Are you in the market for a new step ladder? If so then beware, you might be surprised at how many choices you’ll be confronted with when choosing the best step ladder. Here’s a little info to help you decide what is right for you.
Ratings and Classifications
Step ladders are commonly found in 4 to 8 foot heights. They are classified as Type III (Red), II (Green), I (Blue), IA (Orange), and IAA (Yellow). All have color coded ratings (as noted) that signify the weight a ladder can safely bear. You should find these color codes clearly marked on their labels. Sometimes you’ll find the entire ladder is the color of its classification.
Type IAA is the sturdiest and heaviest class, thus Type III is the flimsiest. Type III is really for occasional use and quick jobs like changing a light bulb. Meanwhile, Type IA and IAA are “contractor quality,” built for daily abuse (and the price will reflect it too). For the DIYer of average build, Types I and II should be sufficient to handle regular use.
Wood – Heaviest (30 lbs. for 6′) but sturdier than aluminum. Least expensive material, which makes it the ladder of choice for the DIYer on a budget. Should be stored inside – wet conditions will shorten the woods life.
Aluminum – Only slightly more expensive than wood, they are the lightest of stepladders and can withstand wet weather. Only drawback is aluminum will conduct electricity so you have to work with extra caution around bare wires.
Fiberglass – Lighter than wood but heavier than aluminum. Weatherproof, so it can be stored outside. Does not conduct electricity, so it is the preferred ladder if you do a lot of electrical work.
Platform ladder – Typically has treads vs. rungs so that your whole foot is supported. When the ladder is opened, the top tread unfolds into two creating a platform. If you feel a little unsafe on the highest rung of a stepladder because it’s a bit wobbly, then this would be the best step ladder for you. The drawback is you won’t get as much height. You’ll pay a little extra for the added stability.
Flip-up Ladder – This is like a two for one. The top of the A-frame has a locking hinge so that the back legs of a 6 foot step ladder flip up which turns it into a straight ladder at about 10 1/2 feet.
Articulated Ladder – If you like the 2 for 1 concept of a flip-up, then you’ll love the added bonus of an articulated ladder. These have a hinge at the top of the stepladder so it can extend straight like the flip-up but also has two additional hinges so it can convert into a scaffold that’s usually 3 feet long and 3 feet tall.
Combination Ladder – This type of ladder can fold and/or extend into multiple lengths and combinations (hence the name). So it can act as a step ladder, extension ladder, A-frame ladder, staircase ladder, and two scaffold supports. This ladder will do the most damage to your wallet, but if it avoids having to buy a second (or third) ladder because your standard step ladder can’t handle the job, then you may be ahead of the game.
So, in conclusion, if you take a few minutes to answer these questions:
- How will I be using my step ladder?
- How often will I be using it?
- How will I be storing it?
- Are there any special weight considerations?
- What’s my budget?
…then you will be ready to make a sound decision when choosing the best step ladder to purchase.