Step Up to the Job

November, 2005

With the holiday season approaching, many homeowners are using ladders to fix up and decorate their homes. When shopping at a local home center, such as City Mill, you will find three basic types of ladders: straight (extension), step and step/extension. Straight ladders consist of two or three extendable, sliding parts, perfect for jobs requiring height. Stepladders are smaller utility ladders, such as stepstools and platform ladders. A step or extension ladder is a combination of both, performing the functions of an extension and stepladder all in one piece.

All ladders should bear labels determining size and maximum standing and working heights, classified by the American National Standards Institute. The classifications are divided into four groups:

Type I: Industrial ladders, duty rated at 250 pounds, used by tradesmen, construction workers, maintenance and industrial workers.

Type IA: Heavy-duty industrial ladders, duty rated at 300 pounds.

Type II: Commercial ladders, rated at 225 pounds, made for handymen, light maintenance and light mechanic use.

Type III: Duty rated at 200 pounds for household use.

When it comes to ladder composition, metal ladders, usually made of aluminum, require little maintenance, if any. Be sure to lubricate hinges and other moving hardware periodically. If the metal is not rustproof, it should be treated regularly with clear varnish or other rust-proofing materials.

Wood ladders need two coats of clear penetrating sealer or varnish. Paint should never be used on wood ladders, because it hides cracks and defects.

For tradesmen who do electrical repairs, fiberglass ladders are preferred, because they do not conduct electricity. In addition, fiberglass is a strong material that will not rust or rot.

Safety is very important when using ladders. Always make sure the ladder is on solid-level ground. When using extension ladders, be certain that the ladder is at the proper angle against the wall. A general rule is that the foot of an extension ladder is 1/4 the distance away from the wall in proportion to the ladder’s height. For example, a 16-foot-tall ladder should have its feet approximately four feet from the wall.

For Hawaii Home + Remodeling magazine, this is Frank Suster saying, “You can do it yourself.”

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Frank Suster