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Ladders: The Buying Guide
Ladders are very important tools and, while simple, they are used in a variety of industries. Whether you’re looking to do some DIY or gain access to a high reaching area, everyone needs a ladder at some point.
Of course, there are many different types of ladders available, which makes buying the right one a little more difficult. To help you find the right choice for you, here’s a run-down of the different types of ladders available today.
Step Folding Ladders
These are arguably the most common type of portable ladder. They can be easily carried and, when needed, the two sides simply fold out to establish an A-frame, with a bar or support rod between the two haves holding them still. It’s called a step ladder because it has steps, rather than bars or rungs.
Furthermore, there are 2 varieties of step ladders. Front steps have rungs on one side while twin steps have rungs on both sides. While this doesn’t matter for a single person, the twin step allows two people on the ladder and it enables one person to use both sides without having to move or turn the ladder itself.
The benefit to step ladders, aside from being portable, is that they can be used on their own. They support themselves, removing the need for a wall or brace. However, these features still need to be transportable, so they are often quite short in terms of the actual height you can reach.
Similar to step ladders, step stools feature a similar design on a smaller scale. These are designed for easy access to heights that don’t require an entire ladder. They can be placed on the floor and often feature 2 or 3 steps rather than rungs.
Simply put, these are step folding ladders with bars or rungs, rather than steps. This might seem like a small difference, but it typically means the ladder is less comfortable to use when standing on a rung, rather than a platform. As a result, they’re ideal when you need to reach up somewhere, rather than using different levels of platforms. On the plus side, they can be used at a sharper incline compared to steps.
Extension ladders offer extra reach, as they are two sections (called the base and the fly) on top of each other. When you wish to extend the ladder the fly section glides up and locks into place above the base – usually, these are locked in by various sliding mechanics, hooks or locks. This offers the extension ladder a vast amount of range compared to its portable size.
The main advantage here is the ability to reach very high areas, as extension ladders come in a vast range of sizes to suit your needs. The downside, on the other hand, is that they require some support. They must be leaned against a very strong and durable wall, preferably with a second person holding the ladder at the bottom.
Conceptually similar to extension variants, telescoping ladders use telescopic rails, rather than the fixed components of an extension ladder, to grow to the required length. The main benefit here is that what isn’t being used isn’t in the way. This also means the compact, transportable size is typically smaller and easier to carry as a result.
Similar to step ladders, platform ladders actually have a small platform for standing on at the top, rather than a small step. Typically, this has a rail for added safety and versatility. These ladders also come in two different types. They are often used for painting, electrical work and other areas where you may wish to be in one spot for a long amount of time. The platform allows you to stay comfortable and safe.
A platform step ladder folds out like a step ladder, as the name suggests, making it easier to transport. That being said, the rungs are still only on one side of the ladder, due to the nature of the platform.
Mobile platform ladders, alternatively, are fixed in place and feature wheels to help move it into position. It’s much larger in size, and therefore difficulty to carry, but the more permanent design often allows for a wider platform and rail.
Used mostly by fire-fighters, hook ladders are standard ladders with hooks at the top. This allows them to be placed on windows, hooking onto the window ledge for added support. While fire-fighters use these to enter and leave dangerous buildings, they can also prove useful for anyone looking for extra stability.
A similar design to hook ladders, roof ladders have a rather large turn at the top – typically 90 degrees – designed to be placed on the ridge of a roof. While not sharp, this folds in on itself for added support and makes the ladder stable. This makes a great way to manoeuvre up and down sloped roof tops. They also come in extendible forms, allowing you to customise the length to suit the roof in question.
Fruit Picking Ladders
As the name suggests, these are designed for use when picking fruit. As such, they look a lot like a step or folding ladder, only the side without rungs is just one pole. This is designed to make them easy to place around trees and orchards. Similarly, they often feature a wide base at the bottom for support, but this becomes quite narrow at the top. Again, this is to make it easier to move the ladder between branches and leaves.
Unlike other ladders, attic ladders are permanent fixtures. These are fitted to the top side of the attic door. When the door is opened from the bottom, the ladder can be extended down to provide access above. Depending on the style or design, this might feature ladders or rungs. If you regularly require access to the attic, a permanent feature like this is ideal, as opposed to having to keep another ladder close by at all times.
Finally, multi-purpose ladders are designed to incorporate a number of the above designs. This typically means they can extend, or fold in to smaller size, as well as feature numerous steps and rungs. For this reason they may also be called multi-position ladders, as the customisable features allow you to set them up in the desired position and height you wish.
Multi-positional ladders are useful in more unique situations, such as on uneven surfaces. The two sides can be set at different heights, ensuring the ladder is still balanced. This makes them great on stairs and steps, for instance, where other ladders might lack these features.
While this is highly advantageous, these ladders are often heavier and bulkier as a result. While modern designs use lightweight material, such as aluminium, to offset this, it is always something worth keeping in mind.
As you can see, two ladders are ever seldom alike. While there are many ladders designed for a variety of uses, the specialist ladders offer extra support in some key areas. Knowing what you need will easily help you narrow down your options and find the right ladder for you!