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What Is the Difference between Formwork and Scaffolding?

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  • Written By: Lakshmi Sandhana
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 02 September 2016
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Formwork and scaffolding are extensively used in the construction industry for very specific functions. When construction teams need to mold wet concrete or hold it in place until it hardens to the desired shape, they use formwork. It can be defined as permanent or temporary casings or molds that hold the concrete securely until it hardens enough to support its own weight. Scaffolding differs from formwork significantly; they are temporary structures used as working platforms to support people during construction, maintenance, or repair work and enable workers to reach heights they couldn't easily access otherwise.

Scaffolding is a modular system consisting of boards, couplers, and tubes made from materials like metal, wood, or bamboo. Its design can be either simple or complex, but in all cases, its construction is done with great care because it supports groups of people moving about. It needs to be safe and sturdy and is used for a variety of purposes such as a platform for painting the exteriors of structures, acting as a temporary bridge or walkway, and for bracing props. It ensures safety by providing handrails, acting as a ramp, or as a stabilizing or supportive structure for a building.

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It allows workers to move around on structures easily by giving them access to flat roofs and ledges. Scaffolding is used extensively for creating stage sets for the movies, making hanging platforms, or putting up billboards. Formwork and scaffolding are indispensable in the construction industry because of the myriad ways in which they are used.

Formwork needs to have the requisite strength and be able to withstand the weight of the concrete it holds as the material firms up. The wet concrete applies a great deal of pressure to the formwork, with more pressure being exerted at the bottom compared to the top. If the formwork is underdesigned to support the weights required, it can bend or break as the concrete is being filled.

Accidents can also happen when the formwork is removed before the concrete dries thoroughly. For this reason, formwork is allowed to stay in place for a certain number of days after the wet concrete is poured into it. Sometimes, a damp blanket is placed on the outside of the forms for a while. Formwork is also known as shuttering or forms.

The two structures, formwork and scaffolding, are used for entirely different purposes and have completely different requirements. Scaffolding needs to be easy to construct, simple to dismantle, and convenient to transport. The platforms constructed in scaffolding have to have big enough areas to allow people to walk freely and handle and transport materials easily. The complete structure must be strong enough so that it is unaffected by climatic conditions and doesn't shake, deform, or tilt over time.

Scaffolds are generally dependent structures; they are typically connected to a building or steelwork with the use of ties for the purpose of stability. Formwork and scaffolding are also differentiated by type. These systems can be classified as reusable plastic, stay-in-place structural, and engineered formwork. Permanent insulated formwork and traditional timber formwork are other types of forms.

Birdcage, independent tied, and roof saddle and stack are some types of scaffolds used. Scaffold towers, the hanging bracket, and putlog are other popular types of scaffold structures. Formwork and scaffolding are vital structures in civil engineering projects and are used globally by millions of people.

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