How To Use An Extension Ladder

An extension ladder is a convenient way to reach great heights. But ladder falls and serious injuries resulting from the misuse of extension ladders are very common.

Ladder-related injuries are among the most common accidents that you can prevent easily. To prevent these accidents, it’s important to know how to use an extension ladder safely.

In this post, we’ve included all the details on how to safely use an extension ladder.

How to Use an Extension Ladder

The following guidelines will help you to set up and use your extension ladder properly and of course safely.

For your easy understanding, we’ve divided our guidelines in three parts.

Part 1

Acquire the basic knowledge about the extension ladder and the reasons that cause accidents.

1. Understand the reasons for ladder accidents

Although it’s not especially challenging to use, extension ladders are considered dangerous. Knowing why extension ladder accidents happen will help you to use it properly and safely.

Extension ladders are more unstable than straight ladders. In general, they have only two points of contact with the base. Typically, they have nothing but the “shoes” or “feet” with the two side rails.

The sliding feature and length of this type of ladder is another issue that negatively effects on its stability.

During using an extension ladder, two people must be involved- when one person climb up, another person must stay at the “foot” of the ladder to hold it in place. But, in maximum case, users don’t follow this step.

You can’t use your extension ladder at near-vertical or vertical angles. You need to lean it against the support object.

2. Familiar with the different parts of the extension ladder before you go ahead to use it

Generally, extension ladder features two sliding sections that run with guides or brackets to provide adjustable lengths.

Other basic parts are:

Safety shoe or foot: These consist of pads, and rotate or swivel slightly for getting proper contact with the ground/ base.

Fly section: It extends upward for maximizing the ladder length to reach the desired height. Usually, it’s the part you get close to the top when you climb. However, some models come with two- fly section that means they have three sections in total.

Base section: This part remains fixed in place. When you start to ascending the ladder, you have to step up on the rungs of this section.

Rung lock: This piece securely keeps the fly section in place

Rope and pulley: Larger extension ladders come with these components that help the ladder to extend.

3. Be aware of the weight limit or duty-rating of the ladder.

Look for the duty rating of a ladder displayed on the side railon the color-coded label. Never exceed that weight limit. Keep in mind that the weight limit involves your weight plus all the tools/ materials you’d climb with.

Part 2

Set Up the Extension Ladder

1. Inspect your ladder thoroughly before using

Inspect the rungs, side rails, locking mechanism, safety feet, rope and pulley carefully. Any damage to these parts will make your ladder risky to use. Also, check for any slippery substance on the ladder. If you find any damage or modification in your ladder in any way, never use it.

If possible, inspect your ladder by a competent person who has the knowledge to recognize ladder hazards

2. Lock the fly section before you move it

You should move your extension ladder without extending it. Before moving it into place, you should lock the flying parts by using rung lock. If you don’t lock it, while moving the fly section may slide, and your hands and fingers get caught and pinch between the rungs of the two parts.

3. Position your ladder

After moving the ladder into your desired place, set it down on its foot or shoe on a firm, level surface. Take your time to position it up the way it’s intended to be set up.

See the rotating shoes at the bottom of the ladder. The base of these shoes helps the ladder to stay in place. If you place your ladder on a flat, hard surface, these shoes will remain flat.

On soft ground, dig the tips into the ground. It’ll help you to secure your ladder.

Never adjust, shift or move the ladder while someone is on it.

4. Extend the fly section & lock it

To extend your ladder, raise the fly section. You can push the fly section up. If your ladder comes with rope and pulley, pull on the rope, it’ll extend automatically. You should maintain the minimum overlap of the sections.

During the extending process, you’ll need a helping hand to hold both the side rails of the base.

When raised to your desired height, lock the fly section in place with the rung locks. Make sure that your ladder has three feet above the level you need to climb.

Avoid overextending your ladder. You should maintain the maximum required overlapping.

Follow the proper lift techniques while lifting your ladder. If you employ incorrect lifting or raising technique, it could lead to injury.

*** Follow the reverse procedure of extending for lowering the ladder.

5. Lean your ladder to the support object

Follow the ladder angle rule while leaning it against the wall or supporting object. Start by tilting your ladder at a 4 to 1 ratio.

For example: To keep it at the right and safe angle, place the foot of the ladder 1 ft. away from the structure, you’re leaning against if your working height is 4 ft.

Make sure both edges of the top of the ladder touch the supporting wall/ object.

If you fully extend the ladder, secure the ladder in place by using a bungee cord. Fasten each rail to the object it’s leaning on.

Part 3

Climbing up the ladder

Check the stability of the ladder before ascending. Also check for any overhead obstruction and electrical wires before extending your ladder. If there are any overhead electric wires, never raise or lift your ladder near it

Position your body between the side rails facing the ladder. Grab the ladder with your one or both of your hands and ascend it.

Maintain three points of contact while climbing and working on it.

While climbing up, move your feet up each rung. Don’t step on more than one rung at a time.

Use tool vest, tool belt, or something similar to carry small tools with you while climbing up the ladder.Avoid standing on the top three rungs of an extension ladder.

Near electrical wires, don’t use aluminum ladders. Fiberglass ladders with non-conductive side rails are safe in this case. It’s recommended to keep all ladders at least 10 feet away from power lines.

*** Wear the proper clothing, safety belt, or harness while using a ladder.

*** Never use your ladder with bare feet. Wear non-skid footwear and dry your shoes before climbing. 

A Chart of  5 different Types of Extension Ladder

We find five different classes of extension ladders, let’s see those in the chart.


Duty Rating



Type 1A (Industrial)

Extra heavy duty

Two-section 60 feet

Three-section 72 feet

300 Ibs

Type I (Industrial)

Heavy duty

Two-section 60 feet

Three-section 72 feet

250 Ibs

Type II (Commercial)

Medium Duty

Two-section 48 feet

Three-section 60 feet

225 Ibs

Type III (Household)

Light Duty

Two-section 32 feet

200 Ibs

Top 3 worthy Evaluation before using an extension ladder

User's fitness

Those who are influenced by alcohol or drugs, better to avoid any types of ladders. Plus, climbing on a ladder may put you in danger if the person is suffering from the balance or mobility-related problems.

The condition of the ground surface

Before placing your extension ladder, you have to examine the surface ground. If you find that soft or waterlogged, you should avoid it because the ladder could sink or be unstable herein.

Also, it is better to avoid wet or icy surfaces. Other precautions you can take are clearing the debris or dirt and using a leveling mat while working on a sloping surface.


Although the emergency repair doesn't pay heed to weather, it will be better to avoid severe weather conditions.

For example, working in rain or snow may cause the slipping problem. Plus, the strong wind isn't good to use a ladder; instead, the mild, windy condition is suggested.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you raise and lower an extension ladder?

Simply, you can easily raise your extension ladder by pulling down the front rope. When you want to retract, you need to use the rope again and lift it a few inches.

That method helps to release the retention brackets. Therefore, you can lower your ladder using the rope.

Note: Don't walk the bottom out to lay your extension ladder.

How do you store extension ladders?

The extension ladder is prone to corrosion. That's why it needs to be stored in a dry place, like a garage or shed.

However, if your ladder is made of fiberglass, then you need to keep it out of direct sunlight. Direct sunlight may create cracks on the ladder.

What angle should I use my extension ladder at?

For the four feet between the ground surface and the structure (where it is leaning), you need to keep space at least one foot between the supporting structure's base and the ladder's base.

To make it more specific, let's see an example - when the building is 20 feet, and you want to lean your ladder against that, then the space between the ladder base and the building base will be five feet.

Moreover, you can follow the better angle, which is 75-degree from the ground.

How far can you safely extend an extension ladder?

Here is the height restriction chart, which will guide you

The Height of the Ladder

Maximum height the ladder can reach

The height ladder touching point

16 feet

15 feet

Maximum 9 feet

20 feet

19 feet

9-13 feet

24 feet

23 feet

13-17 feet

28 feet

27 feet

17-21 feet

32 feet

31 feet

21-25 feet

36 feet

34 feet

25-28 feet

40 feet

37 feet

28-31 feet

Can you separate an extension ladder?

Yes, the extension ladder can be separated into two halves. When you are going to work with the separated ladder, you need to follow the existing safety measures.

One word of caution: You can't use the upper section of your extension ladder as a single ladder.

How do you lock an extension ladder?

The portion that can raise the ladder is called the fly section. You may see a safety lock that attaches to the fly section. When you raise the fly section upright and pass a rung, you will see the lock also go upward.

When you get your desired height, then lower the fly section a little bit to latch on and hook to the rung.

If the ladder doesn't latch correctly, then it will come back down. So, try to put a little pressure to make sure the lock is in place.

Are extension ladders safe?

The extension ladder isn't a self-supporting tool; instead, it demands a stable structure. That structure helps the ladder to withstand the load you carry. We mentioned some safety measures so, follow them to remain safe.


Hope, you’re now well-informed on how to use an extension ladder safely.

Each year many users get hurt while working on an extension ladder. Follow our instruction correctly and don’t become one of them.

Thanks for your time!

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