What to Look for in a Ladder
Think about how high you’ll need to climb on your ladder—your answer to that will tell you what height you should be looking at. Ladders range from small step stools to giant extension ladders that can reach the roofs of multi-story homes. By choosing a ladder that’s appropriately sized for your needs, you’ll avoid safety concerns, since a ladder that’s too short may tempt you to lean and sway on the top step while one that’s too long can become unsteady at the base.
Lightweight ladders are much easier to move—plain and simple. Aluminum ladders are among the lightest options, with some weighing as little as 20 pounds. Fiberglass options tip the scale at around 50 pounds and may require a bit of heavy lifting.
If you want the most bang for your buck, it might make sense to look for a versatile ladder with articulated joints. These special mechanisms allow the ladder to bend and lock in place to achieve different configurations. Some of the most popular multi-purpose ladders can do double duty as an a-frame ladder and extension ladder, while others are real multitaskers with up to seven different ladder positions available.
All ladders sold in the United States are required to have a safety specifications label affixed to the side that states the ladder’s duty rating. This safety guideline states the maximum weight capacity of the ladder, which includes not just your own weight, but also the weight of all tools and supplies you set on the ladder or hold in your hands while standing on the ladder.
The five categories of ladder duty ratings are:
- Type IAA (Extra Heavy Duty) 375 pounds
- Type IA (Extra Heavy Duty) 300 pounds
- Type I (Heavy Duty) 250 pounds
- Type II (Medium Duty) 225 pounds
- Type III (Light Duty)200 pounds
How do you store a ladder?
When not in use, you’ll need to store your ladder. You’ll want to choose a spot where it’s easy to access the ladder when needed, yet not in the way of other household items or passersby.
- Store your ladder in a protected spot away from intense heat or freezing temperatures and where it won’t be subjected to excessive moisture or humidity.
- Fold your ladder for storage and retract any extensions.
- You can store your ladder by leaning it horizontally or vertically against a wall, but be sure it’s not extending into any area where it’s likely to be a tripping hazard.
- If you hang your ladder for storage, place a hook every 6 feet to prevent warping.
How are extension ladders measured?
There are several measurements to consider when choosing a ladder.
You’ll need to know the measurement of the ladder when fully extended. Keep in mind, however, that for safety, you should never stand on the top two rungs, nor should a ladder used to access a roof be more than three rungs higher than the height of the roof.
For storage or transport purposes, you’ll also want to know the length of the ladder when fully retracted and folded.
The width of the ladder’s base is also important when choosing a spot for storage.
Finally, the distance between ladder rungs should be 10 to 14 inches, with the same distance between every rung.
Are ladders safe?
Ladders are not inherently dangerous, but are easy to misuse, leading to numerous injuries each year. Keep safe by following these general guidelines whenever using a ladder:
- Don’t climb a ladder if you are feeling dizzy, tired, or unwell.
- Don’t use an extension ladder in high winds, severe storms, or when wet.
- Wear slip-resistant shoes when climbing a ladder.
- Climb the ladder slowly and carefully, without sudden movements or swaying side-to-side.
- There should never be more than one person on a ladder at a time.
- Always set a ladder on even, solid ground. Avoid muddy spots, puddles, slopes, or loose ground, such as gravel or pebbles.
- When climbing a ladder, face forward so your body is between the ladder’s side rails. Don’t lean to the side.
- Never move a ladder while it’s in use.
- Don’t place your ladder in front of a door that might be opened while the ladder is in use.
- Never stand on the top rung of a ladder. It’s best not to use the top two rungs.
- Stay off any ladder that is damaged, has loose rungs or sides, or is in generally poor condition.