Here's How: The Best Ladder for Home Improvement Projects
Dear James: I need to get some tools for my new home and I think a ladder would be a good place to start. What are my options for ladders and are different ones better for different tasks? -- Brian Y.
Dear Brian: Selecting a ladder is about the best place to begin because, until you start doing some projects around your house, you will not realize how often you use a ladder. When you visit your home center store, you will be surprised by the array of ladder options.
Actually, most people should use ladders more often than they actually do. A tall strong man can sometimes get by without a ladder by reaching. If you are not as strong, swinging a hammer overhead in an off-balance position can easily result in a strained back or worse.
The two basic types of ladders are step ladders and extension ladders. Step ladders are used primarily indoors, and extension ladders are used outdoors.
Four-in-one ladders are also available (often called Gorilla ladders) which can be adjusted to create step or extension ladder configurations. These ladders are quite versatile. A big advantage of one is when using it in the step ladder configuration. In effect, there is a step ladder on each side so someone else can help with overhead projects.
A six-foot tall step ladder is a good size for the majority of the jobs around your home. Eight-foot ones are available, but they are heavier and more difficult to store indoors. Next time you are visiting a discount store, get an inexpensive two-step ladder with a handrail which will fit in a kitchen closet. Many times, you need just an extra foot or two of reach.
Standard extension ladders are 20 feet long, but because of the overlap, the usable length is only 17 feet. With a tall roof, you may need a longer one. Also keep in mind, if you are planning to use it to get on your roof, it will have to extend two feet above the gutter for you to safety step on and off the roof.
The three material choices for a ladder are wood, aluminum and fiberglass. Wood is an excellent material, particularly for a step ladder. It is heavier than the other two materials. This makes it more stable, but not too heavy to handle. Wood is not a good conductor so it is fairly safe when working around electrical wiring.
Aluminum is an excellent material for both step and extension ladders. It is lightweight and can be stored outdoors without deterioration from the weather. Some inexpensive aluminum step ladders are almost too lightweight for stability, so select a good quality one.
Fiberglass has become the most popular ladder material. It is slightly heavier than aluminum, but still manageable to handle. Fiberglass is extremely strong, does not conduct electricity and is resistant to the weather. It is somewhat more expensive than the other two materials, but it will last a lifetime.
Whenever using a ladder, consider some basic safety precautions. If possible, have a helper steady any ladder you are using. Make sure the ladder feet are on a solid surface. There is tremendous stress on the ladder feet. If one or more settle, you will tip over.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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