What's the best ladder for using on stairs?
November 8, 2015 3:22 PM   Subscribe

We have a staircase in the middle of our house, which has a 90 degree turn and two 45 degree turns. Above it is a pair of recessed lights, which are very hard to replace the bulbs in. I'd also like to hang a piece of art on the tall wall above the stairs. So I'm thinking it's time to try to find a ladder that will work there. But I don't know what to get.

To give a possibly better visual, here's a really crappy scan of the blueprint of the stairs*. The approximate locations of the lights are the yellow circles, and the tall wall is highlighted in red. From the landing marked "1," to the top of the red wall is about 14'. The landing is pretty small, so I don't think it's big enough to just use an extension ladder safely. And even if it were, I still wouldn't be able to reach the light to the left, which is more above steps "2" or tiny landing "3." An extension ladder definitely won't work there. So it seems like kind of a tricky space.

I've researched Little Giant ladders and similar things, but I keep finding mixed reviews, with some people saying they're great and others saying they're bad. I'm not sure what the other options are.

I do have one of those long poles for changing the bulbs, but it's a pain to use, and I'd really in general just like to have a safe way to get up there. I don't like having a part of my house that I can't reach/service myself.

Budget isn't a huge concern, though I'd of course always rather not wasting money on something I don't actually need...

* Sorry, it was on a massive piece of paper that I couldn't fit all in the scanner; I scanned it in pieces and stitched it together poorly several years ago for another project that didn't need this part to be complete/accurate.
posted by primethyme to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I do have one of those long poles for changing the bulbs, but it's a pain to use, and I'd really in general just like to have a safe way to get up there.

Ladders are one of the more unsafe things you can use. If you're looking to replace something that's a "pain to use" with a ladder for safety reasons you're doing it exactly backwards. Stick with the safe but a "pain to use" thing.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 3:32 PM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: As I mentioned, changing the light bulbs is not the only reason. I appreciate the concern for my safety, but I have actually been through volunteer firefighter training during which they drilled into our heads all the bad things that can happen to you on a ladder, so I'm well aware of the risks. I'd appreciate recommendations on ladders even more than I appreciate safety warnings. Consider me warned.
posted by primethyme at 3:39 PM on November 8, 2015

Whatever you do, consider installing LED lights up there. They last for a long long time - there was another thread here with specific brand recommendations.
posted by barnone at 3:40 PM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

My husband bought a Little Giant ladder with the justification that it would be perfect for this situation. Only used it once so far but I think he was able to set it up so that it was much safer and more stable than a traditional extension ladder. If you look here and scroll down, it has a staircase feature that lets you make one side much longer than the other.
posted by metahawk at 3:40 PM on November 8, 2015

We have a Gorilla ladder (an adjustable one that I gather is similar to the Little Giant ones - you can adjust the legs independently and make it have the angle you need) that works well. It's straightforward to adjust, and it's carryable for one person if the person is somewhat stronger than I am. It has grippy rubber feet too.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:41 PM on November 8, 2015

Another endorsement of the Gorilla ladder, which I used unassisted to remove wallpaper from our two-story, split-entry foyer.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:18 PM on November 8, 2015

Is the wall 14' high from the floor, first landing or second landing? Is the center section open to the floor?

Baker's scaffold is probably your best bet; probably with screw adjustable feet (leveling jacks in scaffold parlance). If the stair way is open to the floor you need the style with guard rails.

These aren't worth the bulk of storage if you buy unless you are going up there all the time or have other projects where it might be useful. Any decent rental house will carry them though.

It's crazy dangerous to rig something up from ladders and planks. If you were considering it, do not do that. People do it all the time but I wouldn't. One of the most dangerous things I can do as an industrial electrician is work off a 8' ladder. Putting even a ladder designed for the purpose in a stairwell (especially if it is open) is a "nope nope nope".
posted by Mitheral at 4:43 PM on November 8, 2015

I have exactly the same stairwell with exactly the same issues (huge wall art and light bulbs to change), and I use a gorilla ladder. It's crazy heavy, though, but that's a good thing once you get it where you want it. The little giant looks exactly the same. I really don't think there's another ladder that will do what you want.
posted by Huck500 at 5:26 PM on November 8, 2015

I don't know what brand it is, but I have a ladder similar to the Little Giant one linked above. It is what I would use for this kind of situation because it can lock open at more than one angle, and you can set each side to a different height. The one I have is heavy and it would be very easy to pinch your fingers while taking it down, so use with care.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:45 PM on November 8, 2015

We have a similar staircase with similar light bulbs and my Mr bought what he tells me is called a Werner Telescoping Ladder from Home Depot. In fact we just used it today. He opens it out so it is flat and then leans the end against the wall.
posted by matildaben at 6:06 PM on November 8, 2015

If you're going to buy a Little Giant ladder (which I agree is probably your safest ladder option), I highly recommend that you see one in real life and lift it first. Especially if you're going to be doing it by yourself. Others have mentioned that they're heavy, but they're deceptively heavy; much heavier than they look. I don't think they're cheap, and it would really suck to order it and pay for it and count on having it, only to find out that you can't set it up or maneuver it when you need to.
posted by Weeping_angel at 10:08 PM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

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