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Choosing a ladder isn’t easy. Following are my current recommendations, and I hope readers will share some of your choices and feedback about what brands and types of ladders worked out well for your needs.
ToolGuyd’s Top Picks
Best Platform Step Ladder: Gorilla Ladders 4.5′ with Flip Top
Best Work Platform: Gorilla Ladders Slim-Fold Aluminum
Best Extension Ladder: Louisville Fiberglass
Best Multi-Position Ladder: Werner Aluminum
Best Multi-Use Step Ladder: Werner LeanSafe Fiberglass
Best Step Ladder: Louisville Fiberglass
Best Platform Ladder: Gorilla Ladders 4.5′ w/ Flip Top
I have been using a Gorilla Ladders platform step ladder for quite a few years, and their latest two-platform model seems to be a slight improvement.
The best thing about the Gorilla Ladders platform ladder is that it folds down into a very slim profile, making storage quite easy.
I love the deep top platform, which is comfortable to stand on, and the top flips open to provide a wider surface for resting your tools and parts.
I was concerned that the ladder’s 4.5′ height would fall a bit short, but I have found their claims of 9′ reach to be spot-on. This ladder is rated for Type I duty, with a 250 pound load rating. This is an extremely convenient light duty ladder.
Best Work Platform: Gorilla Ladders Slim-Fold
I have also been using a Gorilla Ladders work platform, and their newest iteration further improves on its design with a central carrying handle.
This platform has a standing surface of 47.25″ long x 12″ wide, and it has a 20″ height. It has a 300 pound load rating.
I like Gorilla Ladders’ aluminum work platforms due to their ease of opening and closing, and as with the platform step ladder I’ve been quite please with their build quality.
My work platforms come out when I need a short boost in height and might need to move around a little bit. Stepping sideways a little beats having to get down and shift a step ladder over when I need to shift positions.
Best Extension Ladder: Louisville Fiberglass
I took a big risk in ordering a Louisville extension ladder from Amazon a few years ago, with a maximum reach of 16′. (I bought the 16-foot ladder, FE3216, which has a 13′ max extended length and 15′ 11″ reach height.)
I was hesitant about how the fiberglass ladder would ship, and it arrived via freight and damage-free.
This ladder is an absolute pleasure to use. It’s sturdy, well-built, easy to extend, and much easier to move around than I had anticipated.
I would buy Louisville’s FE3200-series ladders again in a heartbeat.
My 16′ ladder has a Type IA rating and 300 pound capacity.
Best Multi-Position Ladder: Werner 22′ Aluminum
A couple of years ago I needed an extension ladder, but couldn’t fit a long-enough model in my SUV, and I didn’t want to wait for an extension ladder to ship. So, I purchased a Werner MTIAA-22 multi-positional aluminum ladder. This model has a Type IAA rating, with a 375 pound load capacity.
There are a wide range of multi-positional ladders out there, with different load ratings and by all kinds of makers.
I like this Werner because it’s sturdy and fairly easy to adjust, not to mention versatile. You can use this as a step ladder, an extension ladder, two separate scaffold ladders, and it can also be used at the bottom of stairs (carefully) and close to walls.
There’s a downside – these ladders can be heavy to move and you need to read the user instructions very carefully to ensure proper adjustment and that the locks are positively engaged during use.
I have checked out other multi-position ladders in stores, and Werner always seems to be the best-made option.
If I had to do things over, I might go for a smaller version instead, but the tall A-frame configuration does come in handy. Due to the weight, this is very cumbersome as an extension ladder, and I imagine the same is true for other makes and models.
If I had to buy another multi-position ladder, I’d likely stick with Werner.
Best Multi-Use Stepladder: Werner LeanSafe 6′ Fiberglass
Werner recently sent over a test sample of their 6′ LeanSafe fiberglass step ladder, and I am thoroughly impressed. I don’t know if I’d be happy using any other type of step ladder again.
The Werner LeanSafe is fairly lightweight and easy to move around, and I like how fast it adjusts and locks into position.
You can use Werner LeanSafe ladder as a traditional step ladder, or as an extension ladder. Also, the LeanSafe aspect features special grooves in the top section that can support the ladder against building corners or narrow materials such as studs.
This 6′ model has a 10′ reach and it has a IAA rating with 375 pound load capacity.
Best Step Ladder: Louisville Fiberglass
If all you need is a basic A-frame-style step ladder, Louisville would be my current pick, due to their build quality and reasonable pricing. One thing I like in particular about Louisville step ladders is that they seem to have larger and very grippy feet, even on the lower priced and lighter weight models that I’ve seen.
What to Look at When Shopping for a New Ladder
Height and Reach
Different types of ladders tend to be specified differently, with respect to their advertised lengths and maximum reach.
Be sure to check product specs carefully to ensure that you don’t come out short with a ladder that cannot safely provide the reach you’re looking for.
You should also refer to manufacturer guidelines, which will advise as to safe working heights. Many have selection charts to help users match the correct size of ladder to their desired working heights.
For instance, Werner specifies that their 16′ size extension ladder has a 13′ maximum working length and 9′ 2″ approximate highest standing level. They recommend that extension ladders be 7 to 10 feet longer than the highest support or contact wall, such as a wall or roof line.
For their step ladders, Werner specifies the maximum reach height as being 4′ higher than the step ladder size. For example, to reach a 9′ height, they say you should select a 5′ step ladder. This assumes the user is 5′ 9″ with a 12″ vertical reach, and so taller or shorter users might want to consider other ladder sizes accordingly.
Some ladders are heavier and more cumbersome to move around than others. If you’re buying a new type of ladder for the first time, consider the weight to ensure you can maneuver it easily for the type of work you have in mind.
There are 5 ladder weight ratings, ranging from light duty (Type III) to very heavy duty (Type IAA). This is the load capacity for everything that the ladder will be supporting, including you, your tools, materials, clothes, and anything else.
- Type III: 200 lbs
- Type II: 225 lbs
- Type I: 250 lbs
- Type IA: 300 lbs
- Type IAA: 375 lbs
How easy is it to set up and adjust a ladder? For some types of ladders, most makes and models work in similar ways, but this won’t be true for other types of ladders.
Personally, I prefer to stick with known and reputable brands, and even they sometimes have to issue recalls due to manufacturing or design defects.
That unknown brand on Amazon, with the wheels and fancy telescopic feature – does it have a safety load rating? One brand claims to have a 16.5 foot length and 330 load capacity, but can you trust them? Are you going to trust your life and safety to a ladder you found on Amazon that doesn’t even have a website?
Materials – Aluminum vs. Fiberglass
Aluminum ladders tend to be a little lighter and less expensive, while fiberglass ladders tend to be more rigid. Some users tend to prefer or require one type over the other, such as electricians who cannot use metal ladders where they might contact electrical conductors.
Before you buy a new ladder, think about where you’ll store it.
The Best Time to Buy a Ladder
Generally, there is no particular “ladder shopping season” or time of year when it’s best to buy a new ladder.
However, depending on what you’re looking for, there are usually big sales and aggressive promo pricing on basic step ladders, work platforms, and multi-position ladders every year around Black Friday.
Other than that, there might be occasional discounts here and there, but there usually aren’t any regular promotions on medium to heavy duty ladders throughout the year.
Note: nothing in this post should be considered as professional safety advice, please do your own due diligence and consult manufacturer safety guidelines and other safety authorities for safe usage instructions.
There are very many ladder injuries each year, with many of them stemming from improper use or setup. Learning how to use a ladder properly, and adhering to manufacturers’ safety guidelines can help to minimize the risk of personal injury. This is especially true for extension ladders, and probably more so than any other type of ladder.
Which ladders would you guys recommend? Do you have a favorite brand or type of ladder, or have you found any ladders that you would recommend others steer clear of?
Also, if you want to request that a specific ladder brand, style, or model be reviewed in the future or considered for an update to this post, please let me know!