Know your ladders and when to use them

a-man-on-a-ladder-outside Photo by Klopping/Shutterstock

When it comes to sexy lakeside accoutrements, ladders … don’t make the list. Still, nothing offers a leg up like the right ladder. Or make that “ladders,” says Kevin Cooper of Vancouver-based Allright Ladder and Scaffold Co. For cottagers who have the room to store them, he recommends two units for lakeside ascents: a sturdy step ladder, and an extension ladder long enough to reach rain gutters and the chimney.

A six-foot step ladder “can get a person safely to almost any job indoors,” says Cooper, inside sales representative for Canada’s oldest ladder and scaffold company. Most people can reach up to 10 feet off a six-foot ladder. No matter what it’s made out of— aluminum, fibreglass, even wood—a six-foot step ladder typically weighs around 10 kilograms or less, making it easy to carry.

For work loftier jobs, Cooper says a “24-foot extension ladder gives you a maximum reach of 20 feet, which is adequate for most two-story homes and cottages.”

The extension and step ladder combo will handle the bulk of a typical cottager’s climbing needs. If a specialty ladder is required (a platform ladder to work on a cathedral ceiling, a multipurpose ladder for working on stairs, or a scaffold) Cooper says it’s usually more economical to rent, rather than buy.

When you’re shopping, consider the ladder’s “grade” or carrying capacity. Most cottagers doing light work (cleaning out rain gutters, checking the chimney, painting) can make do with a CSA Grade 2 medium duty ladder (with a load capacity of 225 pounds/102 kilograms) or CSA Grade 1 heavy duty (250 pounds/113 kilograms.) If you’re carrying heavy tools or bundles of shingles, though, you’ll want CSA Grade 1A (300 pounds/136 kilograms.)

Utility workers tend to favour fibreglass (or wood) ladders because they’re less likely to conduct electricity, heat, and cold. But for most cottagers, aluminum will do the job. It’s lightweight, relatively inexpensive, and durable. Compared to a similar fibreglass ladder, a 24-foot aluminum extension with 300-pound capacity weighs seven pounds less and will leave an extra $65 in your wallet. (You can spend the savings on “ladder standoffs”—detachable brackets that give the top of the ladder a wider stance for greater stability. Standoffs make it easier to paint the fascia, install or repair the soffit, or clean out rain gutters without actually resting the ladder on the eavestroughs.)

Wooden ladders are less common these days, but Cooper—whose company makes and repairs wooden ladders at its Vancouver home base—says wood is the most economical material over the long term. “If properly looked after, we have found that our wood ladders can outlast other types of ladders and are the only type of ladder that can have any component repaired or replaced,” he says.

Finishing the ladder in marine spar varnish is a good weatherproofing touch for cottagers, and it gives this practical wooden tool a certain rustic allure. A wooden step ladder “looks right at home in a cottage,” Cooper says. “We think wooden ladders look awesome.”


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