A ladder is a must-have tool to have around the house. Whether you need it for occasional household tasks or a larger renovation, it’s important to choose the right type of ladder. The wrong size, style or material can make the job more difficult and result in unsafe use. Read on to learn all about ladders and complete your DIY jobs with confidence.
Extension LadderAn extension ladder offers great versatility because it extends to various heights. It comes in a variety of sizes and is commonly used for higher jobs. An extension ladder is not self-supporting and must lean against a stable support surface. Choose this type of ladder for outdoor projects like painting and roof repair.
Platform LadderA platform ladder is similar to a step ladder, but it features a platform at the highest intended standing level. The platform provides a wider base to stand and work from, allowing you to more easily adjust your stance for leverage. It can also be used to place your materials while working. For example, when painting you can stand on a lower rung and place your paint tray on the platform for easy access.
Twin Front LadderA twin front ladder is a type of step ladder that two people can stand on at once. With this type, both sides of the ladder are designed for climbing.
IMPORTANT: When using with two people, make sure to check the duty rating and weight limitations to ensure the combined weight of people and materials does not exceed it.
Combination LadderA combination ladder offers even greater versatility. This type of ladder can be used in many positions and is often referred to as folding ladder. Depending on the model, it can work as a step ladder, offset step ladder, extension ladder, scaffolding and more. Choose a multi-position/multipurpose ladder when you have a variety of projects on the go.
Main Ladder MaterialsIn addition to the height and design of a ladder, you’ll want to consider the material. The two main types of material are aluminum and fibreglass. Each type has its benefits, depending on the job at hand.
Aluminum LadderAluminum is the most common ladder material. Aluminum ladders are lightweight, easy to transport and resistant to moisture and corrosion. However, an aluminum ladder is conductive and not safe for use near electricity.
Fibreglass LadderFibreglass ladders are durable, weather-resistant and heavier than aluminum ladders, which gives them a feeling of stability. They are non-conductive, making them safe to use near power lines and electrical wiring. Use a fibreglass ladder for all electrical work.
Ladder Load Capacity, Height and ReachOnce you’ve narrowed down the type of ladder and material, consider these additional factors before buying.
Duty Rating (or load capacity) indicates the weight limit of a ladder and its recommended use. Look for the duty rating posted directly on the ladder. Make sure that it will cover the user’s weight and the weight of materials being brought up the ladder.
NOTE: Ladder ratings are provided by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Common Mistakes When Choosing and Using a LadderIt’s important to choose the correct ladder size for the job. Avoid these common mistakes when you choose and use a ladder to get the job done safely and effectively.
Underestimating Height: Climbing too high on a ladder is unstable and unsafe. When using a ladder:
- Stand no higher than two steps down from the top of a step ladder
- Stand no higher than four rungs from the top on an extension ladder
Over-Reaching: Choosing the wrong ladder can cause you to over-reach and lose your balance:
- For a step ladder, a safe reach height is no more than four feet higher than the height of the ladder
- An extension ladder should be 7 to 10 feet longer than the highest support or contact point
Standing on the Back of a Step Ladder:
Choose a twin front ladder if two users will be standing on it at once.
Ladder Safety TipsUsing a ladder is easy and safe when you follow proper ladder safety. Below are tips to help you complete your project successfully:
- Inspect the ladder before and after each use
- Read and follow all labels/markings on the ladder
- Verify ladder height and reach to ensure you're using the correct ladder for the job
- Make sure your ladder meets or exceeds safety regulations (OHSA, ANSI)
- When dealing with electricity make sure you use a fibreglass ladder
- Always place the ladder on a solid, level surface
- Ensure locks are secured on a ladder that is adjustable or able to extend
- Use proper standing technique
- Always maintain 3-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing
- Never lean a ladder that isn’t meant to lean