Extension Ladder Guide: Don’t Get the Wrong Extension Ladder

The reasons you need an extension ladder are at least as numerous as the rungs on the ladder itself. Cleaning gutters, retrieving a toy from the roof, getting a kitten out of a tree, washing second story windows and painting trim work are just a few of the tasks that can only be accomplished with an extension ladder. When you think about how to buy an extension ladder, there are a few points you will want to keep in mind.

>> Which extension ladder material is best?

Ladders of all types, from four-step ladders to the tallest three-section models, are made of either aluminum, fiberglass or wood. Each of the types of extension ladders have their own unique advantages, and deciding which is the best extension ladder for you requires that you understand the benefits of each material.

• Aluminum: Aluminum is a naturally occurring element that is prized for its noncorrosive properties, which means tools made from it are very durable. Aluminum extension ladder sizes can range from 30 feet to more than 70 feet when fully extended. These are the best extension ladders for working both indoors and outdoors thanks to their lightweight construction.
• Fiberglass: Fiberglass is made from a combination of plastic epoxy and glass fibers which when combined create a non-conductive material that is ideally suited for a variety of extension ladder designs. Like aluminum, these ladders are also durable and noncorrosive, but their non-conductive property makes them the best extension ladder for working near electrical and power lines.
• Wood: In the world of home improvement supplies, few things are as traditional as a wood extension ladder. Like their aluminum and fiberglass counterparts, they are available in various extension ladder sizes. They provide solid performance, and while they are made almost entirely of wood, they do have metal components, making them conductive.

>> Consider the different types of extension ladders

There are three basic types of extension ladders, each with their own distinct advantages. Selecting the right one is a matter of understanding the differences and how they will apply to your circumstances.

• Conventional: The most popular model is the conventional or traditional ladder, which is composed of either two or three sections that telescope to extend the length of the ladder. They are designed to be used on a flat surface.
• Self-leveling: The bottom one to three feet of the legs of these ladders can be extended or retracted to accommodate uneven surfaces. This type of extension ladder is ideal if you anticipate working in an environment with uneven surfaces such as steps and ramps. These are often the best extension ladders for painting contractors who must work in a variety of locations and positions in order to do their job.
• Folding: Folding or articulated ladders extend their length by moving and locking jointed sections into the vertical position. The most versatile feature of folding ladders is their ability to assume configurations other than vertical, such as a bridge for scaffolding or a vertical section followed by an almost horizontal section for working over obstructions.

>> Consider duty ratings

Duty ratings are placed on each and every ladder, and they tell you how much weight the ladder is able to hold. Remember that just because a ladder is larger, doesn't mean that it is rated for a greater amount of weight. Be sure to consult the duty rating of any ladder you are considering, and keep in mind that the rating includes not only yourself, but any power tools or other equipment you are carrying.

Duty rating Type Max weight Special duty (extra heavy) Type IAA 375 lbs Extra heavy duty Type IA 300 lbs Heavy duty Type I 250 lbs Medium duty Type II 225 lbs Light duty Type III 200 lbs >> Which ladder features are most important

The best extension ladder is the one that has the features that will enable you to complete your various jobs safely and efficiently. Your decision about how to buy an extension ladder should be based on a clear understanding of how each feature affects performance.

• Height: A wide range of heights are available. It is important to select an extension ladder size that is long enough to reach the highest point you need to reach while maintaining a secure foothold and handhold.
• Base: The base or feet should have non-skid rubber pads and should freely pivot to accommodate a variety of angles easily. A flared base is where the bottommost portion of the legs is wider the rest of the ladder. This offers a more stable platform.
• Adjustments and locks: The manner in which each section slides or moves up and down is called the adjustment. It is important to look for a ladder that has adjustments that you are comfortable with. It is also wise to check the locking or latching mechanism that secures the sections to be certain they are solid and secure.
• Rungs: The rungs or steps of a ladder should be slip resistant and comfortable under your feet.

Be sure to research the individual ladders you are considering buying as much as you feel is necessary in order to make an informed decision. This way, you'll be able to select the best extension ladder from among the different types of extension ladders to fit your individual needs. With all the diverse products from extension ladder brands available, there are many options to choose from and finding the right one for you should only take a little bit of time and perseverance on your part.

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