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What Is Bamboo Scaffolding?

M. Haskins
M. Haskins

Scaffolding, or a scaffold, is a temporary structure used during the construction, maintenance, or repair of a building to provide workers with access to the building, as well as to create work and storage areas. There are many types of scaffolding, including metal scaffolding and wood scaffolding, but in many countries, especially in Asia, bamboo scaffolding is preferred. In Asia, bamboo is a favored scaffolding material because it is plentiful, lightweight, cheap, strong, and can be handled without the need for machinery. Bamboo scaffolding can also easily be assembled and disassembled manually by workers to be reused at another work site. The high tensile strength and flexibility of bamboo makes it possible to build safe scaffolding, as long as proper bamboo material is selected and the workers are properly trained in how to use it for construction.

There are three main parts of scaffolding: standards, ledgers, and transoms. Standards are the upright, vertical parts of the scaffolding; ledgers are the horizontal pieces that connect the standards; and transoms are the pieces that rest on top of the ledgers and are used to provide extra support to the scaffolding structure. Metal scaffolding, which is built using metal tubes and pipes, uses metal couplers to hold these parts together. In the construction of bamboo scaffolding, nylon straps are used as couplers.


In Asia, bamboo scaffolding has been used for centuries, and is still used today for construction projects, including high rises, skyscrapers, and industrial scaffolding. Bamboo is preferred over steel and other metals for several reasons. For example, bamboo can easily be cut to size at the work site to fit a particular project, and is lighter and easier to transport and handle than metal. Bamboo is also a resilient material, with a higher tensile strength than steel, meaning it can withstand more pulling and stretching. Ecologically, bamboo also has advantages since it is grown rather than manufactured, making it a renewable resource.

Bamboo stalks.
Bamboo stalks.

To ensure bamboo scaffolding safety, it is important that the bamboo used is appropriate. Two types of bamboo, mao jue and kao jue, are most commonly used when building bamboo scaffolding. The bamboo has to be properly dried and not have any cracks or rot. Further, the pieces used for bamboo scaffolding have to be of the right size. Usually, the main bamboo scaffolding parts are approximately 2.7 inches (70 mm) in diameter, while supporting parts can have a diameter of approximately 1.6 inches (45 mm).

Discussion Comments


@kentuckycat - I have used bamboo scaffolding before, and I am still here to talk about it, so it can't be too dangerous. I will admit, it I was a little bit nervous climbing up it at first, but after a few minutes, you realize there is nothing to be worried about.

I was actually working as an inspector in China while my company was building a new factory there. I either had the option to climb the scaffolding or not be able to do my job. Like someone else mentioned, my main concern was the nylon rope holding the things together, but they do a really good job securing everything. Once I was on the scaffolding, it felt just as sturdy as steel.

Given my own experience with it, it is really a shame it doesn't get used in the US and Canada. We have plenty of resources for it, and it is cheap and easy to use. I'm sure it would be difficult to convince everyone of it, but there are a lot of construction companies who could save a lot of money by using bamboo like for roof scaffolding and other smaller jobs.


I have never personally used or even see anyone using bamboo scaffolding, but I wouldn't be too concerned about it if it were me. If bamboo wasn't safe to be climbing on, they wouldn't be using it. Granted, maybe some of the construction workers in the United States would put a little bit more stress on the supports than Asian workers.

I couldn't give a good comparison between the weight that steel or bamboo could hold, but I know bamboo has a very high strength to weight ration, especially in terms of compression strength, which would be the vertical supports getting stressed. As far as the platforms go, they could always put two layers of bamboo in opposite directions, and that would significantly increase the strength.

If someone else here has ever actually used bamboo, I would be interested to hear about it. Also, can bamboo be used only for upright scaffolding or can you make hanging scaffolding with it, too.


@Izzy78 - I am totally with you. I don't think there is any way that I could do something like that. I know bamboo is supposedly really strong, but I would still feel afraid.

I do like the bamboo idea from the standpoint that it is environmentally friendly, though. Plus, like the article said, since it is easy to cut, they can customize the height to whatever they need depending on the scaffolding job.

What I was also interested in is how they made the transoms. If I understand the article correctly, these would be the platforms that the people stand on to work. Do they just take longer pieces of bamboo and lay them down horizontally to walk over? I could see how the vertical supports would be pretty strong, but it would be those horizontal walkways that worried me. When you are using steel scaffolding, you always have a solid surface that you can be sure won't bend or break.


I guess they say using bamboo scaffolding is safe, but I don't know if I would ever try climbing on top of it. What are the strength comparisons of bamboo when compared to steel?

Even though it is nice that the bamboo weighs less and can be more easily transported, my thinking is that that would end up making it more likely to get blown over by the wind. When they are using the bamboo scaffolding, what do they do to keep the scaffold upright? Can they just weight it down at the base somehow, or do they have to strap it to the building they are working on?

I think the other thing that might scare be the most is the way the bamboo pieces are lashed together. If all they are using is nylon rope or something, how do they make sure it doesn't start to come undone and cause the whole thing to fall apart while people are on it? In any case, I think I'll just stick to metal in my lifetime.

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