Tower cranes are known as the workhorses of the construction industry. On this piece of lifting equipment, the crane pivots around a large tower-like structure, known as the mast, which is where the name comes from.

Tower cranes are vital to the construction industry because they’re highly efficient at lifting and moving heavy materials across long distances and in difficult-to-access areas of the job site. They’re often chosen over mobile cranes because they have a smaller footprint on the job site and thus have a lower impact on the surrounding activities. They also have the advantages of increased capacities and quiet operation.

Tower cranes also enable construction workers to reach new heights—quite literally. They have a higher vertical lift than more traditional cranes. Thanks to tower cranes, we have been able to build up higher than would be possible otherwise. There are different types of tower cranes that come in different shapes and sizes and are intended for different uses. The equipment can be enhanced through crane attachments, adding more versatility and function.

When choosing equipment for your next construction project, you may have to learn more about these six different types of tower cranes:

Type #1: Derrick Cranes

The Derrick crane is unique because it is smaller and its outriggers enable it to sit on a surface, such as a small space or a rooftop. These types of tower cranes are also different from other cranes, because they don’t have a cab for an operator to sit in. Rather, the Derrick crane is operated remotely, whether with wires or wirelessly.

Interestingly, Derrick tower cranes are assembled in pieces and can be used to assemble or disassemble tower cranes.

Type #2: Self-Supporting Tower Cranes

This is a common type of tower crane used in shorter structures when a tower extension isn’t required. These cranes are anchored at the base with weight and their towers extend out of the anchor point and rotate.

Since they’re anchored in place, it’s important to consider its reach from its anchor point before installing them, since they are not easy to move around after installation.

Type #3: Self-Climbing Tower Cranes

This captivating piece of equipment starts off as a self-supporting tower crane, with a tower being anchored to a reinforcing base. However, as you continue to build up vertically, the tower is then anchored to the existing structure to increase its height. It then “climbs” the building upwards, so to speak.

Type #4: Hammerhead Tower Cranes

It’s very common to find the hammerhead tower crane on job sites all over the world. You can identify it through its vertical tower with a horizontal jib that supports the cab, where the operator sits. On the hammerhead tower crane, you’ll find a trolley running along the mast, which carries the lifting cable and hook.

These types of tower cranes can operate anywhere within the radius of the jib. Self-lifting hammerhead tower cranes are a variation of this type of crane. They can insert and remove tower sections to change their height or to “self-lift.”

Type #5: Luffing Jib Tower Cranes

This crane is often called the luffer crane, and it’s also quite commonly used for construction projects. You’ll know you’re looking at a luffing jib crane if you see a diagonal arm extending out of the top of the tower on an angle. Thanks to its location, the arm can move in and out to fit into tight spaces, so this crane is often used in congested urban environments.

Because the crane’s counterweights are located closer to the mast, this crane tends to have a higher capacity.

Type #6: Travelling Tower Cranes

If you have a construction project with a large footprint and require a tower crane that can be moved regularly, consider the travelling tower crane. This crane can be track mounted or rail mounted to allow the equipment to travel along a horizontal path to meet the needs of your project, with or without loads.

Which types of tower cranes should you use?

It’s important to choose the right tower crane for your construction project and site. Many factors will need to be taken into consideration when determining which crane to use.

First, consider the capacity required from the tower crane. Will it need to lift buckets of concrete or heavy equipment, like large steel members or a generator? This will affect your choice.

Next, space availability on the job site will need to be calculated. You need the tower crane to be able to travel where you need it, and you also need to ensure its location doesn’t impact the surrounding construction activities or buildings on site. Aviation authorities will need you to consider your tower crane’s operating time and its height. Make sure you have the special permit from your local flight authority prior to erecting your crane.

Finally, consider the crane’s installation and removal. Both steps can be intensive, costly, and time consuming, and they could lead to project delays if you choose the wrong tower crane for the project.