Top techniques for lifting and moving slabs of natural stone
A construction site, whatever its size, is like its own mini-world in which a cast of different players meet up every day, each responsible for their own role, but all needing to work together without getting in one another’s way, to ensure everything proceeds smoothly and efficiently.
The techniques for lifting and moving slabs of natural stones require not just extreme care, but also a delicate touch.
There are a multitude of tasks and operations that are carried out daily, most of which carry in some way, a level of risk when it comes to health and safety, and one of the most dangerous is the lifting and moving around of slabs of stone. These are generally very large and as such, require not just extreme care, but also a delicate touch.
The first thing to take into consideration is that a standard slab will typically measure around 1 square metres with a thickness of 1 cm and weighs 27 kilograms. When it comes to cut-to-size slabs, however, here the average measurements are around 2 square metres by 2 cm thick, so doing some quick maths is enough to know you are talking about a single piece weighing over 100 kilograms. As such, the right equipment for lifting a slab out of its crate and then moving it around a sit makes life a lot easier, reduces risk of breakage and is far more reassuring on the health and safety front.
The key item is some sort of professional trolley or forklift, but another piece of equipment that is indispensable if you are frequently handling large heavy pieces of material is a vacuum lift, fitted with one or more suction plates depending on the type, size and weight of the slab, ideal for semi-worked or polished stone surfaces. There are also the so-called “suction cups” that are usually made of a supporting structure with an arm that can be manually tilted from 0 to 90 degrees. Essentially, the cups are vulcanised onto the support and through a type of pump system that creates a vacuum, clamping the slab, holding it fixed. Here, to ensure safety and effectiveness, it is necessary to use a specific pump system that allows you increase the suction strength as required so that the slabs remain attached.
A variation on the theme is to use a type of frame with movable suction cups placed along anti-friction runners. Think of it as a small section of a railway track in aluminium, with optional telescopic cross-bars that can extend from 90 up to 160 cm in some cases, making it easy to extract a slab from a crate. Anti-slip, anti-stain rubber handles help with grip and ergonomics, allowing you to manoeuvre your stone into place with minimal risk of damage either to the material itself or your back. For laying slabs vertically, this is an excellent system.
All photos were taken prior to the closure of 11 March 2020.