Winch or Hoist: Which Equipment to Use for Construction

Mar 23, 2021Construction Hoists

The construction industry is made up of many different professionals working together to create structures that last. Each one of them owns a role that is necessary for the completion of the project. Now, you would not ask an estimator to do an architect’s job, right? The same concept should apply to all your construction equipment– you should not use a lift when you need a hoist for construction.


Winch vs. Hoist: A Quick Equipment Guide

Winches and hoists may look similar and they both lift things, but they are meant to do separate things in construction. For starters, a winch is used to pull heavy objects horizontally over slightly inclined surfaces, while a hoist is designed to lift a load vertically over more precipitous inclines or inclines greater than 45 degrees.

Although both these tools are designed to make heavy lifting tasks easier, it does not mean that you can use them interchangeably. You must ensure that you are using the right equipment to reduce risks on the construction site.



construction winch

As mentioned previously, a winch is used to lift heavy loads over slightly inclined surfaces. It is composed of a horizontal rotating drum, cables, and ropes. A motor turns the horizontal rotating drum which wraps the wire on the drum, this causes the equipment to exert force on the load and this tension pulls on the object.

A winch drum can be powered through manual efforts, electricity, or hydraulics.


Things to Consider Before Choosing the Winch

You can rate winches by the maximum or the heaviest load it can pull with the bottom layer of the rope on the drum. The wire rope decreases by approximately 10 percent per layer. Winches come in different sizes, and, of course, the type you need for a job depends on several factors like weight, mobility, and surface level.

To determine the minimum size of the winch you need for a job, you need to multiply the gross weight of the heaviest object you plan to pull by 1.5. For instance, you need to pull a 500-pound object, you need to multiply 500 by 1.5– which means you need a winch with a minimum of 750 pounds of line pull. 



construction workers in a hoist

Although lifting heavy engine blocks or other construction materials sounds like something a winch can do, it doesn’t mean it’s right for the job. If you need a piece of equipment to help you lift or lower a load, especially over steep areas, then use a hoist instead of a winch.

There are different types of hoists:

  • Manual hoist – levered or hand-cranked
  • Electric chain hoist – plugged into an electrical outlet; ideal for mechanics
  • Air chain hoist – ideal for flammable, or dusty settings


Things to Consider Before Choosing the Hoist

You can rate hoists by the state of the load, duration of use, and area of application. A hoist can be anywhere between light-duty (H2) to industry-standard (H4). 

It is important to determine the duty cycle rating of a hoist because problems tend to rise when they are used beyond their intended duty cycle rating. For instance, a light-duty hoist should not be used beyond 15 percent of the work period with a maximum of 75 starts/stops per hour, while an industry-standard hoist can handle running up to 50 percent of the work period and can handle a maximum of 300 starts/stops per hour.

Using the wrong equipment can be a hazard on the construction site, but using the wrong variation of equipment can be just as dangerous. You must ensure that your hoist is the right size or type based on the load and environment to avoid causing premature damages. 


Winch vs. Hoist for Construction

A winch and a hoist share many similarities, but their braking system is a major distinction between the two.

Winch or Hoist Which Equipment to Use for Construction (1)

Winch: Dynamic Brake

Most winches are designed with dynamic brakes in which the gear system automatically holds the load. Dynamic brakes may sound like a handy feature, but it makes the winch unstable for suspended loads.

Using a winch for suspended objects may result in damaging the load due to slippage or the gears could strip and lead to an extremely hazardous situation.

Hoist: Mechanical Brake

Most hoists for construction are built with a mechanical braking system that has a physical brake enabling the equipment to lock suspended objects. On top of that, hoists do not rely on a free spool mechanism which means it has reduced risk of slippage— making it safer for lifting suspended materials.

Hoists also have a load-limiting switch that winches do not have. This feature prevents a hoist from trying to lift more than its capacity.

Using Winches as Hoists

In essence, both winches and hoists are used for lifting construction materials. Although these two pieces of equipment are designed for different lifting purposes, is it possible to use one as the other?

A hoist and a winch have numerous technical differences, using one as the other increases the risk in a construction site. However, there are cases wherein an overhead hoist may be used as a winch, but keep in mind that you should not use a winch to lift overhead.

As mentioned previously, a hoist has several safety features such as the mechanical brake that enables the machine to lock suspended objects, thus reducing risks of slippage. A winch does not have this and may cause an accident if not managed properly.

Some manufacturers produce winches that are designed to double as a hoist. It means that these winches have a locking brake and the option to switch off their free spool mechanism. But keep in mind that you should never use a winch to do a job for the hoist unless the manufacturer clearly states that it is designed to function as a hoist as well.


The Bottomline

Regardless of how similar a hoist and a winch could be, they have individual features that are meant to fulfill different purposes. They operate through different mechanisms and are designed for separate construction needs– in this regard, they should be used accordingly. By using the correct equipment, you are reducing risks and ensuring safety on the site. 

If you need to rent a construction hoist in the United States, you can get in touch with one of our team members for more information. We’d be happy to assist you. You can also fill out our online quote request form and we will be in touch with you to discuss your project in more detail.

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

Quote Request