Some household tasks are simply very difficult or even impossible to carry out while standing. Cleaning the gutters, hanging your family portrait, or replacing a lightbulb are all tasks you can’t accomplish without a ladder. Having a ladder at hand means you don’t have to borrow one from your neighbor or, worse, use a nearby furniture item (which could be very dangerous). But finding the best ladder for your needs is far from easy, which is why here we will tell you how to find the best ladders for every task.
Choosing one that’s too lightweight to support your own weight (as well as that of tools), one that’s too short, or one that’s not suited to your project are some common mistakes when buying a ladder.
In this ladder-buying guide, we shall go over the various types of ladders that exist, types of ladder materials out there, and other factors to consider when selecting a ladder such as height, weight, and, of course, cost.
Types of Ladders
The kind of ladder you pick will depend on the tasks you most often do, inside or outside your home. If you clean gutters, you’d need something taller than one you’ll need to dust a chandelier. Below are the most common kinds of ladders on the market.
These basic and fairly lightweight A-shaped ladders are ideal for tasks close to the ground (6-foot models typically have a maximum height of around 45-54 inches). There is a folding shelf for holding paint or tools. However, step ladders are often less rigid than multipurpose ladders and can’t be used on stairs. Some models also have pinch spots at the spreader rods.
These ladders are perfect for projects over 17 feet high. They’re fairly easy to set up and typically lightweight for their length. They’re more inflexible than multipurpose models, but require considerable storage space and function only in a straight structure. Moreover, some telescoping models may pose a grave danger to your hands and fingers should they collapse too quickly.
These are multi-folding ladders built to be flexible. They can work on stairs or act like an extension or step ladder, and even a scaffold. Multiuse ladders usually reach 12-15 feet and are typically more inflexible than stepladders while needing less storage room than extension ladders.
Multiuse ladders are fairly heavy and costly and are more difficult to assemble with their many locking points. Moreover, models that go over 17 feet can be very difficult for one individual to fully extend, maneuver, or safely lift.
This ladder is often set up at a door to enable entry into a loft. It provides easy access to this area without the trouble of dragging another ladder around the home. It has the same features as a permanent model since that is its sole function.
This is a type of movable ladder you can adapt to suit the job at hand. It’s designed to be transported with ease. It has several locking hinges that keep it in place. For this reason, it has a restricted height range. But it’s also versatile, making it worth considering.
This is a useful ladder to have at hand when you have to get something from the topmost shelf of your kitchen cabinet. There’s a single-step model that offers an additional foot of reach. Other versions include two-step or fold-up versions for easy storage. Their major advantages are convenience and cost.
Also called the rope ladder, this ladder has limited uses. It’s often used for recreational activities like caving. Some versions work as escape routes you can use to escape a perilous situation. However, climbing a flexible ladder isn’t as straightforward as it may appear. You may require some significant upper body strength.
This ladder combines the comfort of an area to stand on and the usefulness of a step ladder, as well as a guardrail for extra safety. This model can prove to be a godsend for anyone working for a long time in an area. Your feet will be well taken care of. Platform ladders come as either mobile or stationary models with caster wheels.
The material used to make a ladder will impact many aspects of your purchasing decision, including use and cost. That’s why it’s vital to consider the kinds of projects that would require a ladder.
Wood: This is perhaps the most popular and common ladder material. It’s an inexpensive choice that’s found at almost any hardware or home improvement store. It doesn’t conduct electricity, so you can safely use it anywhere for better reach.
But one of its downsides is that it’s heavy. Some models weigh twice as much as comparable aluminum ladders. Also, a wood ladder doesn’t last very long especially if it’s exposed to the elements. You must not let that happen!
Steel: This isn’t a typical option for DIY freaks. Instead, it’s something you’d find in a warehouse. Steel ladders offer several benefits. They’re strong and can carry heavy loads, making them a useful option. While they’re resilient, they’re heavy too. Proper storage is key to preventing rust.
Aluminum: Aluminum is an outstanding material for various kinds of ladders for a variety of reasons. First of all, it’s sturdy. It can handle a great deal of beating and remain intact. Secondly, it’s lightweight, making it easy to move from place to place. Lastly, it’s affordable because almost half of it is recycled in the U.S.
But aluminum comes with one glaring drawback. Because it is metal, it conducts electricity. Therefore, it should never be used near wires or electrical equipment. The risk is just too much. For this reason, other materials are a better option.
Fiberglass: Fiberglass is a better alternative to many other materials. It’s sturdy and can withstand rough handling. Unlike aluminum, it never conducts electricity. It’s durable and can last a very long time. While it’s a bit pricier than other materials, the benefits probably outweigh the extra cost.
Fiberglass boasts another excellent feature that makes it a good option, especially if you work outdoors. Fiberglass ladders reflect the sun outdoors.
It’s never pleasant to grab onto a fiberglass ladder on a hot day in the summer or cold day in the winter. Another thing to bear in mind is length. Beyond 25 feet, fiberglass ladders begin to get unwieldy.
Plastic: Plastic ladders are made out of polyester resin and are reinforced with glass and fiber. They’re a cheaper alternative that can be suitable for certain situations.
Other Factors to Consider When Buying a Ladder
In addition to choosing a type of ladder and ladder material, consider the features needed and cost to quickly, effortlessly, and safely finish the job at hand.
Height: For indoor tasks requiring an elevation of 2-8 feet, you should pick an A-frame, step tool, or multi-position articulated ladder. For outdoor projects that require an elevation of at least 13 feet, choose an extension ladder.
Consider the projects for which you’ll need a ladder as well as the heights you must reach, then deduct 4 feet to determine the right height of ladder. If you must stand on your tiptoes, strain your arms, or go beyond the tallest rung to reach your desired height, you should go for a taller ladder to meet your needs.
Weight: When using a ladder, safety is of utmost importance, so ensure you’re using the best ladder for the correct project. Each ladder has a specific weight and duty rating, which ranges from 1AA to type 3.
- Type 1 ladders can hold as much as 250 pounds, type 2 ladders can hold as much as 225 pounds, and type 3 ladders can hold as much as 200 pounds.
- Type 1A ladders can carry as much as 300 pounds, while type 1AA ladders can carry as much as 375 pounds.
When determining the load capacity required for your job, factor in the weight of things you’ll be carrying while on the ladder, any supplies or tools you’ll keep in the ladder (for ladders with a built-in shelf or tray), and your own weight.
Before using a ladder, make sure it’s positioned properly and it’s on steady ground. It’s also recommended to have someone check on you or provide added stability.
Cost: The price of step ladders typically ranges from $15-$30, extension ladders cost anywhere between $100 and $600, multi-position articulated ladders cost anywhere between $75 and $600, and A-frame ladders cost anywhere between $50 and $500.
Budget options aren’t always the answer: At the bottom end of these options are lower load capacity, shorter ladders made out of less resilient wood. On the other hand, at the top end of budget models are higher load capacity, accessory-heavy, taller ladders made of durable aluminum, fiberglass, or an aluminum-fiberglass blended construction.
Material: Of the most common ladder materials—wood, aluminum, fiberglass—aluminum is the most resistant to rust and lightest. Having said that, it’s also an excellent electricity conductor and must not be used near electrical lines or for electric work.
While fiberglass is heavier than aluminum, it’s sturdier and more flexible since it doesn’t conduct electricity and can, thus, be useful in both electrical and non-electrical work. Either of these materials is a better choice than wood. While wood is the most economical option, wood ladders are more fragile than others and might conduct electricity when wet.
Accessories: Many contemporary ladders come with built-in accessories that increase ladder storage capacity, decrease strain, and shield nearby areas from the ladder. Some popular accessories include:
- Podiums (large platforms) that replace one or more rungs on the ladder for added foot space during intensive or long projects
- Ladder caps that glide over the ends of rails to protect the surface that the ladder is propped up against
- The pail shelf (typically extending from the back rail and level with at least one step) holds utensils or paint buckets.
Our Top Picks for 2021
Best of All: Werner NXT Type 1A 6” Fiberglass Step Ladder
This timeless step ladder is important for its versatile use indoors and outdoors. It’s 6 feet long and reaches 10 feet. It also has a magnetic strip as well as a hardware holder on top for quick access to tools. This slip-resistant fiberglass ladder by Werner boasts a type A duty rating and holds as much as 300 pounds.
Best Extension Model: Werner Type 1A Fiberglass Extension Ladder
We all need an extension ladder for outdoor use, whether it’s for hanging holiday lights or cleaning the gutters. This 28-foot model from Werner is made of weather- and slip-resistant non-conductive fiberglass. It has adjustable locks and a duty rating of type 1A.
Best Attic Model: Fakro LMS Type 1A Insulated Attic Ladder
Every household requires an attic ladder to access those difficult-to-reach periodic storage items. Made of steel, Fakro LMS Insulated attic ladder suits a ceiling height of 8 feet and has a 350-pound weight capacity and a duty rating of type 1A. It can be easily set up on an attic opening—just make sure to get professional help or carefully follow the instructions.
Best Step Stool Model: HBTower 3-step Ladder
A step ladder is necessary to help you reach those hard-to-reach places. The HBtower 3-step Folding Ladder is a durable option that holds as much as 500 pounds and supports basic household tasks. It has a steel frame as well as steps with slip-resistant rubber grips. It’s also foldable, making storage easy.
Best Twin Model: Louisville 8ft Fiberglass Type 1AA Twin Step Ladder
This step ladder model allows two individuals to work at the same time with steadiness. The heavy-duty Louisville Fiberglass Twin Ladder has a duty rating of type 1AA and holds as much as 375 pounds. It comes with steel hinges, non-slip footing, as well as shock-absorption ability to prevent wobbling when a duo is working.
Answer: The best ladders for your home use include:
• Gorilla GLF-5X Hybrid Fiberglass Ladder
• Werner FS106 6-foot Single-sided Fiberglass Step Ladder
• Little Giant 5-8 Select Step Ladder
• Werner D6228-2 28-foot Fiberglass Extension Ladder
• Louisville FE3228 28-foot Multi-Section Fiberglass Extension Ladder
Step 1—Choose the right style of a ladder. There are many kinds of ladders, so begin by picking the right ladder style for the task at hand.
Step 2—Choose the right ladder height.
Step 3—Select the right duty rating of a ladder.
Step 4—Pick the right ladder material for your needs.
Answer: A type 1 ladder is designed for heavy-duty use, while a type 2 ladder is made for medium-duty use.
Answer: Your safe maximum reaching height is about 4 feet higher than the ladder’s height. For instance, you can reach an 8-foot ceiling safely on a 4-foot ladder. An extension ladder should be 7-10 feet taller than the highest contact point or support, which can be the roofline or wall.
Answer: Yes, you can find Little Giant multi-use ladders at select Costco locations. The Little Giant multipurpose type 1A ladder usually goes for $149.99.
Find the Best Ladder for Your Needs Today!
If you continuously find yourself mounting the kitchen counter to reach items on the top shelf of your cabinet or using a wobbly living room chair to replace a worn-out lightbulb, you might need to get yourself a ladder instead of taking your chances.
From simpler daily jobs like cleaning to bigger DIY tasks like painting and drilling and even more demanding outdoor projects like pruning trees and clearing out gutters, there’s a ladder available for every sort of household task.
Our guide on how to choose the best ladders and top picks above will help you find the right ladder so you can accomplish tasks quickly and safely at any kind of height.
So, whether you’re looking to buy a classic A-frame model, a solid step stool like The HBtower 3-step Folding Ladder, or a versatile model with various heights, you won’t have any excuse to take your chances with a dining chair ever again!