What is the difference between a hoist and a lift in construction?

Sep 22, 2020Construction Hoists, Equipment

Construction operations require different equipment to guarantee the safe and fast delivery of essential logistical tasks. In this post, we’re going to discuss the difference between a hoist and a lift in construction. 

Hoist and lift equipment are generally regarded as synonymous when in fact they are actually operated through different mechanisms and can be used for specific applications. Likewise, particular types of construction equipment cater to specific load requirements.

In simple terms, a hoist is a construction device that typically uses a pulley system to raise objects upward while a construction lift typically includes an aerial platform maintained by a specific form of extension and fitted on a vehicle.

Both the construction hoists and lifts are utilized for the purpose of vertically transporting heavy loads which include personnel and materials from the ground to any floor in the building. Additionally, hoists are commonly used for industrial purposes and are restricted to public access while some lifts are permanently installed in multi-story buildings.  

The Difference Between a Hoist and a Lift:


A construction hoist is considered a common requirement in the construction site of high-rise buildings that not only speeds up the movement of goods between the ground and upper floors but secures the safety of transportation as well.


A.      Set-up

It is erected and set up on-site normally with the aid of a tower crane. It can be dismantled and conveniently transferred from one location to another.

Hoists use wire ropes or chains wound around a barrel or drum to deploy a pulley system that can be operated manually or electrically. Other types of hoists can be operated through hydraulics while others are pneumatic powered.     

In terms of purpose and application, hoists are usually classified as material hoists and personnel hoists.


B.      Materials Hoists and Personnel Hoists

Material hoists are designed to transport construction tools, equipment, and supplies that are too heavy for manual lifting from different floors and decks. On the other hand, personnel hoists are designed to carry and transfer construction crew up and down the building.

A personnel hoist or a passenger hoist is typically controlled from inside the cage and utilizes safety devices that prevent free-fall or any potential malfunctions that could endanger the people inside.

In using hoist devices, it is important to consider the primary purpose of the hoist. Some materials hoists are restricted to construction supplies and tools while others are able to cater to both materials and personnel. However, this means of usage requires the meticulous observance of the safety rules and regulation that regulates the general functions of the hoist.  



A lift is a tool that allows the transfer of materials and workers to an elevated part of a building or construction site. Compared to hoist devices, lifts are typically able to extend towards hard-to-reach areas. Hence, they are practical, especially in fine finishing construction details.

The operating mechanisms of lifts include the use of hydraulic pressure, electrically powered cable employing a pulley system, and propulsion as found in climbing lifts.


A.      Types of Construction Lifts

In a typical construction site, different types of lifts can be seen depending on the required machinery for a specific task. Here are some of the most common types of lifts used in construction.

  1. Aerial Lifts or Bucket Trucks
  2. Articulating Boom lifts
  3. Telescopic Boom Lifts
  4. Electric Scissor Lifts
  5. Rough Terrain Scissor Lifts


What to consider when choosing hoisting or lifting equipment?

One of the functions of a contractor is to ensure that proper equipment and tools are used during construction. In the case of vertical transportation via hoist and/or lift, the following factors need to be evaluated.


Types of loads

Materials hoists and personnel hoists are generally designed for their specific load. Hence, it is important to have an overview of supplies and tools that are commonly used in construction such as pallets, concrete, sacks, machinery, metal bars, etc. It is also beneficial to determine the number of the construction crew and the specific capacity if personnel hoist or lifts to create a loose estimate of transport efficiency.


Complexity of Construction

High-rise buildings and huge structures such as skyscrapers and towers require equipment that could reach extensive heights. Likewise, it is also helpful to assess the potential challenges in the construction site such as space and elevation, especially in consideration of assembly and disassembly of the device.


Maintenance requirements 

It is imperative to assess the condition of the equipment before and after use to maximize its efficiency and avoid accidents in the area. Some equipment may require a painstaking evaluation and testing prior to usage. Hence, it is important to match which equipment or device practically matches the project.



When planning your construction project, it is still best to work with experts in the industry and employ rental companies that could aid in the operation of these types of equipment. Knowing the difference between a hoist and a lift will play an important role when you reach out for a quote. A professional operator is primarily essential to work on top-class hoists and lifts. Nevertheless, the safety and efficiency of the construction operation should be a top priority.

United Hoist has been excellent to work with from the initial pricing phase throughout on site operation.  They have met all the dates needed on site to erect the hoist and have continued to service as scheduled/needed.  Our estimating, management and field staff have been pleased with United Hoist on our projects.

Heath M.

Vice President

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