I used to think the only people who needed a hoist in their garage were people who worked on their cars, or people who needed to lift a ton of stuff (literally) into their pickup.
The truth is there’s plenty of reasons you might want a garage hoist from storing your boat or keeping your convertible’s hardtop out of the way.
No matter what you store in your garage, you want to keep them organized. Once considered just mechanic’s tools, hoists are becoming more mainstream and consumer friendly.
That leads many people to wonder if they can put a hoist in their residential garage.
There are several options to add a hoist to your garage. If your garage ceiling can support the weight, a ceiling hoist is the most economical option and also saves valuable space. If not, either an adjustable gantry crane or an engine crane can lift heavy loads. You could also have a custom solution to add additional support to your garage ceiling to support the hoist.
Although ceiling hoists are fairly inexpensive, you may not be able to install one depending on how your house was built. Even if you can’t, there are other options to have a hoist in your garage. We’ll talk about each of those and then give a brief overview of how to install a ceiling hoist.
But first, there’s some common misconceptions about what the difference is between a hoist and a winch. Let’s get that out of the way first.
Hoist vs. Winch: What’s the Difference?
Some of you are going to laugh or shake your heads at this, but I didn’t know the difference between a hoist and a winch until fairly recently.
So, just to make sure that we’re all on the same page, let’s get the definition straight:
Winches are used to pull items along a reasonably level plane (usually less than 45 degrees of slope). When you see a tow cable on a Jeep, that’s a winch that’s pulling it.
Hoists are used to lift and lower things straight up and down, or with a minimal angle. Hoists have built in brakes, so you can suspend weight from them, whereas a winch isn’t designed for that.
Common uses for hoists are as engine lifts or to lift and lower heavy items in the back of a pickup.
Can You Put a Ceiling Hoist in Your Garage?
You can always put some sort of hoist in your garage. However, whether or not you mount a hoist to your garage ceiling depends on how your ceiling is constructed.
If you have a floor above your garage, your ceiling is probably constructed with joists that stretch across your ceiling and support the weight of the floor above it.
Residential ceiling joists normally use 2×4 beams. Unless they’ve been specifically over-engineered to support a hoist, they’re probably not strong enough to support the weight of the hoist and what it’s supporting.
If you don’t have a floor above your garage, you likely have trusses instead of joists. Trusses are designed to essentially push the walls and roof out from the middle of your house.
Trusses typically can’t support as much dead-weight as a joist.
The biggest potential problem is that if a joist or truss breaks, it’s possible that the walls or ceiling could start to bow in, or even collapse.
It’s not always easy to figure out what kind of ceiling supports you have, so I wrote an article that makes it easier. It also lists the typical weight limits for each so you can be sure your garage hoist will be safe.
Ceiling Hoist Alternatives for Your Garage
There are two possible solutions. One potential solution is specifically building a steel beam that’s supported by separate columns – not part of the building’s structure. This can either be an off-the-shelf gantry crane or a custom-built one like you see here.
One solution is the Titan adjustable gantry crane. I’s got a 4000 lb. weight limit and most vehicles can fit in between it so you don’t lose a parking space.
Personally, a gantry crane is my favorite option because you can take it with you if you ever decide to sell your house.
Another option is to skip the ceiling-hoist and use a mobile hoist or hydraulic floor crane instead. They definitely take up more space than a ceiling hoist, but a floor crane will work in any garage.
No matter which direction you go, if you’re planning on attaching a hoist to your garage ceiling, I strongly recommend having a civil engineer look at your house to make sure it’s safe.
Choosing the Right Garage Ceiling Hoist
If your ceiling can support it, a ceiling hoist is the way to go. Many inexpensive hoists are simple electric hoists that cost between $100 and $200.
Electric hoists use a controller and an electric motor to lower, lift, and decelerate or accelerate its speeds.
When choosing a garage hoist, consider the following:
- Load weight: This is the maximum weight you need to lift. Always estimate a little higher than you need to keep the motor from wearing out too quickly.
- Load movement: The distance the load can be raised and lowered – for example, 7 feet (84 inches).
- Lift speed: The speed with which the hoist lowers and lifts items. The industry standard for a load weighing 1/8th of a ton to 1 ton (907 kg) is 16 feet (192 inches) per minute. For a 2-ton load, the standard speed is 8 feet (96 inches) per minute.
- Number/frequency of lifts: The total number of lifts to be performed for a job per hour.
- Chain length: The length of the chain from the floor to the mounting point. A 12-foot (144 inches) long chain is typical.
To help simplify your buying decision, hoists are classified according to their potential workload (source). For most residential garages, an H2 certification is sufficient.
|Service Classification||Maximum Start/Stops Per Hour||Typical Application Areas|
|H4||300||High-volume handling (steel warehousing, fabricating plants, machine shops, etc.)|
|H3||150||General handling (fabricating, storage and assembly, warehousing use, etc.)|
|H2||75||Light handling (fabricating industries, machine shop, maintenance and service work)|
How to Install a Ceiling Hoist
Once you choose the right ceiling hoist, it’s time to install it. This is designed to be a brief overview of the process.
The first thing is to gather the right tools and materials.
Materials and Tools
You will need the following materials to roll with your garage hoist project:
P.S. The below-mentioned materials and their specifications could vary based on the specific requirements of your project. The quantity might change and/or the measurements could differ, but you would need them all, nonetheless.
- An electric hoist
- 1/2″ galvanized steel pipe
- Two 1-1/2” tee
- Four 1-1/2” floor flange
- Four 2”x4”96” studs
- Two plywood: 22”x45”x3/4” and 24”x48”x1/4”
- Four 3/8” eye bolts
- Four 48” long 3/8” chain
- Eight 3/8” quick links
- Two 7/16” quick links
- 12 3/8”x2-1/2” bolts with washers and nuts
- Various screws for the interior
When shopping for electric hoists, there are a lot of different options, and not much that sets them apart.
Measuring Things Up
Taking down the measurements of your garage is the first thing you must do – perhaps even before procuring the required materials and tools. Measure your garage’s floor joists and roof trusses. For most roofs, a 36” garter/beam (iron bar) would be just fine. If your roof is flatter, you might require a longer bar. The metal beam helps bear the load, which includes the hoist’s weight and also the actual load.
It’s critical to make sure that your garage ceiling can support the weight of the hoist AND the weight of whatever you’re going to hang from it.
The “H” Frame
You can cut the pipe once the measurements are ready. The aforementioned measurements may not work with your fittings. In other words, you may have to do some testing as to how deep the threads would screw before becoming tight. Needless to say, adjust things as required. Once done, you may compile the “H” frame and fit it in the truss.
If the floor flange is bigger than the truss wood, rotate it so that the wood covers the mounting holes. Make sure it’s properly leveled before bolting it in place. Hire help to hold the frame in position while you make level adjustments. Drill a hole and bolt in one of the four flanges. Drill and bolt in the remaining flanges in a similar manner.
Installing the Motor
Once the “H” frame is in position, you may install the hoist onto it. Make sure the electric hoist is right in the center of the frame. After the installation and plugging-in are done, play the cable out until the hook slightly comes in contact with the ceiling top. Mark the point on the ceiling’s attic side since it’s the opening’s center and should be cut out.
Proper positioning of the electric hoist on the roof is imperative so that the truss roof doesn’t come under excessive stress when lifting and lowering the load. Most engineered trusses can manage loads of up to 180 kg (400 pounds), provided the weight is evenly distributed throughout the region where the hoist is attached.
The platform can be connected with the hoist cable using a series of simple chains. This basically comprises a sequence of 2x4s that are covered with a 3/4″ piece of plywood. The bottom-positioned three cross members offer room for fastening the eye bolts and bringing the platform’s top on par to the floor joist’s bottom in the attic. Also, the 1/4″ plywood skin is attached to them so that the platform looks well-finished from underneath when stowed.
Turn the platform over and put in three 2x4s, each perpendicular to the initial six. Push the end ones inward by a few inches so that the eye bolt nut has some room. Next, drill a hole through the plywood in each corner. When you install the eye bolt, make sure it doesn’t hang over the platform’s edge or hits the opening upon raising the platform. The last step is centering the 1/4″ plywood on the platform’s bottom side and installing it with screws.
Once the platform is set up and the chains are attached to the eye bolts, the hoist is ready for a trial run. Kindly note the hoist is quite powerful. Therefore, employ small, quick control adjustments when the platform goes near the ceiling.
If you would like to know how the electric hoist chain works, watch this video for a basic overview.
Putting a hoist in your garage is definitely possible, but it may take a little research on your part.
If your garage ceiling can support the weight, an electric ceiling hoist is a great economical choice for most homeowners. If that’s not possible, the next best option is either a gantry crane or an automotive engine crane. They take up more space, but they’re self-contained tools that won’t need any structural changes made to your home.
Either way you go, adding a garage hoist is a great way to lift or store heavy items in your garage.