Professional Builder’s Lee Jones talks to a ‘Prop’ star that’s quite literally going from strength to strength.
Whilst it might be all smiles to the client, when it comes to propping up walls for extension knock-throughs, or when hiding steel beams in the ceiling, there’s often a certain amount of concealed anxiety. It’s far from an exact science and could well involve some sleeplessness nights. In 2018 we reported on experienced bricklayer, Stephen Cheshire and his Prop Pal invention, the only needle support in the building trade to include a lockable jacking support system, and the concept now benefits from an upgraded design.
Available to hire or buy, Prop Pal has been steadily developing a following since its launch. “We never fail to get positive feedback from the tradespeople who’ve used it,” reveals the Manchester-based tradesman, “and safety, security and ease of use is what it always comes down to. I’m a builder myself and I know that there’s often reluctance to introduce new ways of working, but it really does offer peace of mind.”
Steve was finding that, in order to create a flush ceiling effect, more of the work he was undertaking involved concealing steel beams in the floor void. The problem is that the supporting systems used can often be makeshift and, with holes cut through the ceiling or floor to send a prop through and catch a needle, there’s significant disruption to the property.
“I literally woke up early one morning with the idea fully formed, and got up to draw it out on paper straight away,” recalls the 60-year-old. “I then made up a prototype in plywood, before having it made in stainless steel. We went through three separate metal versions before I had something I was happy with and then had that proof tested. We then fabricated another model that could take even more weight – and we’re now up to an SWL of 1,500kg. When I first came to use it on site, I had a real smile on my face, because I know what it would mean to builders. It is purpose-made with proven strength and, because the props are locked into the frame, they won’t be dislodged if knocked.”
The Prop Pal is a safe method for propping the wall above the upstairs floor level in order to leave the ceiling void clear to install the beams. It is the only needle support to include a jacking support system for extra stability, with the adjustable foot allowing the inner and outer leaf wall to be picked up evenly. In addition, because it features a knuckle joint, if the courses are slightly out of level it can be tilted, and the actual foot can be secured to the floor.
“The original Prop Pal was designed for propping above the floor void only, and we did get a lot of enquiries about making use of another Prop Pal the other end to further support the floor from the underside. We’ve now redesigned the product so that the adjustable foot is removable and added a U-shaped plate. That means the prop can be slide in, and then secured. As well as that, the current length is 1,200mm, and we are being asked for longer versions, and that’s something we’re looking at.”
“If you add up all the benefits – minimal disturbance, more space to insert steel beams and, of course, the safety element – and the Prop Pal has the potential to become the industry standard for this kind of work”, concludes Steve. “In short, it takes all the stress out of the job and is dead easy to use.”
For further information on the Prop Pal visit https://www.proppal.co.uk/