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Choosing the right ladder for the job

by: Kirsten Land on November 6th, 2018 about General

Do you have a tall job ahead of you? Make sure you have the right equipment to get up to the task. The good news is there are plenty of styles and sizes of ladders to choose from.

Using the right tool for the job makes everything easier and safer. Be sure to keep these things in mind when choosing a ladder.

Style

Single-section ladders are the traditional, two-legged ladders that are placed on flat ground and leaned against a structure. They tend to be the lightest and longest ladders for any given size. Both legs should be placed on flat, solid ground, and the top of the ladder should lean forward one foot for every four feet of height. That means a twelve-foot ladder should be placed three feet away from the surface it’s leaned against.

The stepladder is basically a single-section ladder that has two extra legs built in to allow the ladder to stand on its own. Self-supporting ladders are great for changing lightbulbs or other jobs in open areas where there’s not a flat surface to lean the ladder against.

An extension ladder is basically a single-section ladder stacked on top of another single-section ladder. One ladder acts as the base while the other slides up and hooks into place to add extra height to the ladder.

Telescopic ladders are a convenient way to reduce storage space. It works, as it sounds, like the mechanism in a telescope or spyglass. Sections between each rung lock into place as they are pulled out of the larger section below it.

Articulated or multi-function ladders do it all. Multi-function ladders have locking joints that allow it to be used as a single-section ladder, a stepladder of varied angles, or a sawhorse that can be used as a support for scaffolding.

Size

Your ladder should be taller than where your feet need to be. In other words, you should be able to reach what you’re doing without being on the top step of your ladder. As soon as you are unable to grab the ladder or lean against it, you lose most of your stability and balance.

Extension ladders have a recommended stopping point of four rungs from the top. The top of the ladder should also extend at least three feet above the support holding the ladder up. Remember that the ladder is also being leaned forward which will reduce the total height.

Never stand on the top rung of a ladder! Always follow the instructions included with/on the ladder, such as the required overlap for extension ladders.

Strength

Ladders are rated for load capacity of bodyweight and any materials carried up the ladder. If a person weighs 200 pounds and carries 50 pounds of clothing, safety equipment, tools, and construction materials up the ladder with them, they will need a ladder that can support at least 250 pounds.

The strength scale is as follows, and every ladder should be clearly labeled with the type and weight limit:

  • Type III – 200 pounds
  • Type II – 225 pounds
  • Type I – 250 pounds
  • Type IA – 300 pounds
  • Tye IAA – 375 pounds

Material

Ladders are made of aluminum, steel, wood, or fiberglass, with varying strength and durability for each material. Wood and fiberglass do not conduct electricity and may be used around electrical cabling and equipment.

Ladders can bring you much closer to hard-to-reach places and help you accomplish necessary tasks, but they can also pose a significant risk of injury if used incorrectly. Be sure to follow all safety precautions when using a ladder and contact a professional when necessary.

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