Home / Equipment

{ "@context": "https://schema.org/", "@type": "BreadcrumbList", "itemListElement": [ { "@type": "ListItem", "position": "1", "name": "Equipment", "item": "https://www.grainger.com/know-how/equipment" } ] }

Choosing The Right Ladder For The Job


It's easy to take ladders for granted, but there are lots of options when you're buying a new one. Choosing the right ladder for the job can be simple if you follow these four steps.


Step 1: Choose the Right Style


The first thing to think about is the style of ladder you need.

Straight ladders are the most basic type of ladder. They lean against walls or other structures.

Stepladders and platform stepladders are self-supporting.

Extension ladders are similar to straight ladders, but they have two or more pieces that can slide together to save space for storage or transportation. 

Telescoping ladders are made of tubular sections that can slide down into each other, allowing the ladder to be extended or shortened like a telescope. 

Multipurpose ladders have flexible configurations, allowing them to change from straight ladders to stepladders or even scaffolding configurations, depending on the model.

Rolling ladders have wheeled bases, making it easy to move them around warehouses and other facilities.

Cantilever ladders are rolling ladders with counterweights or other counterbalancing features that add stability to unsupported platforms that can give access to hard-to-reach places.

Step 2: Choose the Right Height

Next, think about how tall the ladder needs to be.

For stepladders, a rule of thumb is that most people can reach about four feet beyond the height of the ladder. For example, a 5-foot stepladder would be tall enough for most people to reach a 9-foot ceiling.

It's a bit more complicated for straight ladders and extension ladders. When you're leaning a ladder against a wall for support, you want the base to be one foot out from the wall for every 4 feet of height up to the support point. (This is called the four-to-one rule.) That means that a ladder leaning on a 24-foot wall should have its base 6 feet from the wall. And if you're accessing a roof or other landing area, the ladder should extend 3 feet beyond that support point.

For straight ladders and extension ladders, manufacturer Werner recommends using a ladder with a length that's 7 to 10 feet more than the height of the support point. 

Step 3: Choose the Right Duty Rating

The next step is to think of the work you're doing with the ladder. What kind of load does it need to support, and what kind of environment will you be using it in?

The duty rating and ladder type indicate the maximum load and intended application for the ladder. The load includes the weight of the person climbing the ladder plus the weight of their clothing, tools and any other material or equipment that the person is carrying. 

Ladder Duty Ratings and Applications

Duty Rating Ladder Type Working Load Application
Special Duty IAA 375 pounds Rugged
Extra Duty IA 300 pounds Industrial
Heavy Duty I 250 pounds Industrial
Medium Duty II 225 pounds Commercial
Light Duty III 200 pounds Household

Step 4: Choose the Right Material

The last step is to decide whether you need an aluminum ladder or a fiberglass ladder. Aluminum ladders are lightweight but they conduct electricity, so it's important not to use them around power lines or other energized equipment. Fiberglass ladders are heavier but they're suitable for using around electricity, and they're also even more durable than aluminum ladders.

Aluminum vs. Fiberglass Ladders



Weight Lightest Heavier
Durability High Highest
Conductivity Conductive; can't be used around electricity Nonconductive; suitable for use around electricity
Weather resistance Corrosion-resistant Most weather-resistant
Popular applications Siding, painting and roofing Heavy construction

Bonus Step: Don't Forget Safety

After you've found the right ladder, make sure that you're using it safely. Tool trays, ladder gates, stabilizers and other ladder accessories can enhance safety. Fall protection equipment is also required under many circumstances. You may also want to learn more about compliance with OSHA's ladder standards.

Find the Right Material Handling Supplies

Carts & Trucks

Carts & Trucks





Pallet Jacks

Pallet Jacks

Hand Trucks

Hand Trucks

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.