What Ladder Do You Need? A Detailed Guide Including Sizes & Purposes

When you climb a ladder, for the duration of time you are on the ladder, your life literally depends on the strength and the type of ladder you decided to purchase. I was kidding.

That was an exaggeration. Your life doesn’t depend on it. Maybe a limb or two. But what does all that even matter anyway, you ask? Why do you need to get a specific type of ladder? Well, you will find out in this article.

What Ladder Do You Need?

What Ladder Do You Need

The ladder you need is largely dependent on the purpose you intend to use the ladder for.

When the task the ladder will be used for has played a major deciding factor, the other factors you would have to consider include the size of the ladder, the materials the ladder was made with, the duty rating of the ladder, and lastly, the style.

Now, let’s take a look at them in more detail.     

What Size Ladder Do You Need?

One of the worst mistakes you could potentially make while deciding on the type of ladder to get is to get a ladder that is either too short or too long, it has a very high potential for disaster.

These are some of the factors you need to consider before deciding on the size of the ladder to purchase;

  • The height or reach of the task you are about to perform
  • The type of task you need to perform
  • Weight of the user and weight capacity of the ladder
  • Material or make of the ladder                                    

These, among other things, are the requirements you should look out for when determining the size of a ladder to go for.

I’ll use two of the most popular types of ladders to highlight the requirement sizes of ladders to get.

Extension Ladders

Extension ladders are one of the most commonly used ladders and it is advised that the size of the ladder that should be used should be calculated with the distance of the support object of the ladder. That is;

  • 8 – 9 feet distance supporting point should use a 16-foot ladder
  • 9 – 13 feet distance supporting point should use a 20-foot ladder
  • 13 – 17 feet distance supporting point should use a 24-foot ladder
  • 17 – 21 feet distance supporting point should use a 28-foot ladder
  • 21 – 25 feet distance supporting point should use a 32-foot ladder
  • 25 – 28 feet distance supporting point should use a 36-foot ladder
  • 28 – 31 feet distance supporting point should use a 40-foot ladder                    

Step Ladders

Step ladders are also another very popular type of ladder. I will also recommend different sizes of ladders to be used depending on the length/height or distance of the reach the user intends to carry out his tasks.

  • 7 – 8 feet height distance should use a 3 – 4 foot ladder
  • 9 – 10 feet height distance should use a 5 – 6 foot ladder
  • 11 – 12 feet height distance should use a 7 – 8 foot ladder
  • 14 – 16 feet height distance should use a 10 – 12 foot ladder
  • 18 – 20 feet height distance should use a 14 – 16 foot ladder

Although I may not have mentioned a lot of examples of ladders to give you a reference, there is a universal basic guide to follow and I have already shown you how it works with the first two ladder examples I gave.

The basic guide is to ALWAYS consider the distance or height you intend to reach as the user.

Read More: Do You Need Someone To Hold A Ladder

What Ladder Do You Need to Paint the Stairs?

While it may seem that scaffolding is the safest and most convenient way to paint a stairwell, we also know that scaffolds can take up a lot of time to set up. Hence, the use of ladders to paint.

Ladders are very convenient, easy to use and they do not waste time at all. Some specific types of ladders are ideal for painting, these ladders offer comfortable footing and safety.  

Let’s take a look at some of them.

Extension Ladders

Extension ladders, like the name indicates, are a type of ladder that has an extendable feature. It is made up of two parts, the base or the part that cannot be extended and the fly part, that is, the part that can be pushed up to increase the height or brought down to decrease it.

The extension ladder might seem like an unlikely ladder-type to use for painting a seemingly dangerous location like the stairs. But it has such a varied height location that makes it more convenient to use even for high stairwells.

Professional painters have advised that when using an extension ladder to paint stairs, a ladder made with aluminum materials is best.

Also, make sure to get a ladder with the appropriate weight carrying capacity, a great lock pin hinges to enable users to easily adjust and readjust the height of the ladder.

When using an extension ladder, the base part of the ladder should be firmly planted on a leveled ground for stability.

Platform Ladders

Platform ladders are self-supporting ladders that almost have the same design as twin step ladders. The difference with this ladder is that the last rung is not a rung, it’s a platform that can accommodate both feet.

The platform ladder is a very comfortable and stable ladder that users can hang on for extended periods without experiencing pain or numbness in their legs.

Painting the stairwell with this ladder is easy and the painter can easily find a balance between holding the paint on one hand and using the other hand to paint the walls, and all the while maintaining a balanced position.

Step Ladders

There are 2 types of ladders under this umbrella type of ladder, we have the front step ladder and the twin step ladder.

The front step ladder and the twin step ladder are both self-supporting ladders that each offer great painting help in the stairwell. They are stable and strong enough to support the weight of both the painter and the paint.

The twin-step ladder has rungs on both sides of the ladder, enabling two painters to use the same ladder to paint the same side of the wall simultaneously.

Step Stool

A step stool ladder is like a mini ladder with platform steps in place of rungs. The step stool ladder is a short ladder-type typically made up of 2 – 4 steps.

This ladder type is only ideal to use when the stairwell you intend to paint is not high and within reach using the step stool.

The platform steps provide a comfortable and safe footing for holding a paint bucket and brushing while standing on it.

Multipurpose Ladders

This ladder was rightly named after its name. it is a multifunctional ladder that can be used in several different scenarios.

The ladder was designed and built to have multiple hinges to enable the user to fashion or adjust it into any type of ladder that best suits a particular situation. The ladder can be adjusted into a step stool, a twin step ladder, or an extension ladder.

A lot of users usually go for this brand of ladders because of how versatile and multifunctional they are.

The ladders listed above are some of the ladder types you can use for painting the stairs comfortably and safely.

However, some others will also offer the same functions as well that are not listed here. one thing you have to keep in mind is that you can never be too careful, no matter how safe a ladder may be.

You should always carry out your own safety rules and precautions before and after painting. And, remember to store your ladder safely when not in use.     

Read More: How To Hold Paint While On A Ladder

What Ladders Do You Need to Decorate the Stairs?

Okay, now that we have sorted out the stairs painting, it’s time to decorate it.

A lot of people have some fancy décor ideas during festive seasons like Halloween, Christmas, or even for birthdays.

But as we all know, every stairwell is different from the next and some may be very well out of reach in terms of height distance.

There are different reasons why using a ladder for decorating your stairs is safer and more convenient than standing on a chair or a tabletop and I’ll start by stating the obvious one; ladders offer more height reach. The others include;

  • More comfortable for your arms
  • More décor options
  • More safety ensured

Now let’s look at the type of ladders you can use to decorate your stairwell beautifully as you’ve envisioned.

  • Multi-purpose ladders
  • Extension ladders
  • Twin step ladders
  • Front step ladders
  • Platform ladders
  • Step stools
  • Articulated ladders
  • Flexible ladders

I know, some ladders I listed here was already listed previously in the article but they also serve the same purpose and they are worth mentioning again.

These ladders are super comfortable and convenient to use when you intend to decorate your stairwell.

Like always, make sure to go through the whole process of the ladder safety check and also make sure that the ladder is well placed on the floor and stable.

Read More: 7 Alternative Uses for a Ladder

What Size of Ladder Do You Need for A 1-Story Building?

A 1-story building is a building with one building floor on top of another one on the base. Typically, this type of buildings is taller than a standard floor or bungalow buildings.

The height of a 1-story building is taller and reaching certain heights to perform specific tasks can be quite daunting.

These tasks could be as simple as hanging a painting on the stairwell or decorating it or as laborious as fixing a leak on the rooftop.

Typically, the height of a story building could range from 8 – 12 feet. An ideal ladder size would be between 15 – 20 feet.

Great examples of ladders for a 1-story building include extension ladders, multi-purpose ladders, platform ladders, or step ladders.

There are specific types you can get on amazon.com, as you continue to read, I will highlight some examples of ladder types with links to get more information on them.        

Read More: Are Aluminum Ladders OSHA Approved

What Size of Ladder Do You Need for A 2-Story Building?

We all know what a 2-story building looks like and how high it could get.

However, keep in mind that one 2-story building may differ from the next because of how they are built individually to have different looks and designs. This difference could also be the height difference.

Living in a 2-story building could be exciting but it could also be challenging because of the height.

What do you do when you want to clean the windows or fix the roof or fix the cable or decorate/paint the stairwell?

There are so many setbacks that the height of your 2-story building home could pose if you have no means of reaching those heights. This is where ladders for 2-story buildings come in very handy.

Typically, when a house has exceeded being just a 1-story building, every flight of building has an estimated height of about 9 – 11.5 feet.

This could vary from the least measurement to the highest measurement depending on the type of house.

For a 2-story building where the individual three floors typically have a height of 9 – 10 feet, some types of ladders are recommended to use a certain reach. Even with the variations in building heights.

An extension ladder that is about 16 feet is a very appropriate ladder size for a 2-story building reach. This size of a ladder can reach a flight of 15 – 16 feet and offer you maximum reach and comfort for you to perform your tasks.

A multifunctional ladder is also another great choice for this building type, not only does it offer multifunctionality, but it also offers a high reach to enable you to perform any task on your tall 2-story building.

Especially when the ladder is fashioned into a straight ladder to lean against the wall. Some step ladders and platform ladders also have the right sizes to reach the appropriate height you want.

Now let’s look at some examples;

Louisville Fiberglass Extension Ladder

This ladder has a weight carrying capacity of about 300 pounds and because it is primarily made with fiberglass material it can be used for electrical tasks and other manual tasks around the house or fieldwork.

The ladder is a strong and sturdy ladder that also offers maximum comfort for users. And lastly, for this article, they are one of the ladder types that can be used to carry out any number of tasks on a 2-story building.

Other extension ladders are just as great for this same purpose that are the right sizes for the height of this building height.

Related: Tallest A-Frame Ladders

The Multi-Purpose Telescopic Ladder

This is a multifunctional ladder and I have already explained what a multipurpose/multifunctional ladder is.

This ladder has all the attraction functionality of a multipurpose ladder, what this means is that the ladder can be fashioned into a straight ladder or used as a step ladder and it can reach a considerable reach on a 2-story building.

As you must know by now, there are different types of multi-purpose ladders you can find in the market.  

Essentially, the ideal type of ladders for a 2-story building is the type of ladder that is long or has an extendable length functionality.

The size of the ladder should range between 20 – 25 feet depending on other factors.   

Related: How to Get on the Second Story Roof

What Size of Ladder Do You Need for A 3-Story Building?

A 3-story building, a building with three building floors on top of the base floor, is a tall building with a high reach.

Houses could differ and with this difference, the height will also differ and this is why the size of a ladder for this height of a building will also vary from one house to the next.

The same types of ladders that have been mentioned in the 1-story and the 2-story building can also work well in this case.

However, because the 3-story ladder is taller, the size of the ladder also needs to be bigger and taller.

A typical 3-story building has a height of about 30 – 33 feet and an ideal ladder size for this type of building is a ladder with a length of 32 – 35 feet. Ladder types to use include;

  • Extension ladders
  • Step ladders
  • Multipurpose ladders, etc.

What Length of Ladder Do You Need?

Haven went through quite a lot of details, you should be able to answer the question of this section of the article by now.

The size of the ladder that you need is dependent on quite a few factors but the most essential factor is the height of the reach you intend to get to.

The reach height is simply the point where you intend to get to, for example, if you want to paint a 1-story building, the highest point on the 1-story building you intend to paint is your reach.

Whatever the reach of your task, the ladder you use should always be a few feet higher than the reach.

Essentially, there is no specific way to tell you the length of the ladder to get because everybody’s reasons for needing a ladder are different and what we intend to use the ladder for is also different.

This is why this ladder length guide is the best way to go. Buy a ladder that is a few feet longer than the height you intend to get to.

For example, if you need to climb up to a rooftop and the building’s height to the rooftop is 15 feet, you need a ladder that is between 18 – 20 feet – a couple of feet longer.

What Size of Ladders Do You Need to Reach the Gutters?

If you are a fussy person about the gutters in your house or you just like the idea of them being cleaned regularly.

Then you must have faced the conundrum of how to get up there to get them cleaned every now and then.

The size of ladder you would need to reach the gutters in your house is, like I’ve been saying, dependent on the height of your house.

If your house is a 1-story building with the gutters on the roof and the length of the house is about 12 – 15 feet, then you would need a ladder of about 18 – 20 feet.

I know I may be starting to sound like a broken record but the ladder should be a few feet higher than the height of your intended reach.

Worrying about climbing up to your gutters and cleaning them should be a thing of the past. The taller your building, the taller and bigger your ladder should be.

Related: Where to Place Ladder When Cleaning Gutters


Finally, the type or class of ladder you decide to go for should be inspired by the purpose you intend to use it for.

Whether you want a ladder to reach your gutters, or the attic and you’re torn on the type to install, or you need a ladder to reach a height on your storied building.

The same rule applies to everything – well, except in the case of the attic. With attics you only need to install a ladder that is suitable and long enough to climb up into the attic, usually straight ladders are used in this scenario.

There are some cases, however, where platform ladders or step stools are used to climb up to the attic and this works just fine for them.

For other uses or accessing other forms of height, the ladder does not necessarily have to be in a box. There are different types of ladders and their different examples that can attend to your varied needs.

Lastly, no matter the type of ladder you decide to go for, you must never forget about the before and after ladder safety check.

The before ladder check is to make sure that the ladder is safe enough for you to climb up with. Also, always make sure the ladder is firmly leveled on the ground.

The after ladder check is mostly making sure the ladder is properly kept in safe storage and doesn’t come to any damage.