From tucking away totes on the highest shelf in the closet to cutting in paint edges along the top of a wall, a step ladder is the tool of choice for accessing all those out-of-reach areas—but not all step ladders are created equal.
The best step ladder is durable, capable of safely supporting your weight (plus the weight of any tools and materials you’re carrying), and sturdy enough not to slip, tilt, or waver while you’re standing on it.
If you’re in the market for a step ladder, keep reading to find out why the following are some of the best choices for household use.
- BEST OVERALL: Delxo 3 Step Ladder Folding Step Stool
- MOST PORTABLE: COSCO 2-Step Household Folding Step Stool
- BEST MINI LADDER: Little Giant Ladder Systems 2-Step Jumbo
- BEST EXTENSION: COSCO Signature Series Step Ladder
- BEST FOR SAFETY: charaHOME 4 Step Ladder Step Stool
What to Look for When Buying the Best Step Ladder
Unlike straight ladders—the type used to reach a roof or a gutter—step ladders don’t lean against a wall for support. Instead, they fold open to form a pyramid shape and have four feet for stability. Their steps are broader and deeper than the rungs of a straight ladder as well.
Whether you need a boost to retrieve something from a seasonal shelf in the pantry or you’re installing a rack on the wall, a step ladder will come in handy. Consider the following when shopping for the best step ladder for your household.
Step ladders range in height from about 3 feet to 8 feet and feature three or more steps. Smaller versions with just one or two steps are known as a step stool, and they may come with a support handle at the top the user can hold onto when stepping up. On a step ladder, the user holds the ladder’s sides for support when climbing up or down.
Step ladders come in four primary materials: aluminum, fiberglass, steel, and wood, and each has specific benefits.
- Aluminum: Step ladders made from aluminum are lightweight yet strong and durable, making them easy to carry and convenient to use. Aluminum doesn’t rust or corrode as quickly as steel, but it’s not entirely impervious to moisture, so don’t leave it out in the rain.
- Fiberglass: Electricians favor this type of step ladder because, unlike aluminum or steel, fiberglass won’t conduct an electrical current, making it safer to use when working near live wires. It’s even more robust than aluminum and nearly as lightweight, but it’s pricier. Fiberglass is also the most durable material for resisting rust and corrosion.
- Steel: Steel step ladders are durable and heavier than either aluminum or fiberglass, so they offer a sturdy base on which to climb, but steel also tends to corrode and rust if it gets wet. A steel ladder will last longer if it’s used indoors and wiped dry if it gets wet.
- Wood: Before aluminum, fiberglass, and steel appeared in step ladders, wood was the material of choice. You can still find wood step ladders, and they’re often reasonably priced, but they may not support as much weight as the other types of step ladders. Wood ladders tend to be less durable since they’re not weather resistant, but if you’re a purist, it’s hard to beat the look of a wooden step ladder.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rates step ladders by the amount of weight they will safely hold. This number will usually appear in the ladder’s description as maximum weight in pounds, such as “up to 250 pounds.” You may also see the ladder listed as a Type I, Type II, or Type III step ladder based on the following weight ratings.
- Type I: Will support up to 250 pounds, designed for contractor and commercial use.
- Type II: Supports up to 225 pounds, making it suitable for overhead painting projects and light commercial use.
- Type III: Will support up to 200 pounds, suitable for most household uses.
If you plan to do DIY projects or repairs, such as painting or caulking drafty windows, look for a step ladder that comes with a tool tray. Located at the top of the ladder, a tool tray folds out to hold tools and materials. It’s much easier to put a can of paint on a tool tray rather than holding the can in one hand while painting with the other.
Our Top Picks
Among the handiest of tools, a step ladder will quickly earn its keep in a home when you want to access an item that’s out of reach or hang a painting without teetering on a kitchen chair. Step ladders fold up to just a few inches thick, making them suitable for storing in a utility closet. One of the following step ladders may come in handy at your house.
Weighing in at just 8.3 pounds but capable of supporting a hefty 300 pounds of weight, the Delxo can be a great choice for your household. Its oversized top step offers a 25-inch lift off of the ground, where you can stand comfortably with both feet while bracing your legs on the hand grip for balance.
The step ladder’s rubber feet won’t scratch or mar wood or laminate flooring; instead, they offer superior anti-slip protection. Constructed from high-quality aluminum wrapped in an attractive woodgrain finish, the Delxo step ladder spreads 26 inches when open, yet it folds away to a mere 5.1 inches for easy storage when not in use.
The diminutive yet well-made COSCO step ladder supports up to 225 pounds of weight, making it a great choice for reaching an extra 17.13 inches in kitchens, laundry rooms, pantries, and bedrooms. Featuring steel-frame construction for durability and support, this little step ladder weighs only 7.4 pounds.
At a folded width of just 4 inches, the COSCO 2-Step Household Folding Step Stool tucks conveniently in a closet, a pantry, or the space next to the fridge so that it’s always available for quick access. Its step treads are textured for slip resistance, and it comes with rubber leg tips that won’t mar hardwood or other types of flooring.
When you need to climb up and down a step ladder often, this two-step model can make the task safer and easier. It’s designed with stair-like steps that aren’t as steep as traditional step ladders, with nonslip treads so you can safely reach the top step. The Little Giant has an optional fold-up safety rail with a built-in tool tray as well.
The extended tripod design makes this steel-frame step ladder one of the most stable ladders around, and its rubber-tipped feet won’t scratch floors beneath. This small but mighty ladder is capable of supporting loads up to 375 pounds.
A quality step ladder is essential for all those DIY projects where you need more reach. Whether you’re trimming out windows, hanging shutters, or pruning fruit trees, you’ll appreciate the height and sturdiness of the COSCO step ladder. Its lightweight quality steel frame is just under 20 pounds and easy to move with a 225-pound weight capacity.
This step ladder features nonslip feet and two project trays that fold out to hold tools or paint cans, making this step ladder a great choice for DIYers who need to keep their supplies within arm’s reach while working. Topping out at 5 feet when open, the COSCO step ladder offers all the height and stability you need to safely complete your projects.
Oversized standing steps (15 inches by 10.25 inches), nonslip rubber treads, and double handrails make the charaHOME a safe choice for those who find it difficult to use a step ladder. The top step on this heavy-duty steel frame reaches 38 inches from the ground and holds up to 500 pounds, but this ladder won’t mar flooring, thanks to rubber feet caps.
A safety lock mechanism snaps into place to ensure the step ladder remains fully open when in use. The two handrails on either side are covered in nonslip rubber padding for added security and comfort when climbing up or down.
Waiting for you at the top of the charaHOME ladder is a detachable canvas tool pouch that can be slipped over the handgrip bar to hold brushes, screwdrivers, and other hand tools.
FAQs About Step Ladders
Step ladders are handy indoors and out, but if this is the first time you’ve shopped for one, you might have a few questions.
Q: What is the difference between a Type 1 and Type 2 ladder?
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rates ladders by the maximum amount of weight they can hold. Type 1 ladders can support 250 pounds, and Type 2 ladders can safely support up to 225 pounds.
Q: What angle should a ladder be when in use?
For safety purposes, a straight or extension ladder should slope at a 75-degree angle when in use. This rule doesn’t apply to step ladders because they do not lean against a wall.
Q: How do you keep a ladder from slipping?
Step ladders are less prone to slipping than other ladders thanks to their pyramidal shape, but they can still tip if placed on uneven ground. Before ascending a step ladder, make sure it’s stable (not wobbly) and that it’s on solid ground. Do not climb above the third rung from the top, and always face the ladder when climbing up or down.