barcolounger' (upholstered chair) sitting against the wall of your shop. :) It's really not that bad, though.

I have a set of industrial-duty hand-trucks that I occasionally use in my remodeling business; the hand-trucks are very heavy, but they're wonderfully constructed and allow us to move the occasional 4' wide Sub Zero refrigerator when nothing else will do. I have this item stored in the shop, too, and I use it to hang all of my pipe clamps, bar clamps, etc on. It's wonderful for that purpose, and I don't regard its storage space (for that reason) in negative terms. So, I'm thinking, before too long I'll have a bunch of crap hanging from my poor engine hoist (thoroughly embarrassing its designer) too.

I figure, for the $150 I spent -- even if there are some instances where the hoist won't work -- its going to prove to have been a good investment, because, 90% of the time, the hoist will handle whatever's thrown at it.

Edited 2/25/2007 8:34 pm ET by sasquatch55

Edited 2/25/2007 8:38 pm ET by sasquatch55

DustyGeorge's picture

(post #116170, reply #27 of 30)

Thanks Sasquatch,

I think I will give a whirl.  I will try to take pictures of the truck offload and post them.

Thanks again, George

You don't stop laughing because you grow old.  You grow old because you stop laughing. - Michael Pritchard

You don't stop laughing because you grow old.  You grow old because you stop laughing. - Michael Pritchard<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

tinkerer2's picture

(post #116170, reply #28 of 30)

I didn't get the gist of just how many times you intend on moving things.  In my case, I just wanted to move things once.  I have just about the same set up you have except the ceiling is six inches lower.  The Minimax 16 might have been the easiest. I was lucky that they had a tail lift and set it on the ground.  I skidded it into the shop, removed the packing, with lever bar, skidded it onto a lower pallet then onto the floor.  It came with wheels that I installed and rolled it into position.  the jointer was a little heavier at 744 lbs. but being lucky, just happened to have three friends over that day we found two spud bars we tied straps between the bar and the machine on each end and carried into place.  The PM 66 came in several pieces so I just carried into place, and assembled in place.  I later assembled a mobile base and while I lifted one side had my secretary push the Mobil base under it then slid the saw into place.  The twenty inch drill press and other tools were also carried into the shop  and assembled in place.  I am contemplating getting a twenty inch planer but will worry about that when the time comes.  At least I don't have to carry the machines up or down stairs.

sasquatch55's picture

(post #116170, reply #29 of 30)

Sounds like you had everything pretty much 'wired' before you set your machines in place.

I'm an obsessive-compulsive "tweaker," and usually end up moving stuff around a lot. I've never had the luxury of space before, so, now, with this three-bay garage, I want to really get things set up right.

The kids have graduated school, and have moved out, but we still store a lot of their stuff. One's just moved into his first apartment; the other's about to get married (NOTE: refinance, again, to pay for wedding). Within the next year, then, I'll have almost another full bay's worth of space to expand the shop into, but I don't want that to stop me from filling the space i have now.

Also, I have a remodeling business that I run out of my home. I routinely take delivery of stuff and store it, using my driveway and part of garage as a materials staging area. There might be a palate of setting compound, tile, buckets of sheet rock mud, etc. stored for a couple of months. There might be some appliances, windows, doors. I also have a sixteen foot double-axle trailer that routinely has to be loaded and unloaded.

My back isn't what it used to be, and the hoist will come in handy. Plus, I just like to look at the fool thing resting over against the wall. It's bright, shiny red, and it appeals to my sense of wonder; it's cool what man has figured out how to do with hydraulics.

I'm currently stalled on the issue of the table saw. I ordered one of the new Powermatic 2000s about two weeks ago, and cancelled the order a couple of days later. One of my best buddies -- guy who runs a masonry company -- just cut three of the four fingers on his left hand off. He's sixty-five, and has been working wood and stone (and most everything else) all his life. Never had a serious accident, either. They reattached his ring finger, and some of his middle finger, but his index finger just exploded in a cloud when the blade grabbed it. There was nothing left to reattach. His left thumb is gone above the first joint.

He called me a couple of days after this happened (day after I ordered the Powermatic) and just cried on the phone. This guy's one of the toughest people I know, and he just blubbered like a baby. He figures his retirement is pretty 'eff'd up, now, because he wanted to fish, hunt, woodwork, etc., and he's left handed. He said, "The worst thing about this is that I have to explain what happened, and I did this to myself -- stupid mistake." He'd put in a long day fishing, and was working on a project for one of his kids late into the night. Don't let anyone tell you that a tablesaw sled makes injuries impossible, by the way...

So, I'm thinking about the SawStop, and really pretty much sold on its being a necessity instead of a luxury. John told me that it cost him (hospital and micro-surgery) $17,000 per day, and he's got a long road (therapy) ahead of him before his left hand will be usable at all...

DustyGeorge's picture

(post #116170, reply #30 of 30)


Sorry about your buddy.  I hope he can work around his injury to still do the things he's looked forward to doing in his retirement.  That kind of injury is precisely why I am spending the extra bucks to get a SawStop.  Also my wife has expressed an interest in joining me in the workshop.  There is no way I would ever be able to forgive myself if she hurt herself because I was too cheap to get the safest equipment I could.  Right now I have a ShopSmith and while it is okay for most things, its table saw function is downright scary.

Good luck to your buddy, George

You don't stop laughing because you grow old.  You grow old because you stop laughing. - Michael Pritchard

You don't stop laughing because you grow old.  You grow old because you stop laughing. - Michael Pritchard<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />