Many homeowners and contractors alike need a good ladder. But ladders come in a variety of lengths, materials, durability and price points.
Step ladders are generally for indoor use, but for those who need additional reach, your best bet is probably an extension ladder.
Extension ladders are for outdoor use and, since they’re not self-supporting, you typically lean them up against a wall or side of the house in order to reach tall heights. They’re perfect for cleaning gutters, roof repairs, tree pruning, or even outdoor house painting.
As far as construction, designs vary but most extension ladders are actually two ladders in one – a fly section that’s nested within a base section of equal length, and you extend the fly section by using a pulley system. The ladder then extends upwards and you lock in your desired height.
If you’re searching for an extension ladder, we’ll assume you need to reach considerable heights. To help determine just how much height you need, take the ladder’s height, add your own height, and then subtract about 2 feet to account for the top to rungs.
For example, you’ll probably need at least a 22 ft ladder to clean a two story house. I’m 6 ft, subtract 2 feet of rungs and I should have about a 26-foot reach, which is more than enough for my needs.
If you’ll be using the extension ladder around powerlines, then you should buy a ladder constructed of fiberglass. Aluminum ladders conduct electricity so they are a safety hazard for electricians and handymen in general
Finally, since you’ll be pretty high up, safety is paramount. You want a ladder that is stiff and capable of supporting both you and whatever equipment you’re using.
A ladder with a Type I weight rating can support up to 250 lbs while a ladder with a Type IA rating can support up to 300 lbs. More stiffness equals more stability and peace of mind.
We’ve studied hundreds of editorial and user reviews about the best extension ladders and safely recommend the following ladders.
Best Extension Ladders
Best Professional Grade: Werner Fiberglass Extension Ladder
Werner is a trusted and well-known ladder brand that caters to electricians, contractors, and demanding consumers. When you’re life is potentially on the line while dealing with electric currents and/or house repairs 30 feet off the ground, it’s important that you have the proper equipment.
This ladder is available in variable lengths from 20’ to 40’. This particular 24-ft Werner ladder has a Type IA weight rating so it can support up to 300 lbs. so it can safely support you and your gear.
It has a fiberglass construction so you can safely work around power lines an it has a number of additional safety features. For example, it has anti slip safety feet that can be flipped up to dig into the ground for added ladder traction and slip-resistant D-rungs to ensure you have excellent foot traction. In other words, it’s designed to avoid falls at all costs.
Bottom line: Werner is a trusted name in the industry and with fiberglass construction, a host of safety features, and an affordable price, a professional can’t go wrong. That said, this may be a bit more than the avg consumer needs.
Best Multi Use Ladder: Little Giant Velocity Multi-Use Ladder
This is a uniquely designed ladder from Little Giant. The Model 22 can be used as a 19-ft extension ladder, but It can be configured into a number of different sizes as well. Either an A-frame ladder, an extension ladder, and even used as a staircase ladder on uneven surfaces – perfect for reaching an attic door for example.
33 configurations in all so it can be customized for the job at hand, whether you need a stepladder for painting around the house, or a full extension ladder for cleaning the gutters.
It has a sturdy aluminum construction along with wide rung for reduced foot fatigues, dual-pin hinges and wide flared legs for added stability. It’s lightweight yet sturdy enough to support up to 300 lbs.
The patented Rock Lock system makes it easy to adjust the ladder’s length with ease, with a push button lock release system. And transportation is easy with its glide wheels that allow you to easily wheel the ladder around.
Best for Professionals: Louisville Extension Ladder FE3224 (28-Ft)
Louisville Ladders are the Cadillac of ladders. They are professionally made and are popular in the construction and consumer markets.
This is a 28-foot Fiberglass extension ladder so it’s safe for use around power lines, and it’s a top-quality ladder at a consumer friendly price.
It has patented quick latch rung locks that facilitate raising and lowering the ladder, and there are slide guides that help keep the ladder stable when doing so. A handy rope is included to help tie the ladder once it’s in place.
The FE3224 Ladder also has stiff frame to ensure that you remain safe and secure while working at altitude. It has an ANSI 14.4. certified Type IA rating and can support up to 300 lbs. It also has steel plated insulated safety shoes that can swivel if needed for additional stability on soft surfaces like grass or dirt.
The only knock on this ladder is that it is not light since it’s made of fiberglass and not aluminum.
Bottom line: This ladder is ideal for contractors and other professionals as it can safely support a lot of weight, is constructed from non-conductive material, and has a 28-ft length. Residential customers who want a professional-grade ladder can benefit as well.
Best Home Use: DeWalt DXL3020 16-Ft. Extension Ladder
This is another great extension ladder. It has a Type I rating so it can support up to 300 lbs and a fiberglass construction that’s coated with a layer of polyester to prevent fraying.
One thing that stands out with the DeWalt is the built-in pseudo shelf top that allows room for various tools, hardware trays and an assortment of whatever else you may have with you. Fewer things to hold while you’re high up in the air.
The quick-latch rung locks are standard and easy to navigate and the ladder length is easily adjusted with the provided rope. As an added bonus, it makes quiet transportation a bit quieter since its rungs have end caps.
What length of ladder do you need?
As with most things, it depends. Ho high up do you need to reach? The higher up your ladder is extended, the more angled it needs to be. About 1 foot out for every 4 feet up.
So if you needed to reach 20 feet high, for example, a you would probably need a 20’ – 24’ ladder. Subtract about two rungs for overhand, 2 rungs for standing, and then add your height, which gives you about 21 to 22 feet.
An extension ladder is the longest ladder you can get and is designed for reaching tall heights so you should generally be covered with any of the aforementioned recommended models unless you have extreme height requirements.
If you’re a professional who works around power lines, or even a residential home user who lives near power lines, we strongly recommend a fiberglass constructed ladder, as it will not conduct electricity. Otherwise any of our aluminum models will be a better choice since they are lighter and easier to transport.
Finally, if you want a versatile ladder that can be used as an indoor A-frame ladder as well as an extension ladder, then try the Little Giant models as they will give you the most bang for your buck as they are essentially three ladders in one.