Temporary Structures: What Is the Difference Between Scaffolding and Formwork?

Scaffolding and formwork are both used extensively in construction for quite specific and different functions. When a builder needs to mold just poured concrete or keep it in place as it hardens into the shape desired, they will use formwork. Formwork are temporary or permanent molds or casings that will securely hold concrete until it is sufficiently hard to support itself. Scaffolding is different from formwork in that, although both are constructed temporarily, the former is used as a platform that will allow people to access maintenance, repair work, or original construction that they would not have been able to access otherwise.

Formwork is a structure that is used to support the weight and form of concrete until it has formed the necessary stability to stand on its own. Formwork Companies exist to create formwork in modular stages before transport to a construction site.

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What is Scaffolding?

Anyone who has ever seen a construction project as it was underway has probably seen what appears to be a superstructure covering the outside of the building. If they were even luckier, they probably also saw workers walking and working along the lengths of those structures. This is scaffolding. Scaffolding usually consists of a metal—normally steel—framework with wood, bamboo, or metal planking stretched between metal uprights. This structure gives workers a secure place to work and minimizing the chances that they will fall. Scaffolding also allows workers to work at heights that would be impossible to reach without it.

Scaffolding can be almost as simple or as complex as the creator desires. Regardless of the design, it is imperative that it be well-made since workers’ safety depends on it. Scaffolding is also often made with handrails, functioning as a ramp or to stabilize a structure of a building. Not only that, but it must also support the weight of equipment and supplies as the project is being built. This might include such items as paint, bricks, concrete, and more.

Scaffolding can also be used as a temporary walkway or bridge between two points. It can also be used for bracing props. Scaffolding also gives workers a safe place to walk as they work around a structure, allowing them to have access to ledges and roofing. Scaffolding is also used extensively in movie production as a support for props, lighting, hanging platforms, and putting up signs and placards.


Formwork, also called shuttering or forms, differs from scaffolding in that instead of supporting a worker’s weight, it must support the weight of concrete as it goes through the process of setting and drying. Wet concrete can be very heavy, which can be a huge burden on whatever it is attached to. Further, without some support, concrete will have no shape, settling in whatever form it happens to take as it is poured. As wet concrete dries, it can exert a huge amount of pressure on formwork, especially from the bottom. Without providing adequate support, wet concrete can cause formwork to break or bend.

It is also important to note that if formwork is removed from concrete before it dries thoroughly, the broken forms as well as the concrete can cause serous accidents. This is why on most projects, formwork is allowed to stay in place for several days after it is poured to ensure the concrete is dry.

Despite scaffolding and formwork being quite different, both are needed to ensure worker safety and project stability.


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