It’s not the walking under the ladder that brings you bad luck. It’s the wrong choice of ladder that brings misery crashing down on you. Choosing the right ladder for your project, you must consider four major factors. And, if you’re not quite sure, you should get help from your friendly, knowledgeable home improvement retailer.
How to Choose the Right Ladder for the Job
- Style—Activity and Application. Ladders come in different style for different purposes. Step-ladders, the kind that fold-out into triangles, growing narrower as you near the top, are extremely stable. Safely reaching between ten and fourteen feet, step-ladders are perfect for any kind of work that requires a small platform. In a one-storey house, a reliable step-ladder probably would be all you ever would need. If you are going higher—to the top of the second storey, for example—you need an extension ladder. And if you are painting a wide surface, you probably will prefer a “multi-ladder,” one that converts into a small scaffold.
- Height—Safety and Ease. Although you frequently see people standing on the top of their step-ladders, defying gravity and common sense, the safety standards and the little diagrams on the ladders’ legs tell you never to go beyond the next to the last step. Therefore, most homeowners should invest in twelve or fourteen foot step-ladders for outdoor use; six foot step-ladders for indoor use. For work that demands going higher, you should choose an extension ladder.
- Rating—Weight and More Weight. Ladders are rated, and many manufacturers color-code their products, according to their weight-bearing capacities. Each step of the highest-rated ladder—Type 1AA—safely will hold 375 pounds. Considering which rating will work best for you, you must consider not only your body weight but also the weight of your tools and equipment. Carpenters, who carry the heaviest bags among all the skilled trades, typically should add 40 pounds to their own weight as they estimate the right ratings for their needs.
- Material—Durability, Safety, and Storage. Safety stands out as the buyer’s most important consideration, and conductivity has top priority among safety factors. If you are doing any kind of electrical work, choose either wood or fiberglass.
More you need to know
“Straight” or extension ladders do just what their name promises: they extend to help you reach the highest points in and around your home. Composed of two parts with straight sides, in the stores, extension ladders appear only about half as tall as they are when fully extended. One of the two parts remains stationary while the other one slides out to the ladder’s “official” size. The stationery part is called the “base,” and its ends, naturally, will touch the ground. The moveable part is called the “fly” section.
Innocently standing there in a retailer’s rack, each piece of a twenty foot extension ladder will measure approximately twelve feet long, but the ladder will stretch out to rise twenty feet. The two pieces must overlap at the ladder’s center for stability—hence, 12-feet instead of just 10.
Nearly twenty different features distinguish models and grades of extension ladders. Most of the longer extension ladders have rope running up the center to facilitate extending them. Different kinds of rope and different kinds of pulley systems affect the ladders’ quality and price. All extension ladders have “shoes” where the side-rails meet the ground, and the shoes’ material, swivel, length and width determine their safety, quality, and cost. The rungs’ shape and construction make a difference, and so does the way they attach to or through the side-rails. Other special features and accessories contribute to an extension ladder’s quality and price.
If you live in a one-storey home and you let your gardener prune the tall trees, you probably never will need an extension ladder; a twelve or fourteen foot step ladder will meet all your needs. If you have a two-storey home, however, you may occasionally need an extension ladder for painting or hanging holiday lights. If you use the ladder only once in a while, you seriously should consider renting instead of purchasing. For the cost of a good twenty-foot extension ladder, you could rent one at least twice a year for the rest of your life.