The Best (and Worst) Ladders for Cleaning Gutters

Ladder leaning against gutter

This year, you plan to clean your gutters yourself. You have all the right tools for the job – gutter scoops, a garden hose, pressure washer. But perhaps the most important tool for this job is your ladder. Knowing the difference between the best and the worst ladders for cleaning gutters can determine whether you end up with clean gutters or a hospital visit.

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What Makes a Good Ladder For Cleaning Gutters

Each year, more than 100 people die and thousands are injured in ladder-related accidents. It’s easy to lose your balance on a ladder, but it’s 100% avoidable if you choose your equipment carefully. Here are a few qualities of a good ladder for your gutter cleaning task:

Appropriate Height

The height of your ladder should correspond to the height of your home. Height also determines the capacity of your ladder. Remember, the ladder loses some height as it leans against the house, so make sure you account for that when buying a ladder. More on what constitutes an ideal height later.

Easy Maneuverability   

Your ladder’s weight is a vital consideration. The ladder should be light enough to be easily carried around to different sections of the gutter system but not too light since lightweight ladders can be unstable. 

As a general rule, your ladder should be 30 pounds or less so you can conveniently move this weight around and stably stand atop. 

Excellent Load Capacity

Load capacity is the amount of weight a ladder can handle. The maximum weight should be more than your body weight plus the gutter cleaning tools you are going to carry up to the roof. You might have to put tools and materials on the ladder as you clean gutters, hence you need a firm one. 

Exceeding the load capacity can lead to collapse. It’s best to choose a ladder with high load capacity so you can climb up stress-free. Ladders with a weight capacity above 250 to 300 pounds are ideal. 

Stability

Most surfaces around our homes aren’t even. This means ladders have a good chance of toppling over. If you will be working on uneven surfaces, your ladder should allow stability accessory attachments (more on that later). Likewise, steer clear of soft ground. If the ladder sinks into soft or muddy earth, it can become unstable and topple.

Right Construction Material

The material your ladder is made of essentially determines its lifespan and overall performance. Common ladder construction materials include fiberglass, aluminum, and steel. 

Fiberglass ladders are extremely durable, and the solid build stands up pretty well even if exposed to heat for prolonged periods. Fiberglass is just as strong as steel but better. It is also weatherproof and non-conductive.

Steel ladders are strong and typically used for commercial and industrial use. It’s a great choice because steel is resilient; it can take bumping and banging without any dents. Also, steel ladders have impressive load capacity. 

Aluminum ladders are sturdy, lightweight, and great for gutter cleaning because they don’t corrode or rust. Since they’re not too heavy, you can easily move them around the gutters as you proceed. 

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The Best Ladders For Cleaning Gutters

Some ladder types that are safe and secure for gutter cleaning jobs:

Telescoping Ladders

Telesteps telescopic ladder
Photo Credit: Mark Hunter / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

This is the safest and the best type of ladder for the job. Telescoping ladders are easy to set up, move, reposition, and take down, available in a variety of sizes, and highly stable. These ladders can hold up to 330 pounds of weight. 

Telescoping ladders work like telescopes. Every rank of the ladder slides down to pile on the following rung and collapses itself. This makes the ladder small, packed, and portable, making it easy to maneuver and carry around. 

Each step locks into place when you extend the ladder, meaning you can extend it to a height level that you need for cleaning gutters or other chores around the home. Their excellent maneuverability makes telescoping ladders perfect for gutter maintenance tasks.

Extension Ladder

Extension ladder
Photo Credit: george socka / Canva Pro / License

Extension ladders work just like telescopic ladders but have only two or three moveable sections. You can easily separate the two sections and use them as single-section ladders. The sections deploy in a cascading manner and lock in place to prevent slips. This way, you can adjust the length of the ladder according to the gutter section you are working on. 

This type of ladder is perfect for jobs where you deal with varying heights, such as cleaning gutters. Your roof’s edges raise and arch at different points, so an adjustable ladder will help you reach any spot safely and efficiently. 

Extension ladders are not self-supporting. Most extension ladders also come with stabilizers on the bottom – essentially flat, wide pieces of steel or rubber that make them sit level on any type of ground. Aluminum extension ladders can easily hold up to 300 pounds. However, extension ladders can be bulky and a bit tricky to maneuver. 

Step Ladder

Step ladder
Photo Credit: undefined undefined / Canva Pro / License

One of the most useful pieces of equipment around your home is a step ladder. This ladder type is portable, easy to use, and quite affordable. Step ladders are self-supporting. That means that if, for some reason, you cannot rest your ladder against the wall, you can still get up and clean your gutters safely. 

The traditional A-frame has one side with evenly spaced rungs and the other side serving as support for the ladder. It’s also commonly known as a folding ladder because it folds up to make it easier to move and store.

Step ladders are best suited for single-story homes since the design does not adjust to different heights. Typically, they are four to eight feet tall but can have more size options, too. Their weight ratings can go up to 300 pounds. However, they are a safe, strong, and durable option.  

Combination or Multi-purpose Ladders

Multi-purpose ladder
Photo Credit: Ekaterina79 / Canva Pro / License

Combination ladders are the most versatile ladder type. These ladders can be used in several different ways with a simple configuration change. 

Combination ladders can operate both as a step ladder and an extension ladder. Some also transform into stairs or trestles. Most of them come with built-in stabilization, too, making them perfect for gutter-cleaning jobs. These ladders have a maximum load capacity of up to 375 pounds

With the help of multiple hinges in place, you can adjust it as a straight ladder or reassemble it into an A-frame shape. The two-section design is a win. You can use the A-frame ladder for low gutter areas and extend the second section to make it an extension ladder and reach higher areas around the roof. 

Despite the seemingly bulky design, combination ladders are easy to transport. Fiberglass and aluminum combination ladders are lightweight and have excellent mobility. This is your best pick if you’re on a budget and looking for something that can be used for multiple jobs and projects. 

Worst Ladders For Cleaning Gutters

You might suppose any ladder can get the job done. After all, all you need is something to climb up and reach the gutters. But choosing the wrong ladder can actually put you at a safety risk, and it’s a common gutter cleaning mistake. Make the task safer by avoiding these ladder types:

Wooden Ladders

Wooden ladder
Photo Credit: pixelshot / Canva Pro / License

Wooden ladders are a big no-no for gutter cleaning. They are tough to balance and often too wobbly to support a person, let alone a person cleaning gutters. You might be able to achieve some balance on an even surface, but they are not recommended for outdoor use on stone, soil, or grass. 

In addition, wood warps and rots. Wood can also attract pests and catch fire. This makes it challenging to store the ladder and renders it less durable than its metal counterparts. Wooden ladders are also heavy, delicate, and a pricey option. 

Orchard Ladders

An orchard ladder in the midst of apple trees
Photo Credit: querbeet / Canva Pro / License

Also known as tripod ladders, this ladder type is manufactured to have a single rear leg support. The rear leg also has an option for a spike that you can penetrate through the ground for better stability. They come in handy when picking fruit high up in a tree, but the three-legged configuration is heavy and a pain to lug around your gutters. 

It has a self-supporting design that packs up to become portable. But orchard ladders are not suitable for gutter cleaning because they are designed with a flared base and tripod pole that offers stability only when the ground below is soft and penetrable. 

In addition, orchard ladders do not have any locking mechanism or spreader bar that will hold them in place. So, climbing up with equipment for gutter cleaning on a ladder that cannot be stabilized isn’t a smart choice. Plus, some orchard ladders may not be tall enough to reach standard gutters.

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Platform Ladders

Platform ladder
Photo Credit: BiancaVanDijk from Pixabay / Canva Pro / License

This type of ladder has a platform placed along the top of the A-frame where you can place items. If need be, you can also use the platform to stand and reach a higher point. 

These ladders are not extendable but are self-supporting with one climbable side with hinges for easy folding. That said, platform ladders are bulky and pretty hard to drag around and store. They are also more expensive than other ladder types. 

Additionally, most of them aren’t tall enough to reach the gutter height of a standard home. The platform itself can become a safety risk for you as it may restrict your access to reach gutters.

Ladder Safety Practices

Here are a few things homeowners should know to safely clean gutters using a ladder.

How high should your ladder be:

Your ladder’s working height should match the height of your gutters. As a rough guide, gutters on a one-story house are about 10.82 feet or 3.3m high and 18.7 feet or 5.7m high on a two-story house. 

This means the ideal ladder height for a single-story house should be 12 to 15 feet for you to comfortably reach the gutters and downspouts. A 10- to 12-tread step ladder or a two-section extension ladder with an extended height of 12-plus feet is good. For a double-story home, use an extension ladder of an extended height of 20 to 25 feet. 

With that said, the safe working height of a ladder is 4 feet above the step you are standing on. This ensures that you aren’t overextending to reach the gutter and can access everything comfortably. 

Where to place the ladder:

No matter what kind of ladder you use, it should have a stable support system. If it is not a self-supporting ladder, place it against the side of your house. Leaning your ladder against a tree, gutter system, or another ladder is dangerous, so don’t do that. 

Can you lean the ladder against the gutters?

It is never recommended to place any ladder type against your gutters. Gutters are designed to drive water away from your roof and prevent water damage to your house. You can seriously affect their functionality by leaning heavy equipment against them.

Possible damages include scarring, denting, or worst, you could end up falling and injuring yourself if they collapse under pressure. 

Do you need a ladder standoff?

Some houses have gutters fitted close to the roof tiles, which makes it hard to get your hand in to clean gutters. For such cases, a ladder standoff or ladder stabilizer can give you a better working position by elevating you above the gutter. 

This way, there will be no extra pressure on the gutter, and your ladder will stay stable. A ladder standoff attaches to the ladder and keeps it about 20 inches away from the wall to increase the space between you and the gutters. 

It’s an excellent ladder stabilizer accessory since it attaches to the wall with a wider span than your ladder, increases stability, and allows you to span over downpipes and windows. 

Other safety equipment you should consider

Consider adding a few more accessories to your ladder to make it safer for gutter cleaning. Ladder stabilizers and anti-slip products can help. Anti-slip rubber feet can stop the ladder feet from sliding from the wall or smooth surface and from sinking or slipping on the ground. You can also get special anti-slip products if you will be working with ice, snow, or uneven grounds. 

General ladder safety tips:

  • Don’t overload your ladder beyond its weight capacity
  • Always maintain three points of contact and face your entire body toward the ladder when ascending or descending
  • Wear non-slip shoes for extra protection and stability on the ladder, especially in winters
  • Always have a helper around
  • If you’re working at night, make sure your surroundings are well-lit and traffic-free to prevent accidents. Otherwise, it’s best to clean gutters during the daytime on a sunny, rain-free day
  • Make sure your ladder is properly locked and secure in place before jumping up

FAQs

Can you clean gutters without a ladder?

Yes. You can use a gutter cleaning wand hose attachment to wash your gutters from the ground. You can also use a leaf blower or vacuum gutter cleaner attachment.

Can I climb on the roof to clean my gutters?

It’s strictly advised against standing on the roof. Not only can it damage your roof, but it’s also very unsafe. You can easily slip, fall, and get seriously injured. 

What is the best material for ladders?

Fiberglass ladders are the strongest and most long-lasting. They are weather-resistant, lightweight, and non-conductive, making them safe and easy to use around gutters. 

Scared of Ladders? Call a Pro!

Gutter cleaning can be an intimidating job. If you’re not up for the challenge, just call in one of our gutter pros to clean your gutters. They come with experience, expertise, and the right tools for the job. 

You’ve got gutter and gutter guard questions. We’ve got answers. Find a pro near you.

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Main Photo Credit: Willowpix / Canva Pro / License

Farah Nauman

Farah Nauman is a freelance writer and an accountant based in Pakistan. She spends most of her time combating the South Asian heat and being a mom to her three fluffy cats and a dozen little Aloe Veras in her house.