Trying to recommend the best ladder is a lot like trying to choose the best car. Do you want something small or large? Is this ladder destined for the home or the job site? Have you considered the many available features present in ladders? You get the idea. To cover our bases, we lined up our best ladder choices based on reviews and hands-on with literally dozens of ladders in just as many applications.
Choosing the right ladder is more complicated than it looks on the surface. You may have the temptation to try and find a “one size fits all” product. You really can’t, however, fit everything you need into a single best ladder. However, in some cases, you do see several features combined into one product. Let’s start with four key ladder questions you should answer before going shopping.
How to Pick the Best Ladder
It only takes a moment on Werner, Little Giant, and even DeWalt websites to see that ladders have many different designs and features. As you look through the different styles, we identified three key questions to ask when shopping for the best ladder:
How Tall a Ladder Do You Need?
Each style will have a different safe working height. Remember that in general, the top 2 feet (3 feet on extension ladders) or so are unusable to stand on, though they can have features to hold and organize your gear.
What Duty Rating Should You Get?
Definitely factor in how much weight you need to support when choosing the best ladder for your application. This comes down to its Duty Rating. A ladder’s Duty Rating indicates the maximum weight capacity it can safely carry. You can easily figure out how much weight you need to support by calculating the following:
- Start with your weight (actual weight, not your dream weight!)
- Add in the weight of your clothing and PPE
- Weigh any tools and supplies you plan to carry with you
- Consider any tools or supplies you may stored on the ladder itself
There are five categories of Duty Ratings specified by ANSI (the American National Standards Institute):
|ANSI Type||Description||Weight Rating|
|Type IAA||Extra Heavy Duty||375 lbs.|
|Type IA||Extra Heavy Duty||300 lbs.|
|Type I||Heavy Duty||250 lbs.|
|Type II||Medium Duty||225 lbs.|
|Type III||Light Duty||200 lbs.|
If you want to locate the official Duty Rating for a ladder, find the specifications label. Typically, this sticker lives on the side and should be easily readable. A common misconception is that longer lengths handle more weight. In actuality, length and ANSI Types have nothing to do with each other.
What’s in a Frame? Aluminum vs Fiberglass
Aluminum and fiberglass are by far the dominant ladder frame materials. While aluminum tends to be lighter, fiberglass rules when working around electricity. Fiberglass models have recently gained some ground as new manufacturing techniques have dropped both weight and size. Due to advancements in materials, we no longer recommend wood ladders of any kind. For more safety tips and OSHA regulations, check out our Ladder Safety article!
Best Step Ladder
Step ladders are the classic A-frame style that almost all of us saw in our Dad’s garage. Readily available in both aluminum and fiberglass models, these represent the dominant choice for low and medium height job site applications. Almost every pro has at least one step ladder in their arsenal due to the variety of spaces that it can work in and its ability to be free-standing.
We love the Werner Leansafe because it works so well for both everyday homeowner tasks and professionals. Werner designed the Leansafe—as you may imagine—to safely lean against walls, studs, poles, and corners. Of course, it also works as a standalone A-frame ladder. You can order it in 4-12-foot heights, making it super-versatile. We also like the non-conductive fiberglass side rails and 300 lb load capacity. Depending upon which model you choose, the Werner Leansafe gives you anywhere from 8–16 feet of reach.
Also: Little Giant King Kombo 3-in-1
We also like the versatility added to the A-Frame style given by the Little Giant King Kombo. The King Kombo’s lightweight 3-in-1 design with its V-bar grips for corners and studs made this our #2 pick for best step ladder for Pros and DIYers. Pros and some DIYers still need a taller A-frame to cover work on volume ceilings and access above 10-1/2 feet. The King Kombo meets or exceeds OSHA and ANSI standards in all three positions, so there’s no issue if it comes into question. Pick this one up for between $150-$335 depending on the size you need.
Best Podium or Platform Ladder
Werner PD6210-4C Podium Ladder
Podium and Platform ladders are close brothers step ladders. Instead of consistent steps all the way to the top, these remove the last couple of rungs in favor of a larger standing area. Platform ladders place the top of the ladder at roughly the same point as a traditional step ladder. That leaves the workspace in front and overhead completely unobstructed. Podium ladders, on the other hand, extend the top of the ladder higher to surround you at hip height. The best podium ladders also often include trays to hold and organize tools. This keeps them within easy reach. Check out our article on why you should buy a podium ladder.
We chose the Werner PD6210-4C podium ladder as our best podium ladder for several reasons. It’s got the same working height as a 10-foot step ladder, but with several bonuses. We find the larger base more comfortable than a traditional rung—and more convenient than scaffolding. A LOCKTOP guard rail holds a variety or hand tools, hardware, and even a drill or impact driver. Finally, the Type 1A duty rating certifies it for 300 total pounds. Want more? It has automatically-engaging wheels! This is an outstanding option for anyone needing to focus their attention on their hands while maintaining an easy balance. The price might be the only downside—but still worth it at around $450.
Best Extension Ladder
Little Giant HyperLite
Go with an extension ladder when you need to reach high places. These products reach lengths of 60 feet or more and require a solid vertical object to lean against. OSHA also requires that the distance from what you are leaning against to the base be 1/4 the working height of the ladder. In other words, your 60-foot ladder ends up reaching about 58 feet high due to the angle it creates by leaning against the object. That proper angle keeps it stable while you work and helps ensure it doesn’t slide out from under you.
If you need the best extension ladder, the fiberglass Little Giant HyperLite is our current favorite. It’s incredibly lightweight. In fact, our 24-foot model weighs just 42 pounds. The price adds about $100 to what you might pay for a standard 24-foot fiberglass model. We think its convenience makes the additional cost well worth it.
Also: Werner 16-ft Fiberglass Type IA
The Werner D6216-2 is part of their Lightweight fiberglass extension ladder family. It’s 1A Duty Rated for up to 300 pounds of load-bearing. While still maintaining a high duty rating, this model also reduces weight by up to 12% over similar-sized extension ladders. They use D-rungs, which are more comfortable on your feet than round ones and offer excellent traction. For safety, they used non-conductive rails. A rope and pulley system makes it easier to extend and retract.
Best Ladder for Home Use
Werner Leansafe X3
When Werner sent us the Leansafe X3, it immediately replaced my home step ladder following the review. If that doesn’t give you a solid endorsement that we think it’s the best ladder for home use, nothing will. While other multi-use models have spring-loaded pins on the outside of the rails, the Werner Leansafe X3 ladder uses a pinching system. Located in the middle of the rail, it lets you release both sides with one hand, making it so much easier to convert between its three modes.
Those modes, by the way, include step, extension, and inside/outside corner ladder. The Class IAA Leansafe supports 375-pounds of weight and also features slip-resistant foot pads and an electrical-friendly fiberglass frame. For $169 you can’t go wrong.
Best Multi-Position Ladder
Little Giant Velocity Model 13
Take a look at the Little Giant Velocity 13. Notice the pivot point at the top instead of a traditional A-Frame top. This allows the multi-use ladder to swing out completely and become an extension ladder. It can create a number of angles between its A-Frame stance and 180 extension ladders to work on uneven ground. It can even kick out at 90 degrees to act as scaffolding using an open window frame or other solid structure to lean on. Little Giant adds even more versatility by making it adjustable in height—plus you can get models from 13-feet all the way to 26-feet. You can pick up the 13-foot model for between $150-$179.
Best Ladder for Painting
Little Giant SumoStance 3-in-1
Any extension ladder with Little Giant SumoStance technology gives you surer footing. These utilize outrigger legs to improve stability and level the feet on uneven ground. Built-in bubble levels also help ensure that you are at the correct distance from the leaning point to meet OSHA requirements without having to measure. They’ve even moved the pulley and cord to the side. This allows them to utilize a second pulley and make extending the ladder noticeably easier. They come with a price premium, however, ranging from $350 to over $750 depending on the length.
Best Folding Ladder for Rapid Scaffolding
Werner M1A Series
Adding a second and third hinge like the Werner M1A Series gives you the flexibility to have an A-Frame step ladder, extension ladder, and standalone scaffolding. As an A-Frame ladder, the outside two hinges are locked at 180 degrees. You only swing the middle hinge to the angle you need it—like compensating for uneven surfaces. To create an extension ladder, swing all of the hinges out to their 180-degree position. For scaffolding, you’ll swing the outside hinges at 90-degrees (or a little more) and leave the middle at 180. Just add an appropriately sized plank on top for secure standing.
The price isn’t bad either—just $350 gives you possibly the best folding ladder on the market with a 16-foot extension.
Best Telescoping Ladder
Lionladder 12.5ft EN131-6 Telescoping
Generally, we shy away from telescoping ladders, but we’ve tried a couple and found them interesting for certain applications. Primarily, a telescoping ladder makes sense when you absolutely need the most reach in the smallest amount of space. We tried out the first-gen Lionladder telescoping ladder and the company improved the design shortly thereafter. We liked the original, so adding additional stabilizers to the feet made a decent product even better.
Best Ladder Brands
If you shop much, you can see that a majority of retail ladders fall under the Werner, Louisville Ladder, or Little Giant brand names. Of those three, only Little Giant is still made in the USA, but all three—in our opinion—have excellent quality.
If a MUSA brand tops your list of requirements, Bauer and Metallic Ladder also make products here in the United States.
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