A ladder is something you’ll trust your life to, so it’s important to make sure that you choose the right one for your needs. And whatever the job or role you have in mind, there are always a few key questions that you’ll want to ask yourself before you commit to a purchase. We’ve summed them up below in this ladder buyer’s guide, as well as a short explanation of why it’s important for you to ask them!

  1. Which kind of ladder is best for the job?

We can’t overstate the importance of having the right ladder for the job. Now, for many buyers, the actual condition of the ladder in question is obviously a key concern. We’re certainly not arguing against that here at Browns Ladders, but we’d add that the ladder’s purpose is a consideration that needs to be given equal importance, at least! Different types of ladders are designed to keep you safe in varying circumstances, and all their effectiveness is useless unless you’re aware of this distinction.

For example, you can have the best extension ladder in the world, but if you’re using it to hang pictures on your stairs, it’s not keeping you safe because you’re not using it for the purpose it was designed for. That means that all that solid construction and brilliant design is all for nothing, making it just as risky as the most shoddily built ladders. Honestly, you absolutely have to pick the right ladder for the job, or you might as well not bother!

  1. Are you looking for a specialist ladder?

This ties in pretty closely to our previous point. If you’re thinking about a specific job, it’s definitely worth considering whether certain specialist ladders will be exceptionally helpful for the job. If you’re thinking about pruning the trees in your back garden for example – understandable now that we’re in the midst of summer weather – one of our 3 leg adjustable aluminium tripod ladders will probably help you do the job far more quickly, effectively and safely than a normal stepladder.

On that note, it’s also worth perusing the specific capabilities and safety features of each ladder. It might be something that makes you more secure for the job at hand – for example, non-slip feet – or it might be something that makes you feel personally safer, like the D-shaped rungs for better grip on this Lyte Trade Triple Extension Ladder.

  1. How high do you need to reach?

Another key consideration, but one that it’s vital to judge correctly. A huge proportion of ladder accidents are caused by overbalancing, which itself often a result of users standing too high up on the ladder. It’s vital to know the Platform Height (the height at which it’s safe to stand) for each ladder, as it can make all the difference to your safety.

For example, the highest permitted Platform Height, or standing level, on a stepladder is two steps down from the top, while the maximum safe Working Height (the level at which the user can reach) is typically 4 feet higher than the ladder itself. That means that a typical person will usually just about be able to reach an 8 feet ceiling on a 4 foot stepladder.

Meanwhile, extension ladders should be between 7 and 10 feet longer than the highest support or contact point (for example, the wall or roof line). The highest Platform Height in this instance is four rungs down from the top.

Below is a quick guide to help you understand the various safe heights for extension ladders, assuming the user is at least 5’6” with a vertical 12” reach.

Ladder height Maximum reach Height to gutter or Top Support Point
16’ 15’ 9’ maximum
20’ 19’ 9’ to 13’
24’ 23’ 13’ to 17’
28’ 27’ 17’ to 21’
32’ 31’ 21’ to 25’
36’ 34’ 25’ to 28’
40’ 37’ 28’ to 31’
  1. What is the ladder’s Duty Rating?

In other words, how much weight will be on the ladder? As we touched on above, different ladders are designed for different functions, which means that some are designed to hold more weight than others. Before you even start to think about using your ladder, you should always be highly aware of its maximum allowable load. Exceeding it could mean a painful – even fatal – collapse. Remember, not does the ladder need to be capable of holding your weight, but also the weight of any tools and materials you may be carrying up there with you.

Werner ladders, for example, are classed into five different Duty Ratings. Between them, these cover everything from casual homeowner use all the way up to intensive trade applications by skilled professionals.

Werner’s five different Duty Ratings are:

Ladder style Classification Duty Rating Maximum Static Vertical Load
Stepladders BS 2037 Class 1 130kg 175kg
Combination Ladders BS EN131 115kg 150kg
Extension Ladders BS 2037 Class 3 95kg 125kg
Stepstools EN14183 150kg
Loft Ladders EN14183 150kg
  1. What kind of material should you choose for your ladder?

This is a step that a lot of first-time buyers underestimate. The type of material your ladder is made from can make a huge difference to its effectiveness. For example, specialised tradesmen such as electricians will need to ensure that they buy fibreglass ladders, as these are not conductive to electricity. Otherwise, users could be in for a (literal) nasty shock. They’re generally more expensive than aluminium ladders, though, whose all-around solid construction makes them generally a top choice for most consumers. Obviously, if you need any help here at Browns Ladders, we’re always happy to advise! You can click here to explore our expansive range of access equipment, or alternatively give us a call on 01282 615517, and we’ll be glad to help in any way we can.