Flashback: Swiveling Balcony Hoist

Bikes Fun & Games
Flashback: Swiveling Balcony Hoist

If you live in an apartment, you know that lugging your bike up the staircase is no fun. Back in MAKE Volume 11, Virginia-based maker Matthew Russell shared instructions for making his simple swiveling balcony hoist with us. For about $50 (or less, depending on what you have laying around the workshop), build the hoist and wrangle the staircase no more.

Take the sting out of a walk-up apartment by installing your own lifter.
By Matthew Russell

Apartment-style living has its advantages, but getting a bicycle off the balcony, through your living area, and down several flights of stairs just to go get some exercise isn’t one of them. Carrying groceries up and taking trash down several flights of stairs isn’t so much fun either, but you can mitigate these pains by building a swiveling hoist on your balcony. The whole setup costs right around $50, and takes only a few hours from start to finish.


1. Choose the location.
Measure the distance from the floor to the ceiling of your balcony. Make a note that your hoist’s inner stem (1″ metal pipe) should be at least half the length of its outer stem (1.5″ metal pipe). Select a mount point for the stem of the hoist. On many balconies, the area adjacent to the rail fixture is ideal because you’re able to clamp to the rail and gain some additional stability.

2. Measure your space.
Starting from the stem’s mount point, calculate the approximate distance the arm of the hoist will need to swing out from your balcony in order to provide sufficient clearance when you’re lifting up an item. If you plan to hoist up any bulky items, be sure to account for any possible rotation on the way up.

3. Prepare the pipes.
Thread one end of the outer stem and attach the 1½” metal flange. (Home warehouse stores usually cut and thread pipes for free if you purchase them there.) Then thread one end of the hoist’s inner stem.

Connect the inner stem and the metal pipe nipple into the 1″ metal tee, so that they’re in line with one another. Insert the longer segment of the inner stem into the outer stem. The resulting apparatus will stand vertically on your balcony. Trim it so that it’s approximately ½” less than your balcony’s height. Make sure to thread and trim your hoist’s outer arm.

4. Drill the holes.
Use a drill and hole saw attachment to bore holes approximately ¾” deep into the 2 wood squares. Each hole should accommodate one end of the stem.

Attach the small wood blocks to the corresponding end of the stem apparatus from Step 3, and stand it up vertically. Make small adjustments to the metal pipe with the hacksaw until the full stem fits flush between the floor and ceiling. Ensure that the inner stem swivels comfortably by widening the hole in the upper wooden block as necessary.

5. Install the hoist.
Use the strip of wood and the hose clamps to secure the stem flush with the rail fixture. If no rail is available, consider an alternative means of structural support. Securely screw the wooden blocks into place. Attach the remaining 1″ flange to the hoist’s arm and tighten the U-bolt approximately 2″ from the end. Wrap any visible threads with thin tape to prevent fraying of your rope.

6. Lift away!
Drape the rope over the arm, between the U-bolt and the end flange. Securely attach |the hoist’s arm to its stem. Swivel out from your balcony, and, making sure no one is below, use the rope to lower down a series of lightweight items before attempting heavier items such as a bicycle.

TIP: You can enhance the arm with a small pulley if you have the leeway.

NOTE: Safety first whenever using your hoist. Use common sense and never hoist people or animals. Test your hoist’s weight limit carefully and incrementally.

Check out the full article (with associated images) in our Digital Edition. And pick up a back issue of MAKE Volume 11 over in the Maker Shed. Did you know that if you subscribe to MAKE, you get free digital access to all 22 volumes?! Not sure how you can beat that deal. Seriously.

18 thoughts on “Flashback: Swiveling Balcony Hoist

  1. Chris W says:

    I love this kind of thing, but what does “Test your hoist’s weight limit carefully and incrementally.” mean? Add more weight until it fails?
    Besides, no sane building manager will allow you to mount this.
    It seems like more of a hassle to go up, lower the rope, go down, hook it to the bike, go up and lift the bike.

  2. craig says:

    No kidding. It would make more sense to MAKE a shoulder pad in the ‘V’ of the frame under the seat for your shoulder. Carrying your bike on your shoulder like that is no different than a shoulder strap carry-on.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your tips. I always wonder how people set this up in the movie or in the actually life. I definitely want to try that when I move next time.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your tips. I always wonder how people set this up in the movie or in the actually life. I definitely want to try that when I move next time.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your tips. I always wonder how people set this up in the movie or in the actually life. I definitely want to try that when I move next time.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the tips! I already wonder how people set this up in the movie or in actual life. I definitely will try that next time when I move.

  7. Mayora Oreti says:

     Must be funny if I walk by and watch it live, lol.
    party bus toronto

  8. Katherine says:

    I “tested the hoist’s weight limit carefully” and it failed (luckily not falling on my head) at less than 25 pounds. Luckily, most parts were undamaged and can be returned to the hardware store. Also, the initial materials outlay was more than twice what the article suggested. I don’t recommend this project.

  9. Chicago limo service says:

    I bet they can use this in Amsterdam where ALL flats are like this one. Very narrow staircases due to limited space, all large items must be brought in through the windows or living room doors. Our company, http://www.echolimousine.com use to have a presence there a few years back, we got to know this first hand from our drivers. The best place to see lots of bike and their parking spaces is near Central Station.

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at snowgoli@gmail.com or via @snowgoli.

View more articles by Goli Mohammadi


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).