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Types of Ladders

man on a ladder fixing a neon light

Few tools have a place in every garage, and for most people, specialized products just aren’t essential for basic maintenance. Not many homes are without a ladder though. That’s because ladders are versatile tools that help you do everything from changing light bulbs to cleaning those hard-to-reach places around your home.

Not all ladders serve the same purpose, however. Use this guide to learn more about the different types of ladders available to you today.

Choosing the Right Material

Ladders are commonly made of three different materials: aluminum, fiberglass or wood. Each of these materials has benefits and drawbacks. Here’s what you need to know about the different common ladder materials before you start shopping:


Aluminum ladders are lightweight and easy-to-move. They’re also non-corrosive, so they can be used outside or left on a covered patio, porch or other outdoor space. Aluminum is conductive however, so these ladders should not be used around electricity.


Fibreglass is a non-conductive material, making it an excellent option for electrical work. It’s also durable and weather resistant. However, fibreglass is considerably heavier than aluminum. Fibreglass ladders typically cost more as well.


Non-conductive unless outfitted with metal fasteners, wood ladders are durable and designed to last. Wood is a particularly good choice for attic and smaller indoor ladders.

Common Ladder Types

There are many different types of ladders on the market, but most homeowners won’t need a complex, hard-to-use or expensive ladder for maintenance, repairs, cleaning and accessing hard-to-reach places in their homes. Here are some of the most common types of ladders made for everyday use:

Step Ladders

Ideal for common household tasks, step ladders are self-supporting and have a solid, wide-set base. Metal step ladders are common due to their lighter weight. Podium ladders give you a small platform to stand on to help you reach while staying sturdy.

Platform Ladders

Like step ladders, platform ladders are typically low with a wide-set base. A platform ladder will include a top platform and rail guard to provide greater range of motion and stability for more complex and time-consuming tasks.

Step Stools

Similar to a step ladder, a step stool is a light-duty ladder excellent for quick tasks like dusting crown molding or reaching a high cabinet in your kitchen. Most step stools fold up easily so they can be kept in any closet or pantry. One, two and three-step models are available.

Extension or Straight Ladders

Tall and unsupported, these ladders must lean up against a solid surface during use. Extension and straight ladders are excellent for tasks like exterior painting, roofing or cleaning gutters and high windows around your home.

Multi-position or Folding Ladders

Offering a lot of flexibility, multi-position ladders or folding ladders can be used in a variety of positions. A multi-position ladder can be used as a step ladder, extension ladder, sawhorse or scaffolding. Most multi-position ladders are metal, but non-conductive options are available too.

Specialty Ladder Types

Common ladder types will help you tackle most chores and tasks around the house. Here are a few ladder types that can help you perform more specialized tasks:

Telescopic Ladders

A very flexible ladder type, telescoping ladders extend to a high full height and retract relatively small for easy storage. These can be used as a step ladder, extension ladder, stairway step ladder or as a scaffold base when used in pairs. Tall models go up to nearly 15-feet on average.

Attic Ladders

Available in a range of sizes and fully retractable, attic ladders are fastened in place, providing quick access to this valuable storage area in your home. Attic ladders are typically made of wood with metal fasteners, but lightweight metal ladders are becoming more common.

Fire Escape Ladders

Useful for upstairs bedrooms, fire escape ladders can be rolled up and stored to provide an easy escape route. These ladders can be quickly fastened to a windowsill and are very easy to use.

Other Details to Look Out for When Buying Ladders

By now you likely know what type of ladder you need for your home or specific project. Here are a few things to look for when shopping for the right ladder:

Ladder Safety Features

Slip-resistant rungs and an extra-wide base both provide more support. Rubberized non-slip feet and safety locks for adjustable and extension ladders are also excellent features to have in a regular use ladder.

  • Appropriate duty ratings

All ladders are rated for a particular weight and load capacity. Consider the weight of the user and any materials that may be heavy, like those using for roofing or painting.

  • Maximum height

Ladders come in a range of heights. Choose a model that can be used for your highest common tasks safely without standing on the top rung. For high-up work, a tall, durable ladder with a safety platform is vital.

Brush Up on Ladder Safety

You can tackle tons of tasks with the right ladder in tow. Here are a few basic tips to help you use your ladder safely:

  • Inspect for damage

It’s easy to miss damage on a ladder when you’re working. That’s why checking for any damage at the beginning of a project is important. Don’t use a damaged latter.

  • Check stability

Check your ladder’s locks and basic stability before climbing it. Do this every time you go up any ladder.

  • Use caution and climb slowly

This is particularly important if you’re carrying tools, paint buckets or other materials.

Every garage needs a ladder and most will benefit from small, easy-to-use options like step stools as well. Shop the Home Depot online or in-store today to find all of the different types of ladders you need for your home.

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