Ladders are an important part of any home owner’s arsenal. They can be used for everything from grabbing items off a high shelf or cleaning out a tall cupboard to painting walls or undertaking other home improvement projects. With such a wide variety of ladders to choose from, you’ll want to learn which ones are best suited to the tasks you normally perform. You may decide that you want to have a couple of different ladders on hand, or you might choose to invest in an adjustable model with multiple configurations that can handle a range of applications. Ask yourself the following questions as you consider what type and size ladder is right for you:
• What kind of tasks do you plan to use your ladder for?
• What height will give you the reach and flexibility you need?
• How much weight will the ladder need to support?
• What material is best suited to the task at hand?
• What safety considerations do you need to be aware of?
Type, Materials, Height, Safety Considerations and Duty Rating
When it comes to choosing a ladder, there are a number of factors to consider. Specific jobs can require different types of ladders, so what you will need to clean out the rain gutters or replace roof tiles may not be the same as what you would use to paint your living room or clean the light fixtures in a high-ceilinged entryway. Always keep in mind the height you need to be able to comfortably reach and the load your ladder must bear. You’ll also want to think about whether the unit will be used indoors or out and what kinds of hazards you may encounter when selecting the type of materials and construction. Price can be an important aspect as well. Luckily there are workable solutions in nearly every price range.
Step ladders are one of the most familiar types of ladders. Because they are self-supporting, they can be used anywhere and come in handy for most common household tasks.
Straight ladders and extension ladders are not self-supporting and must be leaned up against a stable support surface. They are often used outdoors for various tasks such as painting the exterior of your home, accessing the roof and much more. Extension ladders can be expanded to reach higher heights and then collapse again for easier storage and transport. A recent innovation is the adjustable ladder, which features a number of movable sections that can be easily reconfigured, allowing the unit to function as a straight ladder, step ladder, stair ladder, scaffolding, saw horses and much more. These solutions require a higher up-front investment but offer increased versatility and an all-in-one solution, eliminating the need for multiple ladders.
• Step ladders come in light-duty models for household use and medium-duty options for more rugged tasks
• Step ladders with a height of 6' are perfect for most household projects
• Step stools help you get at high cupboards or unreachable shelves
• Many step stools are foldable for simple storage
• Fire and rescue ladders can be rolled up and stored in bedrooms and other areas to
help you escape in the event of a fire or other hazard
Ladders are usually constructed of aluminum, fiberglass or wood. Each material carries certain benefits that are better suited to different applications. Aluminum ladders are lightweight making, them easier to transport. Its noncorrosive properties make it durable for use in both outdoor and indoor environments. Because metal conducts electricity, you never want to use an aluminum ladder around power lines or electrical wiring. Fiberglass, on the other hand, is nonconductive, making this type of ladder ideal for doing any electrical work or in areas that are near power lines. Fiberglass is also durable and noncorrosive for long lasting use. Wood ladders offer solid functionality and provide a more traditional look. While wood is nonconductive, it is usually assembled with metal parts, making it unsuitable for electrical work. Wood ladders should never be painted, since paint can cover up damage or defects that indicate the ladder is unsafe to use.
• Look for plastic or rubber feet on aluminum ladders for extra grip and stability
• Fiberglass ladders often carry a higher price tag than comparable aluminum ladders
• Fiberglass is the only recommended material for electrical work
• Wood ladders should be treated with a sealer to protect them from moisture and other elements
Selecting the right ladder height may not be as simple as you think. There can be quite a difference between the actual measured height of a ladder and its usable length. With step ladders you should never stand on the top two rungs for safety reasons. Extension and straight ladders require that you stay off the top three rungs. Since the distance between rungs generally measures 1', that eliminates 2' to 3' of height. Additionally, extension ladders require anywhere from 3' to 5' of overlap, depending on their length. If they are being used to reach a roof or platform, they should extend 3' beyond the surface. Since straight and extension ladders lean against a supporting structure, the angle they are placed at will further reduce their reach. Remember to take all these factors into account when calculating what size ladder you will need.
• Step ladders should measure no more than 20' in height
• Extension ladders should measure no more than 60' in height
• Straight ladders should measure no more than 30' in height
• Customized sizes are available in a range of different designs
• Position straight and extension ladders at an angle, with the bottom placed a distance of
approximately 1/4 of its total length away from the supporting wall
Every year thousands of people are injured in falls and other accidents involving ladders. The vast majority of these incidents are the direct result of unsafe and improper usage. The best way to avoid an accident is to observe a few simple safety rules. OSHA regulations, which were designed to prevent injuries on the jobsite, offer an excellent safety program that is equally applicable at both home and work.
• Always face the ladder and use both hands when climbing
• Carry tools and other materials in a belt, apron or pouch
• Do not lean off the side of the ladder as it may tip
• Never use a ladder when there are high winds
• Make sure step ladders are completely open and hinges are locked
• Always double check that locks are secure on adjustable and extension ladders
• Regularly inspect ladders for loose rungs, dents, cracks or sharp edges
• Never use a ladder that has been damaged or appears unsafe
• Ensure that the ladder is on a solid, level surface
• Do not use ladders on ice or snow
• Purchase a ladder that is appropriately rated to handle typical weight loads and usage
Every ladder is designed to support a certain amount of weight and level of usage. To help make selecting an appropriate model easier, each ladder is given a duty rating that lists the maximum weight it can handle and the type of use it is geared toward. Remember that the supported weight includes you and all your tools and materials. Look for the following information located directly on the ladder to make sure it is a good match.
|Household Duty (general household use)||3||200 lbs.|
|Professional Duty (commercial painter, handyman, etc.)||2||225 lbs|
|Commercial Duty (industrial applications)||1||250lbs|
|Industrial Duty (industrial applications)||1A||300 lbs.|
|Special Duty (high-impact industrial/professional use)||1AA||375 lbs.|
Ladders with a flared base offer extra support and stability for safe, secure use.
Simple Adjustments and Locks
Look for adjustable and extension ladders with simple operation and solid locking mechanisms for easy and reliable use.
Slip-Resistant Rungs or Steps
Prevent accidents and injuries by purchasing ladders that feature slip-resistant steps.
If you have limited storage space, consider a telescoping ladder system that extends to full height when needed and retracts back into a compact form when not in use.