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How to Choose the Right Kind of Ladder

Choosing the right kind of ladder depends on the intended use. Ladder styles and sizes vary greatly, so picking the right type of ladder can be confusing. In a perfect world, you’d have each ladder size (and a huge garage — with air conditioning!) so that you’d be prepared for anything. If you can afford or have room for only one ladder, however, get a 6-foot stepladder.

Ladders come in the following main types:

  • Stepstool (2- or 3-foot): Great for getting to those upper cabinets and shelves.

  • Folding ladder (6- and 8-foot): A 6-foot ladder is high enough for tackling most home-maintenance and repair projects, such as changing ceiling light bulbs and painting ceilings and walls. However, if your ceilings are 10 feet tall or higher, get an 8-foot ladder instead.

  • Extension ladder: Extension ladders, like the ones firefighters use, have ability to telescope in length, making them the granddaddy of them all. If your project involves a multistory roof, you need an extension ladder.

  • Adjustable ladder (various heights): An adjustable ladder allows you to shorten or extend each ladder leg independently. This flexibility provides the greatest amount of safety when working on uneven surfaces like stairs.

Don’t try to save money by purchasing a cheap ladder unless you intend to give it to someone you don’t like. A cheap ladder falls apart in no time — usually with someone on it. When buying a ladder, look for secure connections, metal-supported wood steps, and superior hinges. As the ladder ages, keep an eye out for loose connections, splits, cracks, and missing rivets.

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