Unfortunately, falls from ladders are exceedingly common, and this is true for both home and building site use. Thousands of people suffer falls from ladders each year. Some of these falls are due to improper setting up or use of a ladder, while others result from the use of defective ladders. There’s a good chance you’ll use your ladder for various tasks both indoors and in the garden, for example when trimming your hedge, so it’s well worth getting the lowdown on ladders so that you don’t end up… well, low down in a heap on the floor!
It’s not just about getting any old ladder, you have to select a fully functioning ladder, suitable for the specific job at hand. Once you’ve selected and purchased the ladder, you need to read the manual, check out the safety precautions, and then use the ladder according to the instructions. The site, you are going to use your ladder in, must be completely free of clutter, and the surface must be as clean and dry as possible. These are just a few of the basics points to consider. Let’s take a more detailed look at the types of ladder available, how to choose the right ladder for your job, and finally what to look out for.
We’ll also be taking a look at some “best of lists”, to further guide you in the purchase of a ladder.
Questions You need to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Ladder
Before you buy a ladder, there are a few questions you need to answer:
- Will you use the ladder indoors or outdoors?
- What kind of jobs do you need the ladder for?
- What is the maximum height you need to reach?
- Could you be working near electric power lines?
- How much total weight will the ladder need to carry, including tools and material?
- Where are you going to set up the ladder?
By answering these questions, you will narrow down your choice. If your jobs are very varied, you may need to buy more than just one ladder.
It’s All About Safety
Before we take a look at some of the available ladder types, you must remember that safety is of paramount importance. Choosing the right ladder for the right job is essential, as is proper inspection of the ladder prior to use to ensure the ladder has no defects. It’s also vital to thoroughly study the instruction manual, particularly with regard to the proper use and setup. By doing so, you considerably reduce the risk of suffering a fall.
What Ladder Types Are There?
Your choice of ladder will depend on the use, let’s take a look at the most common ladder types:
- Step Ladder: Step ladders are the most common home-use ladders. Step ladders are A-shaped, folding ladders of varying height. You can get a small 2-step ladder or a high step ladder with up to six or seven steps. When erected, the step ladder has a small platform at the top. Step ladders are self-supporting, which means they stand up without needing support from a wall like traditional ladders. Traditionally, step ladders are used in the home and for jobs at relatively low heights.
- Straight Ladder: A straight ladder usually has about seven rungs, is either made up of wood or aluminum and has traditionally been used outdoors at medium heights. Straight ladders are rarely used these days, as they have been overtaken in popularity by step ladders and extension ladders.
- Extension Ladder: Extension ladders look like straight ladders, however, they feature two connected ladders, the “base” and the “fly”. The base is set up on the ground and the fly extends out from the base to reach greater heights. You often see extension ladders in use at building sites. If you are going to be working at great heights, you will require an extension ladder.
- Multi-Use Ladders: Multi-use ladders can be used as extension ladders and as step ladders. They are extremely convenient and versatile and come with several advantages. For starters, you can reach great heights when folding it into a straight ladder. Secondly, they are considered more stable than extension ladders, and finally, multi-use ladders conveniently double-up as step ladders. The only disadvantage is that they are quite heavy and difficult for one person to lift.
- Telescoping Ladders: Telescoping ladders are lightweight and easy to store. They feature overlapping segments that can be extended into fully functioning straight or step ladders.
- Folding Ladders: Folding ladders are small straight ladders that you can fold up and store away easily. Traditionally, folding ladders have been popular for home use and work at low heights.
What Material Should My Ladder Be Made of?
Aluminum ladders are the most popular, because they are the lightest. If you need to work in proximity to electric power lines, you will, however, need to opt for a fiberglass or wooden ladder instead, as aluminum conducts electricity.
What Size Should I Choose?
Make sure your ladder gives you enough height. Extension ladders should reach 3 feet beyond the highest work surface to be completely safe. Don’t overextend your reach as the shift in weight may lead to a slip or fall
Take Note of the Weight Rating
Make sure to check the manufacturer’s weight rating in the instruction manual and do not exceed the maximum weight. Remember to include the weight of your tools and materials.
Preparing Your Site and Setting Up Properly
Clear the area where you are going to erect your ladder. Step ladders must be unfolded fully into the A-shape until they lock in, while extension ladders must be secured into position at the required height.
Be careful of pinch points when folding up step ladders, and keep your hands well away from closing sections.
Never prop up the leg of a ladder with a piece of wood or rock, use levelers if possible. Always choose an even, debris-free surface area.
When setting up an extension ladder, keep the foot of the ladder 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet of height. That gives you a 75° angle, and this is considered the safest positioning.
Store your ladder in a dry and well-aired room to prevent rust or rot formation. Fiberglass ladders must be kept out of the sunlight.
Best Ladders – Let’s Review
Before you go out and purchase a ladder, it’s wise to take a look at some online reviews and list articles. You will find plenty of “best step ladder” reviews, even some specific ones like “best step ladder for home use” or “best step ladder for the elderly”.
I am going to review some of the best step ladders and give you my verdict. Of course, when reading reviews, you have to remember that the reviewer may not need the step ladder for the same job as you. Ultimately, you’ll have to make up your own mind or perhaps ask a sales assistant at your local hardware store for advice.
Home Discount 3 Step Ladder, Heavy Duty Steel, Folding With Anti-Slip Mat
This step ladder will cost you next to nothing and for the price you are paying, you are getting a reasonably good ladder. It features three wide steps with a convenient anti-slip mat for added safety. Made of steel, this ladder is foldable and also features rubber feet to prevent the ladder from gliding across the floor as you step on it. If you are of average height, it will allow you to reach the ceiling in your home from the top step. When opened up, you will require approximately 1 square meter of floor surface to set it up safely. This ladder is a bottom of the range step ladder, sufficient for occasional indoor and limited outdoor use. It won’t make the best step ladder list, however it may make the “cheapest step ladder” top ten.
- Small, foldable and easy to store
- Added safety through anti-slip step mats and rubber feet
- Rock bottom price
- Wide steps
- Sufficiently high to reach ceiling
- You need to lay it flat to fold it up which may be difficult in small apartments
- Tends to jerk forward when you step on it first
- Folding mechanism can occasionally seize up
- Not 100% safe
Home Discount 4 Step Ladder With Safety Handrail Foldable Safety Non-Slip Matt
Hat off to the manufacturers of this great step ladder, no doubt it will make the best step ladder for the elderly list, thanks to the safety handrail. This 4-step ladder has wide steps covered with non-slip mats, rubber feet to prevent ladder slippage, and the super convenient safety handrail. For an elderly person, climbing a ladder hands-free is a frightening prospect. With the safety handrail this ladder features, anyone can confidently and safely climb the ladder all the way to the top. The price is also very reasonable. It’s made of steel and quite heavy, yet it is foldable for convenient storage.
- Super convenient safety handrail
- Good top height
- Non-slip mat covered, wide steps
- Rubber feet to prevent the ladder from gliding across the floor
- Awkward to move around the house
- May be too heavy to lift for an elderly person
- Bulky, even when folded
Songmics Ladder Aluminum Step Ladder Extremely Lightweight 330 lbs (150kg) Multi-Use for Household GLT 140
This has got to be one of the best aluminum step ladders on the market. It’s lightweight and yet very sturdy, foldable, and features slip-resistant steps to prevent falls and slipping. Perfect for indoor use, the Songmics Aluminum Step ladder is undoubtedly a great buy, particularly at the current price.
The three steps and wide top platform allow you to reach ceilings very comfortably without having to stretch out. This exceedingly sturdy aluminum ladder can carry a load of up to 330 lbs. The safety features include non-slip steps and a convenient support handle allowing you to climb easily and safely to the top. This ladder is user-friendly, requires no assembly and can be stored away neatly within minutes.
No doubt, this is one of the best aluminum step ladder you can possibly get. Perfect for home or office indoor use.
- No assembly, lightweight aluminum step ladder
- Sturdy with maximum carry load of 150kg
- Slip-resistant step surface
- Support handle for safe use
- Steps are only 8cm wide
- Best used indoors only
Finether 3.8m Aluminum Telescopic/Telescoping Loft Extension Ladder
Personally, I love telescoping ladders. They are just as good as any extension ladder, allow you to reach great heights and yet store away so easily, even in the smallest of spaces. Whoever invented the telescoping ladder was very smart indeed. This Finether Telescopic Ladder doesn’t compromise on safety and still allows you to reach a staggering height of 3.5m. In my estimation, this has got to be one of the best ladders you can buy.
It’s made from super sturdy and durable aluminum and features slip-resistant rungs. The maximum carry load is 330 lbs/150 kg. The telescoping mechanism allows you to extend the ladder in one-foot rung increments to reach your desired height. This ladder gives you a maximum height of 3.8m, making it one of the best ladders for painting.
When you extend this ladder, you can use the double couplings on each rung and avoid any pinching. The feet are covered in rubber for added safety. When folded, this ladder is conveniently small and light enough to carry with one hand.
It’s also nice to know that this ladder is made from environmentally-friendly materials and has obtained a certificate for material safety and high performance.
- Suitable for heights over 3 meters
- Foldable and lightweight
- Certified environmentally friendly, safe, and high-performing material
- Adjustable height
- Easy to store
- Safety and anti-pinching features
- Rubber feet to prevent ladder slippage
- Telescoping ladders only comply with safety standards of certain countries
- Steps may collapse on very rare occasions
The Price Shouldn’t Be the Deciding Factor
Don’t let the price determine your choice, choose proper use and safety instead to make sure you are purchasing a ladder fit for the intended use. Though it may be tempting to save a few dollars, it’s definitely not worth compromising your safety. Determine your use and select the most suitable ladder for the task at hand to reduce the risk of accidents.