DIY Tip: Proper Care for Your Ladders
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DIY Tip: Proper Care for Your Ladders

Your ladder can last for several years with good care. Here are some tips for proper use and care of your ladder.

Good quality ladder (metal or wood) will last for several years with normal use, therefore it is a foolish thriftiness to purchase one which is badly constructed, regardless how much of a "bargain" it may seem. Better quality ladders have a wider spread between legs, thicker side rails, sturdier rungs or steps and heavy-duty, rustproof hardware. They're also firmly braced against swaying.

Generally speaking, there are two types of ladders which are very useful around the home: a 5- or 6-foot stepladder for inside use and for work around the lower part of the house on the outside; and a tall extension ladder for use around the upper portion of the house on the outside. The size of the extension ladder required would, naturally, depend on the height of the house. It must be tall enough to allow reaching the highest part (normally the chimney) when emergency repairs become needed.

As its name connotes, an extension ladder actually comprises of two straight sections which fit together so that one part can be raised or extended to the height wanted. The size of the ladder is decided by the combined length of the two individual sections. Actually this total length (or height) can never be fully used, since there should always be at least a 2-foot overlap in the center to secure enough strength when the ladder is extended.

To allow hoisting the upper half—the narrower section—to the height wanted, all extension ladders come fitted with a rope which is linked to the bottom end of the movable (narrower) section of the ladder. This rope goes up between the two sections, through a pulley on the top rung of the bottom half (the wider one), then descends on the outside to ground level. Pulling down on the free end of this rope lifts the upper half of the ladder to the height desired. When working solo, you can do this quite easily by supporting the ladder vertically with one hand while bracing the bottom end with one foot. Your other hand can then be used to pull down on the end of the rope until you have raised the ladder to the height needed.

To hold the upper half in place after it has been raised, spring-actuated hooks or locks are fitted to the top section. These hook on to one of the rungs of the bottom section when tension on the rope is released. Upon the ladder is to be lowered, a pull on this same rope (enough to raise the ladder about half a step) will free these locks so that a metal pivot closes them temporarily. This allows the upper half to slide down without trouble. When lowering the ladder, feed the rope upward, hand-over-hand, instead of permitting it to slide through the fingers.

To stand one of these tall ladders up when acting alone, begin by placing the ladder flat on the ground with its bottom end pressed against the base of the wall, and with the rest of the ladder extending out at right angles from the wall. Clutch the ladder by its top rung and raise this approximately shoulder high. Move the hands from rung to rung while walking towards the house, therefore raising the upper end of the ladder. When the ladder is fully extended and set against the house wall in its vertical position, extend it to the height needed by pulling on the rope as described earlier.

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