Hoist Decisions: Wire Vs. Chain

Two familiar but very different choices face the plant manager for a hoist in your plant: wire rope or chain. It’s a serious mistake to assume there’s little difference.

They perform a similar function, but act in different ways and are designed for different types of load or materials. So if you’re looking to buy a new hoist, upgrade an old one, or are just worried that you may be using the wrong type for your line of work, read on to learn a bit about the facts and requirements regarding wire and chain.

Using the wrong type of hoist materials will cost you unnecessary expenses in the future. Wire rope, when used unnecessarily, features a high price tag that can be avoided by using chain, since the latter tends to be less expensive than wire of a similar quality.

However, if you try to use chain when wire is required, your system will struggle to perform, and will require more repairs, more often. So let’s compare them.



Wire hoists are most often seen in permanent, more stationary equipment, but they can still be used in hoists that are set up and torn down as needed. Unlike chain (which is usually a more simple application), there are several different types of wire hoists that use various drum and motor combinations.

Sometimes grooved drums are used to increased accuracy. Sometimes multiple drums are used to compound strength. Different solutions exist for different problems.

Wire rope is usually rated for heavier loads, between 2 and 30 tons, on average. Logically, this means that the higher your necessary capacity and the more your average load weighs, the more likely you’ll want to use wire rope.

Wire applications are also more suited for long work hours, when many different loads need to be handled within a short amount of time. They are also handy in intense environments where you need to take extreme heat or harsh weather conditions into account.

Wire hoists have some drawbacks. As previously mentioned, they are more expensive than chain hoists under most circumstances. They also tend to be larger and more complicated.

If you don’t have much room to work with, a wire system may not be practical or even possible for that particular job. Most wire systems are used in factories, such as steel service, foundry, and raw material production facilities.


In general, chain hoists are less permanent and easier to move around than wire hoists. This makes them more flexible when you have enough room or the necessary to switch positions when depositing loads.

Like wire, chain hoist capacity can vary, but usually within a smaller range than wire. Chain is ideal for lesser loads, where weight is not so much of a concern — typically within the 1/8-of-a-ton to five-ton range. You will find them in smaller factories, in maintenance work, and at workstations where lifting needs to be done.

This should already give you a few ideas about how chain can be used. Chain hoists come with a few other advantages, such as ease of use and applications for jib, gantry, and hand-push cranes.

Such cranes tend to involve manual movement load hooks, which wire rope can slip out of more easily; whereas chain provides a greater level of dependability.

But say that you know your capacity, and have a fairly balanced choice between wire and chain. Let’s also say that the prices you have looked at are reasonably close, and you’re still having trouble making up your mind. Which do you go with?

Keep in mind that training has a lot to do with which choice you ultimately make. Your workers may be accustomed to one system instead of the other, and switching could involve new training costs and the lower productivity that comes with inexperience.

On the other hand, you may want to switch from chain to wire if you believe that you’ll be handling larger, heavier loads in the future and it might be good to prepare now instead of waiting. Of course, you may also have a loyalty to a particular brand.

We offer a variety of chain and wire components from Demag, as well as consulting services to help you make up your mind and identify the best option.


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