The ladder may be one of the most common home improvement tools, but that doesn’t mean that it should be an easy buy. In fact, as an improper ladder can be a serious safety hazard, it is imperative that you research the different types of ladders that are on the market before you buy one for yourself. Otherwise, you may run the risk of a grave personal injury.
In this article, we will help you choose which ladder is the best choice for your next improvement project so that you can make an informed decision that is best for you and your handiwork.
How to Choose the Right Ladder for You
What are You Using a Ladder For?
There is a reason why there are so many different types of ladders available on the market — not every project is created equal! Before you choose a ladder for your project, you should consider whether or not you are performing indoor or outdoor work, how long your task will take, and how often you will need to use this ladder.
How High is the Surface You’re Reaching?
Ok, so this one is pretty obvious, but we still think it’s important to mention. After all, you do not want to buy a 14 foot ladder only to discover that the rooftop you are trying to reach is 16 feet. If possible, try to determine a height measurement of your project before procuring a ladder.
How Heavy of a Ladder Do You Need?
A ladder’s weight will affect its capabilities. Generally speaking, the heavier the ladder, the more stable it will be. However, this doesn’t mean that a heavy ladder is necessarily better.
Do You Have the Space to Store a Ladder?
While some homeowners have garages and other designated storage facilities, this is not the reality for everyone. Unless you have the ample space to store a ladder and you predict that you will be using the ladder several times within the year, you may actually be better off renting one for your projects.
The Most Common Types of Ladders
1. Extension Ladder
An extension ladder is most likely what you think of when you envision the word “ladder”. An extension ladder is named for its ability to adjust to whichever length your project requires. This flexibility makes the extension ladder a great choice for the average homeowner who may have a variety of projects to take on, such as painting a house or patching a roof.
An extension ladder will come with two parts: a base and a fly. The base, of course, is what sits on the ground. A fly is what can extend to reach necessary heights. Although an extension ladder will come with certain safety features, it cannot self support itself and will need to be securely in place.
2. Step Ladder
While it’s true that not every home is likely to own an extension ladder, the vast majority of homes likely have a step ladder on hand. A step ladder is a handy miniature type of ladder that is useful for a variety of interior repairs, such as the changing of a light fixture or reaching a high cupboard.
Unlike an extension ladder, a step ladder is self-supporting, which makes it possible to use on your own. Some designs will feature steps on either side of the ladder, while some will only feature steps on one side.
3. Multipurpose Ladder
A multipurpose ladder is a sort of hybrid between a step ladder and an extension ladder. Like an extension ladder, it can be quite tall. Like a step ladder, it is self-supporting. It is a popular choice for warehouses.
One disadvantage of the multipurpose ladder is that its height is not changeable. Still, it makes for a practical choice for any contractor to have on-hand for quick and relatively reachable jobs.
4. Step Stool
Like a step ladder, a step stool gives its user only a small boost. However, it differs from a step ladder in that it only has one usable step (sometimes two). As such, a step stool is really at its most useful when it is kept in a permanent home, likely underneath a hard-to-reach cupboard or area.
Step stools are handy to have around the house, as they are a cost-effective way to prevent unnecessary stretching, which could lead to injury.
5. Articulated Ladder
An articulated ladder folds up to a compact size and is, as a result, very easy to transport. The ladder works with a series of hinges that will lock in to fit a desired height. Thanks to its customizable, it can fit a number of projects at a variety of heights.
6. Attic Ladder
If you grew up with a storage section at the top of your house, then chances are you had some sort of attic ladder as a way of entry. An attic ladder is, in the literal sense of the word, a ladder that pulls down from the ceiling to provide access to an attic. They generally stay in one place and cannot be taken to other locations for use.
7. Podium Ladder
A podium ladder is unique for its flat standing space. This standing space, which can also be called a podium, provides a steady and stable place for a user to stand while they complete a task. A podium may be a more comfortable alternative than a standard extension ladder, especially if the worker has to spend a long time at the top of the ladder.
8. Five-Step Portable Ladder
Chances are if you have encountered a five-step portable ladder at any point, it was mostly likely in the aisle of a retail store. Five-step portable ladders can generally be seen here as they are helpful in certain tasks such as shelf stocking. Five-step portable ladders come on lockable wheels, which makes it one of the easier ladders to transport.
9. A-Frame Paint Ladder
Anyone who has painted a house, whether professionally or not, knows how long one may have to spend standing on top of a ladder. This is especially true if you have tall ceilings, or if you are even painting the ceilings themselves!
An A-frame paint ladder is a must for anyone who uses a ladder for the purpose of painting. It is unique for its side shelf that has room for a paint can and brush. This may seem unnecessary, but you won’t be thinking of it as useless when you are saved many trips down the steps to refill your paintbrush.
Ladder Safety Tips
Use the Correct Ladder Length
In order to prevent injury caused by falls, it is important that you use the correct length of ladder for your project. Using a ladder that is too short may require you to reach haphazardly to perform a task, and using a ladder that is too tall may cause you to lean over awkwardly. If you do not have the correct length of ladder for your project, it is essential that you pause the work until you are able to secure a ladder that is the correct length.
Perform a Ladder Inspection Before Using It
Even if you have used a ladder recently, it is still important that you perform a visual inspection of the ladder before employing its use. To perform a visual inspection, you should examine every part of your ladder to look for missing screws or damaged parts.
Set Ladder on Steady Surface
In order to ensure that you are doing everything you can to reduce your risk of falling, it is very important that you do not place a ladder on a shaky surface. This means that you should only set a ladder down on solid ground, and not on top of a platform of any kind.
Properly Secure the Ladder
It is important to secure your ladder at its destination to ensure that it does not slide sideways or slip. Lateral movement is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, hazard when it comes to using a ladder. Securing a ladder involves attaching it to the building you are working on, either with ladder hooks, ropes, or wires.
Install the Ladder Correctly
There is a common rule in ladders that is known as the “4 to 1 rule”. This refers to the fact that your ladder should be set to be one foot away from the wall for every four feet it reaches upwards. Following this is the only way to ensure that your ladder is installed correctly.
Bonus Tip: Use Diligence When Transporting Your Lader
In order to not only protect the condition of your ladder but also to protect yourself and those around you, it is important that you always transport your ladder with the utmost of care. Failing to do so could cause injury to another, as a ladder is a large tool that can trip or shove when not carried carefully.