The Best Ladders

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After spending over 30 hours comparing at least 35 ladders and testing four, we’re recommending a stepladder for common tasks and an extension ladder for lofty heights, namely the 5.5-foot Gorilla GLF-5X Fiberglass Hybrid Ladder and the Werner D6228-2 28 ft Type IA Fiberglass D-Rung Extension Ladder. Between the two, you should be able to safely fix every ceiling fan, change every floodlight, paint every wall, clean every gutter, wash every window, and even get up on your roof to do a quick chimney repair or to clear a few branches from a recent storm.

Our pick
Gorilla GLF-5X Fiberglass Hybrid Ladder
With its top two platform steps, the Gorilla provides more comfort and easier balancing compared with a regular stepladder.

For indoor work or lower-reach outdoor tasks, we recommend the Gorilla GLF-5X Fiberglass Hybrid Ladder. This stepladder is unique because the top two steps are considerably larger than the rest, so they support your entire foot and not just your arch. Compared with the design of a traditional stepladder, this setup provides a much more comfortable sense of balance and range of motion while you’re working. The Gorilla has a smaller footprint than typical stepladders, which works well in confined spaces, but its working height is similar to that of others we saw—an average person should be able to reach about 10 feet up, which is enough for cleaning first-floor windows or installing a light fixture on a standard ceiling.

Runner-up

*At the time of publishing, the price was $80.

Werner FS106 6 ft Type I Fiberglass Single Sided Stepladder
This well-built stepladder works with a number of buckets, trays, and hooks to hold tools and parts during projects.

If the Gorilla is unavailable, we also like the Werner FS106 6 ft Type I Fiberglass Single Sided Stepladder. This traditional stepladder doesn’t have wide top steps but does offer a number of add-on accessories (available separately) that we found to be useful, including a utility bucket, a tool hook, and a paint cup.

Upgrade pick
Little Giant Select Step Model 5-8
Telescoping legs transform this unique model into a 5-, 6-, 7-, or 8-foot ladder, and it can stand up against a wall or on a set of stairs.

If you’re an advanced DIYer, we recommend the Little Giant Select Step Model 5-8. The legs of this ladder can telescope out, transforming it into a 5-, 6-, 7-, or 8-foot stepladder. Since you can set those adjustable legs to uneven lengths, the Little Giant can stand on a flight of stairs or flush against a wall, both of which are unsafe positions for a traditional stepladder. It also has a platform step and an excellent tool tray that converts into a handhold. It costs too much for use on simple around-the-house tasks, but if you’re doing a lot of work on a home, the versatility and value of this ladder’s features justify the cost.

Our pick
Werner D6228-2 28 ft Type IA Fiberglass D-Rung Extension Ladder
This Werner can get someone on the roof of a two-story house, it’s safe to use near power lines, and it’s strong enough to hold just about anyone.

For tall tasks up the side of a house, or even on top of one, we like the Werner D6228-2 28 ft Type IA Fiberglass D-Rung Extension Ladder. It’s long enough to get someone safely onto the roof of a typical two-story house, and its sturdy fiberglass build is safer around power lines than an aluminum ladder. The D6228-2 is rated to hold up to 300 pounds, which is more than enough to support an average person along with tools and materials. This Werner model is readily available at Home Depot and Lowe’s, and it’s typically priced less than the competition, provided you purchase it in-store. Like any extension ladder, however, it’s long and heavy, and it can be awkward to transport and maneuver.

Runner-up
Louisville FE3228 28 ft Fiberglass Multi-section Extension Ladder
Similar to our main pick, this ladder is harder to find in-store, but it’s sometimes less expensive if you buy it online.

This particular Werner is usually easy to find at large retailers, but if it’s not available, we also like the Louisville FE3228 28 ft Fiberglass Multi-section Extension Ladder. It’s similar to our pick in most ways, except that it has a more limited in-store availability. On the plus side, you can sometimes find it for less than our pick if you order it online.

For quick tasks like reaching upper cabinets and changing low-fixture light bulbs, we have a recommendation for a compact and portable step stool here.

Table of contents

Why you should trust us

I spent 10 years in high-end residential construction, and in that time I worked off countless ladders, from mini 4-foot stepladders to fully extended 40-foot extension ladders (not recommended). I was also a member of my company’s safety committee, responsible for maintaining safe work practices and OSHA compliance for our crews, which included educating team members on safe ladder practices.

In addition, I’ve been writing about and reviewing tools and construction gear since 2007, with articles appearing in Fine Homebuilding, The Journal of Light Construction, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, This Old House, and Tools of the Trade, among other publications.

For this guide I also spoke with Mark Clement, licensed contractor and co-host of the MyFixitUpLife radio show. Clement is the author of “12 Ladder Safety Tips,” an article appearing at Old House Online. I found this article to stand head and shoulders above the rest as far as explaining the criteria in selecting a ladder.

On top of that, I read everything else I could about ladders, focusing a lot of attention on the buying guides at various retailer and manufacturer websites.

Who this is for

Ladders are available in a variety of lengths, and a ladder that will work perfectly for one person might not get the job done for someone else. For this guide, particularly on our extension-ladder recommendation, we concentrated on the ladder needs of a typical two-story home with eaves approximately 19 to 20 feet off the ground. If that doesn’t describe your home, other ladders will work for you. It’s important to know how to choose a ladder so that you can select the best ladder for your needs.

How we picked and tested

For this guide, we looked at two styles of ladders: stepladders and extension ladders. Because of their lengths and features, these two styles complement each other. To actively maintain a home, it’s a good idea to own both.

ladders-group-testing

The tested ladders (and Marlowe).

Stepladders have an A-frame design and are self-supporting. Residential models are typically 4 to 10 feet in height (although much larger sizes are available). Unlike extension ladders, which are best for outdoor work, stepladders can work well indoors, too. They’re good for tasks such as pruning trees, fixing ceiling fans, and painting interiors and exteriors.

Of the companies that manufacture quality stepladders, Louisville and Werner are the most prominent. But a number of other companies, namely Gorilla and Little Giant, have their own offerings.

Extension ladders lean against a house and are capable of reaching very tall heights. They are not self-supporting and so are ideal for tasks along the walls of a house or up on the roof, such as painting, window cleaning, siding repair, or roof repair. An extension ladder actually consists of two ladders, namely a fly section nested within a base section, both of identical length. With the use of a pulley system, you can extend the fly section upward and lock it at your desired height.

For extension ladders, just two manufacturers are worth considering: Louisville and Werner.1 Besides offering an extensive selection of ladders under their own names, these two companies are responsible for the ladders made under other names as well. Louisville manufactures ladders for DeWalt, and Werner owns Green Bull and Keller. The Louisville and Werner brands are the most widely available, and in my experience they’re the most common on construction sites. Both are trusted names.

Together, a properly sized extension ladder and stepladder make a nice complementary pair. Ideally, with an extension ladder fully retracted and set up against a house and a stepladder set up next to it, no portion of a home’s sidewall is inaccessible. Where the reach for the stepladder stops, the reach for the extension ladder starts. Put together, these two types of ladders offer you the ability to access the entire exterior of your house.

Put together, these two types of ladders offer you the ability to access the entire exterior of your house.

We focused our research on traditional ladder designs (A-frame stepladders and two-section extension ladders). A number of other styles exist, but we dismissed them for a variety of reasons. Three-section extension ladders are more compact in storage but cost nearly twice as much as their two-section counterparts. We also didn’t look at any multiuse ladders like the Little Giant Classic. Such ladders are certainly practical, but the majority of them are aluminum—we wanted a fiberglass model, because we can’t ignore the danger that exists with aluminum ladders and power lines. The fiberglass multiuse models we found, such as the Little Giant 15145-001, don’t offer the height necessary for a typical two-story home (and at $700 plus, they’re very expensive). And we didn’t look at telescoping ladders like the Telesteps 1800EP or the Xtend & Climb 785P, due to their limitations as a primary ladder.2

We did not do any comparative testing of our extension ladder pick, although we did get our hands on a Werner ladder to confirm the overall build quality (it’s excellent). We tested two stepladders: the Gorilla GLF-5X and the Werner FS106. To evaluate these ladders, we used them for a number of common household tasks, such as storm-window adjustments, light bulb changing, window cleaning, and a few other odd projects (lubing up a barn-door roller and taking down part of a ceiling). In addition to those unstructured tests, we ascended and descended each ladder countless times and did plenty of “wobble testing” by standing at various steps and shifting our body weight around.

Our stepladder pick

ladders-gorilla-glf-5x-fiberglass-hybrid

The top two steps of the Gorilla GLF-5X are much larger than the rest, which promotes easier balance and better stability.

Our pick
Gorilla GLF-5X Fiberglass Hybrid Ladder
With its top two platform steps, the Gorilla provides more comfort and easier balancing compared with a regular stepladder.

For tasks such as cleaning first-floor windows, washing the lower portion of a house, painting near a ceiling, or installing an overhead light fixture, we recommend the 5.5-foot Gorilla GLF-5X Fiberglass Hybrid Ladder. A major difference between this model and the competition is that its top two steps are much larger than the rest, offering a degree of stability not found in a traditional stepladder. The large steps can support the entire foot, not just a part of it, allowing for easier balance and a wider range of movement compared with a traditional stepladder. This fiberglass Gorilla model is sturdy and has the same 10-foot reach as a standard 6-foot ladder but is 6 inches shorter, making for a footprint that is smaller than normal. That compact footprint is nice to have when you’re setting the ladder up in a tight hallway or a small bathroom. And those added features don’t carry an additional cost, as the Gorilla GLF-5X is priced about the same as a traditional stepladder of a similar size, build, and weight rating (in this case, 250 pounds).

The extra-large top steps offer much greater stability and comfort in comparison with a regular stepladder.

Without question, the platform steps are the high point of the Gorilla GLF-5X. On a traditional stepladder, all the steps are about 3 inches deep. On the GLF-5X, the bottom two are 3 inches, but the top step is 10 inches deep, and the step below that is 8 inches deep. The extra-large top steps offer much greater stability and comfort in comparison with a regular stepladder such as the Werner FS106, which we also tested. Because the Gorilla’s steps are big enough to support the entire foot, I could use my regular standing balance while on the ladder, in contrast to the constant “balance awareness” necessary for standing on a regular stepladder. It greatly reduces the amount of strain on the feet and legs. I also didn’t feel the need to brace my knee against the ladder, which is a habit I’ve developed while using regular stepladders.

The large steps make shifting positions easy, as well. Because it fully supports your feet, completely turning around while you’re on the ladder is not an issue. With a regular stepladder, turning takes some footwork and maneuvering.

ladders-gorilla-glf-5x-fiberglass-hybrid-ladder-support

The top step of the Gorilla GLF-5X comfortably supports size-12 feet. Because you can use your regular “standing balance,” you have no need to brace your leg against the ladder.

Gorilla lists the GLF-5X as a 5.5-foot stepladder, but the steps are at the same height as those of a 6-foot ladder, so the reach is the same, about 10 feet. That should be enough for you to reach most garage-door openers, lower tree limbs, ceiling fans, and 10-foot ceilings. According to contractor, radio co-host, and writer Mark Clement, a good rule of thumb for sizing a stepladder is that “your feet will stay about 2’ below the ladder’s nominal height. For example, a 6′ stepladder gets your feet about 4′ above the ground. Add your own height to that number for a real picture of where the ladder will get you.”

The Gorilla GLF-5X has a Type I weight rating (250 pounds), which is less than the weight rating for our extension-ladder recommendation (Type IA, 300 pounds). In the case of an extension ladder, a higher weight rating refers to an increase in the stiffness of the rails, which results in more comfort and stability. This stiffness isn’t as necessary with the A-frame design of a stepladder, particularly one with the added safety and maneuverability of platform steps. Also, people typically don’t use stepladders as aggressively as an extension ladder.

Another slight advantage to the Gorilla GLF-5X is that when folded up, it’s 2 inches thinner than a regular stepladder (4 inches versus 6 inches, measured at the tool tray). This amount is fairly small, and it won’t mean anything to most people, but if your garage space is extremely limited or you plan on storing your ladder in a closet, this thinner build could make a difference.

Other credible reviewers have written about the Gorilla GLF-5X and liked it quite a bit. At Pro Tool Reviews, Clint DeBoer writes, “Given that Gorilla provided two full steps, you now get a ladder that lets you not only climb to the heights you need, but also gives you a solution to let you stand there and get your work done (be that painting, installing crown, etc) without running into foot-fatigue.” DeBoer also refers to the ladder as “a good indoor and outdoor solution that works just as well in the home as it does on the jobsite.” At Tool-Rank, reviewer Gary writes, “I really liked using this ladder; it’s easier to lift and carry, easier to open, easier on the feet, and yet has a sturdy feel to it.” In comparing the Gorilla against a traditional stepladder, Gary states that “the Gorilla Hybrid ladders are much better.”

Stepladder: Flaws but not dealbreakers

The GLF-5X is a 5.5-foot ladder with the reach of a 6-foot ladder. Gorilla accomplishes that by putting the steps at the same height and lowering the top of the ladder, and thus the tool tray, by 6 inches. This lower tool tray is an inconvenience, but only a slight one. With the additional stability of the platform steps, bending over a little more to grab a hammer isn’t a huge issue. While I’m on the top step, the tool tray comes to about 3 inches below my knee (I’m 6 feet 5 inches), whereas with a regular stepladder, the tray is firmly at my knee. If you feel the need to brace yourself, you still can (it’s just a little lower), but as I said earlier, the stability of the platform steps eliminated that need for me, so there’s little in the way of a loss in that regard.

As for overall build quality, the Gorilla GLF-5X is fully functional and I always felt secure on it. During our extreme wobble tests, however, it had more side-to-side movement than the Werner stepladder, and when we set it up on uneven surfaces (such as a lumpy lawn), it had more flex as it adjusted to the contours of the ground. When you use any stepladder, you should ensure that the legs are level, either by digging one slightly into the ground or supporting one with a shim (such as a wide board). Under normal circumstances, with the legs leveled, the two ladders seemed to offer a similar amount of stability in our tests.

Lastly, the GLF-5X’s tool tray is on the small side, and Gorilla does not offer any add-on accessories such as a utility bucket. We tested similar accessories from Werner and found them to be fantastic for a variety of projects. The Gorilla ladder does appear to be compatible with third-party items such as the Rack-A-Tiers Ladder Mate and the Byers Accessory System (neither of which we have tested).

For nice add-ons but slightly less stability

ladders-werner-fs106

The Werner FS106 is a more traditional stepladder, but it’s well-built and compatible with a number of useful accessories (sold separately).

Runner-up

*At the time of publishing, the price was $80.

Werner FS106 6 ft Type I Fiberglass Single Sided Stepladder
This well-built stepladder works with a number of buckets, trays, and hooks to hold tools and parts during projects.

If you’re willing to sacrifice a little standing stability for working convenience, we also like the Werner FS106 6 ft Type I Fiberglass Single Sided Stepladder. This is a traditional stepladder without the Gorilla GLF-5X’s platform steps, which is a drawback. But to its advantage, the tool tray is compatible with a number of accessories that we found to be extremely helpful during our testing. The FS106 has excellent build quality, and in our tests it hardly wobbled at all, even while we stood on it and aggressively shifted our weight around.

Without the large platform steps, the FS106 supports only the arch of your foot (or the ball, depending on how you’re standing). You’re more likely to need to brace your knee against the top step, and you’ll have to be more careful shifting your feet or reaching down for tools. The FS106 offers a fine setup, but the GLF-5X simply gave us a much better feeling of comfort while we were working.

ladders-werner-fs106-utility-bucket

The Werner FS106’s utility-bucket attachment can hold any number of items and even has a spot to secure an extension cord. In this photo, the attached utility hook is supporting the cordless drill. Both attachments are sold separately.

The utility bucket easily held a bottle of Windex, a roll of paper towels, a cordless drill, a prybar, a hammer, and a handful of small, easy-to-lose aluminum storm window screws.

Where the ladder makes up for that difference in design is in a number of accessories that attach to the tool tray through a series of tapered grooves. We tested Werner’s AC52-UB Utility Bucket and AC56-UH Utility Hook, and we thought that both accessories were excellent. While I cleaned and adjusted storm windows, the utility bucket easily held a bottle of Windex, a roll of paper towels, a cordless drill, a prybar, a hammer, and a handful of small, easy-to-lose aluminum storm window screws. The bucket also gave me a place to put the old caulk that I was scraping off the edges of the windows. And with all of that stuff in the bucket, I still had plenty of room left over.

Overall, the FS106 is a very nice ladder, but we think most people would appreciate the added standing stability of the Gorilla GLF-5X over the convenience of Werner’s utility bucket and other accessories.

A stepladder for serious DIY work

ladders-little-giant-select-step

Because of the independently telescoping legs, you can safely set up the Select Step on a steep slope or a flight of stairs.

Upgrade pick
Little Giant Select Step Model 5-8
Telescoping legs transform this unique model into a 5-, 6-, 7-, or 8-foot ladder, and it can stand up against a wall or on a set of stairs.

The Little Giant Select Step Model 5-8 is an unusual ladder with a number of unique features that can make life much easier if you’re taking on more advanced projects such as crown molding or larger framing tasks. First off, each side of the ladder can extend and lock at various lengths, so you can use this single ladder as a 5-, 6-, 7-, or 8-foot stepladder. Because each pair of legs adjusts independently, this ladder can lean flush against a wall or stand on a stairway or incline, two positions a basic stepladder can’t accommodate. The Select Step also comes with single platform step at the top, plus an extending work tray that you can use as a handhold while standing on the higher steps. The tray has a magnetic area (for securing nails, screws, drill bits, and so forth), as well as places for extension cords, hand tools, and a can of paint. Last, the legs splay out at the bottom, giving the ladder a level of stability not found in other 6-foot stepladders.

The Select Step has received a number of positive reviews from credible sources. Mark Clement, reviewing it at Old House Web, calls it “the reinvention of the stepladder.” Clement concludes: “[I]ts payback in versatility and convenience (not to mention an additional 8 foot stepladder I don’t need to buy, carry, and store) is well worth the investment. It’s a professional grade tool that makes all kinds of home improvement and repair easier and safer.” Marc Lyman of Home Fixated also reviewed the Select Step, writing, “The versatility and useful features of the Select Step make it ideal for DIY’ers and homeowners, but I think pro’s would appreciate it as well.” Lyman has a video with more detail on the ladder features, including the innovative tool tray.

I’ve owned a Select Step for a number of years, and it has proven its worth time and time again, both at my own house and on construction sites. In 2014 I reviewed it for Tools of the Trade. At the time I wrote, “I’ve owned one since it came out and have used it on a variety of jobsites where it has received unanimous praise from guys in just about every trade. Basically, everyone loves the thing and there are a lot of reasons why.”

The Select Step has an aluminum build and is available only with a Type IA (300 pounds) weight rating.3 That design adds versatility but packs on extra weight, especially with the telescoping function included. At 26 pounds, the Select Step weighs about 8 pounds more than the traditional Werner stepladder, making it an awkward item to carry through a house.

Other than the weight, the main drawback to the Select Step is the cost. The Model 5-8 runs more than $200 as of this writing, almost three times the cost of our main stepladder pick. Given such a price, this is not the ladder for everyone. But if you’re serious about your DIY work, you will likely appreciate the investment.

Our extension ladder pick

ladders-werner-d6228

Even at its shortest length, a 28-foot extension ladder is long. (The pictured ladder is the Werner D6028-2, with a Type I weight rating. Our pick, the D6228-2, has a higher weight rating and is red. In all other ways, the two ladders are identical.)

Our pick
Werner D6228-2 28 ft Type IA Fiberglass D-Rung Extension Ladder
This Werner can get someone on the roof of a two-story house, it’s safe to use near power lines, and it’s strong enough to hold just about anyone.

After closely comparing almost 20 extension ladders of varying lengths, we think the best extension ladder for most people is the Werner D6228-2 28 ft Type IA Fiberglass D-Rung Extension Ladder. Its 28-foot length is enough to safely get someone up to the roof of a typical two-story home, and its Type IA weight rating (300 pounds) is strong enough to support a person completely loaded up with tools and gear. Because of its fiberglass side rails, this ladder is safe near power lines (as long as it’s clean and dry), and it has antislip safety feet, which you can flip up and dig into the ground when you’re setting it up on grass or gravel. All of these features are available on our runner-up pick, but the D6228-2 has wider availability at major retailers, where it typically sells for less. At about $300, the D6228-2 isn’t a cheap item, but for something that you’re literally trusting with your life, paying for quality is worth it.

At about $300, the D6228-2 isn’t a cheap item, but for something that you’re literally trusting with your life, paying for quality is worth it.

The D6228-2 is sized for a typical two-story house. At its most compact, it’s just over 14 feet in length. Fully extended, it’s roughly 25 feet, with a 3-foot overlap at the center. For safety, you should not use the top three rungs as steps; as a result, the D6228-2 gives a maximum reach of about 27 to 28 feet depending on your height. For you to get on and off the top of the ladder and onto a roof, three rungs need to extend beyond the roofline,4 so the D6228-2 works with roofs about 21 feet high or less. If your house does not conform to those heights, Werner offers a chart that will help you decide on the correct ladder length (under “Step 2: Select Height”).5

Even if you think you’ll never go up on your roof, Mark Clement’s advice is to get a ladder with that capability. He writes, “However, it’s not unheard of for folks to misuse ladders when unintended situations arise. ‘Nah, I’ll never need to go on the roof,’ you think—until a hurricane deposits a tree branch there, or blows off shingles so it’s raining in your bedroom. Next thing you know, you’re bouncing up your (undersized) ladder because it’s an emergency. If there’s a scintilla of a chance you’ll go topside, my advice is to buy up.”

The Werner D6228-2 is also a safe ladder. Since its side rails are fiberglass, they do not conduct electricity as those of an aluminum ladder do, so it’s a safe option for working near power lines. This factor is especially important with long, difficult-to-maneuver extension ladders. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends this type of ladder in a safety alert, noting that it’s crucial that fiberglass ladders “be kept clean to maintain their non-conductive safety properties.”

But the advantages of fiberglass ladders go beyond electrical safety. As Clement told us, “Fiberglass is orders of magnitude better than aluminum. Noise, sturdiness, even cleanliness. Once aluminum gets dust and junk on it, it finds its way to your hands and clothes and work.” He emphasized the sturdiness factor, too: “It’s just a stiffer ladder, especially when extended.” My experience is the same; I’ve always felt much more stable, and thus safer and more comfortable, on fiberglass ladders. In “Choosing a Ladder” prominent paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams suggests, “[If] you buy only one ladder, fiberglass should be your choice.”

“Fiberglass is orders of magnitude better than aluminum.” —Mark Clement, MyFixitUpLife

The Werner D6228-2 has a weight rating of Type IA, which means it can safely support 300 pounds. That may sound excessive, but the weight rating includes the total heft of everything on the ladder, so it isn’t just a person but also the clothing, tools, and anything else that the person might carry.6 An article at The Family Handyman puts this idea into perspective: “The average American male weighs 189 lbs. Add a gallon of paint and a few tools and you’ve already exceeded the weight limit of a Type III ladder [200 pounds]. Carry a heavy power tool and a few hand tools and you’ll blow past a Type II [225 pounds]. And if you ever have to lug up a bundle of shingles (70 lbs.), you’ll need at least a Type IA ladder.”

Even if you never get close to exceeding the weight limit, a Type IA rating promises the most stability in a residential ladder. Because a ladder rated as such is designed to handle so much weight, it has less flex in the side rails. This feature becomes more important as you extend the D6228-2. At its maximum reach, only 3 feet of the ladder sections overlap, so you’re relying on the strength of the individual sections—and the times you’re working at heights like these are precisely when you don’t want a bouncy ladder. In addition, the 300-pound weight rating means this ladder is strong enough to handle any emergencies or unforeseen situations. Even if no one in your household comes close to 200 pounds, you never know who may be assisting you with a project (or asking to borrow your ladder).

ladders-werner-d6228-shoes-nonslip-tread

The shoes of the D6228-2 can adjust to match the surface the ladder is on. The nonslip tread (left) is better for smooth, flat surfaces such as pavement, whereas the claw end (right) can flip up for grass or gravel.

The feet of the D6228-2 have nonslip textured rubber grips for use on hard, flat surfaces. When you set up the ladder on a lawn or other soft surface, you can pivot the feet so that the claw end faces downward, ready for you to dig it into the ground for a better grip. We found that both setups are successful and very stable.

Werner is a well-respected name in ladders, and the D6228-2 has stellar customer feedback on the Home Depot site; currently it holds a 4.8 rating (out of five) across more than 130 comments. This reception is not surprising, as the majority of the ladders I used in construction were Werner models. In fact, I’ve spent quite a bit of time on this exact ladder.

As for price, the D6228-2 costs approximately $300 at the moment. This is a serious chunk of change, but a ladder, even one that you use only a few times a year, is worth the investment. The areas where you could go cheaper simply aren’t worth the reduction in capability. The Werner D6228-2 has the length, build, and weight rating to handle any household task and perform in an emergency.

Extension ladder: Flaws but not dealbreakers

This ladder and other Werner models are readily available at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and many local hardware stores and home centers, but getting it to your home may prove tricky depending on your vehicle. The ladder weighs 60 pounds, so most roof racks should be able to handle the weight. We recommend using a strong tie-down system, such as ratchet straps, to prohibit any movement of the ladder during transportation. Home Depot charges about $100 for curbside shipping, while Lowe’s appears to charge about $50 to $100 (delivery pricing is regional). You can find some online retailers that offer free shipping, but they tend to sell the item at a higher base price (by about $40).

Like any 28-foot extension ladder, the Werner D6228-2 is heavy. If you’re not used to maneuvering a 60-pound extension ladder, setting this one up will likely be an awkward and difficult process; just getting it vertical can be a struggle. Our recommendation is to educate yourself on the proper techniques for carrying and setting up an extension ladder. This video from About.com covers the basics. Also, it’s a good idea to have someone help: In construction, for example, it’s not uncommon for one person to “foot” the ladder (stand on the feet) while the other one lifts it to the vertical position.

Even downgrading a few of the features doesn’t significantly reduce the weight. Stepping down to the Type I, 250-pound rating saves you just 5 pounds, and buying the same ladder but with an aluminum body saves you only about 3½ pounds. So although such minimal reductions add up, they don’t result in a featherweight ladder. Extension ladders are simply heavy, and sacrificing safety features to shave off a pound or three doesn’t make sense.

Storing a 14-foot ladder can pose difficulties, as well. I’ve always had luck with wall hooks (similar to these) set up either behind the garage or inside it. For such a heavy ladder, it’s critical that you screw the hooks into studs and not just drywall.

An equally good extension ladder

Runner-up
Louisville FE3228 28 ft Fiberglass Multi-section Extension Ladder
Similar to our main pick, this ladder is harder to find in-store, but it’s sometimes less expensive if you buy it online.

These days you can find only two manufacturers of high-quality traditional extension ladders, so it’s not surprising that our runner-up is the Louisville FE3228 28 ft Fiberglass Multi-section Extension Ladder. We didn’t test this ladder, but it appears to have very little to differentiate it from our Werner pick. The two ladders have the same weight rating, the same general build, and similar safety shoes. Like Werner, Louisville is a respected name in the ladder industry, and through my construction career I’ve stood on many Louisville Type IA ladders with complete confidence. Where the Werner model edges out the Louisville model is in its availability in stores.

To get the best deal on your extension ladder, you should buy the Werner in person at either Home Depot or Lowe’s for about $300. If you want delivery and need to purchase online, the Werner and Louisville ladders both cost more. We tracked historic pricing at Amazon, and there the ladders typically sell in the $365 to $370 range but often go on sale for much less (though they rarely go as low as the in-store price). One industrial retailer, Zoro, offers free shipping and currently has both the Werner and the Louisville in the $330 range. Online prices do fluctuate, so it’s difficult for us to offer any concrete advice other than to suggest that you take a few moments to seek out the best price.

Extension-ladder accessories

You can find a number of add-on accessories that make an extension ladder easier and safer to use, including stabilizers, ladder mitts, and leveling legs.

A stabilizer is a particularly useful accessory to have for an extension ladder. This wide U-shaped bar attaches to the top of the fly ladder and braces the ladder off the house, preventing damage. As Mark Clement writes, these “can span a window or keep [the ladder] from crushing gutters.” I’ve used one similar to the Louisville LP2200-00, which works fine and doesn’t cost much, but the downside is that it isn’t easy to put on and take off. Were I purchasing one now, I’d seriously consider the Werner AC78, with its quick attachment system.7

Ladder mitts are nothing more than little rubbery end caps for the rails on the fly section. These add-ons help prevent unwanted damage: Ordinarily, when you place a ladder against a house, it can easily scratch paint and leave scuff marks, but mitts provide a soft protective barrier so that doesn’t happen. The Werner AC19-2 pair is well worth its typically minimal investment.

If the ground around your house is uneven, levelers can be helpful. These accessories attach to the feet of the ladder and extend independently, so you can position the ladder properly. We like the looks of the LeveLok Permanent Mount Style Levelers. The LeveLoks are the only levelers we found that offer a pivoting safety shoe, and they have fantastic customer feedback at Amazon. Since the legs can accommodate adjustments up to 10 inches, you could set the ladder perpendicular on a flight of stairs. Most levelers are in the $100-plus price range, though, and the LeveLok pair is no different.

If you know from the start that you’ll need levelers, Werner sells a version of our main extension pick with a built-in leveling system, the D8228-2EQ. It sells for about $375 at this writing, so at the moment you get a slight cost savings by purchasing the ladder with the levelers attached. Either option is better than the lazy fix—setting a ladder leg on a couple of bricks—which Sweethome editor Harry Sawyers once used to ascend from a lower roof to an upper roof on a historic house he was restoring. (He survived.)

The competition

Our Gorilla stepladder pick is also available in a 4-foot height (GLF-4X), but that model has one fewer step and not as much reach, so 10-foot ceilings and first-floor gutters could be an issue. Usually it’s priced within $10 of the 5.5-foot version, too, so you have little reason to go with the smaller ladder.

The Little Giant Flip-N-Lite stepladder weighs just 12 pounds (about 6 pounds less than the Gorilla) but is only aluminum and omits a tool tray. The lighter weight is nice, but we don’t feel it’s worth sacrificing a tool tray or a fiberglass build.

When folded, the Little Giant MicroBurst stepladder is notably thin at just 3 inches thick (1 inch less than our pick). It also has a Type IA, 300-pound weight rating. The downside is that it’s currently about twice the cost of our pick and our runner-up.

The Louisville FS2006 6 ft Fiberglass Standard Step Ladder looks similar to our stepladder runner-up, the Werner FS106. Knowing Louisville’s reputation, we would wager that the FS2006 is an excellent ladder, but Louisville does not appear to make compatible accessories as Werner does. Also, the current cost of this model is slightly higher than what the Werner typically sells for.

The Werner PDFS103 Type I Fiberglass Podium Ladder has a platform-step design similar to the Gorilla GLF-5X, but it has only a single such step, whereas the Gorilla has two. The reach on this ladder is also only 9 feet, not 10 as on the Gorilla.

Werner’s D6028-2 28 ft Type I Fiberglass Extension Ladder is the same as our main extension pick, but it has only a Type I weight rating, which means it can hold 250 pounds. This is the extension ladder we tested for this article, and the truth is, this model would be enough for many people. One significant drawback is that heavier people may go over that weight limit, either on their own or once they get loaded with tools. This ladder also has a limited availability compared with the D6228-2 and currently takes about a month to ship to a local Home Depot or Lowe’s, where it costs about $20 to $30 less than our pick. All things considered, we decided that stepping up to the 300-pound rating simply makes more sense.

The 28-foot Little Giant 15642-009 fiberglass Type IA extension ladder is 10 pounds lighter than our extension pick and has very limited availability. It also costs about $600 at the moment, which is simply too much for a residential ladder, especially when the Werner and Louisville models are so nice.

The Werner D6428-2 28 ft Type IA Lightweight Extension Ladder is mostly the same as our extension ladder pick but differs in that it is roughly 7 pounds lighter. It’s also about $100 more expensive right now, and we don’t think it’s worth that extra amount for around-the-house use. For tradespeople who lift their ladder on and off the roof of their van every day, though, the lowered weight would be worth the cost.

(Photos by Doug Mahoney.)

Footnotes:

1. Little Giant also makes extension ladders, but at over $700, they’re priced out of the reasonable range for a homeowner. Jump back.

2. The longest telescoping ladders are only 15 feet, so they’re not a good option for a typical two-story home. They also don’t have any kind of safety shoe, as a traditional extension ladder does. Lastly, overall sturdiness appears to be an issue: In this video, a professional window washer gets on one, and you can easily see how much it flexes under his weight as he goes up and down. Jump back.

3. A fiberglass version of the Select Step is available for more than $300, nearly $100 more than the aluminum model. Because this model extends to only 8 feet and is thus unlikely to come in contact with power lines, we’re less stringent about the fiberglass recommendation when it comes to stepladders. Jump back.

4. As Mark Clement writes, this setup “allows you to have the rails within reach, so you can hold on to them and have a rung very close to the edge of the roof as you transition between the ladder and roof and back again.” Jump back.

5. Werner and Louisville make Type IA fiberglass extension ladders in all lengths, so once you’ve narrowed down the height that’s appropriate for your situation, finding the correct ladder should be easy enough. Jump back.

6. A ladder rated for 300 pounds won’t collapse at 301 pounds. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, for a ladder to be rated for 300 pounds, it needs to be able to hold nearly 1,000 pounds. Jump back.

7. If you do install a stabilizer on your ladder, it is important to be aware of how much width the accessory adds to the top of the ladder; make sure to give any nearby power lines an extra-wide berth. Jump back.

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Sources

  1. Mark Clement, licensed contractor and co-host of MyFixitUpLife radio show, interview
  2. Mark Clement, 12 Ladder Safety Tips, Old House Online, June/July 2011
  3. How to Choose a Ladder, Werner
  4. Clint DeBoer, Gorilla GLF-5X Hybrid Ladder Review, Pro Tool Reviews, February 12, 2016
  5. Gary, Gorilla Ladders GLF-5X Hybrid Ladder Review, Tool-Rank, April 29, 2016
  6. Mark Clement, Review: Little Giant Select Step Ladder, Old House Web
  7. Marc Lyman, Little Giant Select Step Ladder Review, Home Fixated, August 24, 2010
  8. About.com, Use an Extension Ladder, YouTube, January 11, 2012
  9. Home Fixated, Little Giant Select Step Demo via HomeFixated.com, YouTube, August 19, 2010
  10. Doug Mahoney, Little Giant Select Step Ladder, Tools of the Trade, September 11, 2014
  11. CPSC Safety Alert: Ladders and Electricity Don’t Mix, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
  12. Choosing a Ladder, Sherwin-Williams
  13. Should You Buy a Cheap Extension Ladder? Maybe., The Family Handyman

Originally published: June 6, 2016

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