Fiberglass ladders are the best option to avoid electrocution, recorded as the second cause of ladder accidents after falling.
However, fiberglass ladders are strong but sensitive to various environmental factors making them costly to maintain.
As that’s the case, learning how to protect fiberglass ladders isn’t an exception if you prefer safety and durability.
What is Fiberglass Material?
Fiberglass material is manufactured by reinforcing fiber plastic by use of glass fiber. During manufacturing, the fibers are laid randomly to form sheets.
When combined, the sheets can manufacture various final products, including ladders. The process is carried out in a series of operations to develop a plastic thermoset polymer matrix. The matrix is made of thermosetting polymers like; vinyl ester resin, polyester resin, epoxy, or thermoplastic.
Fiberglass ladders have been embraced in worldwide markets. The reason being;
- They are stronger than various metals.
- Fiberglass is non-magnetic
- They are non-conductive, making them safe for use around electric power cables.
- They are lightweight.
What Affects a Fiberglass Ladder?
Due to the manufacturing composition discussed above, fiberglass ladders are prone to various conditions like;
- Excessive sun heat
- UV radiation
- Careless handling like falling off
- Exposure to oils and strong chemicals
These conditions may cause fiber surface degradation, which shortens the ladder’s lifespan.
Signs that Your Fiberglass Ladder is Damaged
If your fiberglass ladder is damaged, you’ll notice the following signs;
- Color fading – if the material is made of resin fiber, it starts yellowing. You may also see some fading fiber pigments on the surface, and some parts turn white.
- Fiber brooming – fiber brooming is when some inner parts are exposed, giving the surface an ugly look. The exposed parts may attract dirt and grime.
- Moisture penetration – you’ll notice some wet parts of exposed fiber due to moisture build-up. Moisture lowers electrical resistance due to inner rails exposure.
- Fiber irritation – some exposed glass fibers may cause discomfort to the user if they contact the skin.
- Cracking and decaying – some parts may show cracks due to exposure, and the moisture causes decay if not serviced early.
How to Protect Fiberglass Ladders
You may have been asking yourself this question, how long will a fiberglass ladder last? Well, if you’re planning to purchase the ladder, most last from one to three years. However, lifespan and safety are determined by maintenance.
Here are various methods you may use to protect your ladder;
1. Waxing Method
Waxing protects the ladder from moisture. To protect your fiberglass, carry out the following procedure;
Step 1: Using a sponge or a clean piece of cloth, wipe the ladder to remove dirt and grime.
Step 2: If there are serious spots, use fine grit 220 sandpaper to sand them until the surface is smooth.
Step 3: Use a clean cloth to wipe out the sanding dust.
Step 4: Use dishwashing soap and warm water to clean the surface using a sponge.
Step 5: Use a fiberglass polish to smoothen the surface using a sponge. Touch the sponge lightly as you rub it in the same direction.
Step 6: Apply collinite fiberglass fleetwax in circular motions to avoid sticking and give the wax time to dry.
Step 7: Polish the wax for the second time to give the surface a shiny look.
2. Rainbow Fiberglass Coating Method
The Rainbow fiberglass coat protects the ladder against moisture and UV radiation. If you’ve been figuring out how to protect fiberglass from the sun, carry out the following procedure;
Step 1: Using a clean piece of cloth, clean the surface of dirt and debris.
Step 2: Using grit sandpaper, sand the surface. Some rough fiber may be exposed but sand until it becomes smooth.
Step 3: Shake your rainbow fiberglass coat CAN for at least one minute to allow the solution to build some pressure.
Step 4: Steadily spray the coat at a distance of about 10 inches from the surface. Make several light coats in 30 minutes intervals.
Step 5: Allow your ladder to dry completely before using.
3. Lacquer Method
To protect your fiberglass ladder using the lacquer method, carry out the following procedure;
Step 1: Sand the damaged part with 60-grit sandpaper. Some rough fiber threats may appear. Sand until the surface becomes smooth.
Step 2: Using a clean, soft cloth, rub off the sanding dust from the surface.
Step 3: Spray your lacquer in a back-and-forth pattern to cover the damaged surface and allow it to dry.
Step 4: Use 100 grit sandpaper to lightly sand over the coating for the second spray.
Step 5: Wipe the light sanding dust and spray the second coat.
Step 6: Allow the second coat to dry for about three hours before using the ladder.
4. Spray Gel Coat Method
If you’ve been thinking of how to recoat the fiberglass ladder, this method can be your best choice. Carry out the following procedure;
Step 1: Sand the surface using grit sandpaper until it turns smooth.
Step 2: Use a clean, soft cloth to wipe out the sanding dust.
Step 3: Use heavy-duty tape to protect the surrounding area.
Step 4: In a clean can, pour your spray gel coat, fiberglass resin liquid hardener, and gel coat thinner and stir thoroughly.
Step 5: Spray the coat and let it dry.
Step 6: Spray the second time after around 20 minutes and check if the surface is restored after 20 minutes.
Step 7: Repeat the process until the surface is restored and give it 3 hours to dry before using the ladder.
How Can You Tell if a Fiberglass Ladder is Bad?
So as to know if your fiberglass ladder is bad, check for;
- Dented parts
- Expose rough fiber
FAQ’s on Fiberglass Ladders
Which is Stronger, Fiberglass or Aluminum?
Although aluminum is fairly resistant to weather, fiberglass tends to be much stronger. If well maintained, fiberglass can be even more resistant than aluminum.
Is Fiberglass Cheaper than Aluminum?
A fiberglass ladder may not be your best option if you are on a budget. Fiberglass is more expensive than aluminum, and so is its maintenance.
You’ll have to dig deeper into your pockets after learning how to protect fiberglass ladders and tips to maintain them.
References and Citations:
State of California; Department of Industrial Relations: Portable Ladder Safety, Inspection, Use, and Maintenance – https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/etools/08-001/care.htm
Workplace Health and Safety Quensland- Fibreglass ladder failure https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/news-and-events/alerts/workplace-health-and-safety-alerts/2020/fibreglass-ladder-failure