Ladders can broadly be classified into two types: the rigid ones made of a hard substance, and the malleable ones made of ropes. In the past, ladders were made of wood, but they were prone to rotting, decay, and conductivity while wet. However, with advanced technology and superior materials being used to construct the modern ones, they have become safer, stronger tools that can be used around the house and also in any industry. While some of them, like attic and loft ladders, are still made of wood, others that are designed for outdoor work are made of materials such as aluminum or fiberglass.
Step ladders are ideal for use around the house. They are stable and comfortable to use, as most have large flat steps, instead of rungs, which make balancing easier. Most have an added advantage of an extended frame on top of the steps, which the users can hold on to and steady themselves. They can be used to get something from the pantry, to clean hard-to-reach places, or to hang a picture on the wall. While a wooden step ladder would go well with wooden furnishings in a country home, most people prefer easy-to-store aluminum step ladders that are best suited for contemporary apartments. Their starting price is approximately USD 40.
Among the different varieties, this one is the best option for painters, decorators, and electricians. The advantage of this type is that it holds the workman as well as his tools and products. This is a great ladder for any kind of work that requires standing at an elevation or height for extended periods.
There are two main types of platform ladders. The one with a platform on the top of a single ladder is usually used in homes for domestic use, especially by people painting their homes. If you decide to go for this kind, ensure that you buy one that has a strong safety handrail. The other kind has a platform supported between two separate ladders. As these are more commonly used for commercial applications, they are mostly made of aluminum or steel. When buying either type, ideally pick one that has a platform with a slip-resistant surface which ensures that the user and the tools do not slide off. A basic model is likely to start at USD 50, but a commercial one could cost more than USD 1000 depending on the design.
Extension ladders are well suited for use at high levels in an outdoor environment. They can be adjusted to the exact height they are required for, be it painting a house or clearing the gutters. They have two or more sections; the sections slide, and the top part of the ladder is extended using a rope and pulley system. These sections are of the same length, and the ladder gets its stability from the 1½ feet overlap of the sections. Most extendible ladders have only two sections, but if it has more sections, the overlap must be bigger too.
These ladders will also have a locking device that stops the extended section from moving while in use, and end caps that prevent the structure from being damaged. A word of caution, the extension types are more dangerous to use than other ladders, and extra care must be taken while using them. They are available in sizes that start from 6 ft and go up to 60 ft, with the lowest price being around USD 200.
This variety is great for people with limited storage space. They can be easily carted around in a truck, stored on an RV, or kept in a small shop. The most common type is the adjustable A-frame aluminum design. This can be dismantled into four main pieces and folded so that it looks like one long piece of metal. A folding ladder with an aluminum lock has less chances of rusting. Larger versions of this ladder are used commercially and in industries. They are used by most law enforcement agents, firefighters, and rescue workers. They fold up to the size of a briefcase, and can be assembled in less than five seconds. They can hold more than 1000 lbs of weight.
This ingenious type transforms itself to be used as a step ladder, straight ladder, scaffolding, or even a table. They have several hinges or joints, which makes it possible to manipulate them into various positions for different jobs. Look for good stabilizers on the feet and sturdy locks on the hinges/joints. The best ones are tough, and are thus made of either aluminum or fiberglass. The price range is between USD 200 and 400.
Many buyers are perplexed when it comes to choosing between an aluminum and a fiberglass ladder. While the aluminum ones are extremely strong and weather-resistant, making them perfect for commercial use, they conduct electricity and become unusable on being exposed to heat. The fiberglass ones are lightweight, sturdy, and don't conduct electricity.
When using a ladder, comply with the safety techniques and checklists that have come with it. There is also a weight limit which must be adhered to strictly.