If you ve never bought a ladder, you might be surprised by the variety of different types available at your local home improvement center. There are tall ones, short ones, all-purpose and special-purpose styles, as well as straight and double-jointed ladders.
Most homeowners have at least one ladder for general use, and some have two or three ladders in various styles for more specific purposes. Generally speaking, there are two types of ladders commonly found in most homes: stepladders and straight or extension ladders. Both types are rated for load capacity by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). When choosing a ladder, keep these safety guidelines in mind: Type IA is the highest rated with a 300 pound capacity; Type I has a slightly lower capacity of 250 pounds; Type II is considered medium grade and has a capacity of 225 pounds; and Type III is for the lightest loads not exceeding 200 pounds.
Every year, more than 100,000 ladder related injuries occur, so when deciding which ladder to use, consider not only your own weight but the weight of any equipment you may be carrying. Using the wrong ladder for a job can lead to injury, so choose wisely.
Most extension ladders and step ladders are manufactured in 2' increments. Experts recommend purchasing a ladder that is longer than you think necessary. For example, the height of the gutter on a typical single-story home is 16', but it s wise to use an extension ladder 20 24' in length for better support and stability. For a two-story home, a 24 30' extension ladder may be necessary. Go the extra mile with stepladders as well. The few extra steps you get by purchasing a longer stepladder will give you room to lean or to place tools while working.
An articulating ladder has the ability to bend and fold to adapt to your environment and is multi-functional in use. Some weigh as little as 20 pounds, which is a big benefit when hauling it from your garage to the opposite side of your house. An articulating ladder can do the work of both a stepladder and an extension ladder. If you want to purchase just one type of ladder, this would be the type for almost every use. It is, however, the most expensive type of ladder you can purchase and can cost hundreds of dollars. But it will be an investment that will most likely last you a lifetime.
Before using any ladder, it s wise to inspect all nuts, bolts and hinges. It may have been a year or longer since you last used it and on wooden ladders, paint can hide defects. Here are further safety tips for using ladders:
* No matter what type of ladder you use, always make sure the feet are planted securely on level ground before climbing.
* When working above your head or when carrying materials up a ladder, experts advise fastening the top of the ladder to the structure for added stability.
* Fiberglass ladders are the most expensive, but when working around electrical wires of any kind, they are the safest because they are non-conductive. Never use aluminum ladders near wires.
* Never work in windy conditions with an aluminum ladder. Its lightweight construction makes it a safety hazard.
* When using a stepladder, make sure it is fully open and the spreader is locked in place.
* Never use a stepladder in a leaning position as you would an extension ladder. It is designed to open and could easily do so when you are on it.
* Don t use the two top steps of a stepladder. The ladder can become unstable and top heavy in such a situation. It is designed to carry the bulk of weight in the lower half of the structure.
* Above all, use common sense when working on a ladder. Don t carry more than you safely should and don t overreach.
Be careful when selecting a ladder. No matter what type of ladder you use, safety should always come first.