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Floor Pit


Hard Drive
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I can't help with dimensions but please wire your ventilation pump direct to the shop lights.  That makes sure that nobody ever goes down there without ventilation.

I worked as dispatcher/driver for a bus line.  We had a pit in the shop.  One day the boss went down to fix an exhaust leak on a Carpenter.  After a few minutes there were no working noises, just the engine idling.  Guess who was lying on the bottom of the pit.  I moved the bus while another guy called the ambulance.  By the time the ambulance arrived we had the boss on the shop floor and he was starting to wake up.  He was okay except for a three day headache.  All because the fan switch was on the wall about twenty feet away and he was only going to be a couple of minutes so he didn't turn it on.  The only other contributing factor was a wind that was blowing directly in the shop door.  Stay safe.

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As to pit dimensions, that would depend on the physical size of the vehicles you plan to maintain, with vehicle track dimension being the critical one.  For example, the track (transverse distance between wheels) of my Chevelle is much greater than that of my Crosley.  Pits used to be much more common than they are these days, and I remember some pits being just deep enough to accommodate someone scooting around on a wheeled stool, while others were deep enough to allow work while standing.  The only pit I've had experience with was during my high school days (many mango seasons ago) while working at a part time job in a gas station.  As I recall, the depth of that pit was somewhere between "scooting" and "standing" and was not comfortable at all.

 

There are a number of pitfalls associated with the installation of a pit in one's garage.  Some of these would include, but not be limited to:

  • Danger of falling in if a vehicle is not parked over the pit;
  • The tendency of anything dropped on the floor rolling into the pit (some sort of law of nature, or gravity or sumthin');
  • Flammable liquid fumes are heavier than ambient air and would tend to collect in the pit;
  • Accumulation in the pit of other toxic fumes, while possibly not flammable,  could pose a real safety risk;
  • I would think that there would be some knotty construction challenges associated with installing a pit in an existing garage floor slab.

There are alternatives to a pit available.  Some of the members of this Forum (Padgett for one, I believe) have low-lift types of lifts and seem to be quite pleased with them.  I'm sure that more folks, more knowledgeable than I, will contribute to providing answers to your question.

 

Cheers,

Grog

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  A quick search on the net shows garage pits to vary in size but around 3' wide x 5' deep x 10'-12' long seems about average.

 

 My grandfather was killed in 1966 when he was pushed into a pit headlong by a tractor he was working on. It started while in gear. I wouldn't want one in my garage.

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Check with your local building department. In many municipalities garage pits are illegal. I know they are illegal in my city as the one my grandfather had in his garage had to be filled in and cemented over. I would also contact your insurance agent and inquire about the installation. A lot of safety issues involved.

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51 minutes ago, 46 woodie said:

Check with your local building department. In many municipalities garage pits are illegal. I know they are illegal in my city as the one my grandfather had in his garage had to be filled in and cemented over. I would also contact your insurance agent and inquire about the installation. A lot of safety issues involved.

 

I am with 46 Woodie on this. If it is not laegle and if there ever is a problem that involves insurance, that could create another set of problems

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My pit dates to 1980, they were legal then, but I doubt they are now.  Never any problem.  The depth is at my shoulder height and works well for me.  It has a moveable ladder which is always placed at an uncovered end hen in use. The surfaces are sealed and there has never been a water problem, although it is more humid in there.  It is kept closed with full dimension 2 x 8's when not in use.  Make sure you place it where there will be adequate space around it if you store other cars in your garage.

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I considerd a pit when we built our barn/shop.   But I opted out and went with scissor trusses and a 4 post lift.   Reason was a list like Capngrog's above.   The older I get, the better I like it.    Safty and 

easy of use are the bigger concerns as we age.

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My Nephew was badly burned in a pit explosion and died a couple of days later. He was 15 at the time. There was gasoline fumes down there and when he squeezed the trigger on an electric drill the pit blew up. 

It must have been a terrible experience for him.

 

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Have you looked at the portable floor jack systems available today. They can lift a car safely enough for you to get under them at do most jobs you could do from a pit. Cost about $1500 for a 7000 lbs lift capacity. Safer, can move around no digging required and probably cheaper than what a good pit would cost. 
dave s 

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Hello, Hard Drive. Welcome to the forum.

 

When I built my inspection pit, I also did a lot of head-scratching about the depth. What I came up with is a pit 5 feet 2 1/2inches deep, 32 inches wide and 15 feet 6 inches long. I am 6' 1 1/2" tall and the depth is about right, at 11 inches below my head height. There is nothing I would change about it, and I am mighty glad to have it. It spends most of the time covered with recessed 2" x 12" boards.  I am walking and driving over it constantly, when not in use. One end is ramped at about 45 degrees, with a steel framed set of fixed steps, with wide wooden treads. You spend a lot of time sitting on those steps when working on front-ends, etc. I have a built in tool cupboard in the wall, which also houses a dual electrical outlet. Very handy at times. Also a sliding platform to sit sump-oil cans, tools etc on, about 15" below the surface. That slides along the length of the pit, in the angle iron which supports trhe boards. I have no pump, but mixed plenty of liquid damp-course into the conrete as I went. White paint inside is a good idea, for light. Drop a couple of boards in place, and a trolley jack rolls straight on. There is enough room at the sides for a bottle jack on larger cars.

 

I am very aware of the dangers of exhaust fumes, and avoid working below with the engine running. Also, I work alone, so am responsible for my own welfare. Being in rural Australia, I haven't stressed about the legality, or insurance, etc, but I believe they are now banned in businesses with employees. The readily available low-priced hoists did not exist when I built my pit.

IMG_5535.JPG

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My grandfather used to say "Don't flirt with a rattlesnake". That comes to mind here. Consider a pop up in the roof. That is my current plan. I built my garage in 1988 and was satisfied with 8' ceilings. I swear it was 1990 when home hobby lifts became popular. Then I would have gone for 12".

Currently I have a SnapOn scissors lift and a set of Kwik Lift ramps as well as good jacks that are sufficient. My ridge beam is at 12' and I can work a roof pop up with minimal pitch from that.

 

I just want the lift for convenience. In the same vein as my grandfather's advice, I was talking with my wife about needing a new ladder to do some work on the outside of the house. Teasingly I asked her where she thought a 72 year old guy should go for advice on buying a ladder. Which brings us back to the pit idea.

Bernie

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Could have one but since slab is on sand would need a waterproof wall. Bought  a medium rise portable scissors lift.  Needed a 7,000 lb lift so at time choices were limited but today would buy an Atlas Kwik Bay Commercial Grade Open Center Portable. Capacity scissors lift. 41" lift, 33" open center. Ramps on ends allow everything from a Fiero to a 21 foot RV. I prefer the dual cylinders, muti position locks, and bottom trays for the rollers. I am usually just changing tires or doing brakes but can go high enough to scoot a stool under.

 

reattaup.jpg

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Having worked construction for 40+ yrs I can just about guarantee that a low rise lift will be much cheaper (and probably safe) than a pit. Have you priced the cost of lumber lately? For the price of the form lumber alone you could probably buy a lift!!  Putting a hole in the middle of your garage floor isnt as easy (at least it shouldnt be if done correctly) as cutting a patch in the floor and digging a hole. If done correctly the entire floor should come out, dig over deep to allow the thickness of the pit floor slab, attach drain going to.....wait theres another issue!!  

Possible shoring of the excavation, forming, pouring, not to mention the cost of the concrete. After a quick thought, it would probably be cheaper to have a small pole barn built with a 10' ceiling than to put a pit in an existing garage!!!!

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I have a pit in my garage , Would not have a garage without one . Would put it a foot deeper if doing it again .  Drive large cars over it all the time never have a problem . I have seen cars come off lifts , In pro shops and home shops . Kings32

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16 hours ago, Paul Dobbin said:

I considerd a pit when we built our barn/shop.   But I opted out and went with scissor trusses and a 4 post lift.   Reason was a list like Capngrog's above.   The older I get, the better I like it.    Safty and 

easy of use are the bigger concerns as we age.

Regarding safety, a car properly placed over a pit can't fall on you.  Heaven forbid, one on a lift might on a very bad day.

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Thanks for all the advice and concerns.  Had not considered a floor lift but looking at a few on the internet I might start looking seriously.   They appear to raise the the frame about 20" off the ground.   Mostly working on a late 20's car the frame is already 15" off the ground so only gaining 5" is not a big help.  Are any of the lift brands better or worse than the others?  

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As you get older, you won't much like being under a car that you can't stand under, so a lift that only takes the car a few inches off the ground is not a plus (only a convenience vs using a floor jack and stands). The pit allows you to work on exhaust and undercarriage with wheels on ground (suspension loaded), someone can be working below the car standing up, while another fool is working above the car hunched over, and you can pretty much stand an engine and trans up while putting it in, and the trans has a place to go. It also makes oil changes a breeze.

So.... there are advantages to the pit that a lift can't give you.

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I had modified an "open pit" style open trailer, mounting the leaf springs above, rather than below the pair of axles.

Yes, the slightly higher center of gravity could make it slightly less stable while transport, but this trailer is rarely used - especially for any significant distance.

This gave me about 5-6 inches of additional clearance ground clearance,

and allows me to work under a car more easily and even more safely than if I were to use pairs of jack stands,

still keeping the suspension loaded.

Oil changes and chassis lube are much easier and quicker too.

Edited by Marty Roth (see edit history)
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BTW have seen a number of cars fall off a two post lift (taking the lift with them if not anchored properly). Four post is more for storage, hard to take a wheel off. Couls have had any but decided on the scissors lift partly because even being portable, it is very stable even with a 21 foot 148"wb RV onnit. Only way I'd even consider a 2 post would be if it had a brace across the top and guy wires.

 

2x12 along side is because track is wider than the frame. Was limited in how high I could go for the door opener track in that bay. Was enough.

 

 

upside.jpg

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Just now, padgett said:

BTW have seen a number of cars fall off a two post lift (taking the lift with them if not anchored properly). Four post is more for storage, hard to take a wheel off. Couls have had any but decided on the scissors lift partly because even being portable, it is very stable even with a 21 foot 148"wb RV onnit. Only way I'd even consider a 2 post would be if it had a brace across the top and guy wires.

I assume yours is what is referred to as a four post scissor lift.  What brand is it?

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Before the home workshop lifts, ramps running up to two horizontal planks was a common sight in rural areas here. Six robust posts supported the planks. Scary things to drive onto, and difficult to winch a dead car up. But they gave good access to the underside.  You still had to get up there to pour in the fresh oil, though.

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7 hours ago, padgett said:

Could have one but since slab is on sand would need a waterproof wall. Bought  a medium rise portable scissors lift.  Needed a 7,000 lb lift so at time choices were limited but today would buy an Atlas Kwik Bay Commercial Grade Open Center Portable. Capacity scissors lift. 41" lift, 33" open center. Ramps on ends allow everything from a Fiero to a 21 foot RV. I prefer the dual cylinders, muti position locks, and bottom trays for the rollers. I am usually just changing tires or doing brakes but can go high enough to scoot a stool under.

 

reattaup.jpg

 Looks nice, sure beats a floor jack and jack stands, have you raised it to the max height?

Edited by John348 (see edit history)
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Due to my low ceilings I have the low rise options.

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With either I used 6000 Hein Werner jack stands, even under the Kwik Lift. And the jack is always under while I work.

 

I am probably going for an Atlas Pro700 four post with roller jacks and raise the garage roof before the end of next summer. But I am good with what I have now.

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2 more pit suggestions;  1) Have at least one "ground fault" outlet there for a light and power tools, and 2) Place the top block 4 or more inches outward (or use 4 inch wide blocks rather than 8's) along one or more sides in order to leave a ledge so you can put tools, small parts and supplies there where you can easily see and reach them.  Both have worked well for me.

Edited by Dave Henderson (see edit history)
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I cannot help but see that those low-rise scissor lifts seem to take up an awful lot of space where one would want to be working. I think I'd much rather have four jack stands on each corner, giving me a whole lot of free movement under the car. But, again, i'd rather be standing under the car than on my back... given the choice.

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Have Jacks and Jackstands and ramps but nothing is like the lift for rotating tires or working on anything in front of the rear wheels or behind the front wheels and is almost three feet wide clear space in the middle. For things like replacing the steering assembly on the Judge and a Fiero gas tank is NP. Did a lot of study before deciding on these seven years ago and have a lot more choice now.

pontup.jpg

reatup.jpg

 

ps before the glee club starts complaining, my Vixen RV was weighed at 6300 lbs and 3000kg is a hair over 6600 lbs. Today I'd go for 7k lbs.

Edited by padgett (see edit history)
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21 minutes ago, West Peterson said:

I cannot help but see that those low-rise scissor lifts seem to take up an awful lot of space where one would want to be working. I think I'd much rather have four jack stands on each corner, giving me a whole lot of free movement under the car. But, again, i'd rather be standing under the car than on my back... given the choice.

And when not in use the scissors lift still occupies the space.  A pit when properly closed off allows other use of the space such as parking a car there. 

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