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Choosing the Best Spreader Beam or Beams for the Lift

Choosing the Best Spreader Beam or Beams for the Lift

This article helps you decide which spreader beam, or beams, you should choose for the lifting application or material handling challenge.

First, let’s remind ourselves what the difference is between a spreader beam and a lifting beam:

Lifting beams are typically designed for a bending moment versus spreader beams that incorporate top rigging and are designed for a compressive load.

There are applications when both bending and compressive forces are accounted for in the design of the lifting device but in the general application of a spreader beam versus a lifting beam, this statement will be true.

Caldwell spreader beam

The stability of a spreader beam is a result of taller headroom.

Using a spreader beam

The guidance in this article should be applied when the decision has been taken to use a spreader beam. In other words, it has been noted that there is enough headroom to incorporate top rigging. This most likely means (but not always) that the lift is due to take place outside, or in a large building.

This is often seen as good news to lift-planners and riggers because the stability of a spreader beam is a result of taller headroom and a lower center of gravity from the crane hook attachment to the point of the assembly (lifter and load). The lifting beam, remember, has a single lifting point. Also, spreader beams are often lighter weight for the load.

When selecting a lifting device for large loads, a rigger can also gain additional capacity using a spreader beam versus a lifting beam due to the increased dead load of the lifting device, while taking into account the rated capacity of the crane or hoist.

Beam selection — key factors

  • Length of load
  • Shape / dimensions of load
  • Weight of load
  • Center of gravity of load
  • Available pick points

Caldwell adjustable spreader beam

This adjustable spreader beam is ideal for outdoor applications and where headroom is not limited.

Adjustable spreader beams

There are a handful of companies globally that make adjustable spreader beams.

Caldwell recently launched the Dura-Mod Modular Spreader Beam, a versatile, lightweight alternative to fixed and multiple point below-the-hook solutions up to 170-ton capacity. Each system will consist of a pair of end fittings and drop links, and two upper and lower shackles to make the shortest possible configuration. From there it is a simple case of combining intermediate spreader sections to achieve the required span. The single longest component is only 20 ft.

Caldwell spreader beam end fittings

Caldwell spreader beam end fittings.

If a four-point or rectangular spreader frame is required for an application, you simply need to remove the end fittings and add corner sections—the struts are the same. All Dura-Mod spreaders utilize standard shackles that are available from all major manufacturers. Caldwell specifies top sling lengths, while the load determines lower rigging.

  • In an earlier article, we discussed relevant standards—principally ASME B30.20 and ASME BTH-1.
  • Did you know that you can use multiple spreader beams in something called a cascading rig? This is often the best way to create a flexible and well balanced rigging solution (see applications).

Spreader beams

Spreader beams are commonly used in multiples.

Recent spreader beam applications

Single beam

A Caldwell spreader beam was sought to lift a load that had two pick-points. Two chain slings were rigged at 45-degree angles from a crane hook to either end of the spreader beam. This is what we referred to above as the top rigging. Beneath the hooks of the beam, two further slings descended directly downward at a 90-degree angle to the beam spread to make contact to the load.


In another application, multiple spreader beams were purchased for use with two mobile cranes that completed a tandem lift. The end user employed a one-over-two spreader beam configuration to lift one end of the panels for a new structure. That means that a beam was horizontal under the crane hook, then two beams were used at a 90-degree angle below and at either end of that beam. We’ll explain:

Under the crane hook were two roundslings, connected at either end of a modular spreader beam. Underneath, two roundslings connected via bow shackles to four other roundslings that descended to either ends of a pair of modular beams. Additional rigging was required, including end units, struts, drop links, and shackles. At the bottom of the cascading rig, four wire rope slings connected to four pick points (lifting lugs) on the panels (loads) via more bow shackles.

Beneath the hook of the second crane, meanwhile, roundslings were connected to another modular beam. A pair of roundslings completed connection to pick points at the other end of the load.

It sounds complicated, but the equipment made it easy (see below).

One-over-two spreader beam configuration


In one final case study, a lift-plan detailed more cascading rigs, again involving spreader beams and rigging gear, which proved the most cost-effective option. Here, for eight-point lifts, a one-over-two-over-four configuration was used consisting of seven spreader beams at different levels. This type of rig proved to be flexible and well balanced, the user reported.

How much will your spreader beam or cascading rig cost?

It depends. In most instances, the relative and comparative cost for a manufacturer to make a lifting beam is more than a spreader beam without rigging.

Shop our range of spreader beams here. If in doubt, always go back to the beginning:

Lifting beams are typically designed for a bending moment versus spreader beams that incorporate top rigging and are designed for a compressive load.

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Sam Andrews - June 21, 2023

Crikey! A huge pile of wood has been spotted near my backyard and I need to remove it. Thankfully, you told us that spreader beams can help us complete rigging work much safer. Fine, let me find a piece of equipment from a rental company pronto.

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