From hiding tote bags on the top shelf of a closet to cutting painted edges along the top of a wall, ladders are the go-to tool for getting into hard-to-reach areas. But not all ladders are created equal. The best ladders are durable, can safely support your weight (plus any tools and materials you carry) and are strong enough not to slip, tilt or wobble while standing.
In addition, some ladders are better suited to specific tasks and projects than others. We wanted to know what sets the top ladders apart from others, so we decided to test them. We selected step ladders from leading ladder manufacturers Little Giant, Werner and Louisville and tested them for stability, safety, ease of use and quality.
If you're in the market for a ladder, read on to learn how the models below earned a place in our best ladder lineup and find out what we like and don't like about each.
Best Overall: Verne 4 ft. IA Model Fiberglass Platform Ladder
Great Value: Gorilla Ladders 2-Step Aluminum Step Stool Ladder
Best for Everyday Use: Little Giant Jumbo Step, 3-Step Model
Best hands-free: Louisville Ladder 2 ft. Aluminum Sawmill Ladder
Best Lightweight: Little Giant Flip-N-Lite Aluminum Ladder
Best Dual Platform: Gorilla Ladder Fiberglass Dual Platform Ladder
Best Expandability: Little Giant 13906-002 King Kombo Professional Ladder
Also consider Louisville Ladder 6 ft. Fiberglass Cross Ladder
To qualify for a spot in this best ladder lineup, each model must be easy to use and sturdy. We tried every feature and accessory of each ladder, and examined and analyzed its overall design. The following ladders offer a range of climbing solutions; some are better suited to specific tasks than others. Shoppers will want to know the pros and cons we found in our hands-on testing before choosing the product that best fits their needs.
For professionals and passionate DIY enthusiasts alike, the stability we found in the Werner 4 ft. Step Ladder is unmatched. This professional-grade ladder is made of high-quality fiberglass and is extremely sturdy in real-world use. It opens easily and locks into the open position to prevent accidental folding, and it has rubber feet to prevent sliding. It has an oversized platform to replace the fourth step, which allows us to stand comfortably and safely on both feet and even turn around, thanks to the outward curving top safety rail that provides extra standing room.
The top rail features a series of holders and cups for storing tools and materials such as hammers, drills, nails and screwdrivers. We found the tool rails to be very handy because we know how much time is wasted climbing up and down ladders to get to different tools. This IA model step ladder can hold up to 300 pounds. We especially appreciate the non-slip feet that don't slide even on smooth floors.
The only notable drawback is that the ladder cannot support a standard paint roller tray, which means we would still have to climb up and down if painting with a roller overhead. Not all ladders are supported by roller trays, but given that this is a progressive option, we think it should include that option. Otherwise, we think it's a top-notch ladder that's perfect for construction, remodeling and DIY projects where the user needs a sturdy platform to work from. It weighs 26.7 pounds - heavier than some - but is still light enough to carry around the house or workplace.
Those who want to get up off a ladder without spending a lot of money will want to check out Gorilla Ladders' two-step model, which is made of lightweight and durable aluminum. This budget-friendly option is just the ticket for home use.
We were impressed with the sturdiness of this little aluminum ladder, as it weighs only 6.4 pounds. It folds easily and locks in an open position to prevent it from accidentally folding up during use. We like that the top step is a platform that provides more room for standing on both feet. The ladder folds easily by simply lifting the back of the upper platform, which can be easily folded with just one hand.
The railing at the top of the ladder provides additional security, and we found it easy to lean our legs against the railing for added balance while reaching our hands overhead.
It includes non-slip feet, and the upper safety railing has several tool holders or a paint cup with a handle. However, we don't consider this two-step ladder a job site option, even though it can safely support 250 pounds and is rated Type I. It's convenient and offers most users the ability to use the ladder in a variety of ways. It's convenient and offers up to 8.17 feet of reach for most users, but because it's light, it can cause tipping problems for construction professionals who tend to lean to one side or the other. This is best for home use and occasional overhead projects such as changing light bulbs or removing boxes from high shelves.
For projects that require frequent climbing up and down ladders, the Little Giant Jumbo Step will make the task safer and easier to complete.
Jumbo Step offers enhanced safety benefits. We love that its ladder-like steps are not as steep as traditional ladders and that each step has non-slip treads to prevent slippage. The extended tripod design makes this steel-frame step one of the most stable ladders we've tested, with rubber head feet that hold firmly in place and won't slide. The ladder is easy to open and comes with a hinge lock to prevent it from accidentally closing.
One difference in the aluminum Jumbo Step is its folding safety rails. It comes with rails that fold down along the ladder legs, but we found it simple to fold up and snap into place. While this feature makes the ladder easier to store, we found the hinges to be a weak link. Most ladder safety rails are a sturdy extension of the ladder's rear leg. When using hinge rails, hinges can fail. Despite this, the hinges were able to operate safely during testing.
The Little Giant Jumbo Step is rated for up to 375 pounds (Type IAA) and we found its overall step design to be very stable. We were able to stand and even bounce without having to move or shift the ladder. It has oversized, non-slip rubber feet and the safety rails have multiple cups and holders for storing small tools and materials.
We would recommend this ladder to anyone who wants the added security of less steep steps and a sturdy base, but we wouldn't rely on the safety rails to support the entire inclined weight of a large person. We will lean as little as possible when going up and down the steps and use the handrail to support our hands.
People who often go up and down several steps cannot support themselves by hand when both hands are full, carrying things like drywall tape trowels and a large tray of caulk. The all-aluminum Louisville Ladder two-step ladder solves this problem by providing a sturdy tripod-style ladder that can be climbed from either side. The ladder also doubles as a sawhorse.
Since we often find ourselves needing to use both hands to get up and down short ladders when hanging wallpaper, painting, or performing other tasks, we fell in love with this little ladder. However, it is not suitable for those who have difficulty balancing while standing or climbing, as it has no safety rails to hold onto or lean on. Nonetheless, the wide second step that serves as a working platform allowed us to walk around freely.
The standing platform is 2.1 feet high, which allows us to reach approximately 8 feet. The legs fold down quickly, and locking side bars prevent them from accidentally closing. Louisville also added corner braces under the steps on both sides for added safety. This small platform ladder can hold up to 300 pounds and has non-slip foot pads. The only drawback we encountered was folding the ladder up: the locking hinges were so stiff that we had to turn the ladder upside down and push the lower side of the hinge straight up to close the legs. However, these may loosen up a bit with use.
The Little Giant Flip-N-Lite Aluminum Ladder is designed for heavy-duty commercial or rugged DIYer use. It is an IA-type load and can support up to 300 lbs. of load capacity. Rugged aluminum rails, aluminum steps, and edge supports add sturdy support to this versatile ladder. This lightweight ladder weighs only 14 pounds and we found the Flip-N-Lite to be easy to use and very portable. It folds quickly and the top platform step snaps into place, locking the ladder in place so it won't accidentally collapse during use.
Folding up is easy - there is a handle on the back of the platform step - all we had to do was lift the handle to unlock the ladder and fold it up. the Flip-N-Lite has non-slip feet, but we found that they did not grip hard floors ( laminate) as well as some of the other ladders we tested. Maybe it's because it's a very light ladder, but when we pushed it - we slipped on the floor a bit. However, when we stood and bounced on it, it seemed stable.
This lightweight ladder is perfect for anyone who needs to move a ladder around the house or job site or who has to lift a ladder onto the floor of a pickup truck. It doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but it is stable and portable.
Platform steps are appearing on many new ladders, and for good reason - they allow users to stand on more spacious surfaces, making working overhead safer. We like that Gorilla includes two platforms on its four-step fiberglass ladders because it allows us to stand safely at different heights.
The ladder folds up quickly and the upper platform locks into place along the back legs. Folding it up is as simple as lifting the back of the platform, which will release the locking mechanism. In addition to a safety rail with multiple tool holders, this model is equipped with a project bucket that snaps onto the safety rail and is strong enough to hold a full-gallon paint can or heavier tools. When not in use, the project bucket attaches to the back leg of the ladder and doesn't take up extra space when folding the ladder.
We found the ladder to be stable and sturdy when climbing and working on both platforms, although it was slightly less stable when we bounced on the top platform. This is to be expected since the upper platform is near the top of the ladder - a position higher than the safe position for standing on most ladders. Despite this, we still consider the Gorilla Ladder to be safe for confident users working at heights. We recommend that those who are hesitant to climb ladders start working from a lower platform. This IA model ladder is designed to safely support weights up to 300 lbs.
Usually, ladders are ladders, inclined ladders or telescoping ladders, but Little Giant's King Kombo is all three. By releasing the lever located behind the top step, we can easily and quickly switch from a live ladder configuration to a 6-foot inclined ladder or a 10-foot extension ladder. In addition to all of this versatility, the King Kombo is IAA rated and has an ample load capacity of up to 375 pounds, even though it weighs only 22 pounds.
This multi-position ladder eliminates the need for three separate ladders when completing a variety of overhead tasks. We found the King Kombo to be stable and sturdy in all positions. However, if we were brave, we would choose the extension motion to mimic other extension ladders, where the telescoping section slides up and locks into place. On the King Kombo, the rear ladder leg folds outward and then upward, requiring a lot of space to maneuver the ladder.
The front side of the ladder has wide flared legs for sturdy support, while the rear legs are narrower - they are mounted between wall studs or ceiling trusses for easy access to tight work spaces. The non-slip rubber legs are strong enough to resist our attempts to slide the ladder across a hard floor.
One of the first things we noticed about the 6 ft. Louisville Cross Step ladder was the inverted "V" shape of the back of the safety railing, complete with rubber bumpers. It's an angled ladder, which means it's designed not to slip when leaning against a wall. the V-shaped insert also allows this ladder to lean safely against an outside corner - when we leaned it against the corner and climbed up, it didn't slip to either side or wobble. It was also stable when we leaned it against a flat wall and didn't slide to either side, even when we bounced on the steps.
The ladder also has non-slip feet to keep it from sliding on hard floors. It's IA rated, which means it can safely support up to 300 pounds. We like the sizeable tool holders on the safety rail tray to accommodate a variety of tools and supplies. However, when we opened the ladder in step ladder mode, we found the ladder wobbly and we couldn't stabilize it. Fortunately, our local Home Depot store was happy to swap it out for another model that was so sturdy through all the testing that it earned a spot in our lineup. We're not sure why the first model shook, but we think it may have been damaged or rattled during shipping.
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