DIY your ladder

How do you install a swim ladder on rock?

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How can I attach a swim ladder to sloping granite rock, so the ladder can be removed for winter?
—Linda Heron, Georgian Bay, Ont.

It’s a “specialized mounting situation,” says Gord Moffatt, sales manager at Dockmaster in Mississippi Mills, Ont., so it’s not as simple or as fast as attaching a swim ladder to your dock. But it’s definitely doable.

At a minimum, you’ll need a powerful drill, such as a hammer drill, with a bit designed to handle rock, plus some heavy-duty hardware that can stay year-round in the rock, say our experts. But a number of factors—how much and in what direction the rock slopes, how easily you can access the rock to do the drilling, and even what the surface of the granite is like (smooth or craggy?)—could mean this project requires a little MacGyvering.

For example, to allow the ladder to hang vertically from a sloping rock, you may need to weld longer struts onto the brackets or build a permanent platform extending out of the rock. “The biggest issue isn’t cutting into the rock,” says Darren Juneau, the CEO of Aardvark Drilling in Guelph. It’s all the other variables. “It’s really a site-specific problem.”

Dave Schneider, a contractor and cottager in Minaki, Ont., recommends using a rock drill (you can rent one) and rock anchors (they look like bolts without heads). You’ll need rock anchors that are the same size as the bracket holes on the swim ladder. (Schneider buys his from a lumberyard.) Then you simply pound in the bolts and secure the ladder onto them. Come close-up time, you can remove the ladder, “and you end up with the bolts sticking out of the rock all winter,” says Schneider. “That’s how I do it, and it works.”