Five steps to a firmer foundation with crane mats

Crane mats are an essential step in laying a firm foundation when using heavy lifting equipment including vehicle-mounted cranes, and if you are not 100% certain of what lies beneath ground level, laying crane mats is an absolute must to help minimise the risk of subsidence during lifting.

Here are five steps towards safer lifting operations, thanks to the firm foundation laid using crane mats and outrigger pads, and a few simple precautions before and during the lifting operation itself.

1. Check the ground conditions

There are a few things to consider here – the type of ground surface, loose soil, wet sand etc, as well as any hidden risks below the surface, for example cavities left behind by underground storage tanks and utility ducts.

2. Choose your crane pads

Consider all of the characteristics of the crane pads you choose – their size, thickness, flexibility and load-bearing strength – and how these correspond to your lifting equipment and the ground conditions on which they will be used.

3. Add outrigger pads

Lifting equipment is more stable with outrigger pads – it’s as simple as that. They significantly broaden your contact base with the ground for a much more stable effective centre of gravity, and provide an extra layer of defence against the crane vehicle or other lifting equipment toppling over under an uneven load.

4. Lift evenly and within range

Don’t over-extend the lifting arm or try to hoist too much weight at once. If necessary (and possible) split the lifting operation into several parts so you can carry less weight or cover less distance, to keep all the variables within range – and look for signs of the outriggers starting to lift off of their outrigger mats, which could be a precursor to toppling over.

5. Watch for deformation

Crane mats and outrigger pads are designed to flex and absorb some of the pressure exerted on them, but look out for the entire mat sinking into the ground, as the soil itself might not be able to take the pressure, and this can quickly destabilise your vehicle or equipment.

Azobe mats for heavy duty crane operations

Azobe mats are our most durable timber mats for heavy duty crane operations, and give you a safe and stable platform for crane outriggers to stand on, spreading the load across an even larger area on ground where stability is still a concern.

Azobe is also known as Ekki and belongs to the botanical species Lophira alata, a durable tropical hardwood placed in Durability Class 1, with our highest volume mass, elasticity and flexibility strength.

Each of our most heavy duty crane pads measures in at 1m wide, 1.5m long and 200 mm thick, with two steel-reinforced lifting points for easy manoeuvrability.

Inside each lifting point is an M24 steel bar, secured on the side of the timber mat with a countersunk steel bolt and washer for a surface finish that is flush with the surface of the wood itself.

The dual lifting points not only make it easier to move these heavy duty ground protection mats from location to location as the crane needs to move, but they also ensure that the mat itself stays stable when in motion, with two points of contact with your lifting equipment.

All of the timber used comes from sustainable sources in accordance with present day laws on hardwood manufacture and procurement, and this is verified via registration with the Forest Stewardship Council, so you can have complete peace of mind that you are using outrigger pads made with sustainable timber.

The crane operator ultimately bears the responsibility for the use of crane outrigger pads, and by opting for a Class 1 durable hardwood like Azobe, you benefit from high-density timber mats with excellent strength and elasticity.

Also in Durability Class 1-2 are Okan and Dabema timber mats, both of which also offer high slide strength and pressure strength, along with flexibility and elasticity that comes a close second to Ekki timber mats.

Meanwhile for less heavy duty applications, our American and European Oak mats, as well as Beech timber mats, offer lower volume density, with slightly lower pressure and slide strength, but still good flexibility and elasticity – and every species of timber mat has its own applications for which it is ideally suited.

To find out more about the best timber mats for your upcoming project, call Timbermat today on 0800 012 12 31 or 0161 442 3157 and we will be happy to discuss your options.

Ekki timber Hastings Pier wins 2017 RIBA Sterling Prize

The biggest prize in architecture has been won by Hastings Pier, a minimalist expanse of Ekki timber boards known by locals as ‘The Plank’.

When the pier’s substructure was severely damaged by fire in 2010, two years after storm damage forced it to close, it looked like the end of Hastings Pier.

But with contributions from the Heritage Lottery Fund and tireless fundraising work by local residents, an architecture competition was launched to redesign and rebuild the pier to full working order.

In the end, London-based architects dRMM won the RIBA competition with a design that did not seek to rebuild a replica of a Victorian pleasure pier, but instead to construct a distinctly 21st century version.

Their minimalist structure has few permanent buildings, instead favouring an expanse of Ekki timber boards that serve as a versatile outdoor stage for performances, concerts and other uses, and have earned the reconstructed pier the affectionate nickname of ‘The Plank’ from locals.

RIBA recently announced the pier as the winner of the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize, the biggest award in British architecture, and praised its forward-thinking design.

Ben Derbyshire, president of RIBA and chair of the jury for this year’s prize, said: “Hastings Pier is a masterpiece in regeneration and inspiration. The architects and local community have transformed a neglected wreck into a stunning, flexible new pier to delight and inspire visitors and local people alike.”

The Ekki timber used in its construction is the ideal material to ensure the pier remains in good condition for many years to come, as the hardwood boards should be well resistant to the spray from the sea, not to mention its salt content and the strong coastal winds.

Ekki timber mats are used throughout construction for these hard-wearing properties, as well as making an excellent option for use as ground protection mats in coastal and tidal works, on waterlogged land and to provide stability on soft mud and sandy surfaces.

What size bog mats do I need?

One of the things you will need to know when ordering bog mats for hire or for sale is what size bog mats you actually need – but don’t worry, as it’s fairly straightforward to decide.

Standard bog mats come in a range of different sizes and thicknesses, and in terms of area you can usually choose between 3m or 5m in length and 1m in width.

But it is the thickness of bog mats that really affects how much load they can bear, and they range from 70mm thick up through 100 and 150mm to the very thickest mats of 200 and 250mm thick.

At this thickest end of the range there are larger area bog mats to choose from two, at 1m width and 6m length, and these can help to cover a larger site with a thick, solid and stable ground protection layer.

Thinner mats are still relatively solid, and 70mm bog mats should bear the weight of lighter construction vehicles like dumpers without any problems, at loads of up to 35 tonnes in total.

Go up to 100mm bog mats and you can expect your temporary roadway to withstand vehicle loads up to 45 tonnes, while 150mm bog mats can handle up to around 60 tonnes.

The thickest bog mats can withstand even heavier loads, but are also often used on very unstable ground, such as on sand or during works in tidal conditions.

For very poor ground conditions where heavy cranes need to pass over it, consider our Emtek laminated system, which measures in at 1.75m by 4.9m and 89mm thick, but is highly effective at spreading vehicle loads.

And finally, for extra grip and effective ground protection, Timbermat Ground Guards have a textured surface that makes them ideal for use as temporary pedestrian walkways in challenging conditions.

Whatever you need, there is a bog mat to suit the task at hand, and we are always happy to advise on the correct thickness if you’re not certain.

We can also advise on issues of accessibility, for example if you need to lay a temporary pathway suitable for wheelchair users as well as for pedestrians on foot.

American Oak vs. European Oak

Not all timber mats are the same, and one of the main factors that affects the life span and performance of timber ground protection mats is the particular species of wood used.

You might know that we offer Ekki bog mats and Oak bog mats – but did you also know that not all of our Oak timber mats are the same species, or even from the same continent?

In fact we can supply Quercus Petraea, commonly known as European Oak, as well as Quercus Alba, better known as American Oak.

So what’s the difference?

American Oak – Quercus Alba

American Oak is hard and heavy, with medium strength against crushing and bending, and this gives it low stiffness, making it ideal for temporary road surfaces beneath the heaviest construction traffic.

Flexibility is not a weakness here, as it’s important that a temporary road surface can flex to absorb the weight of traffic passing over it, especially when heavy plant vehicles are moving around.

All of our timber mats sourced from North America are certified by the continent’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) so that you can feel confident – and prove via documentation, if required – that the trees were farmed sustainably and exported legally.

European Oak – Quercus Petraea

European Oak timber mats have an expected life span of anywhere from 15 to 25 years, depending on how they are used and stored, and the conditions they are exposed to.

Quercus Petraea is fairly hard and dense, and again has low stiffness, which allows it to absorb shock impacts well – its strength against bending and crushing is even higher than its American cousin.

We recommend European Oak temporary road mats as ground protection for light to medium traffic on construction sites and similar premises, whereas American Oak is suitable for heavy cranes and as outrigger pads.

European Oak falls under durability Class 2 and is easily available across the continent, making it a hugely popular material for use in the UK.

If you need a supply of timber mats to buy or you have a one-off project and need timber mats to hire, contact us today to find out more about the right species of timber for your upcoming work.

Crane mats reduce your biggest risks

Crane mats do more than just protect the ground – they also protect you against some of the biggest risks you face on an active job site, where instability of heavy lifting gear or crane vehicles can lead to a costly catastrophe.

HSE statistics show that since 2001, there have been more than 60 reported safety incidents involving tower cranes in the construction industry, with 25 people seriously injured and nine people killed.

Along with this completely avoidable human cost, there is the financial cost – the destruction of cranes that topple on unstable ground, the value of anything destroyed where they land, the potential health and safety fines, and the lengthy interruption to construction work.

The sheer size of cranes and the quantity of goods that they can lift means the destructive forces involved in a collapse can be huge – but crane mats can help to make sure that the ground surface is properly prepared, to improve the stability of all lifting equipment, from the very largest to a relatively small vehicle-mounted crane.

When you lay crane mats, you can create temporary roadways for crane vehicles, or stationary platforms for static lifting equipment, so that you know what surface you are working on.

The mats help to spread the pressure and the downward forces from the crane’s legs, wheels or outriggers, and this in itself means you are less likely to sink into soft ground or break through into a hidden cavity below.

You can combine this with outrigger pads where appropriate, to achieve the same added stability for individual outriggers, rather than putting in place a completely solid platform or temporary roadway.

You reduce the risk of the ground giving way beneath the crane by distributing the weight more evenly; you lower the risk of the crane toppling if the ground on one side is softer than on the other; and where necessary you construct a temporary roadway that doubles as a demarcation system to highlight the safe route.

On top of all of this, crane mats deliver the general benefits of ground protection mats, protecting exposed earth, soil and lawns against being churned up by bulky crane vehicle tyres, and reducing landscaping costs to put it right again when construction is completed.

Timber bog mats keep you safe in summer

Timber bog mats have obvious benefits in winter, when they can cover over wet mud, ground that has frozen into ruts and furrows, or provide temporary roadways over icy ground.

But in the summer months they are an equally important investment, as the subsoil conditions can be deceptive on what looks like a perfect day to get some work done on a construction site or other outdoor job.

Soil settlement

Expansive soils like clay in particular are affected by changes in their moisture content, so in a dry summer they can be much more prone to settlement and subsidence, especially when heavy machinery and vehicles pass overhead.

Much like crane mats spread the pressure of heavy lifting equipment, timber bog mats can make sure the weight of a vehicle is not focused solely on the point of contact between its wheels and the dry ground, making it easier to drive safely over very dry soils.

Flash floods

Timber bog mats might not hold back an all-out flash flood, but they can be used to provide a stable surface over waterlogged ground following a heavy summer shower.

Parched earth in particular can become resistant to water penetration, so any rainfall is much more likely to lead to standing water than if it were to fall on already damp ground in winter; temporary roadways designate a route across active sites and as the timber mats are naturally slightly raised, they can form a kind of boardwalk free from puddles too.

Festivals and events

It’s not just the weather that poses a problem in the summer months, as many venues face a much busier schedule of festivals, sporting occasions and other public events.

Timber bog mats can put in place temporary roadways, pedestrian walkways and even completely covered areas of land using large numbers of ground protection mats.

Used in all the appropriate places, ground protection mats can create a barrier so the surface below is not damaged, reducing the amount of repair work and landscaping that will be needed once the event is over, and allowing you to restore open ground to its former state very quickly just by removing the timber mats.

5 reasons to use hardwood outrigger pads

Crane outrigger pads give your lifting equipment a more stable platform, distributing its weight over a wider area, but why are hardwood outrigger pads in particular such a strong option?

Here are five of the best reasons to use hardwood outrigger pads, including some of the more obvious arguments, and some you might not have considered.

1. Strong and durable

Hardwood crane mats are surprisingly strong – the natural grain of the wood and flexing of the timber helps to absorb significant pressure during use.

Tropical hardwood mats, such as ekki outrigger pads, last for even longer in good condition, and some of our timber mats to rent have been in service for years with no major signs of wear and tear.

2. Easy to use

Each hardwood outrigger mat weighs in at about 460kg at a size of 3m x 1m x 150mm, but they are easy to lift into place when you move your crane vehicles around the job site.

Two designated lifting points on each mat allow standard machinery to reposition them into a new place, so there’s no manual heavy lifting to take care of.

3. Renewable resource

Unlike plastic and steel outrigger pads, timber crane mats are produced from a completely renewable and sustainable resource, to Forest Stewardship Council standards.

Old worn-out mats are easily recycled without harming the environment, and new timber crane mats are easily available too, using sustainably sourced hardwood.

4. Protect above and below

Hardwood outrigger mats give your crane vehicle a wider area of contact with the ground, reducing its risk of toppling over.

But by doing so, they also spread the pressure over a larger area – this means less damage to the ground surface in any one area, and less landscaping to do in the final stages of your project.

5. Low intrinsic value

Steel outrigger pads have a high scrap metal value, which not only makes them prone to theft, but can also raise the level of insurance you need when you bring them on site.

Timber outrigger pads are worth just as much to your project, but are worth much less intrinsically, so that they don’t raise your insurance costs or risk of theft.

Industrial mats offer grip, safety and comfort

Our industrial mats provide a physical barrier between the ground and the people or vehicles passing over it, but they are much more than just ground protection mats, with characteristics that provide a range of benefits particularly suited to industrial areas.

As ground protection mats, they still offer the physical defence for the ground surface below, preventing exposed earth from turning into mud, helping to combat any risk of contamination, and keeping rugged industrial vehicle tyres from churning deep grooves into the ground.

But they don’t just protect the ground; they also provide a smooth, stable surface for vehicles and pedestrians above, with a high-grip upper layer to make sure tyre treads can find purchase, and to reduce the risk of people on foot slipping due to muddy conditions.

Many industrial mats have extra safety features, such as the familiar yellow and black chevrons along their edges, and these not only help to highlight the edges of the mats for people stepping on to temporary pathways or vehicles joining temporary roadways, but also improve visibility of defined routes and of where the ground is protected.

Finally, an often-overlooked application of industrial mats derives from their cushioned design, as some timber mats are specifically designed to absorb and dissipate shock forces, making them more comfortable underfoot for pedestrians working in the area for a long period of time.

Multiple mats can be placed adjacent to one another to create a continuous smooth surface free from trip hazards, and ideal to compensate for ground surfaces that are already uneven or suffer from minor dips and ruts.

Industrial mats can also offer resistance to chemical spills, with ground protection mats for industrial areas available in a range of different materials that will be able to cope with chemical contact, allowing the spill to be cleared up quickly and without contaminating the surrounding land.

For all of these applications, as well as any environment where a rugged temporary roadway or temporary pathway is needed, industrial mats offer an excellent combination of strength and other features, protecting the ground, people and vehicles all at once.

Ekki mats stay strong whatever the weather

Ekki mats – also commonly known as Azobe mats – belong to the hardwood family Lophira alata, found mainly in West Africa, and are the most durable of timber mats currently available.

The raw timber is relatively hard to source and expensive to buy, due to a combination of its massive popularity in recent years and the illegal logging that occurred prior to that.

However, the unmatched durability of Ekki mats means that stocks last for a very long time – over 50 years in some cases, regardless of the weather conditions they are used in – so there are a good number of Ekki mats for hire even when stocks for sale are low.

Ekki/Azobe timber mats are graded as Class 1 timber, and their popularity is not just because of their durability over a long period of time, but also their strength during immediate use.

This was demonstrated perfectly in recent months when Timbermat supplied 160 heavy duty ground protection mats measuring 150mm x 1m x 5m each to the University of Manchester during demolition work.

As part of major refurbishment works to the university campus, the bridge across Oxford Road was pulled down, dropping heavy rubble on to the road below.

Our heavy duty ground protection mats took the full force of the landing rubble, as well as the weight of the heavy machinery used to pull the bridge down, ensuring that Oxford Road was able to reopen to traffic once the job was done.

Further proof of the durability of Ekki mats can be found in Hastings, where Ekki timber was used in the reconstruction of the heavily damaged Hastings Pier.

In September 2016, the restored pier’s Ekki timber boards served as a stage for an open-air concert with a host of familiar faces from the world of music – a step towards raising funds to erect new buildings on the currently empty pier.

Piers face some of the toughest conditions of all, with no protection from the elements and continual bombardment by saltwater spray, but Ekki’s unique characteristics should ensure that Hastings residents and visitors have a place to go and look out to sea for generations to come.

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