What’s the Difference Between a Spreader Bar and a Lifting Beam?

Spreader bars and lifting beams have quite a bit in common. Both pieces of rigging equipment are used to transport loads with overhead lifts. They’re “below-the-hook” lifting devices that stabilize and support loads, and both are used to keep slings perpendicular to the horizon while moving.

The overall goal of both spreader bars and lifting beams is to minimize damage to loads, other pieces of rigging hardware, and workers below.

However, these two devices are not interchangeable. They have their differences that influence their purposes and functionality at various job sites.

Many rigging professionals still don’t completely understand how spreader bars and lifting beams are different. That’s why we want to dive deeper into the subject today on our blog.

Let’s talk about the different forces exerted on the two products, as well as their weaknesses, strengths, prices, and more.

Understand What a Spreader Bar Is

Before we dive any deeper, let’s make sure you have a firm understanding of spreader bars.

These devices take on compressive stress in the beam as heavy loads are lifted. It’s a simple device – a long bar that holds two slings apart from each other.

The beam can either be attached to chain slings or synthetic slings at just the right angle, ensuring the right level of stress compression.

You’ll find spreader bars in a variety of industries – construction sites, engineering jobs, remote location lifting, etc. When using them, a single crane can lift loads from multiple locations, which makes it a versatile device for companies without a wide range of cranes.

When to Use Spreader Bars:

  • Lifting loads that might tip, slide, or bend
  • Preventing loads from being crushed/damaged
  • Efficiently lifting and moving wide/heavy-duty loads

When NOT to Use Spreader Bars:

  • There is minimal headroom to accommodate overhead slings
  • There’s a possibility of spinning
  • The load needs to be supported all the way through its length

The Ins and Outs of a Lifting Beam

Now, onto our next topic of interest: lifting beams.

Although these devices are as simple in appearance as a spreader bar, they are different in their design. A lifting beam has a single attachment point in the center of the beam – not just two attachment points on the ends for slings.

This allows the lifting beam to connect to a crane/hoist, then support the load via a hook or rigging sling. Ideally, lifting beams are used for lighter loads in short periods. They provide multiple lifting points and can be designed to fit specific applications and/or projects.

When to Use Lifting Beams:

  • Moving off-balanced loads
  • Controlling inward crushing forces
  • Using special load-securement attachments

When NOT to Use Lifting Beams:

  • You need a lightweight device – lifting beams are rigid and heavy
  • The load has a wide span that requires significant lifting
  • You’re already worried about the load tipping and/or spinning

When One Is More Useful Than the Other

It’s time to get down to the main question: when do I use one of these lifting devices over the other?

We’ve shared some of the pros and cons of each device, but now, we want to give you some scenarios in which a spreader bar or lifting beam might be the best choice for your project.

Scenario 1: You Need to Support a Load Through Its Entire Length

Because spreader bars cannot attach to a load in their middle section, you should never use one when lifting a load that needs support throughout its whole body. A lifting beam allows you to connect the load to its middle and end joints, creating more support throughout the entire length.

Scenario 2: You’re Lifting Something in a Location with Height Restraints

Although it’s never optimal, you’ll occasionally encounter jobs in which your crane/lifting device has high capacities. Perhaps there’s a minimal overhead room or a blockage in the way.

In this case, a lifting beam is definitely the better choice. It requires less overhead room than a spreader bar, although the more room you have, the easier it will be to work with either device.

Scenario 3: You’re Lifting an Unstable Object

In most cases where your load is shaky, we recommend going with a lifting beam. These are usually more appropriate for large, unwieldy loads.

Scenario 4: The Crane Can Only Handle an Easy Lift

Generally, spreader bars are the best at distributing weight to allow for an efficient, safe lift with minimal work. The setup allows you to attach the load to two different endpoints, easily distributing the weight for the crane to lift.

Scenario 5: You Need a Lightweight Device

Spreader bars have highly efficient materials, which means that they are lighter in weight. This makes transportation and handling much simpler, and it reduces the overall weight of your load.

With all honesty, we most commonly recommend that our client use a spreader bar. Spreader bars are extremely simple, and yet they convert lifting loads into compressive forces in the bar. This makes them highly efficient, lighter, easy to design, and affordable.

What’s the Cost Difference?

Speaking of affordability, let’s talk a bit about the price differences between spreader bars and lifting beams.

It’s a bit difficult to provide solid answers for pricing estimates – these depend on what you need, what you’ll be lifting, and where you’ll be using the devices. Still, an industrial spreader bar tends to run anywhere from $1,900 to $4,690, give or take a few hundred dollars.

Lifting beams, on the other hand, are almost always more expensive. You’ll easily pay upwards of $2K for one. Some even cost as much as $20K.

Because lifting beams are so rigid, they require more material to build and are therefore more expensive to purchase than most spreader bars.

More often than not, businesses end up purchasing a spreader bar because it is extremely cost-effective – despite its benefits, heavy-duty capabilities, and versatility.

In Conclusion

If we’ve done our jobs right, this article has helped you better understand the difference between spreader bars and lifting beams. It may seem like both devices are practically the same, but small differences in their materials and design give them different strengths.

At Holloway Houston Inc., we sell both kinds of lifting devices. In fact, we’ve even come up with a unique rental program for MORBAR spreader bars. Use the bar as much as you need, then return it to us without shelling out thousands of dollars on a new product.

We also rent/sell a variety of other lifting equipment devices, including:

  • Slings
  • Jumper bars
  • Swivels
  • Hooks
  • Skip pans
  • Turnbuckles
  • Shackles
  • Personnel baskets

Whether you’re interested in purchasing or renting, our rigging experts are ready to answer all of your questions. We’ll guide you toward the perfect lifting device for your particular needs and environment.

Reach out to Holloway Houston Inc. to learn what we can do to improve your lifting process. You can also call 713-674-8352 today.