How to Design a Hayloft Pulley

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Most farms need to store large amounts of hay to feed the animals. For this reason, haylofts are usually built up near the roofs of barns, to take advantage of all the space near the ceiling while keeping the floor clear for storing tools and other supplies. Carrying hay bales up stairs one at a time is very slow. To save both time and labor, a working hayloft needs a pulley system to raise and lower hay to and from the loft.

Things You'll Need

  • Hay bales
  • Scale
  • Measuring tape
  • Plywood sheet
  • Saw
  • 2 pulleys with hook attachments
  • Rope, equal in length to two times the distance from the floor to the hay loft
  • 2 eye hooks
  • Multiply the amount of weight that you feel comfortable lifting by two. This is the amount of weight that the pulley system will allow you to lift for the same effort. This is the minimum amount of weight that the hardware of your pulley system must be able to handle.

  • Weigh one of the bundles of hay. Divide this figure into the weight capacity you decided on for your pulley system. The result is the number of bales of hay that your system will lift.

  • Stack the number of bales you determined in Step 2 as closely together as you can. Do not stack them more than two high. Measure the length and width of this stack.

  • Cut a piece of plywood to the measurements from Step 3. Weigh it. Subtract this weight from the weight of the maximum number of bales you calculated previously. Divide this number into the weight capacity of your equipment. The result is the number of bales that your system will actually be able to lift with the weight of the platform accounted for.

  • Examine the pulleys, hooks and rope that you'll need for the system. Make sure that the rope is not too big for the pulley channels, and that it can fit through the eye hooks. Check that the pulley hooks can fit into the eye hooks. If you need to use a smaller rope or different pulleys, recalculate the numbers using the new equipment’s weight capacity.

  • Assemble the system by screwing an eye hook into the rafter of the barn. Attach one pulley to this eye hook. Screw the other eye hook into the rafter about 1 foot away, then tie one end of the rope to that hook. Thread the rope through the second pulley and back up through the first pulley. Drill four holes, one in each of the corners of the wood platform, approximately 2 inches from the edges.

    Cut two 10-foot lengths of rope. Make a handle out of one by tying a knot in its end and threading it through one hole. Push it through either of the holes adjacent to it, and knot that end so the rope can't slip out. Make the other 10-foot rope into a handle on the opposite side from the first. Pull the ropes to the middle of the platform so the hook on the second pulley can catch them both. If the platform is so large that they cannot both reach the second hook, then make larger handles.

Tips & Warnings

  • This pulley system provides a two-to-one mechanical advantage. Systems with higher mechanical advantages will allow you to lift more for the same effort. However, they also put much higher stresses on the equipment. A hayloft lift will see a lot of use, and putting the parts under as little stress as possible will protect against equipment failure.

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