Get the extra reach you need with the right ladder
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:
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.
Types: 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.
Materials: 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.
Height: 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.
Safety: 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.
Duty Rating: 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.
|Duty Rating||Type||Maximum Weight|
|Household Duty (general household use)||3||200 lbs.|
|Professional Duty (commercial painter, handyman, etc.)||2||225lbs.|
|Commercial Duty (industrial applications)||1||250 lbs.|
|Industrial Duty (industrial applications)||1A||300 lbs.|
|Special Duty (high-impact industrial/professional use)||1AA||375 lbs.|
Flared Base: 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.
Telescoping Construction: 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.
Pick up a tool belt, pouch or apron to hold your tools and other necessary materials when working on a ladder.