I began this this past Sunday afternoon and finished the brunt of the work within two hours. As it sits right now, the hoist itself lifts and lowers the hardtop with incredible ease. However, some fine tuning will be done. Some things I'm looking to work on are: cleaning up the hole I cut in the ceiling sheetrock for the cable to drop through (plan to frame the square hole with some door trim), find and mark the exact spot I need to back up to, and add the eye bolts and straps to the ceiling joists for long term storage.
Supplies I used:
(many substitutions can be made as you see fit)
*Chicago Electric 440lb electric hoist from Harbor Frieght - $74 (after tax and extended warranty)
*Long (don't recall length) Unistrut - $9.97
*4 x 1/4" x 1.25" lag bolts - $1.00
*4 x 1/4" washers - $.28
*2 x 48" long pieces of square tube - $20
*scrap flat sheet steel - Free at work
*6' pipe insulation - $1.75
*Eye bolt and nut - Free from garage
*Rafter hanger - $1.88
*Straps - Free from garage
Before the actual installation began, I gathered as many materials as I could that I knew I would need. I knew the basic design I wanted for the thing that would attach to the hardtop and then to the hoist. From this point on, I will refer to this as the 'T'. I gathered the two pieces of 16 guage 48" long square tubing and brought them to work with me one day. Since i cannot weld, I had one of the guys at work weld the two pieces into a 'T' shape. We used some flat sheet metal cut into squares and welded them in as gussets for added rigidity.
Just to clean it up a bit, when I got home with the 'T' I took to the grinder and cut off some of the excess gusset material and left a triangle shape instead of the sharp square. This is where I also took a some rattle can black spray paint and coated the 'T' to prevent rust. Once the paint dried, I slid on the pieced pipe insulation to protect the hardtop from being scratched more than necessary. The holes were also drilled for the straps used for the front section of the hardtop and the hole for the rafter hook used in the rear. Using one, longer strap in this fashion would make things a bit easier. If I had used a longer cross piece instead of the 48" piece I used, I would have been able to use hooks similar to the one I used for the rear part of the hardtop. However, because it is a little shorter, hooks won't reach, but the straps work perfectly.
Mounting of the Hoist
I began the by finding the location that I wanted the hardtop to be when it is suspended from the hoist. I decided on my location based on obstacles such as the garage door, the opener, and walls. I wanted the hard top to be as far to the opening of the garage as possible because I will be building a workbench to go at the head of the garage and will want space to move around without hitting my head on the hardtop. There will also be shelves on the adjacent wall.
Once the location was spotted, I drilled a hole to make it easier to see once i was in the attic. The next step was to crawl into the attic to find the actual location that I would be hanging the hoist. Due to the danger of a 280lb person walking around in an attic....not from actually falling, but from what his wife would do to him if he fell....I took it slow and did one thing at a time. I found the hole that I had drilled from inside the garage and proceeded to cut a reasonably sized square opening through the sheetrock. After this hole was made, I brought over the long piece of strut metal, or Unistrut as somepeople refer to it, and layed it across several ceiling joists. Before i brought the strut material up into the attic, I considered cutting it to a shorter length for easier maneuverability; however, I decided against this because I figured the extra length might help to disperse the weight from the hoist and hardtop across the house framing. Once that was in place, I was able to carry the hoist over to this section of the attic and then slid the strut through the mounting brackets on the hoist. I positioned the hoist so the cable would drop down through the hole in the ceiling (naturally). After I found the exact position I liked, I secured the strut material down at four spots with .25" x 1.25" lag bolts into the joists.
Balancing and Finishing Up
Job done in the attic, now it was time to go back in the garage and attach the 'T' to the hoist. Of course before you can just attach everything to the hardtop and lift away, you need to balance the contraption. The best way I could manage to balance the hartop (front to rear) for lifting was by attaching the 'T' to the hardtop in the optimal position. Then instead of attaching the hoist hook onto the 'T', I used a strap wrapped around the 'T' and then hooked on to the hoist hook. This way, when I slowly lifted the hartop, I could move the strap back and forth along the 'T' until the top was balanced. I could now mark this spot and drill and attach the eye bolt for permanent mounting.
There really is not much more to it than that. My system was realitively easy to put together and did not cost nearly as much as the Lange system. You could easily make material changes as you see fit to suit you and the supplies you have access to.