Buying Guide:

Trying to pick the right ladder from a 20-foot-high stack at the home center will leave you dizzy. We've answered some questions that will help you sift through the options.

What should the ladder be made of?

Wood: Economical and stable, though longer straight ladders can flex. Wood is nonconductive when clean and dry, but it is very heavy. Rungs or treads should be let into rails and allow for retightening.

Aluminum: Lightweight, rigid, and strong, but conductive (never use near electrical wires).

Fiberglass: Strong and corrosion- resistant, it is also nonconductive for use near electrical lines. But fiberglass is expensive and relatively heavy.

What do duty ratings mean?

Type III: Household light duty; 200 lb*
Type II: Commercial medium duty; 225 lb
Type I: Industrial heavy duty; 250 lb
Type IA: Industrial extra-heavy duty; 300 lb
Type IAA: Professional special duty; 375 lb

*Includes total weight of user, materials, and tools.

How tall does your ladder need to be?

Stepladder
• To reach 7 feet: 3-foot ladder
• To reach 8 feet: 4-foot ladder
• To reach 10 feet: 6-foot ladder
• To reach 11 feet: 7-foot ladder
• To reach 12 feet: 8-foot ladder
• To reach 14 feet: 10-foot ladder
• To reach 16 feet: 12-foot ladder
• To reach 18 feet: 14-foot ladder
• To reach 20 feet: 16-foot ladder

Extension Ladder
• To reach 15 feet: 16-foot ladder
• To reach 19 feet: 20-foot ladder
• To reach 23 feet: 24-foot ladder
• To reach 27 feet: 28-foot ladder
• To reach 31 feet: 32-foot ladder
• To reach 34 feet: 36-foot ladder
• To reach 37 feet: 40-foot ladder
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