04.What to look for
While there are some weaknesses of ladders that only laboratory testing will reveal, there are things you can check for yourself when shopping for a ladder.
With all ladders
- Unpack and inspect the ladder in the shop before you buy. It should:
- be the right height for your needs
- be a manageable weight
- be rigid and secure when set up
- have feet with a sure grip
- be labelled with clear safety instructions.
Adjustable length legs can be very useful for working on uneven ground.
- Check the ladder’s duty rating — domestic (for loads up to 100kg) or industrial (up to 120kg, or 150kg) — so that you get one suitable for your purpose.
With multipurpose ladders
Catches should lock securely, be smooth to operate and show clearly whether they’re locked or unlocked.
- Look for ladders with a similar stile depth to those on a regular stepladder (around 8 cm).
- If you plan to use it as a work platform, look for a ladder that comes with a fitted plank.
- Look for diagonal spreaders situated at about the midway point of the ladder.
Safety handles can be useful, especially if you aren’t comfortable using ladders.
Holders or platforms for tools and paint tins can be handy.
Other ladder types
A guide to other types of ladders and how to spot a safe model.
These give you two ladders in one. You can use them as a normal stepladder, or swing the back legs up and lock them in place to form a longer straight ladder. We didn’t test these this time, but in our last test we found that most met the standard with flying colours. Only one ladder couldn’t be recommended due to poor catch design.
Look for a ladder with catches that lock solidly into place. Diagonal spreaders are also good when using it as a stepladder, but aren’t vital on this type of ladder since the extra treads along the back legs increase the ladder’s rigidity.
This type of ladder features an extra-wide step at the top that allows you to stand fairly comfortably, or rest work tools or a can of paint. They often have a rail above the top step that you can brace your legs against.
Look for a strongly built model with cross bracing and a broad, secure platform with a non-slip surface. Ideally the platform should lock in place. Small two or three step platform stepladders can be especially useful for indoor tasks, as they can be easier to stand on than an ordinary stepladder.