History of the Ladder
A ladder consists of a varying number of rungs, or steps between two vertical poles.
A ladder is used to access high places in a safe manner. The exact time of the invention of the ladder is unknown.
However, the earliest known evidence is found in the Spider Caves of Valencia, Spain.
These caves contain a painting of a ladder from the Mesolithic period.
The painting portrays two men using a ladder to reach a wild honey bee nest, likely to harvest honey. This painting is approximately 10,000 years old however, it is believed that the idea of a ladder has been used even earlier than this.
The functional design of today’s ladders can be traced back to ancient Hebrew and Egyptian cultures. Over time these cultures perfected and refined the design, making them efficient and practical. All ladders meet a basic function to reach high places in a safe manner.
However, there are many different ladder designs that are precisely targeted for specific jobs. You may need different ladders for different projects or jobs. Its imperative to understand these differences in order to best meet your project needs.
Types of Ladders
When you think of a “ladder” this type will probably be what comes to mind. A step ladder is one of the most common and popular types of ladders.
There are two main styles of step ladders. A front step ladder features one side for use with rungs you can climb, while the other side is intended for support only. On the contrary, a twin step ladder is designed for use on both sides.
If you need more space for your tools, platform ladders are available that feature a platform area for extra work space, this area is not designed to hold the user of the ladder and is only meant for holding tools and supplies.
If you need more area to work from on a ladder, a podium ladder is designed to support the full weight of the user, giving them a safe area to work from near the top of the ladder.
- Easy to store
- Sensible for indoor use
- Simple to use
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Extension ladders are used to offer versatility in height to reach places by leaning the ladder against a wall or the side of a structure. These ladders only work in a straight formation and may require abundant storage because of this.
A telescopic extension ladder is an adjustable and portable ladder consisting of two or more sections, used to adjust the length of the ladder. This type of ladder is non-self-supporting and only intended for use by a one person.
The maximum length of an extension ladder is reliant on on the duty rating of the ladder in combination with the number of sections it contains. These sections are meant to overlap in order to provide sturdiness and durability.
A straight ladder is like an extension ladder however, this ladder has only one section and is not extendable.
- Adjustable height
- Can be used by one person
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Multi-position ladders give you extra adaptability. Depending on the model, a multi-position ladder can modify to perform as a single- or twin-sided step ladder, a stairway ladder or an extension ladder.
These ladders have various movable legs and locking mechanisms which allow them to transform into multiple ladder styles.
On some multi-position ladders a built-in leveling system can help you adjust the ladder for use on uneven ground, which eliminates the need for an attachable leveling system. Some models can also function as a work bench.
- Multiple ladder styles in one
- Easily portable
- Features safe locking mechanisms
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An attic ladder is a folding staircase that pulls down from the ceiling to deliver access to the attic space. This ladder, then folds up into the ceiling frame out of the way when not needed.
An attic ladder makes accessing the attic much easier and safer. Attic ladders come in different lengths and it is important to measure from ceiling to floor to ensure you purchase the appropriate size.
The features of an attic ladder can vary, some ladders fold out while others are telescopic. The ladder may or may not include a handrail.
- Makes trips to and from the attic safer
- Easy to operate
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Library ladders come in three general formations, based on the use and surrounding architectural foundations. Library ladders are not only functional, but they can add a decorative sophistication to the room.
There are various styles of library ladders:
- Straight. The straight style is self-explanatory. It’s a straight vertical ladder that is intended to go against a vertical wall or cabinetry
- Bent. A bent library ladder, features a bend halfway to work around an obstacle such as a countertop. A ladder manufacturer can make this ladder based on the obstruction’s height and depth dimensions that you provide
- Loft. A loft-style ladder has lengthy side rails at the top to allow one to enter a loft or upper level mezzanine floor
When a ladder just isn’t enough, scaffolding can be the answer for construction or overhaul jobs that entail elevated labor over a large area. A scaffold gives you the flexibility to work and move on a stable surface to get the job done. There are various types of scaffolding that are suitable for different jobs.
Rolling and portable scaffolds make quick work of reaching an elevated job and are a good choice for projects where workers need to change positions regularly. These units consist of a frame and one or more platforms or stages for standing. Portable scaffolds often require only minimal setup.
When not in use as work platforms, portable scaffolds can function as carts, storage shelves or work benches. Some models fold for easy storage.
Pump jack systems create a modifiable work podium intended for outdoor projects, allowing you to reach an elevated work area. This system allows you to alter your working height as desired.
In this system, manual jack devices, suspend a work platform on upright supports. A worker functions each jack to raise or lower the platform.
An articulated ladder is a transportable ladder with single or multiple pairs of locking hinges. These hinges allow the ladder to be set up in several formations. Allowing the ladder to be used as a single or extension ladder, a stepladder, a support ladder, scaffold or work bench.
The locking position of the hinges allow the user to set-up at the appropriate angles for each configuration that the ladder allows.
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A step stool is a fold-able, self-supporting type ladder which is 32 inches or smaller in overall height. This type of ladder features flat steps and a top cap that can be climbed on. Like other ladders, step stools are available in various duty ratings that will accommodate different weights.
It is important to consider the weight of the user and the maximum load they may be carrying while using the stool to choose an option that is safe.
The platform ladder is a self-supporting portable ladder that is non-adjustable in length, with a platform located at the highest available standing level. It has a hinged design for ease of storage.
The top platform is surrounded on three sides by a railing in order to protect the user and make for a safe experience. This type of ladder requires even ground support on all four sides due to its design.
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Flexible ladders have very limited uses. However, their use is still significant. These ladders can be used when climbing curved surfaces such as caves. They can also be used on boats in case of emergency. Flexible ladders are lightweight and can be transported easily.
What Size Ladder do I Need?
When you’re looking to purchase a ladder, it is important to choose one that will fit your needs. Ensuring that you choose the right ladder will keep you safe and allow your project can be completed without putting you in danger. When shopping, it is important to understand the maximum length reach of the ladder.
With a step ladder you will want to focus on the overall height of the ladder and what point you will need to reach. It is recommended to stand no higher than two rungs down from the top cap of a step ladder.
Keeping this in mind, an average 5-1/2-foot-tall person will be able to safely access a point that is four feet beyond the full length if the ladder. This estimation takes into account a 1-foot vertical reach. These estimations will help you best predict what size ladder you will need.
With an extension ladder, it will need to be several feet taller than the desired point of reach. The highest you can safely stand is no more than four rungs from the top.
The sections must overlap, in order to keep the ladder durable when in use. It is recommended to account for a 3-foot minimum overlap for a ladder that is 36 feet in length or less.
This overlap should be increased to at least 5 feet for ladders that exceed 36 feet, an extension ladder will need to be angled with the base 2 feet away from the base that it is resting on for every 4 feet in height. This will ensure that the ladder is not too steep and is properly supported.
The extension ladder should extend at least 3 feet above the top support point for safety. Taking all of this into account, you will want to choose an extension ladder that is 7 to 10 feet longer than the highest point it will rest on.
To help you figure out what size ladder you may need, consider that the roof crown of a normal single-story house is 17′ from the ground, while a double story house is 25′ from the ground to the roof’s peak. This will mean you would ideally want a 28’ ladder for a single-story house and a 36’ ladder for a double story home.
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Aluminum ladders are very lightweight, due to this they may also flex under pressure and should not be used for heavy-duty projects.
Aluminum should also never be used near active electrical equipment. These types of ladders are great for home use as they are lightweight an easily maneuverable.
Wood ladders do not conduct heat or electricity.
Wood ladders are not recommended for industrial or commercial use as they have variable strength and are prone to damage by warp and decomposition.
Fiberglass ladders are heavier than aluminum and are stronger because of this as well.
Fiberglass ladders are moisture and corrosion resistant and do not conduct heat or energy.
However, when put under extreme stress a fiberglass ladder runs the risk of snapping. These types of ladders are not well-suited for hefty weight.
Steel ladders are very strong and are well-suited for heavy-duty projects.
The drawbacks are that they are not moisture or corrosion resilient and they conduct heat and electricity, so they should not be used near active electric equipment.
You may find that some step stools or small household ladders are made from plastic.
These ladders are not meant for heavy-duty weight and should be kept from extreme temperatures to protect their structure.
While the body may be made of plastic it is likely that the hardware used (if any) will be made of metal.
Ladder Load Capacity Ratings
While the size of a ladder is an important aspect to keep in mind while shopping, the load capacity is an important factor as well. These ratings are based on the maximum weight the ladder can carry. It’s important to know the load capacity of your ladder.
As this rating is not related to the length of a ladder, do not assume a longer ladder has a higher load capacity. Always check the sticker on the side of the ladder to fully understand the weight limit of the ladder.
When choosing your ladder, you will need to factor in:
- Your weight
- Any equipment or protective equipment you may wear
- The weight of any tools you carry
- The weight of any tools or supplies stored on the ladder
Combine all weights to find out what load capacity rating you will need.
Load Capacity Ratings Clarified
There are five different classes of duty ratings.
Type III ladders are typically household ladders. These ladders are recommended for light-duty work and can support a load of 200lbs. These ladders are usually manufactured with a length from 3 to 6 feet.
Type II ladders are used in various commercial applications. Painters, electricians and maintenance workers may prefer this medium-duty ladder. These ladders come in a variety of materials and can support a load of 225lbs.
Type I ladders are the strongest class of ladders and is used for specialized services such as construction and utilities. This class of ladders is broken down into three subcategories as follows.
- Type 1 step ladders are manufactured for loads up to 250 lbs
- Type1A step ladders are manufactured for loads up to 300 lbs
- Type1AA step ladders are manufactured for loads up to 375 lbs
It is important to consider the duty rating of a ladder before purchasing one for your next project. A type III ladder may be enough for small projects in the home, however you will want something with a higher duty rating when taking on a larger project.
There are various accessories for ladders that can help make your work more efficient. Before using an accessory, it is important to ensure that it is meant for use with your ladder. This will ensure your safety while working. Below you will find various accessories and their uses.
A stabilizer can make positioning the ladder easier. A stabilizer is a metal bar that spans the outer edge of a ladder and provides a standoff from the resting point of the ladder. This can be helpful when you need to position the ladder over a window or other obstacle.
A ladder jack is a device that features a platform resting on brackets that attach to a ladder, which provides a working platform similar to a scaffold. This helps offer sideways mobility when using extension ladders.
These devices are typically used in light-duty applications and it is important to ensure the ladder jack is compatible with your ladders and can withstand the required amount of weight you will be placing on it.
A leveler kit can help the user level a ladder on uneven surfaces. This is done with adjustable base units that attach to the legs of the ladder in order to level the ladder.
There are various platforms and work space attachments that you may use with step ladders. Most platforms feature slip-resistance footing for safe standing. These platforms can provide more mobility for the user when on the ladder.
If you find that you need more area for your tools and supplies, there are options that allow you to add a tray for these items. These vary in attachment style and design, however, they all serve the same purpose.
This attachment can give you extra space for your tools and supplies to avoid multiple trips up and down the ladder.
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When purchasing a ladder, you may be interested to know more about various brands and what their products can offer you. Below are a few well known ladder brands with vast experience and expertise in the field of ladder manufacturing.
Gorilla Ladders are known for their quality products, but also known for their low prices.
This has made them a popular option for home-use as well as use in professional applications.
With many years of experience, Gorilla Ladders is knowledgeable about providing a top-notch ladder at an affordable price.
Louisville Ladder is a ladder company, based in Louisville, Kentucky.
With a long history dating back to 1946, Louisville Ladder has a rich history of product development.
Currently, their ladders boast great reviews from consumers and are an affordable ladder option.
Werner is a very well-known ladder company with and extensive variety of ladders to meet every need.
Werner has outstanding product reviews from their customers and is known for their high-quality ladder construction.
Finding the right ladder is important. When you’re faced with this decision make sure you take into account all the various features and options detailed above. This will allow you to reflect on what will fit your project the best.
Knowing the difference between ladder styles, variations in height, performance rating and material will ensure you purchase a ladder that is a proper fit. This will help keep you safe and ensure that your project flows smoothly.
Remember, you can accomplish the results you want with the right ladder.