Best Ladders for Homeowners

Need help in choosing the right ladders for your home?

I’m a long-time homeowner and former home inspector, so I’ve owned many ladders. I bought three different ladders before finding the one I liked best for getting on roofs.

I also have a 6-foot step ladder, a 5-foot step ladder and a total of four step stools in my house and garage.

As a homeowner, you will most likely want to have the following ladders:

  1. one extension or straight ladder for exterior use;
  2. one step ladder, maybe two, for general use in your home and garage; and
  3. at least one step stool for use inside your home.

This article is not a review of ladders. I don’t see a need for that. Buy a brand name ladder and you’ll be fine.

If you come across a ladder you’re interested in but aren’t familiar with the manufacturer, let me know and I’ll research it for you.

If you haven’t done so yet, please read carefully my article on ladder safety:

Ladder Safety in the Home – Preventing Injury and Death.

5 factors to consider when buying a ladder

1. Should I buy a new or a used ladder?

I recommend buying a brand name ladder. If you’re going to buy a used one, check it thoroughly for damage – bends, cracks, scratches, dents. The ladder should still have its clearly legible safety label on it, informing you of important safety information such as weight limitation and maximum reach. Here is an image of a sample safety label.

2. Who will be using the ladder?

Before buying a ladder, you’ll need to know how much the heaviest person who will be using the ladder weighs. And that’s just for starters.

Every ladder has a Duty Rating. The table below shows these ratings. The label above shows its ladder to be a Medium Duty, Type II. We see in the chart below that the maximum load for a Type II is 225 pounds.

It’s important to understand that these ratings are based on the total weight that will be on the ladder, as noted in the table below. Failure to follow weight limit recommendations could result in personal injury or death.

3. What will the ladder be used for?

You will want one of the following types of ladders for exterior use:

  • extension;
  • articulate, or multi-position;
  • straight (maybe, for lower heights).

If you have a two-story home, you’ll probably need a long extension ladder. For a one-story home, a straight ladder or multi-position ladder would probably do you well. Some call the multi-position ladder a multi-purpose ladder, and rightly so. It can be used as an extendable straight ladder, as an extendable step ladder, and as an adjustable ladder for certain unique situations such as on stairs.

As a homeowner, you will be more apt to be carrying heavy loads on an extension or multi-purpose ladder. Remember to take into account the weight of any material being carried on the ladder, AND the weight of anything stored on the ladder, AND the weight of everything being worn by the person who will be using the ladder.

4. How much does the ladder weigh?

Extension and multipurpose ladders aren’t exactly light. Their weight depends largely upon size, duty rating, and whether it’s metal or fiberglass. Aluminum ladders are lighter than their fiberglass counterpart.

If you lack upper body strength and need to use an extension ladder, I would recommend buying a lighter weight aluminum one. Or you might try the Little Giant Model. They have wheels, making it easy to move around. I love my Little Giant Model 17.

Fiberglass extension ladders, 24 feet in length with a duty rating of 375 pounds, weigh around 50 pounds.

Aluminum multi-position ladders, 22 feet in length when extended, with a duty rating of 300 pounds, weigh about 40 pounds.
Improper handling of a ladder can cause injury. Lifting anything above your shoulders can result in a shoulder injury. Improper turning or twisting while lifting can cause strain. Use caution and common sense when handling ladders.

5. Where will I store the ladder?

If you have plenty of space in your garage or shed, great! If not, measure before you buy.

It would not be good if your newly-purchased 24-foot extension ladder arrived, and when you go to mount it, it won’t fit where you had planned. Measure before you buy.

If you’re going to store an extension ladder on a rack on the wall, keep it below shoulder height if at all possible. As a reminder, lifting anything above your shoulders can cause injury to your shoulders.

Storage of a multi-position ladder probably won’t present as big of a challenge as for an extension ladder. Multi-position ladders and step ladders can be stored in their folded position and leaned against a wall, but only if there are no toddlers or small children who might have opportunity to climb it.

Ladders and step stools for interior use

For general use around the house, a six-foot step ladder will suffice. If you need to be kind to your budget, a five-foot one will do in most cases, especially if you’re 6-foot or taller. Just don’t be tempted to overreach on a five-footer.

You could use the same multi–position ladder you use for outdoors, but I found it easier to use a lighter weight aluminum step ladder. A platform ladder might come in handy, though I’ve only used one when I did some painting at the church I used to work at.

You might also find it handy to have a shorter folding type ladder. It can quickly and easily be stored in a closet or in the kitchen pantry.

And let’s not forget the little step stool. We keep one in the kitchen, one in the laundry room and one in the bathroom (for our grandkids to use, with supervision, of course). The rubber pads on the bottoms of the feet keep it from sliding.

A word of caution concerning step stools – they can become a trip hazard, especially those with metal legs. They’re very sturdy but the legs stick out.

Be careful of step stools that don’t have “grippers” on the bottoms of the feet. We have a wooden one that slides on our kitchen tile floor. Our grandson was helping me “juice”, and the stool slid away from the kitchen island. Thankfully I was right there with him and kept him from falling.

Closing thoughts

Everyone’s needs and preferences are different. Take your time and select the ones that best fit your needs. Most importantly, be safe!

I look forward to hearing from you. I will reply promptly to all questions, comments, criticisms (preferably positive) and recommendations.

Best Regards.


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