A Comprehensive Buying Guide to Find the Best Ladder

A ladder is just a ladder, right? At one time yes, but today there are actually a wide range of different styles and options when it comes to ladders. Whatever job you need to get done, odds are there’s a ladder out there that was specifically designed to help you do it.

While more options do mean more quality products, finding the right fit can get pretty challenging. This guide is here to help you sort through the sea of ladder options and determine what type is best for you and your needs.

Start with a List of Needs

The best way to figure out what type of ladder you need is to make a list of the projects or tasks you plan on doing. Think about how you are going to use the ladder, and get as specific as possible because you need figure out what kinds of special considerations you need to accommodate. Don’t just say something generic like “painting my bedroom walls” because it doesn’t take into account the size of the bedroom, the height of the ceiling, whether or not there are any hard to reach areas, et cetera. If you can really get into the details of how you plan to use the ladder, you can uncover the key areas that will dictate what aspects of the ladder matter most.

Think About Height

Once you have your list of major project components, the next thing you should focus on is the height of the ladder. More than almost any other aspect, height is probably going to play the biggest role in determining what type of ladder you buy. Don’t be afraid to take measurements of any areas where you plan on using the ladder. In fact, getting some solid numbers in place can make it much easier to choose ladders because you can eliminate any models that are too short right off the bat. You can also exclude any ladders that are way too tall, as well.

Compare Different Configurations

Next up is the ladder configuration, which basically means the way the ladder is built. Some configurations are better suited to different types of jobs or different types of terrains, so it’s important to take this into consideration. The most common type of ladder is the A Frame, which looks like the letter A when it’s in the fully locked and open position. These ladders are also called stepladders, though you will find some step stool ladders that use the term interchangeably. A Frame and stepladders are very versatile and can work for in-home and outdoor projects like painting, yard work, or house repair. These are generally shorter, ranging from 3 to 6 feet on average, and can be built to support hundreds of pounds of weight.

The other common type of ladder is called an extension ladder, and may or may not have an extending component to it. These ladders aren’t freestanding like the A Frame models, which means that you need to lean them against a wall in order to use them. Extension ladders are generally more for construction-type projects, since they can reach upwards of 10 feet and are made more for reaching high settings as opposed to extended work in a single spot.

Different Utility Features

One way to narrow down the possible ladder options is to focus on the utility features they offer. This is especially helpful if you’re planning on doing a job that involves the use of various tools, particularly if you’re going to be painting. Some ladders have special trays and tops made for painters, with slots for brushes and circular indentations that can hold a pint or quart bucket in place. You are typically going to find these features on A Frame ladders, since they can easily support the trays and other components without compromising the structural integrity of the ladder or making it harder to climb up and down it. If the ladder doesn’t come with the features you want, check to see if it’s compatible with the appropriate accessories, and you can buy them and install them yourself.

Consider Safety Features

Safety is always a major concern when it comes to ladders, because falling off of one is no joke. Fortunately, most of the ladders available today are built with certain safety features in mind. Still, you’re going to want to look for a ladder that has good grips on the rungs or steps to make it easier for you to climb. Wide steps will make it easier for you to stand over longer periods, but are not always present in extension ladders.

An easy way to judge the safety features of a ladder is to check for mention of compliance with a specific organization or set of safety regulations. If a ladder meets the standards of an official group that regulates safety, you can trust that it is made with a sturdy build and is not likely to slip out from under you or wobble during regular use.

Materials Used

The type of material a ladder uses is not as important these days, since most ladders are made out of aluminum. However, you should always check the materials listing to understand exactly what type of material is used. Some grades of aluminum are stronger than others, and some ladders may only use metal in certain parts so that they can sneak weaker plastic into the frame. The material used will also affect the overall weight of the ladder, which is important if you need to move the ladder frequently.

Load Capacity

Load capacity is very important in a ladder because it determines how much weight it can safely carry before it may run the risk of buckling or breaking. You’re going to see a load capacity of around 200-300 pounds on most A Frame and extension ladders, with some heavy duty models offering more support. Smaller ladders and step stools are going to have a lower weight capacity, typically because they are made of materials that aren’t as strong and are intended for home use.

To determine what load capacity you need, think about the weight of the person who is going to stand on the ladder and add on any special tools or equipment. If you’re coming close to the maximum value, you’re better up moving up to the next tier to ensure the highest level of safety.

Closing Notes

As I mentioned before, the best way to figure out what ladder is right for you is to focus on how you plan on using it. Visit the areas in question if you can and look for any features that could affect your use, like a set of steps or a particularly high point. Being honest with what you need to do is the most effective way to find your perfect ladder, so you don’t end up under-buying or over-buying.