Last updated: August 21, 2020

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You can use me to reach the highest of places. I take lovers to the balconies of their loved ones, and I am bad luck if you pass under me. What am I? A ladder, naturally! You will need this handy tool for so many daily tasks.

If you want to pick the most suitable ladder for your home, you will have to consider a series of essential criteria. These include the maximum height, the weight it can support, the manufacturing material, and its design. In our guide on ladders, you will learn everything there is to know about these wonderful tools.

Key Facts

  • Folding three-step and stool ladders are your best options If you want a ladder for domestic use.
  • In the United States, ladders must comply with various quality standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  • According to these standards, ladder surfaces should always be free of puncture and laceration hazards.
  • Certain ladders designed for industrial use – in particular telescopic models – can measure up to 30 feet once fully deployed.
  • Fiberglass ladders are especially useful for electrical work.

Our Selection: The Best Ladders on the U.S. Market

Nowadays, the offer for ladders on the market is incredibly broad. From platform, rolling, and attic ladders to step stools and twin stepladders, they also come in various materials, which can make it very tricky for you to pick the right one. We are here to help, so we selected the very best models currently on the market.

Best Value-For-Money Ladder

Little Giant Ladder Systems is a leader in the industry, so it’s no surprise to see that its Flip-N-Lite model is Amazon’s Choice in the category. With a total height of 6 feet, this ladder is both extremely versatile and affordable – giving you real bang for your buck. Made from aluminum, it weighs less than 15 pounds but can support up to 300. It features a useful tool tray and a tall handrail that provides additional safety.

Best Telescopic Ladder

Another customer favorite on Amazon, this telescopic extension ladder is ideal if you’re comfortable with a straight ladder but have little space at home. When folded, it is so small that it will easily fit in your car. But don’t be fooled: this ANSI-certified model can unfold to 12.5 feet high, which means there is nothing you can’t reach in and around your home. Also, its versatility makes it a great ladder for shops and garages.

Best Ladder for Professional Use

This is the tallest ladder in our selection by a decent margin. This 22-foot multipurpose ladder is many a handyman’s best friend, although its higher price means it is potentially more suitable for professionals. You can use it as an A-frame, extensible, or scaffolding ladder. The Velocity integrates several safety features – from dual-pin hinges to a Rock Lock system – and unmatched versatility. A 26-foot model is also available.

Best Ladder for Domestic Use

Last but not least, the Rubbermaid RM-W3 is a great step stool to have at home for when you need those extra feet to paint, hang paintings, or dust the top of your furniture. With a load capacity of 200 pounds and wide, comfortable steps, it allows you to reach 28 inches higher than you normally can. Its steel structure is sturdy and durable, while the ladder only weighs 13 pounds.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Ladders

Humankind has used ladders since ancient times. Many jobs have required us to reach high places, and these tools help us get there. In the following section, we will tell you everything there is to know about ladders so that you can pick the right model for your needs.

Several factors will determine how you can use your ladder.
(Source: rido: 33309551/ 123rf.com)

What is a ladder exactly?

As you probably know, these tools are designed to reach high places. These elementary instruments consist of two vertical poles to which are attached several horizontal rungs. Going up these little stairs allows you to reach elevated areas that would otherwise be far out of reach.

Ladders have considerably evolved. Nowadays, you can purchase folding and multipurpose models, the latter being more flexible and allowing you to use them in various domestic or professional tasks. Ladders were traditionally made of wood, although aluminum, metal, or fiberglass are now used in their manufacture.

What types of ladders are there?

You have access to a wide variety of domestic and industrial ladders on the market. As we briefly mentioned, they come in very different shapes and materials. The type of work you want to do ultimately determines how you can use each type of ladder. Some models can adapt to all your needs, and you can even purchase your very own custom-made ladder.

You can read more about the different types available and their most common uses in the table below:

Type of ladder Materials Uses Characteristics
Straight ladders Wood.
Metals.
Industrial and domestic uses.
Ideal for jobs that require more mobility.
Portable ladders. Fixed, manually extensible, and mechanically extensible models.
Various heights available.
They take up little space.
Self-supporting ladders Aluminum.
Fiberglass.
White metals.
For all kinds of uses.
Extensible models are ideal for jobs that require mobility.
Practical for tasks that need greater stability.
Portable.
They may have an upper platform.
They can feature one or two access points.
Wide or single steps.
Step stools Wood.
Aluminum.
Used in warehouses.
Low-height work or domestic areas.
For light use.
Limited height.
Easy to handle.
Lightweight.
Foldable.
Hydraulic ladders Metallic.
They have motor and electronic components.
Industrial jobs.
Storage tasks.
Enhanced stability.
Ample space.
Different heights and sizes to meet the needs of the user.
Modular systems allow you to work at different heights.
Telescopic ladders Aluminum.
White metals.
Fiberglass.
Industrial uses.
Maintenance work.
Commercial premises.
They can be used folded or unfolded.
Easy to transport.
They take up little space.
Articulated ladders Aluminum.
White metals.
Ideal for multitasking They can be used as straight or self-supporting ladders, as well as scaffolding.
Easy to handle and transport.
Some models are raisable.
Fiberglass ladders Fiberglass Ideal for electrical work, as the material is not conducive. All types of ladders (straight or telescopic models, for instance).
They do not conduct electricity.

Every home needs a ladder.
(Source: Dmytro Sidelnikov: 82157011/ 123rf.com)

How do I choose the best ladder for my needs?

Depending on the specific characteristics of a ladder, you will find it to be more or less useful in particular situations. This is why the first thing you need to know is how you want to use your ladder. As we explained in the previous section, the type and the manufacturing material will ultimately define its use.

However, this is naturally not all that matters. Other factors come into play and determine how you can use a specific ladder, so we have listed them below to help you make the best possible purchase based on your needs:

  • Weight: Remember that you will literally be on your ladder, so always check the weight it can hold before making a decision. Some models can support up to 375 pounds, but most ladders you will find will not withstand these kinds of weights. Keep in mind that it needs to hold your weight and that of what you are working with.
  • Length: Just about any job can be successfully done with a 10-feet ladder – especially domestic tasks. For professional use, you can purchase models that reach 30 feet.
  • Steps: Some ladders will feature basic round or square steps, which are considered more dangerous because they are more slippery and less reliable. Professional ladders, on the other hand, integrate wider steps covered with an anti-slip system.

Ladders give you the stability you need to perform tasks in heights.
(Source: kasto: 46471386/ 123rf.com)

How should I use a ladder?

Every home or workplace needs a ladder. This tool allows you to perform such a wide variety of tasks, from organizing a shelf and hanging a photo to painting, setting a phone line, or reaching for the cookie jar. Ladders are designed to give you the stability you need to carry out tasks in heights.

You won’t need specific experience of knowledge to use your ladder. Follow the basic steps we have listed below:

  • Adjust it to your needs. Folding, telescopic, or multipurpose ladders have to be set to the appropriate height and position at all times. Luckily for you, they are very flexible and adapt perfectly to your needs.
  • Secure the ladder. Make sure the ladder is completely secure on its shoes before you climb up. The shoes should always fully rest on a flat floor.
  • Have someone hold the ladder if you need to reach the last few steps of your ladder for any task.
  • Set the ladder at the appropriate angle before climbing up if you need to use the ladder straight. 75 degrees is the ideal angle. Here is our trick to check the angle: place the tip of your shoes against the ladder and extend your arms forward. You have the right angle if you can grab the ladder.
  • Make sure the hinges are fully open. If they feature safety braces, these must also be fully open and secured in the locked position.

You need no prior experience of knowledge to use a ladder.
(Source: Anna Bizoń: 122780599/ 123rf.com)

What are the risks of using a ladder?

These tools allow you to reach high places, which is why they naturally expose you to certain risks that you should never forget. While falls and blows are the most common, other problems such as entrapment can also lead to severe injuries. In the following list, you can discover the risk factors that could expose you to these incidents:

  • Fall of the ladder;
  • Lateral sliding of the shoes;
  • Imbalance;
  • Breaking of the steps;
  • Entrapment of a limb between the steps;
  • Fall of objects from a certain height.

Safety tips for the use of ladders

As we mentioned above, using a ladder subjects you to certain avoidable dangers. We have compiled a series of safety tips that you should keep in mind when working on a ladder to prevent accidents or falls. For example, you should never have two people at once on these tools.

Stay safe with the following recommendations:

  • Never load more than 300 pounds on the ladder. This includes your weight and that of the tools or load you are using.
  • Never have two people working on the same ladder at the same time.
  • Try to keep one hand free when working on a ladder.
  • Don’t force the hinge system.
  • Make sure it is properly locked and secured.
  • If you have a multipurpose ladder for scaffolding, choose a platform made of metal or another resistant material.
  • To change places, go down and move the ladder manually. Never try to move the ladder when you are on it.
  • Always go up and down from the front of the ladder.
  • Hold on to the steps rather than the side rail, as they are easier to grab in the event of a slip or fall.
  • Keep three points of contact with the ladder at all times when going up or down.
  • Maintain the center of your body between the two side rails.
  • Always use a safety harness when working at heights superior to 10 feet.

Shopping Criteria

We have explained everything there was to know about ladders, and we want you to be familiar with the main purchasing criteria. Choosing the right model for your needs and budget can be quite a challenge at times. Luckily for you, our buyer’s guide is here to make your life easier by helping you buy the best ladder.

Use

As the most important factor, the use is the very first thing you should think about before choosing your very own ladder. How do you plan on using it? Do you want a ladder for your home or for work? If you are looking for a model for domestic use, we recommend 3 or 4-step stools or folding ladders with an upper platform.

You should look for industrial products if, on the other hand, you need one for professional use. We detailed the various types and most common applications further up in this article, so all you have to do is pick the model that best suits you and go for it!

Safety

Safety always comes first when using a ladder, and the steps are one of its main safety features. Models with wide, rubber-coated steps are preferable because they provide increased stability, allowing you to work more comfortably.

The locking spreaders are another element that your ladder should have. Designed to steady the ladder, they prevent it from fully opening or closing while in use. Safety braces and locking hinges are ideal complements to further ensure the stability of your tool, while rubber stoppers on the shoes help avoid slipping.

Material

Ladders were traditionally made of wood. While this material is still used to, they are most frequently manufactured with aluminum or white metals – which are stronger and lighter. Fiberglass is also typical since it does not conduct electricity; this light material also makes it easy for you to transport the ladder.

As we discussed above, you are advised to opt for a model with high-density rubber stoppers on the shoes for greater stability. Ladders with rubber steps and steel safety braces are very useful, too. While you can find plastic stools, they are not recommended for intensive use.

Height

Domestic ladders come in different heights to best suit your needs. Three-step models won’t reach more than 6 feet, while four-step ladders measure approximately 9 feet. These tools are ideal for home use or to have in shops and garages where you won’t need to reach higher areas.

For professional work or tasks that require you to go further up – to install telecommunications or carry out industrial and electrical maintenance, your best option will always be telescopic or folding models that can easily reach 30 feet or more. These ladders are particularly sturdy, resistant, and reliable, although they require a greater financial investment.

Summary

Many daily tasks require you to climb up a ladder: changing a light bulb, hanging a painting, or dusting a piece of furniture. And these tools aren’t only at home; they may also be necessary at work. Electricians, plumbers, stockers, and storekeepers all benefit from having a ladder that allows them to reach high places.

You will find a wide array of ladders on the market, with different shapes, sizes, and materials available. Picking out the most appropriate model for your needs can be quite tricky with so many offers, especially if you don’t know much about these tools. We hope our shopping guide will help you choose the right ladder.

If you enjoyed our article, feel free to leave us a comment in the section below. You can also share it with your friends and family on your social media.

(Source of featured image: zerbor: 75174867/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Rebecca Campbell Construction & Home Remodeling Expert
Rebecca is a real hands-on type of girl. She took over her father’s small company that specializes in construction and home remodeling. Not only does she manage all the projects her company takes on, but she also loves to get her hands dirty.