Why You Should Never Paint a Ladder: The Dangers of Ladder Painting

Why Should You Never Paint a Ladder

Ladders are an essential tool for reaching elevated areas. This tool comes in handy in homes, farms, construction sites, warehouses, and industries. Regardless of the number of places a ladder can be used, whether it should be painted or not sometimes gets controversial.

Does paint cause a ladder to rust faster? Are painted ladders lower on purchase? What are the effects of paint on ladders? These questions and more can be mind-boggling when planning on purchasing a ladder and we’ll go into these details in this article!

Is Painting a Ladder Safe?

It isn’t advisable to paint a ladder as aesthetically pleasing as it may look when you do paint it. A safety measure that should be taken before using a ladder to avoid accidents is inspection.

A ladder must be observed thoroughly before usage to make sure there is no breakage or wear and tear. When a ladder is painted, it is almost impossible or it could be a hassle trying to detect these faults or any other form of defect.

Why Should You Not Paint a Metal Ladder?

Safety should always remain paramount at any given condition or time. That being said, hazards could occur from using a painted metal ladder because paint makes the surface of the steps slippery by reducing traction. As mentioned earlier, paint makes it difficult to inspect a ladder thoroughly. It becomes impossible to detect cracks and breakages through the paint.

Can Ladders Be Painted?

Generally, yes, ladders can be painted. There are different kinds of ladders. E.g., fiberglass, wooden, aluminum, plastic ladders, etc. Your choice of a ladder should depend substantially on where you’ll be working overtime to prevent hazards.

It is essential to consider the places this device will be employed and the nature of the job it’ll be needed for. If you prefer your ladder with a bit of color, there are some things you should have in mind while looking to paint it; paint shields the defects in a ladder which brings the need for extra care of the ladder to prevent accidents that may arise from using a faulty ladder.

Metals being prone to oxidation in form of rust can be prevented by painting. A painted metal ladder has protection from rust and corrosion for some time because paint provides a coat that does not allow moisture to penetrate, except aluminum which is completely rust and corrosion free.  

The best kind of paint on a metal surfaced ladder that forms a hard bond and does not require priming is marine-grade epoxy paint. It also provides a water-resistant and long-lasting finish.

On the other hand, a wider variety of paint can be used on wooden ladders. Since wood is more prone to degradation than metal and fiberglass because of its porous nature, a higher degree of waterproof paint is required.

An epoxy primer does a fine job at preventing water or moisture from permeating into the wood, any suited water-proof paint can be used after priming if getting a high-level one becomes a problem. Latex or acrylic waterproof paint could also be used after priming.

Although plastic is challenging to paint because it expands and contracts with the temperature of the air during the process of painting, it is exempted from the possibility of painting. Thanks to some companies making spray paint suited for plastic materials, there are paint options for plastic ladders.

Most times, these spray paints are produced with versatile ingredients that add texture to the plastic ladders which are ideal to keep you safe by reducing slippery surfaces. To paint a plastic ladder properly, the paint should be sprayed on the surface of the ladder and allowed to sit for 24 hours before adding a top coat. This gives a fine finish.

What Should Never Be Done to A Wooden Ladder?

Wooden Ladder
Wooden Ladder

Despite being cheaper, wooden ladders are generally known to be heavier and more delicate than metal and fiberglass ladders. A wooden ladder is the best option when you are trying to avoid electrical hazards because wood is a non-conductor of electricity when it is dry, but then it is highly combustible, ergo, should not be subjected to strong chemicals, very high temperatures, or fire.

Materials should never be kept on it.  The durability of this ladder depends largely on how it is treated and stored. Storing your wooden ladder outdoors exposes it to sunlight and constant moisture or dampness.

These natural elements can cause your wooden ladder to deteriorate over a short period by rotting, decaying, and even growing molds because it is porous and can absorb moisture to a certain degree. Hence, a wooden ladder should not be left outdoors when not in use.

Another way to increase the lifespan of your wooden ladder is to keep it away from insects to prevent insect infestation and fungi because wood serves as a niche for fungi. For safety measures, it is best not to paint your wooden ladder so you can easily spot rots and cracks on it.

Additionally, the weight capacity of any ladder especially wooden varies based on the size, material, and design of said ladder. Always ensure not to overwork your wooden ladder, it shouldn’t carry more weight than it was designed to, so do not ignore the product specifications.

Can You Paint a Metal Ladder?

With time, metal ladders except for aluminum (being rust and corrosion resistant) begin to rust due to exposure to air and moisture. The effect of this action may stir up the need to have your ladder painted, or even to prevent it beforehand.

Ordinarily, painting a metal surface isn’t as effortless as it seems because paint doesn’t stick to metal surfaces easily because of its smooth and non-porous surface. When painting a metal ladder, preparation is key, the surface of this ladder should be clear of grease, rust, oil, dust, or existing paint because these contaminates can inhibit the adhesion of paint even more.

A primer should be used before the paint for easy adhesion. Also, it’s best to use acrylic lacquer or polyurethane for this procedure. You do not want to paint the steps of your ladder to avoid slips and falls.

Can You Paint an Aluminum Ladder?

Durability and portability should be considered when getting a ladder. Aluminum is lightweight and corrosion-resistant making ladders built with this metal highly sought after.

This type of ladder is the best option for workers that need access to high levels during construction, general home maintenance, and industrial use that doesn’t involve electricity because aluminum is highly conductive.

Whilst painting an aluminum ladder is feasible, the adhesion of paint on this metal is poor because it has a non-porous surface. For this to work, the steps you should take are outlined below;

  • The steps of the ladders should be cleaned thoroughly to remove dust, wax, debris, oil, etc. and allowed to dry
  • Sand the steps with coarse and fine-grit sandpaper afterward
  • Apply primer, either as a spray gun or brush, then allow to dry and sand to the steps again
  • Apply multiple coats of paint and sanding where necessary between the layers of paint
  • Lastly, apply enamel sealer for proper finishing

A primer is useful in giving aluminum a stronger hold of the paint and in case you were wondering the kind of paint that would be best suited for the job, latex or acrylic paint is the finest when thinking of painting aluminum.


Unlike what many would think, there are a few downsides to painting your ladder with varying degrees depending on what kind of ladder it is, a wooden ladder wouldn’t be as slippery as a metal ladder when painted. Also, the coat of paint on a wooden ladder may slow down degradation when exposed to natural elements often.