Vacuum Lifting Technology Lands On White House Steps

Vacuworx lifting technology made its way to the White House as part of the National Park Service’s historic renovation of the building’s South Portico steps. The $1 million project, which included dismantling Truman-era staircases and installing carefully selected cuts of Missouri limestone, was completed in August.

A material-handling solution incorporating a Vacuworx MC Series Vacuum Lifting System proved advantageous as crews pulled two base stones weighing approximately 2,400 pounds each, and set a total of 46 new slabs. Each new South Portico step – 21 on the east and 21 on the west – is approximately 10 inches long, 7 inches deep and 20 inches wide. Four new landing stones are 11 feet long, 7 inches thick and 6 feet wide.

The MC 5 operates using a self-contained diesel engine. When activated, the system pulls a vacuum between the pad and object to be lifted, providing a powerful positive seal. Eliminating the need for straps, the MC5 method saved crews nearly eight hours – an additional 10 minutes per limestone step during the installation process. The application of vacuum lifting also mitigated the risk of chipping the top-grade material by prying on it with a bucket or fork, and curbed the possibility of damaging an adjacent patio on the South Lawn.

“We’re moving, fitting, lifting, spreading the mud and laying it down,” said Jessica Gordon, an exhibits specialist with NPS’ Historic Preservation Training Center (HPTC). “All the re-handling adds up. With the remote operation, we can safely pick up and maneuver materials without compressors, hoses or other accessories presenting trip hazards. What really sold us is that everything is self-contained, in one unit..”

Founded in 1999 in Tulsa, OK, Vacuworx engineers and manufactures innovative, heavy-duty, material-handling equipment for the oil and gas, water and sewer, highway and heavy construction, and other industries worldwide.

Vacuworx, (918) 259-3050,

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