Each week in 2015, ManMade is sharing our picks for the essential tools we think every creative guy and DIYer needs. We’ve selected useful, long-lasting tools to help you accomplish a variety of projects, solve problems, and live a hands-on lifestyle that allows you to interact with and make the things you use every day.
For many people, there comes an act of ownership that signifies true adulthood. For some, it’s that first car when you’re a teenager. Others it could be an elective retirement account, a first home, or that dream electric guitar.
For me, it was a ladder. I didn’t know that at the time. But after years in my 20s of climbing on top of bookshelves, spinning chairs, stacks of crates and other unsoundly structures to make repairs or hang Christmas lights, at some point, at age 30, I became the owner of a ladder. A proper ladder, that could flip and flex into a myriad of patterns that allowed me to safely access things that were taller than me, fix problems, and not be an idiot while balancing on the edge of something already oh-so-unstable. Like a damn grownup.
So, yeah, we’re definitely deeming the ladder and other elevators as an essential tool for any home. Here’s what to know.
What to Look for in a Ladder
There are dozens, maybe hundreds of kinds of ladders out there, all designed for specific tasks to help people safely move up and down. For the home owner, ladders are typically intended to help humans reach places that are taller than they are, either to get to some higher level (climb to your roof, for example, reaching your attic) or to stand on while performing a task (cleaning gutters, painting high walls and ceilings, etc).
Depending on the needs of your home (high ceilings, attic storage, etc), you could end up with a full collection of ladders intended for specific tasks, which is 1) expensive and 2) hard to store and keep organized. So, of course, your home’s needs may require otherwise, but for most of us: take a two-pronged approach. Get one large, convertible ladder for serious tasks, and shorter, simple tall step stool for simple tasks. Two ladders – one big, one small – with which you can reach anything in your house.
The Big Ladder
Here, you have three main options: the A-frame “step” ladder (which folds onto itself), and extension ladder (which slides into itself), or a convertible/hybrid ladder that combines the functionality of both. These hybrid ladders are generally built like a classic A-frame ladder with an extension built into each leg and locking pivot hardware on the fulcrum that allows it to be used in A-frame (two legs, self-supported) or extension ladder (leaning and wall supported).
The appeal to the the hybrid, convertible style is obvious. It can be used for basically any home task, including scaffolding. If you’re starting from scratch, I can’t see a reason to buy any other kind, except for the weight.
If you have one type of large ladder but need another for other tasks, you could supplement what you already own. But I’d sell or donate the one you have, and save up for a hybrid. Same amount of storage space, and, like, four times the functionality. Yes, I’m that convinced.
The Small Ladder
If you asked me about the best $30 I ever spent in my garage workshop, my answer would, totally and truly honestly, be this little folding Cosco stepladder. I use it daily. My garage has 10 – 13″ ceilings (depending on roof slope) and we certainly take advantage of the vertical storage space. Being able to reach those things easily in a matter of seconds means I can put stuff I use on every project in spots above my head. That’s an amazing deal in a small space.
But the stepladder is also a useful tool around the house. If you’re over 5’6″ or so, you can easily reach the top of the walls in a standard 8 – 9″ ceiling home. This means you can easily accomplish lots of tasks without having to lug around a big heavy ladder.
See? Really big ladder for big stuff; just big enough ladder for the small stuff. It works.
Which Ladder Should You Buy?
Of course, pay attention to your home’s needs. You got cathedral ceilings? Plan accordingly. But for most of us, this is what I’d get.
Hybrid and A-Frame Ladders
- Little Giant 14013-001 Alta-One M-17, 17-foot: $197.91
- Little Giant 14016-001 Alta One M-22, 22-foot: $235.59
- Best Choice Products SKY528 Multi Purpose Folding Step Ladder: $90.59
- Louisville Ladder FS2006 250-Pound Duty Rating Fiberglass Step Ladder, 6-Feet: $68.68
- Vulcan Ladder USA ES-17T11G1 17-Feet Multi Task Ladder: $153.47
- Cosco Signature 3-Step Stool: $40.07
- Rubbermaid RM-3W Folding 3-Step Steel Frame Stool: $39.99
- Flip-N-Lite 300-Pound Duty Rating Platform Stepladder, 5-Foot: $72.83