Ladder Buying Guide

This ladder buying guide was written to give you the correct information about buying ladders online or at a store. Buying a ladder is simply not a case of looking at it and paying for it.
There are a handful of considerations that need to be taken into account before the purchase is made.

Table of Contents (click ahead!)   Types Of Ladders   What Is The Ladder Made Of       Ladder Heights        Safety Features     Load Rating      Compare Ladders

These five factors are:

Type: Step, Folding, Extension etc
Materials: Aluminum, Fiberglass or Timber
Height: From 3ft step stools up to 30ft extension ladders
Safety Features: Flared feet, Solid braces, Non slip steps etc
Load Rating: 250lbs up to 400lbs

Types Of Ladders

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There are various types of ladders on the market today that cover just about every job or task that needs doing from a height. From getting an item down from the top shelf of a cupboard to repairing tiles on a house roof, there is a ladder designed to match your needs. Therefore it is vitally important that you first select the type of ladder you need. This decision will save you both time and money and more importantly, it could save your life if you use the wrong ladder for a certain task.

A quick example here could be using a small ladder that requires you to stand on the top rung to get the job done. If you were to overbalance and fall, serious injury or worse could result. The majority of indoor jobs and some outdoor tasks will need the stock standard 6ft step ladder, maybe 8ft if you have to prune a tree up high. Obviously an extension ladder is not needed to paint the cornices at home. You get my point. This decision is a common sense really. Get the type of ladder to suit the job it will be used for.

What Is The Ladder Made Of

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Ladders come in 3 materials which are Aluminum, Fiberglass and Timber with aluminum being the most popular. Because it is lightweight and non corrosive it is easier to transport than the other types and will last a comparable time if treated with care. A word of warning here though. Never use an aluminum ladder when carrying out electrical work as it conducts electricity and could be fatal. Even some timber ladders have metal components such as hinges etc which could be dangerous so always use fiberglass when around sparky work.

Fiberglass and timber ladders are designed to carry a bigger load but with aluminum ladders able to carry up to 300lbs, this is ample for most home use ladders. You will find that tradesmen and workmen using fiberglass and timber ladders for their strength but for a ladder for home, aluminum might be the suitable ladder material for you.

Ladder Heights

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When buying a ladder it is important you estimate the height you will be accessing with the ladder. A good rule of thumb is to add 3 feet to the ladder height. For example, if you want to reach a 9 foot ceiling, use a 6ft ladder. A 20 foot ladder will be for work in 17 foot region. Also, never use the top two steps of any ladder.

Over balancing could occur risking injury. If you are using an extension ladder is always best to have at least 3 feet of the bottom section of the ladder overlapping the top half. This maintains the strength and minimizes the warp effect.

One last point on extension ladders before we move on. Always use the 4:1 ratio when using this type of ladder. What I mean by that is this. If the contact point of the ladder and the area you are working on is 16 foot high, have the feet of the ladder 4 foot from the wall. A 12 foot high work area has a 3 foot space between the wall and ladder. This ratio ensures the ladder will not dislodge while you are up there.

Safety Features

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By clicking each header you can sort ladders out by name, price, height and other factors.

BrandPriceFiberglass/
Aluminum
Ladder
Height
Load
Rating
Little Giant$100 and UnderAluminum6ft300lb
Werner $100-200Fiberglass8ft375lb
Werner$100-200Aluminum6ft225lb
Louisville$100 and UnderFiberglass6ft300lb
Werner$300-400Fiberglass12ft375lb
Louisville$100-200Fiberglass8ft300lb
Werner$100-200Fiberglass6ft375lb
Louisville$200-300Fiberglass10ft300lb
Werner$200-300Fiberglass10ft375lb
Little Giant$100-200Fiberglass8ft300lb
Cosco$100 and UnderAluminum6ft300lb

The following points probably should not be called features as they should really be standard on all ladders. Firstly, look for a ladder with flared feet. Looking at the ladder from front on both feet should spread outwards at an angle from the bottom step to the bottom of the leg. This gives the ladder extra stability. Obvioulsy this would only happen on aluminum ladders.

All types of ladders should have anti slip steps. This is a must. With different working condtions such as rain or humidity, have non slip steps could save you a lot of grief. Lastly, look at the braces that hold the two sides of the ladder together. Do they look flimsy? Are they simply hinges or do they have a locking mechanism to lock the 2 sides?

Load Rating

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Load rating simply means the recommended maximum weight that should be on the ladder. The graph below will explain this fully.

TYPE DUTY RATING WORKING LOAD
IA Industrial Extra Heavy 300 lbs. maximum
I Industrial Heavy 250 lbs. maximum
II Commercial Medium 225 lbs. maximum
III Household Light 200 lbs. maximum
What We Talk About: ladder buying guide