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Nothing on your to-do list is out of reach with the right ladder. Available in many different sizes and configurations, a ladder is a must-have item for homeowners, handymen, and construction professionals alike. While a step ladder is the most common type of ladder, extension ladders, telescoping ladders, and multi-position ladders are popular options to consider.
Typically, you’ll be choosing between lightweight aluminum ladders or more durable (but heavier) fiberglass ladders. Pay special attention to the duty rating—a Type 1A rating indicates the ladder is capable of handling loads up to 300 pounds and are typically considered the safest option, though you might only need a Type 1 duty ladder if you have simple, routine tasks to complete that won’t put much strain or stress on the ladder.
Here, the best ladders for any job.
Best Overall: Werner Reach Fiberglass Podium Ladder
Multiple sizes available
Large, safe platform
For a sturdy ladder that provides enough reach for most household tasks, consider the innovative Werner Fiberglass Podium Ladder. This stepladder comes in heights from 5 to 12 feet and features a Type 1A rating to hold up to 300 pounds. The 7-foot-tall version allows for a 10-foot reach in all four directions around the ladder, thanks to the stable podium with toe-guard and HolsterTop. When compared to other platform ladders, this can be far more practical and sturdy. In addition, the HolsterTop has a convenient space to set your tools while you have a job in progress.
The extra stability and top-notch load capacity of this ladder make it a popular pick for homeowners and DIYers that want a stable platform to complete tasks. The fiberglass construction does make it heavy by comparison to some lightweight aluminum ladders, but it still folds easily for storage or transport.
Best Multi-Position: Little Giant Velocity Multi-Use Ladder
Sturdy and safe
Available in several sizes
Danger of pinching fingers
The advantage of a multi-position ladder is the ability to complete a wide range of tasks or projects without needing to own and store several different ladders. Instead, a model like the Velocity from Little Giant gives you a step ladder, extension ladder, 90-degree ladder, or scaffolding (separate trestle kit is required). One ladder for many projects is a big win for homeowners that are short on storage space or don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on various types of ladders.
This version from Little Giant is made of lightweight aluminum and has a respectable 300-pound weight rating. Keep in mind, however, that lightweight is a relative term, and some users may still be surprised by the heft of this multi-use ladder. Our tester weighs in to say that this is a sturdy, well-built step ladder but is not the lightest option if you only need a simple step ladder for small household tasks. A big advantage of this multi-position ladder is its Rock Lock adjustment system that lets you reconfigure the ladder quickly and easily—but be aware that you’ll need to use caution not to pinch your fingers in the frame during set-up and folding. When you’re done using the ladder, its slim profile only measures 9 inches and fits in tight spaces in the home or garage.
“This ladder is made with a special alloy
of aerospace-grade aluminum that makes it 20 percent lighter than its
competitors. At 38 pounds, I was impressed with how easy it was to carry this
ladder around and fit it into tight spaces.“—Sarah Vanbuskirk,
Best Telescoping: Ohuhu 12.5-Foot Telescoping Ladder
Easy to store
Available in several sizes
Danger of pinching fingers
This sturdy, aluminum telescoping ladder gives you up to 12.5 feet of reach but folds small enough to fit in the trunk of your car. The Ohuhu Telescoping Ladder is an aluminum extension ladder with a weight limit of 330 pounds. Despite its telescoping design, it is very stable and steady. The one thing to keep in mind is that it does collapse quickly at the touch of a button when you’re folding it for storage, so you’ll need to watch your fingers. However, it’s the perfect option for anyone that frequently needs to transport a ladder in their car or is limited on height and space for ladder storage.
Best Step Ladder: Louisville Ladder FS2005 Fiberglass Step Ladder
Top designed to hold necessities
Perfect for use around the home
Available in several sizes
No safety platform
The Louisville FS2005 step ladder is constructed of fiberglass for durability and stability and has a 250-pound duty rating. This 5-foot model makes a great ladder for painting and other projects. It weighs about 14 pounds, and folds easily for storage in your garage, shed, or basement.
Step ladders are a safe option for reaching overhead areas and for completing tasks like changing light bulbs, cleaning gutters, or painting a room. While this medium-duty ladder isn’t a commercial-grade option, it still provides solid performance in household tasks. In addition, you'll appreciate the molded top that holds tools, nails, and other accessories necessary for small jobs; that means less trips up and down the ladder to fetch what you need.
Best Extension Ladder: Werner D6200 Fiberglass Extension Ladder
High enough to reach second story
Sturdy and stable
Hard to store
Reach new heights with this top-selling extension ladder from Werner. The D6200 model is a 24-foot fiberglass ladder that offers a sturdy design and a Type 1A 300-pound load capacity. While heavier than aluminum, fiberglass is an excellent choice for an extension ladder since it tends to be stronger and less prone to twisting or bending than aluminum; it also is resistant to electricity, making it safer if your work brings you around power lines.
While climbing to the very top of an exceptionally tall ladder can be nerve-wracking, this extension ladder calms your nerves with its secure, stable footing even when fully extended. Despite the extra weight from the fiberglass construction, it’s still light enough for a single person to maneuver.
Best Heavy-Duty: Little Giant Ladder Systems Articulating Fiberglass Stepladder- Type 1AA
Cushioning pad to protect drywall
375-pound weight limit
No platform for paint and other tools
The King Kombo Fiberglass ladder from Little Giant is a heavy-duty ladder with a Type 1AA load rating of 375 pounds. However, this workhorse ladder is also a multi-position ladder, making it perfect for a wide range of tasks. It converts from an A-frame ladder to an extension or leaning ladder. A unique feature is the rotating wall pad that cushions the ladder when leaning it against drywall, siding or other surfaces you don’t want to risk scratching.
In addition to meeting or exceeding all OSHA and ANSI standards, this heavy-duty ladder also was awarded the 2019 OSHA New Product of the Year award, and the 2019 Pro Tool Innovation Award, in part thanks to its hard-to-beat stability and versatility. Professionals and DIYers alike are impressed with this ladder and love its features.
Best for Hedge Cutting: Werner FTP 6-Foot Fiberglass Tripod Step Ladder
Ideal for uneven ground
Stable and secure
Available in several sizes
Hedge cutting can be tricky—the uneven ground and bushy nature of the shrubbery can make it difficult to reach the top of hedges and you may find yourself precariously leaning from the ladder to reach one last untrimmed shoot. A tripod ladder is a great choice for hedge cutting or any other landscape needs since three legs offer incredible stability on uneven surfaces.
The Werner FTP Tripod Step Ladder is a Type 1A ladder with 300-pound weight capacity and a single rear rail for set-up in areas with close quarters. This allows you to position the ladder close to shrubbery for safe, efficient hedge cutting. Many landscapers know the value of a tripod ladder for hedge cutting and other outdoor tasks. The ladder resists ‘walking’ on uneven surfaces and can be set up as close as possible to your work area.
Best Budget: Werner 6-foot Aluminum Step Ladder
Not too heavy
Tray for paint and other supplies
Not as durable as heavier ladders
250-pound weight limit
For a basic ladder on a budget, the Werner 6-foot Aluminum Step Ladder is a top choice. This no-frills Type 1 aluminum ladder isn’t as robust as some other step ladders, and only has a 250-pound weight limit; however, it shines as a lightweight and stable option for many everyday tasks around the home, jobsite, or garage. You'll also appreciate how easy it is to transport, thanks to the aluminum construction. In addition, this ladder is very stable—giving you confidence in the integrity of this budget-minded tool.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Little Giant Ladder Systems 5413-001 Velocity Ladder with Wheels
Wheels for easy transport
Available in several sizes
Safe and sturdy
Danger of pinched fingers
Unfolded, this multi-use ladder—which doubles as an extension ladder—folds out to 22 feet, so feel free to toss out that old wooden dinosaur in your shed and take full advantage of the many ways to put this ladder to use. Plus, it has two wheels for easy transport to wherever you need it.
Diversity is the name of the game with the Little Giant Velocity Ladder, which is designed for several different uses. In other words, this is a worthy addition to any home whether you’re in need of a new staircase ladder, trestle-and-plank ladder, 90-degree ladder, A-frame ladder, extension ladder—or all of the above. You can expect to get a lot of use out of this ladder, but should keep in mind that it weighs a little on the heavy side, clocking in at nearly 40 pounds.
What to Look for in a Ladder
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 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 step while one that's too long can become unsteady at the base.
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. Fiberglass options tip the scale at around 50 pounds and may require a bit of heavy lifting.
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.
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 two rungs, nor should a ladder used to access a roof be more than three rungs higher than the height of the roof.
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, 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.
- Stay off any ladder that is damaged, has loose rungs or sides, or is in generally poor condition.