How to Choose a Ladder

How to Choose a LadderIf you ask most people, they will tell you that a ladder is a ladder.  Who cares what size it is, or if it’s created for a specific purpose.  If truth be told, most of us will just grab a chair, bench, or stool from the dining room table to reach that pesky spot that seems to be just out of reach.

Most will stand on a chair to reach thingsWhile that may be a very convenient way to take care of things around the house, such as daily cleaning or changing light bulbs, in the end, it’s extremely unsafe.

Besides, if you are going to fall and become forced to make an emergency center visit, wouldn’t you rather it be accompanied with an amazing story like saving a small child from oncoming traffic rather than having to proclaim, “I fell off a bar stool while trying to reach a book?”

Questions to Ask

Convinced you need a ladder around the house?  Let’s figure out which one will work best for the tasks that await you.  Here are some initial questions to ask yourself:

  1. Will the ladder be used indoors, outdoors, or both?
  2. What projects do you have planned for the ladder?
  3. How much weight will be on the ladder? (Include tools and materials).
  4. What obstacles will be in the way of the ladder?
  5. Is this the only height you need to reach?
  6. What are the chances of working near electricity or power lines?
  7. What is the absolute highest height you will need to reach?

Start Narrowing Down Your Choices

Once you’ve answered these questions you can begin to narrow down your selection.  Choosing the correct type of ladder will be key.  We recommend you bring the answers to these questions with you to your local Ritter Lumber and seek assistance with your decision. But, just to help you be even more informed, here is a list of some standard types of ladders and their uses.

Step StoolStep Stool

Step stools usually have only 1 or 2 steps and are used for small tasks around the house such as changing lightbulbs or dusting hard to reach places.

Step Ladder

Step ladders are self-supporting.  They fold out so that both the front and back sections act as supports.  Usually only one side is meant for climbing.  They comestep ladder in varying heights and are used for routine jobs both inside and outside the house.

The ladder should be no more than 3 feet shorter than the place you need to reach and should be placed on a flat, sturdy surface.

Step ladders vary in height from 4’ to 20’ tall.

Extension Ladder

Extension ladders provide flexibility when it comes to the height you need to reach.  The downside is that they must be leaned against a surface in order to be used.  Many people make the mistake of leaning their extension ladders against wobbly, or rounded surfaces resulting in serious injuries.

Extension ladders can range in height from 16’ to as high at 40’.

Multiple types of ladders to choose fromMulti-use Ladder

Multi-purpose ladders are a bit more expensive, but are great for getting all types of tasks done at home.  They are designed to fold and extend into various type of ladders from short step ladders, to high reaching extension ladders.They are also used as scaffold bases by painters and construction professionals.

Ask your Ritter Lumber professional if a multipurpose ladder is right for you.

Other Considerations


Height obviously plays a part in your decision making.  Most step ladders come with a warning suggesting you not stand higher than on the last two steps at the top of it. This of course is for safety reasons. Standing too high on a step ladder increases the possibility for you to lose your balance and fall.

Furthermore, it is recommended that extension ladders extend at least 7’ further than the highest supported point on the ladder itself.

WeightRemember to include the weight from tools on a ladder

We understand this may be a sensitive subject for some, but your weight does make a difference.  As you are shopping for your next ladder, check the weight limitations on the ladder you are considering and don’t forget to add in any tools you may be carrying up and down it as well.

Ladder Material

Ladders tend to come in one of 3 types of materials.  Which type you choose depends on many factors from price, to strength, to its ability to provide safety from electrical wires.

  • Wood – Electrically non-conductive when it is kept clean and dry.  Wooden ladders are also the most economical.
  • Aluminum – These ladders are lightweight and easier to move from job to job.  They are also strong and resistant to corrosion. However, they WILL conduct electricity.
  • Fiberglass – Fiberglass ladders are a great value and one of the more popular choices with the pros.  They are also electrically non-conductive which makes them a much safer choice.

Putting some thought into your ladder purchase is important.  Not only will it affect your ability to complete the project you have planned, but more importantly it has a huge bearing on your safety. Do your research and visit your local Ritter Lumber for more guidance and answers from our trained staff of professionals.

Remember the old saying, “It’s not the fall that hurts you, it’s hitting the ground.”  Stay safe and good luck on your next project.

Ritter has you covered! Our knowledgeable associates are here to help answer your questions and help you find what you need.