An extension ladder is easily the most convenient way to reach those high places around your home.
Unfortunately, handling a long extension ladder can be a major challenge especially if you’re a beginner.
In this educational post, we’ll teach you how to raise an extension ladder up high and avoid the common mistakes that make lifting and maneuvering these types of ladders such a tricky affair.
How to Raise an Extension Ladder
Before you raise it:
Unless you’re on a suicide mission, your first task is to conduct a thorough inspection of the hardware for flaws such as cracks.
The ladder consists of two (or more) sections and it’s important to check that the guides or brackets that allow length adjustment (plus parts like the locks, feet, etc.) are in sound condition.
Cracks or other defects in parts such as the rungs, the pulley, or the rung lock might make using an extension ladder dangerous or impractical.
To be safe, your extension ladder must remain stationary. Period.
And you will have won half the battle by setting it up the right way.
Here are the rules to follow when selecting the spot to position the ladder and how to set it up the correct way:
a) Steer clear of danger
Survey the area you’re planning to position your ladder and analyze it for risks and hazards like overhead power lines, open doorways, uneven ground, and more.
b) Choose hard, dry ground
Select a firm surface that is free of debris and slippery materials such as plastic tarps.
c) Level it if the ground is uneven
Some ladders come with integrated leg levelers but if you’re not having one of those, simply dig out the high side to offset the uneven ground. Another easy option is using a ladder leveler.
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Upon getting an excellent site for the ladder, there are a couple of preparations you need to make before you come to the most critical leg of the job- raising the extension ladder.
a) Clear the area
Clear the area around its base of hindrances such as tools, abandoned wood blocks, etc.
b) Test the attachment
Check (again) that every component making up the ladder is securely fixed.
c) Lay it
Proceed to lay the ladder on the ground- be sure that the ant-slip feet is pushed against your building. The ladder shall, of course, be stretching away from the house.
Bonus tip: Ensure that the feet solidly touch the building you’re erecting the ladder to. This makes your work easier and safer as the ladder won’t shift or move suddenly when being raised.
How to raise an extension ladder- step by step
Step 1: Lift the top end
The proper way to get it off the ground is this:
Take hold of the top end (the end of the ladder that rests away from your house) and carefully hoist it off the surface until it stands over your head.
This sets you up nicely for the next step.
Step 2: Walk with it upright
While still holding the ladder, start to walk with it toward the structure so that it rises further up. You work hand over hand and switch to the lower rungs as you advance.
Keep adding pressure (but delicately) to the feet of the ladder so that it retains good contact with the house when elevating it. This creates more resistance and is the best strategy to use if you don’t want the ladder to slide during ‘operation raise extension ladder’.
Bonus tip: The ladder will feel heavier as it reaches higher so you’ll need to ramp up your strength little by little.
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Step 3: Stop and move its bottom back
Keep an eye on the angle as it rises higher and stops when you notice the ladder standing nearly vertical (it’s definitely not stable at this incline). To steady it, lift the ladder a bit (hold it by a rung that is most ideal) and move the base back a suitable distance, away from the wall.
Don’t worry if unsure about how far back you should move it- as a rule of thumb, use the 1:4 ratio to determine the far the bottom should stand from the house.
This is straightforward math- just divide the height of the ladder by 4 to work the distance out. For instance, if the ladder is 18 feet tall, carry it 18/4=4.5 feet back.
Bonus Tip: Naturally, heavy-duty extension ladders are built quite heavy. Request help from a colleague or friend if you’re struggling to lift the ladder on your own.
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Step 4: Extend it to the required position
Once you’re happy with the balance of the ladder, grab the rope (for extension ladders using a pulley system) and extend the telescoping section to your desired height (or upright, if necessary).
You may also push its fly up manually to extend it.
Bonus Tip: Always ensure that the top extends at least 3 rungs/feet above the tallest point you want to climb to (or 3 feet above the top of your roof if doing some roof work) for safety.
Step 5: Lock it
If everything looks fine and it’s still securely footed, lock its fly in place using the rung locks-you’d hate it to slide when you’re climbing the ladder!
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Step 6: Bring it down
While keeping the feet rooted to the right spot, lower the ladder to the building -solid contact is essential for a safe climb.
That’s it! You have successfully raised and mounted an extension ladder for your repair or maintenance project.
Bonus Tip: Consider tying down the ladder to something sturdy on the structure with a rope (or bungee cord) to prevent it from moving.
Some ladder injuries have been attributed to poor raising techniques and you don’t want to be part of the grim statistics. We believe you won’t, now that we have taught you how to raise an extension ladder safely and professionally.
Go ahead and give it a try- you’ll be surprised that it’s not as daunting as it may look on paper.
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References and Citations:
1. Office of Congressional Workplace Rights(OCWR): Extension Ladders- https://www.ocwr.gov/publications/fast-facts/extension-ladders/
2. IHSA: Safety Talks; Extension ladders- https://www.ihsa.ca/pdfs/safety_talks/extension_ladders.pdf