Over the course of a Saturday afternoon’s worth of DIY, there may come a point where you need to work at height. If that’s the case, don’t stand on a chair – use a ladder. It’s much safer!
Mind you, with so many different ladders available, it can sometimes be hard to pick the right one for the job. That’s why we’ve put together these tips to help you choose the best ladder for your DIY project.
Consider the task at hand
The key to getting the right ladder is knowing what sort of work your DIY project is going to entail. If all you’re doing is putting up some shelves, you might only need a set of platform steps, or a lightweight aluminium step ladder.
A heavy-duty fibreglass step ladder might look snazzy and seem like a more attractive idea, but they’re designed for electricians and others who work near electrical hazards. So, if that’s not you, you’re better off sticking to a lighter set of steps.
If you’re clearing your gutters out, or cleaning your windows, you’re better off using an extension ladder. These allow you to face the gutters or windows straight on, which is much safer than twisting around at the top as you would if you used a step ladder. It’s better to be safe than sorry when working at those sorts of heights!
When undertaking more complex tasks, you may be better off with a combination ladder. These are a great innovation: they can be configured into different shapes to provide access to a range of hard-to-reach places. For example, if you need to paint a stairwell, a combination ladder can have one set of legs on a stair, and the other on the floor or on a lower step, and still give you the stability you need to paint. (Paint spills are still a concern, of course, so be careful!)
Ladder safety tips
No matter what kind of DIY project you’re doing, safety should always come first.
To start with, make sure the work site is safe. Remove as many potential hazards as possible, so that if the worst happens and you fall, you don’t hit anything dangerous. Make sure you’re using the ladder on stable, solid ground too; working on soft or uneven ground, or putting the ladder on any sort of platform, can easily unbalance the ladder.
Inspect the ladder before use too. Are the rungs and side rails in good condition, with no signs of damage or warping? Do the ladder’s feet offer good grip? Do the hinges or lock mechanisms work properly? If you’re at all concerned about the condition of your ladder, it might be time to get a new one.
Maintain three points of contact with the ladder as much as possible: either one hand and both feet, or both feet and your chest or knee. Keep your belt buckle centred between the ladder’s side rails at all times, and don’t overreach, as this makes you more likely to lose your balance. You should also not twist around at the top of the ladder – it’s safer to face the task straight on.
Don’t stand on the very top of the ladder. If you’re using a step ladder with a platform, you can stand on the platform, but otherwise you should avoid standing on any of the top three rungs of your ladder. The ladder should ideally extend 1 metre (or 3-4 rungs) beyond the work point. This will reduce the possibility of the ladder overbalancing while you’re working.