How to Set Up Ladders - dummies

By Gill Chilton

Using a ladder safely is very important when cleaning or doing any maintenance on your home. It is a matter of using your common sense and following a few safety rules, probably the most important of which is to pay attention and be mindful of where you are.

Never rush setting up a ladder. Take care when you set it up, take special care as you climb up and down it, and take care when you lower the ladder and put it away.

Even if you do all you can to avoid using ladders and use alternatives such as extension tools to reach up to awkward places, keep safety at the forefront.

Look at ladder safety

First off, make sure everyone knows what you’re doing. The easiest way to fall off a ladder is to have someone open a window where you’re working and startle you into falling.

The bottom of the ladder – that means both feet – needs to be on a solid level platform, and solid ground isn’t enough when it comes to supporting a ladder. Ideally, you can set up the ladder on concrete – maybe a pathway running alongside your house. If you must set up over your flowers, put down a strong wooden board, wide enough for both feet of the ladder as support.

Tilt the ladder fairly tightly up against the wall, aiming for an angle of around 70 degrees. Do not lean the ladder against a window or window frame. For maximum stability, it must be the wall. For a 6-metre (18 feet) ladder, that puts the ladder’s feet roughly 1.5 metres (4–1/2 feet) from the wall.

Put a sandbag, or bag of garden peat or charcoal, or anything heavy in front of the ladder to help lock it into place as you climb. Having a second person assist you by holding the ladder can be a great help. They can also look out for passers-by or traffic. If you plan on doing lots of ladder work, think about buying a stabiliser platform from a DIY store.

Stay flush with the ladder and face the wall all the time you’re on the ladder. Resist the temptation to stretch out beyond the length of your arm. Shifting around on the ladder may shift your centre of gravity and move the ladder out from under you. Accept that you’ll need to climb down and move the ladder a good many times to clean the outside of upstairs windows.

Stay safe without a ladder

If you want to avoid using a ladder at all, you can simply work from inside, cleaning as much of the outside windows as you can. Be careful, though, and be alert to the possibility that leaning out too far may make you overbalance and cause you to topple out of the window.

Buy an extension pole for your squeegee, to enable it to reach upstairs windows whilst you remain outside on the ground. Using this awkward contraption is an acquired skill, however. There’s always a ‘more by luck than judgment’ element involved because you can’t accurately see smears on the windows from down below.

Because you’ll be knocking off dirt and debris whilst looking upwards, always protect your eyes with safety goggles.

When you replace your windows, give a thought to cleaning when you choose new styles. Sash windows that open inwards, rather than the traditional style that slides up and down, can make cleaning the exterior of the windows from inside a whole lot safer.