Basic Climbing Equipment


The basic ladders used for house painting are extension ladders and stepladders. They are made of aluminum, fiberglass or wood. The fiberglass ladders usually have metal rungs.

Extension Ladders

Wooden extension ladders are less common than they use to be, while fiberglass is becoming more popular. Aluminum is still popular. Aluminum is still popular choice because it is lightweight and resists corrosion.
Fiberglass is popular because it also resists corrosion and it is less conductive, which is important if you may be working near electricity. Aluminum, on the other hand is a high conductor of electricity. (See “ Ladder Safety”)

Ladders are rated by there weight capacity The higher weight capacity of the ladder, the heavier the ladder it self is. A thirty-two or a forty-foot, heavy-duty ladder can be difficult to set up and to move from place to place. Many painters prefer a lightweight ladder when they will be moving the ladder frequently during the day, but a stronger ladder may be required for staging support.

Ladder Type Type 3 Type 2 Type 1 Type 1A Type 1AA Other
Rating 200 lbs 225 lbs 250 lbs 300 lbs 375 lbs  350 lbs

Some manufacturers are using color coding to help identify the rating but there is no complete set standards within different brands on these colors

Ladder sizes  Extension ladders are sized by the adding the length of two ladder sections together. Thus a 16 ft extension ladder is made up of two 8 ft "ladder sections".

Working length Since extension ladders uses an overlap design to hold the two section together. There will be a minimum overlap at the time when the ladder is fully extended. This fully extended  length of  the ladder is generally referred to as the "working length"  The working length is actually several ft shorter than the given "size" of the ladder length. Example A 20' extension ladder is made up of two 10' sections, if the minimum overlap is 1.5 ft. per section,  a total of 3 ft...then the actual length of the ladder fully extended is 17 '

Also as the ladder is set up against the house it will lean at about 75 degrees... a 1 to 4 ratio, bringing the top of a ladder that is extended to 17 ft. to about 16.5 ft above the ground. At his highest point, a worker would be standing 3 or 4 rungs below the top of the ladder and will probably be able to reach about 3 ft above the high point of the ladder and have a 3 or 4 ft lateral span. So in this this case you would be able to reach a maximum height of about 19 or 20 ft. with a 20 ft. ladder. 

 Common Sizes of extension ladders start at 16 ft and go up to 40 ft with many sizes in between. We have seen extension ladder available up to 60 ft.

When buying a ladder we stress the importance of shorter ladders. If you need a 32 ft ladder to reach the highest part of  your house you will also need a 20 or a 16 ft. to get the lower parts. When a professional painter shows up to paint a house, he will usually bring several different size ladders, this way he can start work at the top using the taller ladder and then transition to the shorter ladders as he work his way down. Trying to paint lower sections with a tall ladder is difficult and impractical.

Also it is important that the salesperson demonstrate the workings of the actual extension ladder you will be bringing home. Be sure the extension slides smoothly without jamming, and that the hooks and shoes are functioning right. Feel the weight of the ladder. Is it heavier than expected?


Its always handy to have a stepladder around the house, Its a necessity to have at least one stepladder for any interior or exterior paint job.

There are two basic types of stepladders "Standard" and "Double Sided" the difference being is the standard stepladder has one  set of steps double sided has two sets  (steps on both sides) Painters will generally buy a standard type stepladder that includes a paint shelf  As with extension ladders stepladders are available in:
 Wood  (still very common, lowest cost}
 Fiberglass  (least conductive around electricity)
 Aluminum  ( lightweight)

As with extension ladders; stepladders are also available in different weight ratings.
Size ranges from 2 ft. up as high as 20 ft.
For interior painting rooms with an 8 ft ceiling, we recommend a 5 or 6 ft. standard stepladder with a paint shelf. For lower ceilings you may be able to get by with a 4 ft.
For exterior Have 5 or 6 ft stepladder to use when transitioning down from a16 ft extension ladder.

Staging on ladders

There are several methods of using your ladders as a staging support. In certain situations you can set a plank directly onto a ladder rung. Ladder-jacks are common type equipment that mount onto ladders as to create a support for staging planks. There are two basic types of ladder jacks; Aluminum & Steel  The Aluminum jacks are designed differently than the steel jacks. With the aluminum ladder jacks two rungs of each end ladder used support all of the weight of the staging. 
With the steel ladder jacks; the design is so that some of the force of the weight of the staging bears directly onto the side rails, and the rest of the force is transferred onto two rungs of the ladder first. This steel ladder jack makes for an overall stronger staging, but the aluminum ladder jacks are easier to use, and that makes the setup process safer.
 The ladder jacks may require a certain capacity ladder. If your going to be using your ladders for a staging look, into the requirements the requirements of the equipment you will be using before buying a ladder.
Click "Ladder Jacks" Button, top of page.

There are a number of different types of staging planks available today.
The standard wooden staging plank: Available in various widths and lengths certified for staging, lowest priced. It can be shortened, and nails or screws can easily be used on it if necessary.
Wooden extension planks: Length is adjustable, available in different sizes
Aluminum with plywood top: Lightweight easy to handle Lightweight makes it safer to climb with.
Aluminum extension plank: Length is adjustable, available indifferent sizes.

Roof  hook

A roof hook is used to convert a section of ladder into a "roof ladder" A roof ladder is used to access a moderate to stoop pitch roof. See Roof Ladders

Corner Stabilizer

A corner stabilizer is a tool used to convert a standard ladder into a "corner ladder" A corner ladder is ladder that can be place directly to the vertex of an outside corner of two walls. See Corner Ladders