1. The right stuff: choose ladder construction that suits your needs. Aluminum ladders are noticeably lighter and easier to transport. Wood ladders are sturdy and resilient, but heavier. Fiberglass is in between: tough, but easier to move around. Avoid metal ladders if you're going to be working near electrical wires, Sparky.
2. When considering the weight capacity of a ladder, remember to include the weight of your clothing, your protective gear, your tools and whatever supplies you're lugging up there with you. You may weight 200 lbs, but your load might add 50 more, and it all counts.
3. Too long is almost as bad as too short. You can't reach the workspace if you're in the middle of a too-tall ladder. Choose a ladder with a height range that matches your most common tasks. If your needs vary a lot, get various ladders for maximum comfort and safety.
4. Placing a pool ladder by the shallow end helps little kids ease in and out safely. Set a second ladder by the deep end so swimmers who need it can reach it easily. Grab rails keep everyone anchored when the ground gets wet and slippery.
5. Articulated ladders do triple-duty. They can be configured long and straight, into an A-frame for stability, or horizontally as a scaffold support. When you're done, they fold up short and sweet.
6. Scaffolding takes longer to set up, but makes up that time and more after the job starts. You can work on broader surfaces and multiple levels without stopping to rearrange everything, and scaffolding generally sits back from the work surface so there are no dead spots you have to touch up later.
7. Properly erected scaffolding is safer than ladders, thanks to a broader base and more room to lay work materials. Guard rails help you keep your eye on your work instead of on the boundaries of the scaffold. Always secure scaffolding to the building when its height is more than three times its width.
8. Library ladders are as charming as they are functional. Use them in bathrooms, hallways and storage rooms to reach high cabinets and shelves. Oh yes, and books. These rolling ladders are always stable and secure, with a wide base and locking top guides.
9. Painter's trick: carry your ladder vertically. Choose a rung below your hip and lift with one hand, then reach over your head with the other hand and grab a rung for balance. When you reach your destination, just set it down and lean it against the house. Easy!
10. What's your angle? To test for proper ladder lean, stand with your toes touching the base of your ladder. With arms extended straight out, you should be able to just touch the rung with your fingertips.