The 11 Best Ladders of 2022, Tested and Reviewed

Our favorite is the Bauer Corporation 6-Foot Fiberglass Folding Step Ladder

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Ladder Testing Group Shot

The Spruce/ Dera Burreson

The right ladder puts everything around your home or workspace within reach and is easy to store when not in use. We purchased and tested 23 ladders of various types, including stepladders, extension ladders, and multi-position ladders, in The Lab in Des Moines, Iowa. Our team of testers set up every ladder, climbed its full height, and then folded it back down, taking note of the ease of each maneuver. Each ladder was evaluated for stability, ease of setting up/folding down, portability, value, and extra features.

Larry Campbell, a licensed electrical contractor and member of The Spruce's Home Improvement Review Board, notes that when choosing the right ladder for your purposes, keep safety in mind with regard to height. "Your stepladder should be tall enough so that you never need to stand with your knee higher than the top of the ladder." He further cautions that when working with electrical wiring, it is safest to stick with a fiberglass ladder rather than an aluminum ladder, as aluminum is highly conductive to electricity. 

Our top choice, the Bauer Corporation 6-Foot Fiberglass Folding Step Ladder, won top marks for its stability, extra-deep rungs, easier climb than most other ladders, and handy top work tray for tool storage.

Here are the best ladders according to our testers.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Bauer Corporation 6-Foot Fiberglass 350-Series Folding Step Ladder

4.8
Bauer Corporation 4' 5 - Step Fiberglass Lightweight Folding Step Ladder

Wayfair

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Effectiveness
    5/5
  • Portability
    4/5
  • Features
    4/5
  • Value
    4/5
What We Like
  • Deep treads

  • Sturdy locking mechanism

  • Handy tool tray

  • 20-degree climb angle

What We Don't Like
  • Large to store

  • Comparatively expensive

Our top choice, the Bauer Corporation 6-Foot Fiberglass Folding Step Ladder, scored high marks with our tester for its stability, sturdiness, and reasonable weight that makes it easy to carry the ladder to wherever it’s needed. At an overall height of 6 feet, you can safely stand on the fourth rung up from the bottom, giving you roughly 10 feet of reach. That’s enough for most people to easily change ceiling light bulbs, paint walls, or reach lower tree branches for trimming. And the ladder’s sturdy locking mechanism prevents scary sway while you’re above the ground.

You’ll feel secure while climbing this ladder; our tester commented that the deep treads provided excellent foot support, even with his size 11 shoes. Plus, the feet of the ladder are capped with non-marring rubber “boots” that provide an extra layer of stability—no wobbles here. The top of the ladder has a small tray and six tool holders to keep your hammer, nails, and other necessities right at hand while you work. And you’ll appreciate the ladder’s 20-degree angle when fully open, which is an easier climb than many similar brands’ offerings. 

With the ladder’s strong fiberglass frame, aluminum rivets, zinc-plated steel supports, cross braces, and reinforced spreader mounts, it’s no wonder that our tester felt this was an ideal choice for any homeowner who wanted a commercial-grade ladder for frequent tasks around the house or yard. The ladder is rated for up to 375 pounds.

Type: Stepladder | Weight Capacity: 375 pounds | Max. Reach Height: 10 feet | Ladder Weight: 25 pounds | Wheels: No | Material: Fiberglass | Incorporated Tool Holder: Yes

Bauer Corporation 6-Foot Fiberglass 350-Series Folding Step Ladder

The Spruce / Dera Burreson

Best Budget: HBTower 5-Foot Wide-Step Folding Step Ladder with Tool Platform

4.6
HBTower 5-Foot Step Ladder

HBTower

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Effectiveness
    4/5
  • Portability
    5/5
  • Features
    4/5
  • Value
    3/5
What We Like
  • Large work tray

  • Easy to store

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult to assemble

Ladders can be expensive, but we found that the HBTower 5-Foot Wide-Step Folding Step Ladder with Tool Platform performed as well as many more costly ladders, but without as much damage to your wallet. Our tester praised the stepladder’s sturdiness, even on slightly uneven ground, and added that it was very easy to climb up and down the wider-than-typical rungs. This sturdy ladder stands a bit over 5 feet when closed and has 8.5-inch deep, strong plastic rungs, which perfectly fit our tester’s men’s 9.5 shoes. Thanks to the top rail, you can safely stand on the fourth rung, giving you roughly nine feet of reach. 

The very top of the ladder is a strong plastic platform with molded compartments designed to hold a 1-gallon paint can and a few tools. The tray can be removed if desired. While not the most robust ladder, the steel frame holds up well to typical household use, and it has rubber feet to prevent slipping or sliding on smooth floors. The ladder folds down to quite impressive thinness, making it easy to store if your closet space is tight. As for weight, our tester commented that he could easily tote the ladder with one hand and added that it was very easy to open and close.

Type: Stepladder | Weight Capacity: 330 pounds | Max. Reach Height: 9 feet | Ladder Weight: 18.5 pounds | Wheels: No | Material: Steel | Incorporated Tool Holder: Yes

HBTower 5-Foot Wide-Step Folding Step Ladder with Tool Platform

The Spruce / Dera Burreson

Best Splurge: Little Giant Ladders M17 Velocity with Wheels 17-Foot Multi-Position Ladder

4.6
Little Giant Ladders Velocity with Wheels

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Effectiveness
    5/5
  • Portability
    3/5
  • Features
    4/5
  • Value
    4/5
What We Like
  • Very versatile

  • Sturdy construction

  • Leveling feet

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy

No need for multiple ladders: Instead, Velocity from Little Giant gives you a stepladder, staircase ladder, extension ladder, 90-degree ladder, or scaffolding (a separate trestle kit is required) all in one. One ladder for many projects is a big win for homeowners who are short on storage space but need access to various types of ladders. Our product tester commented that the ladder could be used in a wide variety of scenarios for projects or repairs around the home, both inside and out.

The big advantage of this multi-position ladder is its Rock Lock adjustment system that lets you reconfigure the ladder quickly and easily—our tester praised the ease of changing the ladder’s configurations and noted that it was very sturdy and easily supported his weight in any of the configurations. Ratcheting leg levelers allow the user to safely position the ladder, even on ground that’s not level. The ladder folds to a reasonable size when not in use, and the wheels make it easy to maneuver wherever you need it when duty calls, although our tester noted that it’s a heavy ladder. 

The M17 has a total height of 17 feet when fully extended, with a maximum standing level of 11.7 feet and a maximum reach of 18.1 feet. When used as a stepladder, you can adjust it to anywhere between 4 feet and 7 feet in height, depending on how you configure it. The ladder is rated 1A, which means it can hold up to 300 pounds and is made of aluminum.

Type: Multi-position | Weight Capacity: 300 pounds | Max. Reach Height: 18.1 feet | Ladder Weight: 35 pounds | Wheels: Yes | Material: Aluminum | Incorporated Tool Holder: No

Little Giant Ladders M17 Velocity with Wheels 17-Foot Multi-Position Ladder

The Spruce / Dera Burreson

Best With Handrails: HBTower 3-Step Ladder with Handrails

4.5
HBTower 3 Step Ladder with Handrails

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Effectiveness
    4/5
  • Portability
    4/5
  • Features
    1/5
  • Value
    4/5
What We Like
  • Handrail for stability

  • Light

  • Detachable tool bag

What We Don't Like
  • Difficult to close

Sometimes you don’t need a tall ladder—you just need a little boost. And for those times, the HBTower 3-Step Ladder with Handrails is perfect for your needs. Says our tester, “It’s great for reaching high cupboards in a kitchen or screwing in a lightbulb that’s over your head.” This sturdy ladder has a steel frame and three heavy-duty plastic rungs, which at 8.3 inches deep, give plenty of support for your feet. Metal handrails on both sides of the rungs as well as at the top of the ladder are covered with a cushiony foam to provide even more safety and stability while using the ladder. Our tester stated that she felt very stable while climbing up and down. 

The ladder includes a handy detachable tool bag with four pockets to hold paint brushes, screwdrivers, hammers, or other small tools. When fully open, the entire ladder, including the upper handrail, measures 55 inches high. The top rung is 27.6 inches above the floor, so you’ll have approximately a 7-foot reach height, which is enough for most small tasks around the house but not high enough for painting the tops of the walls. Our tester noted that the ladder is lightweight and easy to open but did take a hard yank to close. Still, this is a useful ladder for around-the-house use, particularly for a user who isn’t very tall. The maximum weight capacity stated by the manufacturer is 500 pounds.

Type: Stepladder | Weight Capacity: 500 pounds | Max. Reach Height: 7 feet | Ladder Weight: 16.1 pounds | Wheels: No | Material: Steel | Incorporated Tool Holder: Yes

HBTower 3-Step Ladder with Handrails

The Spruce / Dera Burreson

Best for Versatility: Gorilla Ladders 14-Foot Reach MPXA Multi-Position Ladder

4.6
Gorilla Ladders 14 ft. Reach MPXA Multi-Position Ladder

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Effectiveness
    4/5
  • Portability
    5/5
  • Features
    1/5
  • Value
    4/5
What We Like
  • Sturdy construction

  • Multiple configurations

What We Don't Like
  • Confusing user manual

If you want all the versatility of the Little Giant Velocity but don’t need quite as much reach, nor do you want to spend quite as much money, then the Gorilla Ladders 14-Feet Reach MPXA Multi-Position Ladder is just what you are looking for. The ladder has four configurations with a total of 13 height possibilities; you can use it as an extension ladder, a 90-degree stepladder, a double-sided stepladder, or a staircase ladder. Our tester noted that although the owner’s manual was a bit confusing, he easily figured out the ladder’s workings on his own, after which it was very easy to use. He added that this ladder is likely the only one an average homeowner would need. 

Made of sturdy aluminum with large strong hinges, the ladder remains steady without too much sway. Our tester said that the rungs were somewhat narrow but felt strong, and although there was a bit of wobble in the fully extended position, he felt safe and secure while climbing up and down the ladder. Two wheels at the base make it easy to maneuver the ladder to your worksite.

When used as a stepladder, there are three height settings, with the lowest at 3.5 feet and the highest at 5.5 feet for a reach height of around 9.4 feet. As an extension ladder, there are five height settings, with the lowest at 6.10 feet and the highest at 10.10 feet for a reach height of around 14.3 feet.

Type: Multi-position | Weight Capacity: 300 pounds | Max. Reach Height: 14.3 feet | Ladder Weight: 24 pounds | Wheels: Yes | Material: Aluminum | Incorporated Tool Holder: No

Gorilla Ladders 14-Foot Reach MPXA Multi-Position Ladder

The Spruce / Dera Burreson

Best Telescoping: Ohuhu 12.5-Foot Aluminum Telescoping Ladder

4.6
Ohuhu Aluminum Telescoping Ladder

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    3/5
  • Effectiveness
    5/5
  • Portability
    5/5
  • Features
    2/5
  • Value
    4/5
What We Like
  • Very sturdy

  • Easy to extend and collapse

What We Don't Like
  • Some complaints about lack of longevity

This sturdy aluminum telescoping extension ladder from Ohuhu unfolds to a maximum height of 12.5 feet, giving you a reach height of around 11 feet. That’s high enough for many tasks around the home, including reaching most ceiling lights, painting walls, and accessing high cabinets. However, it isn’t high enough to safely hang holiday lights or clean gutters on most houses. Fully folded, it’s only 33.5 inches high, and our tester noted that it’s light and easy to store.

Despite its telescoping design, the ladder is very stable and steady. Our tester says, “The ladder felt very sturdy, even toward the top, and the rungs are solid and wide enough to be comfortable.” Collapsing the ladder is easy: Just depress the two red buttons simultaneously, and the ladder slowly retracts, making it less likely you’ll get a finger pinched. Our tester felt the ladder was easy to set up, extend, and collapse and very easy to carry when fully collapsed. All in all, this is a solid choice if you only need a basic ladder for occasional simple tasks around your home.

Type: Telescoping extension | Weight Capacity: 330 pounds | Max. Reach Height: 11 feet | Ladder Weight: 25.4 pounds | Wheels: No | Material: Aluminum | Incorporated Tool Holder: No

Ohuhu 12.5-Foot Aluminum Telescoping Ladder

The Spruce / Dera Burreson

Best With Platform: Cosco 6-Foot Signature Series Step Ladder

4.6
Cosco 6-Foot Step Ladder

Cosco

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Effectiveness
    4/5
  • Portability
    5/5
  • Features
    5/5
  • Value
    3/5
What We Like
  • Tool tray plus paper towel holder

  • Sturdy platform

  • Easy to open and close

What We Don't Like
  • Relatively expensive

For the best stability when standing atop a ladder, a platform-style stepladder with an extended frame for support and grip is your best option. And the Cosco 6-Foot Signature Series Step Ladder won our top score for ladders in this category. Our tester noted, “The overall build is secure and sturdy. I went to the top, and it did not move.” The ladder has three regular rungs, but the fourth top rung is a large platform that measures 14.2 inches wide and 13.5 inches deep. The platform is 45 inches above the ground, and the frame extends 24 inches higher, providing a secure grip should you need one. The reach height of this ladder is around 8 feet, making it a good choice for many projects.

There’s also a large tray for holding your can of paint, paint brushes, or whatever other tools you need, and most handy of all, there’s an attachment for holding a roll of paper towels. Our tester especially appreciated that feature, which is perfect for quick cleanups of paint drips or similar messes. He also commented that the ladder was very easy to carry, open, and collapse, and even with a fully loaded tray, it remained steady. The ladder’s maximum weight capacity is 350 pounds.

Type: Stepladder | Weight Capacity: 350 pounds | Max. Reach Height: 8 feet | Ladder Weight: 17.6 pounds | Wheels: No | Material: Aluminum | Incorporated Tool Holder: Yes

Cosco 6-Foot Signature Series Step Ladder

The Spruce / Dera Burreson

Best Aluminum: Gorilla Ladders 19-Foot Reach MPXT Multi-Position Ladder with Project Top

4.6
Gorilla Ladders 19 ft. Reach MPXT Aluminum Multi-Position Ladder with Project Top

Home Depot

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Effectiveness
    4/5
  • Portability
    3/5
  • Features
    5/5
  • Value
    5/5
What We Like
  • Very sturdy

  • Multiple configurations

  • Tool tray

What We Don't Like
  • Rungs somewhat slim

Multi-position ladders provide the utmost in versatility, but this aluminum offering from Gorilla Ladders also provides a little more reach height than many similar ladders. The MPXT 19-Foot Reach Multi-Position Ladder transforms from a double-sided stepladder to an extension ladder to a stairway ladder to a 90-degree ladder fairly easily, although our tester commented that it’s helpful to read the user’s manual for an overall idea of how the ladder works before using it. 

The ladder has a tool tray at the top, providing an easy way to stash your paint can, drill, hammer, or other tools while you work. There’s also one oversize rung, which serves as a small standing platform in the extension configuration. Our tester noted that the ladder felt safe and sturdy, even when extended and leaning against a wall. 

This aluminum ladder adjusts to four different heights in the double-sided stepladder position, with a maximum reach height of 12.2 feet. There are seven adjustable heights in the extension configuration, with a maximum reach height of 19.1 feet, which is high enough to clean gutters, hang holiday lights, or paint fascia trim on a one-story house or even some two-story homes.

Type: Multi-position | Weight Capacity: 375 pounds | Max. Reach Height: 19.1 feet | Ladder Weight: 38.6 pounds | Wheels: Yes | Material: Aluminum | Incorporated Tool Holder: Yes

Gorilla Ladders 19-Foot Reach MPXT Multi-Position Ladder with Project Top

The Spruce / Dera Burreson

Best Fiberglass: DEWALT 4-Foot DXL3010-04 Fiberglass Step Ladder

4.7
DeWalt DXL3010-04 Fiberglass Stepladder

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Effectiveness
    5/5
  • Portability
    4/5
  • Features
    3/5
  • Value
    4/5
What We Like
  • Very sturdy

  • Wide rungs

  • Tool tray

What We Don't Like
  • Scratches easily

  • Spreaders can be difficult to open

If you just need a sturdy stepladder for tackling tasks around your home while feeling secure in your footing, then the DEWALT DXL3010-04 Fiberglass Step Ladder will serve you well. This 4-foot ladder offers an approximate 8.5-feet maximum reach, which is enough in most homes to paint walls, clean ceiling fan blades, change ceiling light bulbs, and access the highest cupboards. Our tester especially liked the ladder’s wide feet and sturdy base, which provided excellent stability, even when reaching overhead. The rungs are 25 percent wider than typical rungs, making them feel a little more comfortable to stand on, even during long work sessions.

The ladder has a useful tray top with compartments designed to hold a paint can or paint tray, power or hand tools, and small parts such as screws or nails. This ladder doesn’t have wheels, but according to our tester, it’s light enough for most people to easily carry. Made of fiberglass, the ladder is constructed for heavy-duty use, with wide braces and an impact-absorption system. The maximum weight capacity is 300 pounds.

Type: Stepladder | Weight Capacity: 300 pounds | Max. Reach Height: 8.5 feet | Ladder Weight: 14.1 pounds | Wheels: No | Material: Fiberglass | Incorporated Tool Holder: Yes

DEWALT 4-Foot DXL3010-04 Fiberglass Step Ladder

The Spruce / Dera Burreson

Best All-Purpose: Stealth 17-Foot Multifunction Telescoping Ladder

4.8
Stealth Multifunction Ladder

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Effectiveness
    4/5
  • Portability
    5/5
  • Features
    1/5
  • Value
    4/5
What We Like
  • Multiple configurations

  • Sturdy

  • Good reach height

What We Don't Like
  • Locks somewhat difficult to open

  • Narrow rungs

If you’re looking for a good, all-purpose ladder that can help you with the widest variety of projects inside and outside your home, give the Stealth Multifunction Telescoping Ladder a look. It functions as a 4.4-foot stepladder, a 7.1-foot stepladder with a maximum reach of 11.1 feet, a staircase ladder, a 90-degree ladder, or a 14.9-foot extension ladder with a maximum reach of 17.7 feet. According to our tester, some of the safety locks were a bit difficult to open, but that was a testament to their effectiveness. 

Made of aluminum, the ladder has wide-flare legs with rubber boots for extra stability, as well as two wheels for portability. The rungs are somewhat narrow, but the ladder is stable and without sway, especially when used as a stepladder. All in all, this is a good choice for general use, although not the best pick if you are looking for a heavy-duty ladder that’s going to see hours-long work sessions. The ladder has a maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds.

Type: Multi-position | Weight Capacity: 300 pounds | Max. Reach Height: 17.7 feet | Ladder Weight: 41 pounds | Wheels: Yes | Material: Aluminum | Incorporated Tool Holder: No

Stealth 17-Foot Multifunction Telescoping Ladder

The Spruce / Dera Burreson

Best Extension: Louisville 16-Foot Fiberglass Extension Ladder FE3216

4.6
Louisville 16-Foot Extension Ladder

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4/5
  • Effectiveness
    4/5
  • Portability
    4/5
  • Features
    1/5
  • Value
    4/5
What We Like
  • Easy to extend and collapse

  • Swivel safety feet

  • Very sturdy

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy

If you need a ladder to access the rain gutters or roof of a typical 1-story home, then the Louisville 16-Foot Fiberglass Extension Ladder FE3216 should be sufficient. This isn’t the right choice if you have an exceptionally high roof, but for most 10-foot roofs, the ladder’s 13-foot length with a 15.1-foot reach height will do the trick. Our tester found it sturdy and solid, with minimal wobble, even on the upper rungs. 

Made of fiberglass, the ladder has swivel safety feet that can compensate for slightly uneven ground, mar-resistant end caps so the ladder won’t scratch the surface it’s resting against, and smooth-performance outside glides so you won’t struggle to extend the ladder to its full height. Our tester said the ladder was easy to extend and retract, although it did have a slight learning curve to do so. This ladder’s maximum weight capacity is 300 pounds.

Type: Extension | Weight Capacity: 300 pounds | Max. Reach Height: 15.1 feet | Ladder Weight: 31 pounds | Wheels: No | Material: Fiberglass | Incorporated Tool Holder: No

Louisville 16-Foot Fiberglass Extension Ladder FE3216

The Spruce / Dera Burreson

Compare

Overall Rating Design Effectiveness Portability Features Value
Bauer Corporation 4' 5 - Step Fiberglass Lightweight Folding Step Ladder
Best Overall:
Bauer Corporation 6-Foot Fiberglass Folding Step Ladder
4.8
5 5 4 4 4
HBTower 5-Foot Step Ladder
Best Budget:
HBTower 5-Foot Wide-Step Folding Step Ladder
4.6
4 4 5 4 3
Little Giant Ladders Velocity with Wheels
Best Splurge:
Little Giant Ladders Velocity 17-Foot Multi-Position Ladder
4.6
5 5 3 4 4
HBTower 3 Step Ladder with Handrails
Best With Handrails:
HBTower 3 Step Ladder with Handrails
4.5
5 4 4 1 4
Gorilla Ladders 14 ft. Reach MPXA Multi-Position Ladder
Best for Versatility:
Gorilla Ladders 14-Foot Reach MPXA Multi-Position Ladder
4.6
4 4 5 1 4
Ohuhu Aluminum Telescoping Ladder
Best Telescoping:
Ohuhu Aluminum Telescoping Ladder
4.6
3 5 5 2 4
Cosco 6-Foot Step Ladder
Best With Platform:
Cosco 6-Foot Signature Series Step Ladder
4.6
4 4 5 5 3
Gorilla Ladders 19 ft. Reach MPXT Aluminum Multi-Position Ladder with Project Top
Best Aluminum:
Gorilla Ladders 19-Foot Reach MPXT Multi-Position Ladder
4.6
4 4 3 5 5
DeWalt DXL3010-04 Fiberglass Stepladder
Best Fiberglass:
DEWALT 4-Foot Fiberglass Step Ladder
4.7
4 5 4 3 4
Stealth Multifunction Ladder
Best All-Purpose:
Stealth Multifunction Telescoping Ladder
4.8
4 4 5 1 4
Louisville 16-Foot Extension Ladder
Best Extension:
Louisville 16-Foot Fiberglass Extension Ladder
4.6
4 4 4 1 4
Final Verdict

After extensive testing in The Lab, our top ladder is the Bauer Corporation 6-Foot Fiberglass Folding Step Ladder, which won the highest marks for design, portability, sturdiness, value, and features. But if budget is a big concern, we also recommend the HBTower 5-Foot Wide-Step Folding Step Ladder with Tool Platform, which is a sturdy ladder that is perfect for many tasks around the home.

How We Tested the Ladders

We purchased and tested 23 different ladders in our testing lab in Des Moines, Iowa. All testers first watched a safety video on the appropriate use of ladders, and then they got to work. Each ladder was fully extended or opened, with the tester noting how much effort it took to do so, the smoothness of the ladder’s moving parts, and the security of any locking mechanisms. Multi-position ladders were moved into every possible configuration, with the tester assessing how easy and intuitive it was to do so, as well as how long it took.

Testers then stepped onto the ladder’s first rung, noting how stable and sturdy the ladder felt, as well as whether or not the rung was wide enough for comfort and stability. They then climbed to the ladder’s highest rung as per safety regulations and then climbed back down. Each ladder was given points for its sturdiness during use, with points lost for wobbling or swaying. Testers also noted whether the ladder’s rungs were spaced appropriately to make the climb easier, as well as the steepness of the ladder when fully open. 

If the ladder had adjustable legs, the tester set the ladder on a slightly irregular surface, adjusted the legs to compensate, and then noted the effectiveness, ease, and speed of doing so. If the ladder had a tool tray, platform, or another work area, then the tester tried them out using buckets of paint, hand tools, and similar items that would be commonly used while standing on a ladder. 

Finally, the testers folded the ladders down fully, evaluating how easy or difficult it was to do so, as well as the effort required to move the ladder from place to place. Testers scored the ladders on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 being the lowest possible for design, effectiveness, portability, features, and value. 

Once the results were in, the numbers were tallied, and the winners were declared.

0:29
Watch Behind-the-Scenes Action From Our Ladders Testing

What to Look for in a Ladder

Type

While a stepladder is the most common type of ladder for most around-the-house tasks, extension ladders, telescoping ladders, and multi-position ladders are popular options to consider if you need to reach higher up. 

Stepladders, such as our top choice the Bauer Corporation 6-Foot Fiberglass Folding Step Ladder, are defined by their A-shaped frames that self-support on four legs. Multi-position stepladders allow you to balance the ladder on a staircase or other uneven surfaces. Stepladder heights range between 6 feet and 20 feet, although most people find a ladder that's 6 to 12 feet sufficient.

Straight ladders are tall ladders that have to lean against something for support. They have only two legs. Extension ladders are basically straight ladders with adjustable heights. You'll find extension ladders with maximum heights of up to 40 feet, although for most people not needing to access the roof of a multi-story home, 12 to 20 feet is more than sufficient. Our top choice of extension ladders, the Louisville Fiberglass Extension Ladder FE3216, is 16 feet tall when fully extended. Telescoping ladders are basically extension ladders that "collapse" when not in use for easier storage.

Height and Reach Height

Think about how high you'll need to climb on your ladder—your answer to that will tell you what height you should be looking at. Ladders range from small step stools with just one rung to giant extension ladders that can reach the roofs of multi-story homes. By choosing a ladder that's appropriately sized for your needs, you’ll avoid safety concerns, since a ladder that's too short may tempt you to lean and sway on the top rung, while one that's too long can become unsteady at the base.  

But the actual height of the ladder isn't the most important number; you also need to consider reach height. It is not safe to stand on the top rung of a ladder, meaning you'll be lower than the ladder's full height. On a stepladder, you should avoid standing on the top two rungs. However, the length of your own arms and torso adds to how high you can safely reach. As a rough guideline, a stepladder's reach height is 4 feet beyond its actual height, assuming that the user is an average height of 5 feet, 9 inches tall. So, for example, a 10-foot stepladder has a reach height of 14 feet.

On an extension ladder, safety requirements are to avoid standing on the top four rungs. Also, because extension ladders must lean at an angle against a support rather than standing upright on their own, you lose some of the total height. That reduces your reach quite a bit, typically to around a foot lower than the extension ladder's height. So, for example, if you have your extension ladder at 18 feet, your reach height will be 17 feet. These numbers are somewhat variable, but as the user's height, the distance between ladder rungs, and the angle at which the ladder is set all influence reach height.

Group shot of ladders with a tester

The Spruce / Dera Burreson

Weight

Lightweight ladders are much easier to move—plain and simple. Aluminum ladders are among the lightest options, with some weighing as little as 20 pounds. The HBTower 3-Step Ladder with Handrails weighs just a bit over 16 pounds, making it a lightweight option. Fiberglass options can tip the scale at around 50 pounds and may require a bit of heavy lifting. Many large, heavy stepladders and multi-position ladders have wheels at the base for improved portability.

Versatility

If you want the most bang for your buck, it might make sense to look for a versatile ladder with articulated joints. These special mechanisms allow the ladder to bend and lock in place to achieve different configurations. Some of the most popular multi-purpose ladders can do double duty as an A-frame ladder and extension ladder, while others are real multitaskers with up to seven different ladder positions available, including scaffolding ladder, 90-degree ladder, and staircase ladder.

Duty Rating

All ladders sold in the United States are required to have a safety specifications label affixed to the side that states the ladder's duty rating. This safety guideline states the maximum weight capacity of the ladder, which includes not just your own weight but also the weight of all tools and supplies you set on the ladder or hold in your hands while standing on the ladder.

The five categories of ladder duty ratings are:

  • Type 1AA (Extra Heavy Duty) 375 pounds
  • Type 1A (Extra Heavy Duty) 300 pounds
  • Type 1 (Heavy Duty) 250 pounds
  • Type 2 (Medium Duty) 225 pounds
  • Type 3 (Light Duty) 200 pounds
FAQ
  • How do you store a ladder?

    When not in use, you’ll need to store your ladder. You’ll want to choose a spot where it’s easy to access the ladder when needed, yet not in the way of other household items or passersby. 

    • Store your ladder in a protected spot away from intense heat or freezing temperatures and where it won’t be subjected to excessive moisture or humidity. 
    • Fold your ladder for storage and retract any extensions. 
    • You can store your ladder by leaning it horizontally or vertically against a wall, but be sure it’s not extending into any area where it’s likely to be a tripping hazard.
    • If you hang your ladder for storage, place a hook every 6 feet to prevent warping.
  • How are extension ladders measured?

    There are several measurements to consider when choosing a ladder.

    You’ll need to know the measurement of the ladder when fully extended. Keep in mind, however, that for safety, you should never stand on the top four rungs, nor should a ladder used to access a roof be more than three rungs higher than the height of the roof itself. 

    For storage or transport purposes, you’ll also want to know the length of the ladder when fully retracted and folded.

    The width of the ladder’s base is also important when choosing a spot for storage.

    Finally, the distance between ladder rungs should be 10 to 14 inches, with the same distance between every rung. 

  • Are ladders safe?

    Ladders are not inherently dangerous, but are easy to misuse, leading to numerous injuries each year. Keep safe by following these general guidelines whenever using a ladder:

    • Don’t climb a ladder if you are feeling dizzy, tired, or unwell. 
    • Don’t use an extension ladder in high winds, in severe storms, or when wet.
    • Wear slip-resistant shoes when climbing a ladder.
    • Climb the ladder slowly and carefully without sudden movements or swaying side-to-side.
    • There should never be more than one person on a ladder at a time. 
    • Always set a ladder on even, solid ground. Avoid muddy spots, puddles, slopes, or loose ground, such as gravel or pebbles. 
    • When climbing a ladder, face forward, so your body is between the ladder’s side rails. Don’t lean to the side.
    • Never move a ladder while it’s in use. 
    • Don’t place your ladder in front of a door that might be opened while the ladder is in use. 
    • Never stand on the top rung of a ladder. It’s best not to use the top two rungs of a stepladder. 
    • Stay off any ladder that is damaged, has loose rungs or sides, or is generally in poor condition.

    Johnathan Brewer, a member of The Spruce's Home Improvement Review Board adds, "Always ensure the ladder is properly footed prior to use. And tying the top of an extension ladder to the roof you are climbing is also smart safety precaution."

Why Trust The Spruce?

This article is edited and updated by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has over a decade's experience, not only in writing about all things related to the home but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs.

For this roundup, she received extensive input from ladder testers at The Lab in Des Moines, Iowa, where 23 ladders were put through their paces. She received extra insight from Larry Campbell, who is a licensed electrical contractor and a member of The Spruce Home Improvement Review Board.

What Is Spruce Approved?

Here at The Spruce we want to ensure we fully stand behind every product we recommend, and that when we say something is the best, we mean it. You might have noticed The Spruce Approved badge next to the products on this list. Every product with this badge has been rigorously tested in person and carefully selected by our expert team of lab testers and editors. In most cases, we buy all these products ourselves, though occasionally we get samples provided to us directly by companies. No matter how we procure products, they all go through the same tests and must meet the same strict criteria to make the best-of cut. We also pride ourselves on transparency and will always let you know if we received a product for free.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ladders 101: Choosing the Right LadderAmerican Ladder Institute.

  2. Ladders 101: Choosing the Right Ladder. American Ladder Institute.

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