Some household tasks are difficult to accomplish—or downright impossible—without some elevation. After all, eventually you’ve got to change the light bulbs, hang art, and keep the gutters clean. Your own ladder means you won’t have to borrow one from a neighbor or, worse, get a leg up by using a piece of furniture (not a good idea, safety-wise).
But you don’t want to go for the first ladder you see. You might end up with one that’s too short, can’t support your weight (and that of your tools), or isn’t up to the task at hand. Use the guidelines below to navigate the most important considerations and choose the best ladder for your needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Little Giant Ladders, Flip-N-Lite, 6-Foot, Stepladder
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Best Choice Products 3-Step Ladder, Portable Folding
- BEST TELESCOPING LADDER: WolfWise 10.5FT Telescopic Extension Ladder
- BEST EXTENSION LADDER: Louisville Ladder Fiberglass Extension Ladder 28 feet
- BEST MULTIUSE LADDER: Little Giant Ladders, Velocity Multi-Position Ladder
- BEST STEP LADDER: HBTower 3 Step Ladder with Wide Anti-Slip Pedal
- ALSO CONSIDER: Louisville 6′ Fiberglass Step Ladder
Types of Ladders
Ladders come in four main designs, all portable but each suited to different household projects, indoors or out, at low or high heights.
The smallest type of self-supporting ladder, a step ladder stands on its own on a level, nonslip surface. It measures no more than 4 feet tall from the base to the top cap (the uppermost platform).
These foldable, nonadjustable ladders aid in one-person indoor tasks that only need a little boost. Step ladders help users change light bulbs, reach the top shelves, and clean hard-to-reach areas. On most models, the user can climb every step, including the top cap.
A-frame ladders are nonadjustable, self-supporting ladders that measure 4 to 20 feet tall when standing on a level, nonslip surface. This height might make an A-frame the best ladder for home use.
These ladders come in handy for ceiling-fixture installation, first-floor window replacement, and gutter cleaning on one-story homes. A hinged design makes them easy to collapse and store. A-frame models come in two varieties: front-step and twin-step.
- Front-step A-frames have a single climbable rail with flat steps that successively narrow in width as they get higher. A rear rail, while present, is typically nonclimbable. The top cap and the topmost step of the front rail likewise can’t support a person.
- Twin-step A-frames have steps on both the front and rear rails. These ladders can support one or two people at a time, depending on the model.
Extension ladders require a structure such as a wall to prop up against. They should rest at an angle of around 75.5 degrees from the supporting structure for optimal stability.
Measuring up to 14 feet when collapsed, one or more sections of an extension ladder extend to increase the length to up to 72 feet. Extension ladders rise to tasks like painting siding, hanging Christmas lights, and cleaning second-story gutters.
These ladders contain square or D-shaped rungs, which are considerably narrower than those found on step or A-frame ladders. For this reason, users need to wear shoes with good traction when climbing.
Telescoping ladders are versatile when compared to traditional and extension ladders. Users can extend the length of the ladder by the foot and lock it into position at the desired length. A telescoping ladder usually ranges from about 8 to 12 feet high when fully extended.
Made of either fiberglass or aluminum, these ladders weigh between 16 and 42 pounds. When folded, the small footprint and lightweight design add up to a portable ladder that fits in the trunk of a vehicle or a small closet. When leaning the ladder against the wall, use the 1-to-4 rule for safety: For every 4 feet of height, move the base of the ladder 1 foot from the wall.
The best multi-position ladder (or multiuse ladder) includes hinges that lock in multiple configurations. These models transform into self-supporting and wall-supported configurations, including A-frames, extension ladders, scaffolds, and more. Depending on the configuration, multi-position ladders can reach heights of up to 30 feet.
As the name implies, these ladders help tackle a variety of jobs that may require various ladder types, or a single job that would benefit from more than one ladder type. Painting a wall along a staircase, for example, might require the ladder to lean against the wall at the base of the staircase, then fold into an A-frame position on the steps.
Make sure it’s possible to unlock/lock and reposition the hinges from the ground level. One should not attempt these adjustments while climbing the ladder.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Ladder
After settling on an appropriate ladder type to buy, consider material construction, height, weight capacity, and extra features. All together, these factors will provide ladder safety, efficiency, and suitability for certain tasks.
Wood, fiberglass, and aluminum are the three most common materials used in ladder construction. Keep the following material characteristics in mind while shopping:
- Aluminum is the lightest option and least likely to corrode. This metal is among the most effective conductors of electricity; as such, aluminum ladders are not recommended for electrical work or use near electrical lines.
- Fiberglass, while heavier than aluminum, is stronger and more versatile. It makes for a sturdy ladder. As a nonconductive material, fiberglass ladders will serve users well in both electrical and nonelectrical applications. This strength and versatility usually costs more than aluminum and wood models.
- Wood ladders are often the most economical, but they’re heavier and may not last as long. Wood rots if left outside and conducts electricity when wet. As such, these ladders work best indoors.
If a user must strain their arms, stand on tiptoes, or exceed the tallest climbable step to reach the desired height, that means that the ladder is too short—with potential consequences ranging from minor discomfort to dangerous slips and falls. As such, it’s important to consider reach height, or the highest point a person can safely access while standing on the ladder. Reach height can be more or less than the height of a ladder and varies by type:
- Step, platform, and A-frame: ladder height, plus 4 feet
- Multiposition: ladder height, plus 1 foot
- Extension and telescoping: ladder height, minus 1 foot
For instance, most adults can reach an 8-foot ceiling using a 4-foot step, platform, or A-frame ladder. To access first-floor gutters (usually 11 feet high), a ladder between 7 and 12 feet is typically sufficient. Those who prefer self-supporting ladders can opt for a 7-foot platform or A-frame, or a 10-foot multi-position model. Alternatively, a 12-foot extension or telescoping ladder can be positioned against the building.
The load capacity is the maximum weight a ladder will hold. Ladders fall into five categories based how much weight they support:
- Type IAA ladders hold up to 375 pounds.
- Type IA ladders hold up to 300 pounds.
- Type I ladders hold up to 250 pounds.
- Type II ladders hold up to 225 pounds.
- Type III ladders hold up to 200 pounds.
When determining the load capacity needed for a project, factor in the user’s own weight, plus the weight of the tools and supplies needed to carry up or store on the ladder (if it has a built-in tray or shelf).
Many modern ladders include built-in accessories that boost storage capacity, reduce strain, and protect nearby surfaces. Popular add-ons include:
- A pail shelf, usually extending from the rear rail level with one of the steps to hold paint buckets or utensils.
- Ladder caps that slide over the rail ends to prevent damage to whatever surface the ladder is propped against.
- Podiums, or large platforms that take the place of one or more steps. A podium ladder provides extra foot room during long or intensive jobs. These models are sometimes referred to as platform ladders.
Our Top Picks
The top picks listed below consider the criteria detailed above. They include products in a variety of categories to suit unique needs. Read on to discover some of the best ladders on the market today for accomplishing at-home and professional projects.
Looking for a lightweight ladder that’s simple to carry from job to job? The Flip-N-Lite from Little Giant Ladders might just do the trick. This 14-pound ladder has an easy-release handle for quick takedown before moving to the next job.
A tool-tray top cap holds screws, nuts, bolts, tape measures, levels, and more. It also comes with extra-wide rungs to increase comfort and decrease foot fatigue, so users can work for extended periods. An extra-large standing platform provides users extra stability and balance.
The total weight capacity for the 6-foot ladder is 300 pounds, and the maximum reach is 10.3 feet. Flip-N-Lite also comes in 4-foot and 5-foot models.
This reasonably priced step ladder from Best Choice Products allows users to focus on the project rather than break the bank on the tools. Ideal for both indoor and outdoor use, the step ladder has anti-skid rubber feet on all four legs to provide safety and support. The steel frame, although lightweight and easy to carry, is solid and reliable.
Each step has a tread that helps prevent slips and falls. A bracing rod within the frame provides additional support. The ladder supports up to 330 pounds, including tools, which users can store on the work platform. Best Choice Products’ step ladder measures 28.7 inches long, 17.7 inches wide, and 52 inches high when open.
Extend this telescoping ladder from WolfWise up to 10.5 feet high. To retract it, users can click the “one-button” retraction buttons on either side of the ladder to fold it up. The whole process takes just 5 to 8 seconds, while the stairs come down slowly enough to keep users’ fingers safe from pinches.
Traceless, as opposed to spliced, aluminum railing prevents the frame from bending.
This sturdy aluminum ladder supports up to 330 pounds, and it collapses to just 3 feet for easy storage in a trunk or garage. A heavy-duty strap makes for easy transport.
Boasting serrated, slip-resistant D-rung steps along its 28-foot height, this weather-resistant extension ladder with non-conductive fiberglass rails offers all the traction, height, and safety you need for at-home or even industrial use.
Simple, smart features abound. For instance, the non-marring caps affixed to the upper rail ends keep siding, walls, and other surfaces free of the scratches or dings that ordinary ladders leave behind. The ladder supports up to 300 pounds and weighs a considerable 57 pounds.
Extra-large, fast-locking hinges and telescoping rails on this multi-position ladder offer multiple configurations: stairway-step ladder, 90-degree ladder, twin-step A-frame ladder, and an extension ladder of up to 19 feet. Not everyone needs these capabilities, but for those who do, the Little Giant earns its place on the list thanks to its sturdy, shape-shifting aluminum construction.
Tip and glide wheels make it easy to relocate the ladder around a room or outside. Little Giant Ladders’ Velocity comes in 13-foot, 17-foot, and 26-foot models and numerous accessory combinations, including a cargo hold, project tray, and a work platform.
HBTower’s secure step ladder has three steps that support up to 500 pounds. Extra-wide steps with nonslip treads and an anti-slip handgrip provide enhanced safety and support. Rubberized feet keep the step ladder in place and protect the floor.
An auto-lock buckle on the steel frame locks in place when a user steps on the ladder. A back cross brace reinforces the support. When open, the ladder measures 20.1 inches long, 26.8 inches wide, and 40.9 inches high. It’s well suited to indoor and outdoor use.
Louisville Ladder’s sturdy, 6-foot tall fiberglass frame is ideal for both indoor and outdoor jobs. Its design details—such as heavy-duty, impact-resistant, nonmarring shoes—earn this 300-pound-capacity A-frame ladder high marks. The molded storage top holds paint cans, screwdrivers, fasteners, and more, which takes the strain off doing hard-to-reach tasks.
For added comfort, the “SHOX” system adds resistance and shock absorption under each rung. For added security, each step has double rivets, and the inside spread brace ensures the ladder stays open. Because the last two steps hold tools and supplies, the total reachable height for a 5-foot-11 person is approximately 10.5 feet.
It’s essential to treat ladders as tools that can cause harm if they’re not used properly or are ill-suited for the task at hand. Even a reliable, well-built ladder poses risks if it’s not positioned correctly, climbed responsibly, or chosen carefully. Keep the following ladder safety tips in mind to avoid unnecessary injuries:
- Choose a ladder type that can handle the job.
- Select a ladder with sufficient height, so you don’t have to reach too much or stand on your toes.
- Check the weight limit or load capacity; factor in your weight and that of your tools and supplies.
- Position the ladder against a structure at the recommended angle (if it’s not self-supporting) and make sure all legs are set firmly on stable ground.
- Maintain three points of contact: two feet and one hand on the rungs at all times.
- Fold extendable and telescoping ladders carefully to avoid crushing hands or fingers.
- Wear footwear with good traction, preferably work boots or work shoes.
- Avoid using the ladder in bad weather conditions.
- Climb with your back to the ladder.
- Walk underneath a ladder.
- Use the side rails to pull yourself up.
- Step on the top cap or highest rail.
- Leave tools on any of the steps.
- Forget to lock it in place.
FAQs About Ladders
For more information about the best ladder, check out these answers to some of the most common questions. If additional concerns arise, contact the manufacturer.
Q. What is the best ladder brand?
Little Giant Ladder, WolfWise, and HBTower are trustworthy brands that produce some of the safest ladder options.
Q. Which is better, a fiberglass or aluminum ladder?
Aluminum is the lightest option and least likely to corrode. But this metal is among the most effective conductors of electricity. That means you shouldn’t use metal ladders for electrical work or near electrical lines.
Fiberglass, while heavier than aluminum, is stronger and more versatile. It’s nonconductive, so you can use fiberglass ladders for both electrical and nonelectrical applications.
Q. What is the maximum height I can work from a ladder?
An adult standing can usually reach no more than 4 feet higher than the height of the ladder (i.e., you can reach an 8-foot ceiling from a 4-foot-tall ladder). Consider how you intend to use the ladder and the heights involved in your jobs. Then subtract 4 feet to determine the appropriate ladder height.
Q. How do I pick a ladder size?
An appropriately sized ladder has enough height that you don’t have to reach too much or stand on your toes. Reach height (the highest point a person can safely access while standing on the ladder) can be more or less than the height of a ladder and varies by type:
- Step, platform, and A-frame: ladder height, plus 4 feet
- Multi-position: ladder height, plus 1 foot
- Extension and telescoping: ladder height, minus 1 foot
For instance, most adults can reach an 8-foot ceiling using a 4-foot step, platform, or A-frame ladder. To access first floor gutters (usually 11 feet high), a ladder between 7 and 12 feet is typically sufficient.
Q. What is the best ladder for home use?
The Little Giant Ladders, Flip-N-Lite, 6-Foot, Stepladder is a versatile step ladder thats engineered to be safe without being expensive. The 12.5-foot WolfWise Aluminum Telescopic Extension ladder is sturdy, lightweight, and retracts to a quarter of its size for compact storage. One of the best multi-position models is the Little Giant Ladders, Velocity Multi-Position Ladder, with extensive reach and adjustable A-frame, extension, trestle and plank, staircase, and 90-degree configurations.
Including a ladder in your household tools can save you a headache or two when an odd job arises in a hard-to-reach area. Ladders are also great to have on hand if you’re planning a renovation project, like painting or gutting an entire room.
Using the recommendations outlined in this guide, you’re well on your way to finding the best ladder to suit your needs and jobs around the house or on the job site. Just remember: safety first. Don’t try to get away with just a little extra weight or an overextended reach—no job is worth the potential injuries.