types of ladders

Different Types of Ladders and their Application

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

Are stairs ladders? And what is the difference between the ladder and the step ladder? You have probably heard of the term steps too.

Today, we talk about all the different ladders types and their purposes.

What is a Ladder?

Different terminologies may be confusing when talking about ladders. Here are some;

a) Ladder

A ladder is a set of two upright lengths of metal or wood with a series of steps between them. The steps can be referred to as rungs. These steps climb up and down when making repairs or projects in high places.

b) Step Ladder

The step ladder combines two ladders connected by a hinge at the top. Step ladders do not have to be leaned on anything and can stand independently. In addition, the ladder and the step ladder are movable from one position to the next.

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An extension ladder has steps that can be collapsed or extended to change the height.

c) Stairs

Stairs are steps in a building used to move from one level to the other. The levels can be an elevated floor, the next floor, the mezzanine, or the basement. Stairs may have handrails for support when going up or down.

d) Steps

Steps are a term used for the stairs located outside a building and are larger in length than stairs inside the building.

e) What of the escalator?

The escalator is a mechanical set of stairs that move from one level or floor to another in a big building such as a mall.

Let us look at all the different types of ladders.

Types of Ladders

Image source: IndustrialManLifts.com

Choosing the right ladder is vital for your project and safety when using the ladder. The right ladder will save you time and cost when doing your work. In addition, your chances of injury are significantly reduced when using the right ladder for the appropriate project.

Here are the different types of ladders.

1) Straight Ladder

This traditional ladder is made from the simple design of a series of steps supported by two frames on each side. Straight ladders must be leaned on a surface to function properly. However, this simple design is efficient and easy to construct.

Straight ladders might have some disadvantages, like taking up too much storage space. But, on the other hand, a flexible ladder makes it easier to transport the ladder from one place to another, which the traditional frame design limits you from doing.

To make the straight ladders more efficient, the A-frame ladder was invented.

2) A-Frame Ladder

The A-frame ladder combines two straight ladders connected using a hinge at the top. Unlike straight ladders, A-frame ladders can stand on their own and do not have to be leaned on a wall for support.

Image source: thespruce.com

The A-frame ladder can be used by two people simultaneously, making collaborations on a task easier. For example, if you do not have a tool belt, you can have someone assist you when fixing or installing a fan or passing tools.

A traditional a-frame ladder is not an easily portable ladder and may take up too much storage when you are done using it. However, the ladder is safer than the straight ladder.

Apart from the a-frame ladder, the straight ladder has been modified into the extension ladder.

3) Extension Ladders

Extension ladders can be collapsed to reduce the size of small equipment that can take up smaller storage space. Extension ladders use different techniques to lock into place and have different extended modes to increase the height.

Here are some types of extension ladders.

i) Telescopic Ladders

When you think of the telescope, what comes to mind? First, of course, planets and lenses. The interesting thing about the telescope is how it extends outwards to increase in length, and the telescopic ladder uses a similar technique to increase in height.

Image source: Camping World

Telescoping ladders have locking hinges to keep you safe whenever you are a-top the ladder or when moving up and down the ladder. Telescoping ladder are probably the most convenient ladders for anyone who moves around because of how drastically the size shrinks.

These ladders take up the least storage space and are convenient for most scenarios, and are the best multi-position ladders available.

ii) Run-of-the-Mill Extension Ladder

These extension ladders look like two ladders layered on top of one another. One of the ladders slides up and down to extend the height of the ladder. The ladders use teeth to lock into place and are the most basic extension ladders.

iii) Attic Ladders

These types of ladders give you access to the attic. Attic ladders may not move from one location to another and are mostly fixed into place to access the attic.

Image source: BobVila.com

Attic ladders extend downwards and collapse into a compartment for storage. Think of the plane wheels retracting after take-off, but manually. That is how the attic ladder is stored.

iv) Flexible Ladders

These are not your typical extension ladders because they do not stretch out but rather roll out. However, these ladders are ideal in emergencies and are mostly kept for such situations.

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Scaling the flexible ladder is not easy and might feel like a workout. Luckily, the situations you might need involve climbing down instead of upwards.

4) The Step Stool

When discussing types of ladders, we must mention the step stools. A step stool has one or two steps and is used to access the higher cabinets in the kitchen. Most people buy a step stool for normal chores like wiping high spots in the house like window frames or cabinets.

image source: foter.com

The step stool is not a folding ladder in most cases and may take up some space when storing the ladder. Instead, the step stool is a household ladder mostly used inside the house to add some height to the user.

Is the step stool an a-frame ladder? The shape looks like an A-frame ladder, but it lacks hinges on the top. Therefore, the step stool is a stool meant to help you access high spots.

5) Podium Ladders

Podium ladders are ladders that keep you safe when working atop the ladder. These ladders are sturdy. Rubbers are fixed on the ladder feet, and the ladder has extensions on each foot to add stability.

Image source: wconline.com

The ladders have an a-frame ladder shape but have a podium to stand. With these ladders, you are not standing on a step but rather on a flat podium at the top to keep you stable.

6) Platform Ladder

Platform ladders and podium ladders are two types of ladders that are often confused. The platform trestle ladder looks like scaffolding but in a ladder form. Trestle ladders are mostly used for painting projects where you need to access a larger surface without climbing down to move the ladder every other time.

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The platform ladder has an A-frame design, but instead of the two sides being connected by a hinge, they are connected by a platform. As a result, the ladders are safe for use for light projects. The platform ladder is not to replace scaffolding when working on projects. Scaffolding is meant to hold a heavier weight compared to a ladder.

These ladders are very convenient but take up a lot of storage space compared to other ladders. As a result, setting the ladder up for a quick task like changing a light bulb might take longer than necessary.

7) Portable Ladder

These ladders are somewhat of a platform or podium ladder, but they have steps only on one side and are fitted with wheels at the bottom. Portable ladders are mostly used in warehouses where things are placed and removed from high shelves every other time.

Image source: housegrail.com

The portable ladder has wheels making it easier to move the ladder without lifting it. These ladders are busy and are needed every other minute to pick things from a high shelf. The portable warehouse ladder has a platform to stand on and potentially use to hold the items stored or removed from the high shelf.

These stable ladders have handrails for safety when scaling up or down. Most portable warehouse ladder types come from five-step portable ladders.

8) Articulated Ladders

The articulated ladder is an extension ladder that can take on multiple shapes and forms. These ladders fit different situations and can transform into different types of ladders. These ladders are useful in an industrial space where you might need different types of ladders for different purposes.

image source: Staircasedesign.xyz

Articulated ladders have hinges that can let them turn into a twin-step ladder with an a-frame ladder shape. The ladder can create a platform at the top to hold paint cans and other tools. However, the articulated ladder is probably the unique ladder of them all.

9) Multipurpose Ladders

Multi-purpose ladders can be modified into different types of ladders. It might be impossible to picture, but the ladder can be modified into 24 different positions and modes. The adjustments do not affect the stability at all, and the ladder has a design for flaring feet to keep it stable whenever you are atop the ladder.

10) Rope Ladders

Rope ladders can be categorized under the extension ladder group. However, these ropes are meant for more playful settings like a playground. Rope ladders are not meant to scale heights above six feet and are meant to be for playing purposes strictly. The net ladder falls in this category too.

11) Specialized Ladders

Ladders like the pool ladder are specialty ladders. You do not expect to find pool ladders installed in a warehouse. Some ladders are made for specific reasons, and you will not find them anywhere else.

Ladder Materials

One of the main factors you have to consider when buying a ladder is the materials used when making the ladder. The material will affect the cost, durability, and weight capacity. Here are some materials to think of when making a ladder selection.

a) Wooden Ladders

Wooden ladders were the first ladders ever. The most famous ladder is a wooden ladder, which is very symbolic in the religious world. Wooden ladders are simple and easy to construct. You can make a ladder by yourself if you can access the right materials.

If you want to make a ladder from wood, you need the basic materials that you probably have in your toolbox.

Most stores do not sell wooden ladders because most companies do not produce them. In addition, wooden ladders are not as flexible as other materials are, especially when working with movable joints.

Companies can use wood to make parts like wooden rungs and other accessories.

b) Aluminum Ladders

Aluminum is used on most ladders because of its weight and strength. Aluminum ladders are the lightest compared to other materials. The metal is strong too. Fiberglass ladders are lighter than any metal ladder. The aluminum ladder compared to fiberglass ladders is more accessible and more likely to be the one you will find in the stores.

c) Bamboo Ladder

Bamboo is by far the strongest wood you can use. Bamboo is used to make scaffolding for tall building constructions. A ladder would be an easy one for the bamboo. Bamboo is easily accessible and cheaper than most woods. Bamboo can last forever if kept under the right conditions. Bamboo is a light-duty ladder.

Bamboo or any other wood might have limitations. For instance when making a ladder, you may not be able to make a multipurpose ladder using bamboo. Multipurpose ladders need materials like aluminum that can be used to make a more flexible ladder.

Final Take

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Ladders are our everyday tools that make our tasks easy. Whether getting a twin-step ladder or simple step ladders, your work will be much easier than working without a ladder. Before buying a ladder, look at some features like duty rating, support point, maximum weight capacity, fixed height, fixed length, and other features.

Consider all the safety tips when using a ladder. Ladder accidents are a bit scary.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.