Ultimate Guide to Buying Ladders

Whether you need to tile the roof of your home or change a lightbulb, ladders are essential tools wherever you need to extend your reach or height. However, choosing a ladder that suits the height and nature of the task is very crucial for efficiency at work and also for your safety. 

With so many ladders occupying the market right now, from regular step ladders for general handiwork to multipurpose units to aid in more specialized work, it can be hard to know which option can best fit you. Hence we’ll take you through the different types of ladders and highlight the features to look for. 

Things to Consider Before Buying A Ladder 

Structure’s Stability 

Ever experienced a situation when your ladder’s feet start jiggling unexpectedly while you are on it? This is what’s more commonly attributed as the ladder’s “walk.” If a ladder isn’t rigid enough, it can tilt/deform when you shift your weight side to side.

Though this doesn’t seem like a significant issue, those who have experienced it know how the ladder walk can affect one’s stance while working, ultimately affecting the work as well. Hence try before you buy or skim through product reviews to see if your chosen ladder has this problem. 

With stepladders, climb three steps and carefully shift your weight to see if the ladder tilts or “walks.” Ladders that have cross-bracing or tend to have a much more rigid structure are less likely to walk. 

Ladder Built Material 

The four most common ladder materials are fiberglass, aluminum, wood, and steel. The table below will tour you through each of them to select the right ladder accordingly. 

Ladder Materials 

Features and Benefits

Drawbacks 

Best for: 

Fiberglass

  • Incredibly Strong and Sturdy Material.

  • Can Hold A Great Deal of Weight.

  • Doesn't Conduct Electricity Hence Safer.

  • Heat Resistant.

  • Heavier.

  • Expensive Than Other Materials.

  • Won't Bend But Crack Under Excess Weight.

  • Working Near Power Lines or in Harsh Weather Conditions.

  • Outdoor Use

  • Electricians and Contracting Professional

Aluminum

  • Lightweight

  • Affordable

  • Durable. 

  • Easy to Install, Transport, and Store

  • Doesn't Corrode

  • Isn't as Strong as Fiberglass.

  • Conducts Heat and Electricity

  • Homeowners in Need of a Versatile Ladder For Everyday Use. 

Wood

  • Good Decorative Choice. 

  • Can't Hold Too Much Weight. 

  • Susceptible to Moisture Damage

  • Indoor Use

Steel 

  • Incredibly Strong and Sturdy Material.

  • Susceptible to Rust and Corrosion. 

  • Requires Frequent Maintenance to Stay in Good Condition 

  • Heavier 

  • Casual Home Improver and the Home Improvement Professional. 

  • Indoor Use

Ladder Size 

Determining a suitable ladder height for your purpose is not as simple as it may seem. There can be a considerable variance between the measured height of a ladder and what length proves actually usable. For instance, a few ladder types like the extension and straight ladders lean against a supporting body at a particular angle. 

This leaning reduces 2 to 3 inches from the actual ladder’s reach. Hence in such cases, you should look for a ladder that is 2′ – 3′ taller than the maximum height you need to reach.

Moreover, those who follow the common set of ladder safety rules experience an even further diminished reach. For example, it is advised to never stand on the top rungs, which means that the actual height provided is two to three rungs short of the ladder’s own length. 

Therefore in the case of a stepladder, go with an option that’s only 3 to 4 inches lower than the maximum height you intend to reach. Opting for an even shorter ladder might cause issues while you try reaching the targeted height. 

Remember to take all these factors into account when calculating what ladder size you will need. See our table below to calculate what ladder size you will need based on the height of the ladder and the spot you intend to reach. 

 

Height You Need to Reach With An Extension Ladder Required Size of Extension Ladder 
6′ 2′
9′ 9′
11′ 11′
13′ 13′
16′ 16′
18′ 18′
20′ 20′ 

 

Height You Need to Reach With A Stepladder Required Size of Stepladder
15′ 16′
19′ 20′
23′ 24′
26′ 27′
30′ 31′
35′ 37′
39′ 40′

Load Rating 

Ladders are built and classified according to specific weight-bearing capacities. These weight ratings are usually mentioned on the ladders. Users are instructed not to cross these ratings, or the structure might collapse. Remember to consider the weight of your tools, application materials, and even clothing when calculating your overall weight. 

Also, factor in that it’s not just you who will employ the ladder every time. Hence opt for a ladder that’s eligible to carry the bulkiest possible person (including tools, materials, and clothing) that will be using it.

A ladder specially designed to aid in domestic use has a load rating of up to 100kg. If you weigh more than 100Kgs ( don’t forget to count in any tools or cans of paint that you might carry along the ladder), a much more reasonable option is a ladder with an industrial-duty tag that can bear up to 150kg.

Load Capacity 

Grade

Common Uses

200 lbs. 

Household

Housekeeping, Painting, Yardwork 

225 lbs.

Light Commercial

Light Commercial Work, Cleaning, Painting

250 lbs.

Industrial

General Drywalling Maintenance, Contracting

300 lbs.

Heavy Duty Industrial

Industrial Work, Roofing, Building, Contracting 

375 lbs.

Heavy Commercial

Heavy-Duty Tasks

The Different Types of Ladders

Whether you are spray painting your interior walls or installing a new security camera to the ceiling, a quality ladder is an essential tool for any homeowner. However, it is not only the quality you should be worrying about. Getting familiar with all the different kinds of ladders is also crucial to land you on an option that perfectly fits your job. 

You may be surprised to learn that there are several different types of ladders: basic linear ladders, extension ladders, stepladders, and different kinds of multi-position ladders that can be shaped for various tasks. This variety exists due to the diverse needs of different people. 

Consequently, an extension ladder won’t help you much in reaching the ceiling, or you can’t employ a stepladder for the roof. Employing an unfitting ladder or modifying a ladder for a purpose that the ladder isn’t designed to perform is a recipe for disaster. The information ahead will save you from such mistakes: 

Step Stool 

Step Stool

Though step stool is not really a ladder, we have included it in the ladder family because it helps reach smaller heights.  Step stools come in different sizes that can help reach under five ft to just over 8fts of height. They usually have just one step or up to three wide steps. 

Steps stools are best employed for quick uses where you require a little extra reach than your own height – they are perfect for replacing light bulbs or grabbing an out of reach item from over the cupboard, but they might not be the strongest choice for long term repair work or heavy paint jobs. 

Straight Ladders

Straight Ladders

The typical ladder structure that comes to your mind whenever you hear ‘ladder’ is what a straight ladder basically is. As the name suggests, this ladder has a linear body rather than a foldable one. Because it has no self-support and neither can it fold, a straight ladder is required to be leaned against some right support to stand. 

Unlike multi-purpose foldable ladders or extension units, straight models come with a fixed height of usually 4fts to over 20 ft. To help them stand without sliding, straight ladders are mostly equipped with slip-free grips on the feet and the rungs to provide decent support to the user’s hand.  

Overall, straight ladders are lightweight yet super sturdy models that come in various materials and designs, some of which can be employed as stylish decor. For households that require moderate to significant reach, a straight ladder type is a perfect option, but you need to take care of its storage hassle. 

Because they don’t retract or fold, larger straight ladders can cause a menace of storage unless you own a big backyard with a tall wall where the straight ladder could lean without significantly affecting the view or blocking any pathway. 

Extension Ladders 

Extension ladders are one of the tallest ladders one can find in the market right now, but its retracting design might not let you know that at first glance. As the name suggests, this type of ladder is foldable and extendable, offering you versatility in usage and less storage hassle. 

An extension model carries two ladder parts that slide apart, so the entire ladder in its extended form is almost twice as long as the ladder in its folded form. Extension ladders are mostly employed for outdoor situations where users need to access significant heights, like the gutters or roof. 

Because these ladders are not self-supporting, you are required to prop extension ladders against some sturdy wall, so they don’t slide. 

Stepladders

Stepladders

After straight ladders, step ladders are the most known type, especially amongst users who require ladders for everyday household use. Unlike extension and straight models, these versatile, retractable ladders come with broad steps and the biggest perk of all time: a self-supporting design. 

Meaning they don’t need to be leaned against anything to stand. But because stepladders stand completely on their own four legs, users need to make sure that the ladder is placed on a stable floor. 

Coupled with the self-support mechanism, step ladders’ wide steps offer a good balance. Moreover, the top rung of these ladders acts as a broad carrier for toolsets or other working materials. Step Ladders are generally more affordable and come in a range of heights up to 8 ft.

Platform/Scaffold Stepladders

Offering a large platform on each height and the sturdiest build, the Scaffold/Platform Stepladders feature the heaviest overall structure meant to serve only the contractors or large-scale home improvement projects. 

Wide platforms are given to allow users to place their tools and materials even in large quantities, for example, big barrels of paint or bulky tool sets — some can even support multiple people at a time. 

Multi-position Ladders

Multi-position Ladders

Multi-position ladders (also called all-purpose ladders) combine the functions of straight ladders, extension ladders, and stepladders, making them the most versatile option out there. This ladder type can be retracted or unfolded to be either basic linear ladders or self-supporting ones, allowing users to reach a different height and perform all kinds of tasks. 

If you are a ladder buyer who is confused between the first three major types of ladders, go with a multipurpose unit, as it can transform in any state you like. Some multi-position ladders also contain flared, slip-resistant feet for even more stability.

The toughest part of employing a multi-position unit is figuring out how to achieve the different adjustments and configurations. However, once you get a strong grip on its transformist mechanism, multi-position ladders are one heck of an investment. Also, bear in mind that you have to deal with the ladder’s bulkiness. 

Telescopic Ladder 

Telescopic Ladder

Telescopic ladders are relatively new to the ladder realm. Usually constructed of steel or aluminum, this ladder-type features rails that spring out like a telescope from a very short state and turn into a tall ladder. 

Their biggest selling point is that they are even more portable than a step stool and extension ladders because, in their collapsed form, they are hardly about 3 feet tall but can stretch up to 20 ft and above. They’re very convenient for indoor use, such as changing light bulbs or accessing the attic. 

Recommended Products 

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Little Giant Ladders 6-Foot Aluminum Step Ladder (15270-001)
Louisville Ladder's FE3216 32-Foot Fiberglass Extension Ladder 
Little Giant Ladders, 26 Ft Multi-Position Aluminium Ladder With Work Platform (15422-001)
Telescopic 4.5M/15Ft Aluminum Ladder
HBTower 3 Steps Steel Folding Stool


1. Little Giant Ladders 6-Foot Aluminum Step Ladder (15270-001)


Little Giant Ladders 6-Foot Aluminum Step Ladder (15270-001) Also known as the Flip-N-Lite model, this classic step ladder is a perfect option for providing versatile indoor and outdoor use. It's 6 feet tall with a maximum reach height of 10-foot and features extra-wide rungs to prevent foot fatigue, making it suitable for long-term use. With a Type 1A rating, the aluminum body is extremely sturdy yet lightweight and can bear 250lbs or above.  

PROS

  • Good For Heavy Duty Industrial Work, Roofing, Building, Contracting 
  • Comfortable Standing Platform 
  • Self Supportive Structure 
  • Ladder Quality Meets all OSHA and ANSI Standards
  • Sturdy Aluminum Made Body Yet Lightweight 

CONS 

  • Not For Use Near Power Lines As The Aluminium Body Is Conductive


2. Louisville Ladder's FE3216 32-Foot Fiberglass Extension Ladder 


Louisville Ladder's FE3216 32-Foot Fiberglass Extension Ladder If you are looking for a ladder that provides more than just a couple of feet of reach, the 32 foot extremely tall Louisville Ladder's Extension Model is the one for you. It is made of an incredibly strong and sturdy fiberglass body that features an elegant design and smooth finish and can at most hold 300lbs of weight.

PROS

  • Sturdy Fiberglass Body Doesn't Conduct Electricity Hence Ideal For Electricians 
  • Offers Tallest Possible Reach Height 
  • Good Weight Capacity 

CONS 

  • Heavy


3. Little Giant Ladders, 26 Ft Multi-Position Aluminium Ladder With Work Platform (15422-001)


Little Giant Ladders, 26 Ft Multi-Position Aluminium Ladder The best multi-position ladder in the market right now, that too, retailed with a robust working platform and more than 26 ft of reach height on offer. The versatile model is rated to hold 375 lbs of weight so that you can do your work without any worries. Thanks to the rock lock adjusters, the strong aluminum body quickly converts into different configurations with ease, including A-frame, trestle-and-plank, 90-degree, extension, and even staircase. 

PROS

  • Comes With a Working Platform 
  • Easy Configuration Into Multiple Different States 
  • Offers 26+ foot Reach Height and 375 lbs of load capacity 
  • Tip & Glide wheels for easy transport from job to job

CONS 

  • Aluminum in Conductive


4. Telescopic 4.5M/15Ft Aluminum Ladder


Telescopic 4.5M-15Ft Aluminum Ladder Do you need extended ladder length but are worried about acute storage space? This Telescopic 4.5M/15Ft Aluminum Ladder has got you covered. Though this ladder will hardly occupy 2 to 3 ft of free space when collapsed, opening it will give you an extra bunch of ft that will help reach 15-foot and above.  Made of aluminum alloy, the ladder is corrosion-resistant, waterproof, and durable enough to hold 330 lbs at once. 

PROS

  • Non-slip bigfoot offers good stability.
  • Inward sliding latch helps modify step increment 
  • Durable Aluminium built complies with EN131 safety material certificate

CONS 

  • Expensive


5. HBTower 3 Steps Steel Folding Stool


HBTower 3 Steps Steel Folding Stool If you require support for reaching just a little extra height, step stools are enough. The HBTower 3 Steps Steel Folding Stool is what we recommend in such cases. This Folding Stepstool is portable and space-saving. The nifty lock and open system allow easy opening and folding.

PROS

  • Hassle-Free Warranty 
  • Decent Stability 
  • High-Grade Steel Construction 
  • Easy to Carry 

CONS 

  • Not Suitable For Tall Reach Tasks


 

  Little Giant Ladders 6-Foot Aluminum Step Ladder (15270-001)Louisville Ladder's FE3216 32-Foot Fiberglass Extension Ladder Little Giant Ladders, 26 Ft Multi-Position Aluminium Ladder With Work Platform (15422-001)Telescopic 4.5M/15Ft Aluminum LadderHBTower 3 Steps Steel Folding Stool
Reach Height and Load Capacity
  • 10-foot Reach Height – Enough For Roofing or Household Chores
  • Holds up to 130kgs of Weight and Over – Can Easily Bare a Slightly Bulkier Person With Tools
  • One of the Tallest Ladder On Market – Offers More Than 32 Foot Reach
  • Holds up to 130 Kgs of Weight
  • Tallest Multi-Purpose Ladder on Market – Offers More Than 26 Foot Reach
  • High Load Capacity Rating – Can easily Handle 375 lbs (170 Kgs of Weight!)
  • Offers Decent 15 Foot Reach Without Causing Storage Hassles
  • Can Withstand Upto 150 Kgs of Weight
  • Short Length Hence Massive Weight Capacity of up to 500 Pounds 
Overall Construction 
  • Lightweight Yet Sturdy Aluminium Built
  • Stands on its own Supportive Legs
  • Wide And Comfortable Steps – Excellent For Long Term Use
  • Steel Swivel Safety Shoe with Metal Shield Offers Safety and Stability
  • Sturdy Fiberglass Construction
  • D-Shaped Rungs Are Easier to Stand On
  • Strong Overall Built
  • Offers Nifty Configuration Adjusters For Easy Handling
  • Durable Structure 
  • Non-Slip, Leaning Structure 
  • Lightweight Body 
  • High-grade Steel Frame is Constructed With Strength and Reliability. 
  • Non-Slip Design
  • Rubber Feet and Handgrips 
 

Conclusion 

There’s no doubt in the fact that homeowners, whether home improving enthusiasts or not, require a variety of tools for small fixes and repairs. Besides the essential accessories—like screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, and drills — ladders also play a significant role in getting home improvement and repair work done.  

Because ladders come in various forms and sizes, particularly built to suit specific situations, homeowners, casual DIYers, and professionals have a lot to consider before buying an option. After going through our ladder guide, we hope you are fully aware of every important ladder buying aspect to help you reach your best purchase.

If you are still confused between the ton of options in the market, we suggest you go with the Telescopic 4.5M/15Ft Aluminum Ladder. Though it’s a little expensive, the portability on offer is incredible. Otherwise, you can also select Little Giant Ladders’ 26 Ft Multi-Position Unit.