05.What to look for
Stepladders with a domestic duty rating can support loads of up to 100kg; you’ll need one with an industrial rating (120kg or 150kg) if any user weighs more than that.
Platform stepladders (like the one pictured right) generally have a wide, non-slip platform near the top to provide a working area where you can stand fairly comfortably, or rest your work tools, can of paint and so on. The ones in our test have two or three usable steps and a safety rail at the top against which you can brace your legs or body, depending on the rail’s height.
Small stepladders are lighter and easier to use than the common 1.8m A-frame one, with its bulk and weight. They’re available single or double-sided (the picture shows a single sided one); double-sided models have treads on both sides. The ones in our test have two usable steps and a top cap of various widths. This is the uppermost horizontal member of a stepladder it's not to be used as a step. The top cap of the ladder shown at right only comes up to mid-shin height, so it’s less comfortable to lean against when working on the ladder.
While some weaknesses of ladders will only be revealed in lab tests, there are things you can check for yourself when shopping for a stepladder. Unpack and check it before you buy to ensure:
- It’s the right height and load rating for your needs. A ladder for domestic use has a load rating of 100kg; that's how much it can safely bear. If your weight’s close to 100kg or above, a better option is a ladder with an industrial duty rating that can support a load of up to 120 kg or 150 kg. See the results table for the load ratings of each ladder.
- It’s rigid and secure when set up.
- It’s labelled with clear safety instructions.
- Its feet have a secure grip.
- A top platform with a safety rail you can brace yourself against can be useful, especially if you aren’t comfortable using ladders. The higher the rail reaches, the more secure you’ll feel standing on the top step.
- Deep and wide treads (steps) make you feel more secure when standing on the ladder.
- A tool or paint tin tray at the top of the safety railing can be handy. The Bailey Satellite FS10450 has one.