Different people, projects and tasks require ladders of varying styles, sizes, grades and materials. Style, size, duty rating and material are the four key elements to understand when choosing the right ladder for the job.


When working indoors, a stepstool, stepladder, platform or multi-purpose ladder is usually recommended when you need a reach of two to eight feet. Outside, a taller stepladder, multi-purpose or extension ladder is often more appropriate for jobs requiring a reach of thirteen feet or more. Different styles of ladders are designed to keep the user safe and productive when climbing. 

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Choosing the right size or length is just as important as the ladder style. One of the most common and potentially dangerous ladder selection mistakes is purchasing a ladder that is either too short or too long.

Choose the Right Extension Ladder

Height to Gutter or to Support Point Buy This Size Ladder (include a 3-foot extension above roof line)
9-foot max.
9 to 13 feet
13 to 17 feet
17 to 21 feet
21 to 25 feet
25 to 28 feet
28 to 31 feet

Choose the Right Stepladder

Max. Height You Want to Reach Buy This Size Ladder (assumes vertical 12-inch reach)
7 feet
8 feet
9 feet
10 feet
11 feet
12 feet
14 feet
16 feet
18 feet
20 feet

Duty Rating

Ladders are duty-rated by type to identify appropriate use for typical activities, some of which are shown below.

Special Duty 375 lbs.

  • Utilities
  • Heavy Duty MRO
  • Heavy Duty Industrial Construction


Extra Heavy Duty 300 lbs.


  • Industrial Construction
  • Building
  • Roofing
  • General Contracting
Heavy Duty 250 lbs.

  • General Contracting
  • Building
  • Maintenance
  • Drywalling
Medium Duty 225 lbs.

  • Light Commercial
  • Painting
  • Cleaning
  • Light Repair
Light Duty 200 lbs.

  • Painting
  • Yard Work
  • Chores


We suggest that if you buy only one ladder, fiberglass should be your choice. Different ladder materials offer characteristics that are best for certain applications, and one kind of material may be better suited to your work environment or work application.

  • Fiberglass — Electrically non-conductive, great value, strong leading choice of professionals.
  • Aluminum — Strong, lightweight, corrosion-resistant.
  • Wood — Economical, electrically non-conductive when clean and dry.

For more information, browse our ladders, scaffolds & climbing equipment online or visit your neighborhood Sherwin-Williams store.

Sherwin-Williams thanks Werner Ladder for providing the valuable information presented on this page.