After choosing the type of the ladder, consider the features you'll need. Here are the major ones.
• Aluminum ladders can handle a lot, but they should never be used near voltage sources such as power lines because they conduct electricity. Choose a wooden or fiberglass ladder for those situations. And remember that any ladder can conduct electricity when it's wet.
• Wood ladders are decorative, affordable and functional being the most traditional options out of all types. Wooden ladders are perfect for electricity-related works since they're nonconductive, unlike their aluminum counterparts. Some wooden ladders, however, often have metal parts, which make them unsuitable for electrical work. Wood ladders shouldn't be painted, since paint can conceal defects or damage that indicate that the ladder isn't safe and should be replaced. Treat your wooden ladder with a sealant that protects from moisture and other substances.
• Metal ladders are durable, strong and resistant to corrosion, which makes them perfect for both indoor and outdoor use. There are lightweight options available, making them easier to transport. However, one of the drawbacks to this type of ladders is their ability to conduct electricity. While metal ladder can be used outside and inside, it's important not to use it around power lines. If you prefer a metal ladder, make sure to look for rubber or plastic feet to ensure more stability.
• Fiberglass ladders are the most recent type and they are good for almost all types of work, thanks to their durability, strength, and non-corrosive nature of the material. These ladders will last you a long time. And unlike ladders made of steel or aluminum, fiberglass doesn't conduct electricity and are perfect for using in areas near power lines and performing electrical work. Fiberglass ladders are the most expensive, so people that don't perform electrical works still prefer aluminum or wooden ladders.
Choose a ladder that high enough for all types of work that you're going to perform - you should be able to reach everything up in a way that don't destabilize the ladder. Indeed, if you step on one of the highest steps on the ladder, the risks for accidents will significantly increase. An extension ladder should be at least three feet about the work surface (a roofline, for example).
If you need a ladder for professional use, purchase the strongest type available in the height you need in order to ensure the ladder will be useful across different projects. Heavy duty ladders often last longer, ensure greater stability, and much safer when something heavy should be taken up the ladder. However, a person who plans to use the ladder occasionally at home can invest in a cheaper, lightweight model.
• House ladders usually have a label telling you the maximum weight they're designed to support. This is a voluntary rating that is based on a standard developed by the American National Standards Institute that has three main types. To meet the standard and get the label, a ladder's step should resist bending under a load up to three times of its weight rating. It should also pass a side-twisting test. But even though those tests ensure safety, the added stresses of real life use (such as weight shifting or climbing) add more to the load.
• Domestic ladders are produced for DIY home projects, these are the weakest and the lightest ladders you can buy. They can be perfect for the occasional use at home and can't be used in the workplace. Moreover, using them in a work or commercial environment contravenes Health and Safety regulations. Even insurance companies state that using this type of ladders or steps for commercial work will invalidate all claims for personal injury. They often have a duty rating around 15 stones. These ladders are made of thin aluminum and designed to be small, economical and lightweight.
• Trade ladders are produced from stronger gauge materials to withstand frequent usage by regular home users or tradesmen. They follow the EN131 European wide standard for aluminum ladders. Trade ladders represent the most popular grade of aluminum ladders that you can find on the market. Their maximum load is approximately 24 stones and they are perfect for use both in the workplace and at home.
• Industrial ladders are the heaviest models available. They are also called Class 1 ladders and represent the best strength and quality ladders you can possibly find. Usually reserved for complicated, frequent industrial work, these steps and ladders are designed for industrial applications and heavy site work. They are available in many sizes and often come with the option of rope operation. Industrial ladders are suitable for use everywhere, be it the workplace, home, factory or building site. Their maximum load rate is 28 stones. However, regular home owners usually don't need industrial ladders.