For safety and ease of storage, match the ladder with the job.
There's a variety of ladders available for use around the home, from small stepladders for changing a lightbulb, to regular stepladders for general handywork, to platform and multipurpose ladders for more specialised work. We'll take you through the types, point out the features to look for, and give a few safety tips on using them.
Note that CHOICE no longer reviews ladders so there is no product review currently available.
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What to look for
Small two- or three-step stepladders are usually compact enough to keep in your laundry or kitchen and are very useful for changing a lightbulb or reaching a top shelf. They often have a larger top step or platform which is safe to stand on.
Regular 1.8m A-frame stepladders are much the same, just a bit larger. The main difference is that most of these don't have a large top step or platform, so you shouldn't use the topmost rung to stand on. Instead, use it to brace your legs as you stand on the second-highest rung. Check the warning labels on the ladder.
Regardless of the step ladder size, it should have strong cross-bracing that locks securely in place so that the two halves can't shift away from each other and collapse.
Regular straight ladders are still easily available, though generally not as popular as stepladders for domestic use as they don't have that convenient built-in stability. They need to be braced against a wall. However they usually have better reach than a basic stepladder.
Extension ladders and stepladders
If you want more versatility in your ladder, but don't need it to be contorted into a dozen different shapes, then a step extension ladder might be the perfect home solution.
The step extension ladder can be used as a standard A-frame ladder, but for more reach you can fold the ladder out and have a longer straight ladder, which effectively doubles your reach when placed against the side of the house. They should have a locking mechanism to hold this configuration securely in place.
Straight extension ladders are a good option if you sometimes need a very long ladder, to reach your roof for example. They can be used as a regular straight ladder but can also be extended to a much longer length: some can go to eight metres or more.
Platform stepladders are like regular step ladders, but they have a wide, non-slip platform near the top to provide a working area where you can stand fairly comfortably, or rest your work tools, can of paint and so on.