Ladders are essential in any work area. They come in two main materials; Fiberglass and Aluminum. While there are notable merits on both sides, they are most suitable in varying situations.
This article will not only give you a detailed analysis of both ladders to help you make informed decisions, but it will also educate you on the types of tasks they are best used for.
- Overview of Fiberglass ladders
- Advantages of fiberglass ladders
- Disadvantages of fiberglass ladders
- When should you choose a fiberglass ladder?
- Some of the best fiberglass ladders
- Overview of Aluminum ladders
- Advantages of Aluminum ladders
- Disadvantages of Aluminum ladders
- When to choose Aluminum ladders
- Some of the best Aluminum ladders
- Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Which ladder is best?
Overview of Fiberglass ladders
Unlike Aluminum, Fiberglass origin is strictly man-made. It is made by strengthening plastic with glass fiber material. This process aimed to give the ladders a very rigid and reliable structure. Many ladder enthusiasts acknowledge fiberglass ladders as being one of the most durable products on the market. Capable of lasting over years in use if properly maintained and cared for.
Fiberglass ladders are resistant to rot and decay like wooden ladders after being exposed to natural elements. However, experts advise that fiberglass ladders should not be left outside for long periods as they could become disfigured.
These ladders lose their coatings after being exposed to UV rays for a long period. Exposure to UV could prove fatal to your fiberglass ladder. This process is called fiber bloom. It may start as only detrimental to its look, but over time it leads to the deterioration of the integrity of the ladder structure.
Advantages of fiberglass ladders
When it comes to fiberglass ladders, the durability of the ladder is perhaps its most common selling point. These ladders can withstand dents, scratches, and peeling over a longer period than most ladders. They can also withstand heavy weights that may have caused damage to other ladders.
2. Does not lead to electrical accidents
Many people may erroneously believe that using fiberglass ladders for any task that involves a power supply could result in electrical accidents. Well, the fact is, fiberglass ladders do not conduct electricity, and so offer you the most safety when dealing with electrical or power supply tasks. And so fiberglass ladders are most suitable to be used around power lines to mitigate the risk of shock or electrocution.
3. Flame resistant
Fiberglass ladders are capable of withstanding flames and preventing fire hazards. Also, the integrity of Fiberglass ladders does not deteriorate under intense heat. However, it is not advisable to subject these ladders to intense heat for a long period. Nonetheless, this is one reason the fire department loves the fiberglass ladders so much.
4. Fiberglass ladders are stronger and do not bend easily
As we earlier stated, this is one of the most unique selling points of fiberglass ladders. They can withstand more weight than other ladders without bending or compromising the structure and efficiency of the whole ladder.
Related: How Long Do Fiberglass Ladders Last
When compared to aluminum ladders, fiberglass ladders have more resistance to the weather and other natural elements. Fiberglass ladder owners often leave their ladders out overnight and it does not cause any damage to the ladder.
Disadvantages of fiberglass ladders
1. Weight of the ladder
This is the biggest drawback of using fiberglass ladders. The materials used in its production are heavy and dense and so result in the heavy weight of the overall ladder. Unlike aluminum ladders, fiberglass ladders are more difficult to lift and transport. This makes fiberglass ladders a little bit of a burden to either store or transport.
The high cost of fiberglass is another major drawback to purchasing this ladder. However, if you do not mind the cost, a fiberglass ladder would be a great choice.
When should you choose a fiberglass ladder?
If you intend to work in an area close to a powerline, or around areas prone to electrical hazards, then a fiberglass ladder is a great choice. As long as you do not mind the heavier weight, this ladder will provide great value for your money.
If you also work with equipment that may produce significant heat, then you will need a fiberglass ladder that will not be structurally damaged as a result of this heat. Also, you are guaranteed to get years of excellent service as you properly maintain the ladder and keep it away from UV rays.
Strength and Reliability
When it comes to stability and reliability, fiberglass ladders stand out from the bunch. They are made with reinforced materials which give them added strength and stability.
There are several distinct advantages fiberglass ladders possess over aluminum ladders when it comes to safety. As a result of its non-conductive and non-magnetic nature, it is often regarded as the much safer option for people working around magnets, fire, and electricity. Interestingly, some fiberglass ladders are fitted with a few aluminum components to get the best of both worlds.
Looking keenly at the ladder market, you’ll find out that fiberglass ladders sit in a wider price range. However, even at the low price point, fiberglass ladders still are typically more expensive than aluminum ladders. This is due to many reasons.
One of them is that fiberglass ladders are made with additional materials which could increase the overall cost of production. Another reason is the extra whistles and bells that make one particular model easier to use and better accepted by ladder users around the world.
The main material in fiberglass ladders is glass fibers. Fiberglass ladders are made from glass-reinforced plastic which is a polymer of a plastic matrix. This matrix is strengthened by smooth fibers of glass.
While some fiberglass ladders consist of just fiberglass, there are also other fiberglass ladders made using fiberglass stiles and standard aluminum rungs to increase the overall strength, durability, and lightweight nature of the ladder.
Related: Can a Fiberglass Ladder Be Repaired ?
Some of the best fiberglass ladders
1. Louisville Fiberglass Ladder (Multi-section Extension Ladder)
This ladder is super useful for reaching high points in and around the home. You can also use this fiberglass ladder to paint high spots, change light bulbs, or reach high cabinets. This 28ft extension ladder is durable and can also withstand unfavorable conditions.
2. Werner T7408 8ft Ladder
This fiberglass ladder makes working that much easier. It includes aluminum plates attached to each rail to improve its strength, rubber step bumpers to reduce damage, and traction pads to avoid slip accidents.
3. Werner 5ft Fiberglass Step Ladder
This heavy-duty fiberglass ladder is just what you need for your home. It is capable of supporting a weight of up to 300lbs while maintaining its sturdy structure. It is slip-resistant, with a duty rating of Type 1A. This ladder is suitable for small jobs in the home that require a perfect balance.
Overview of Aluminum ladders
When we think of modern ladder materials that have stepped up to compensate for the excesses in ancient ladder materials. Unlike fiberglass, aluminum is naturally occurring in the earth’s crust, so it is easier to mine and manufacture. Most products made from aluminum are made from recycled products.
Aluminum ladders offer users unique features that make them suitable for the workplace. A 6ft step aluminum ladder can weigh anywhere from 20lbs to 30lbs which does not constitute that much of a problem for most people.
For workers who may need to take a ladder from room to room, aluminum ladders are by far the easiest option. They also present the easiest option to store and transport from location to location.
Advantages of Aluminum ladders
1. Easy to maintain
The most important factor that determines the longevity of ladders is maintenance. Most ladders require special, and in some cases tedious, measures to guarantee longevity. Aluminum ladders do not fall in this category. Simple things such as cleaning the aluminum ladder after use will go a long way to ensuring it lasts long.
This is perhaps the most common advantage of aluminum ladders. They are super lightweight and can be handled by one person without being too cumbersome.
3. Resistance against rust or corrosion
Aluminum ladders can withstand rust or corrosion if exposed to natural elements for some time. They are also very suitable to be used in moist regions that would have been a danger to ladders made with other materials.
4. Resistant to fire
Aluminum ladders do not burn like wooden ladders and so provide safety against fire hazards.
This ladder is much cheaper than a fiberglass ladder and is the more cost-effective choice if you are in the market for a durable and reliable ladder choice.
6. Stable and durable
Aluminum ladders are durable and can withstand adverse environmental conditions. They last a long time, maintaining their structural integrity even after several years.
Disadvantages of Aluminum ladders
1. Not suitable to be used for electrical work
Aluminum ladders are good conductors of electricity. This poses a huge risk for people working around electrical wires or near power lines.
2. Heat conductivity
Aluminum is also a great conductor of heat. Although the ladder won’t go up in flames, it is capable of conducting heat and spreading to all parts of the ladder. This may cause burns if used in extremely hot environments.
When to choose Aluminum ladders
Aluminum ladders are suitable to be used in industrial work areas, construction sites and for home use. The lightweight nature of the ladder means it can be used by just one person without needing extra support to move the ladder from one point to the other.
If you do not want to break the bank to afford a fiberglass ladder, but still want a strong and sturdy ladder, then an aluminum ladder is your best bet.
Although fiberglass is stronger than aluminum, aluminum ladders are still regarded as very sturdy and strong ladders capable of supporting up to 500lbs. Each rung is placed perfectly and strong enough to support two people at a time.
Typically made of aluminum, aluminum ladders possess all the characteristics of this naturally occurring element. They are very conductive, strong and resistant to corrosion.
When it comes to pricing, aluminum ladders get the nod. Aluminum ladders are often significantly cheaper than fiberglass ladders. This is as a result of a number of things. From aluminum being found naturally in the earth’s crust, to cheap manufacturing costs in certain parts of the world. Also, aluminum ladders are made from recycled materials. This not only reduces production cost, but also is great for the environment.
The lightweight nature of aluminum ladders also plays a key role in ensuring the safety of users. The less a ladder weighs, the less likely a user might trip while attempting to carry it from one point to the other. Additionally, if you work in a construction site or around electrical wires, for utmost safety, it is important you use a fiberglass ladder or any ladder made with materials that are poor conductors.
Some of the best Aluminum ladders
1. Little Giant Ladders
If you are a DIY enthusiast, this aluminum ladder will come in handy. You can transform the legs of this ladder to a 5, 6, 7 or 8 foot ladder. As a result of the varying lengths of the legs of this ladder, you can use this ladder effectively on stairs or against a wall.
2. Aluminum Lightweight Folding Ladder
This sturdy ladder is great for carrying out simple tasks in the home. It has an anti-slip pedal that prevents slip accidents and supports the feet. Although this ladder may not be able to reach very tall heights, it is useful to users that value balance over reach.
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass: Which ladder is best?
While aluminum ladders provide the most benefit when working in construction sites and industrial workplaces, fiberglass ladders are most suitable for smaller and more local jobs like hedge trimming, painting, roof or fence repairs, etc. Either of these ladders will get the job done. Just remember not to use aluminum ladders for any electrical jobs.
Fiberglass ladders are typically regarded as a more rigid and stronger option than aluminum ladders, but as we have also mentioned above, they are so much heavier. They come in different sizes and styles and are able to carry weights up to 375 pounds.
Placing more weight on this fiberglass will result in damage to its structural integrity. So if you need more support, it is better to opt for an aluminum ladder. Aluminum ladder models are capable of carrying up to 500 pounds of weight, which is the better option if it will ever need to support more than one person.
Making a choice between buying either a fiberglass ladder or an aluminum ladder exceeds just personal preference. You must balance the present need for a strong ladder with usability considerations. The most critical aspects of this equation remain safety, strength and durability.
Additionally, the environment around which you intend to use your ladder is also a very important factor to consider. For moist areas, fiberglass ladders would be the most logical option. People in your household who may also have access to the ladder is another point to consider in order to avoid fatal accidents.
In the end, no matter the ladder you choose to go for, properly maintaining and caring for the ladder will make the investment worthwhile.
Joseph is the owner of LadderGeek. He is a home remodeling enthusiast. He has created this blog to share some of his knowledge on Ladder and accessories.