The 9 Best Ladders for Painting, Home Improvement, and Outdoor Use, According to Our Tests

The Rubbermaid Lightweight Aluminum Step Stool earned our No. 1 spot because of its handy project tray and foldable design.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Best Mixing Bowl
Courtesy of Amazon

It's no secret that homeowners need a variety of tools for home improvement projects. Of the necessary tools—like drills, screwdrivers, wrenches, and hammers—ladders serve an important role in getting DIY projects done. Because ladders come in different sizes and forms designed for specific settings, homeowners and professionals have a lot to consider before making their purchase.

If you're mainly needing a ladder for indoor use, we recommend shopping for a step ladder since they're more portable, easy to store, and are generally tall enough to reach most areas of your home. For outdoor projects, consider purchasing an extension ladder, a telescoping ladder, or a multipurpose ladder to access your home's gutters, siding, tree branches, and more.

We tested 27 of the best ladders in our lab in Des Moines, Iowa, to determine which ones are the most durable and versatile for a variety of different projects. We had our team of experts spend a day using extension ladders, step ladders, telescoping ladders, and multi-purpose ladders to evaluate them based on their portability, design, and effectiveness.

Our testers noted which ones felt the sturdiest, which ladders were easiest to store and carry, and which ones had additional features that made them more useful than others. At the end of the day, we tallied up the individual results of each ladder to create our final list of the best ladders.

After rigorous testing, we chose the Rubbermaid Lightweight Aluminum Step Stool as the best overall ladder, since it is lightweight, easy to store, and has a handy project tray to keep tools within arm's reach at all times.

These are the best ladders of 2022, according to our tests:

What We Recommend

Best Overall: Rubbermaid Lightweight Aluminum Step Stool

9 Best Ladders For Painting
Courtesy of Amazon

Why You Should Get It: This step ladder has a useful project tray with a paper towel holder, a magnetized compartment for catching nails, and holes for hanging a hammer or other tools.

Keep in Mind: It's only 5 feet tall, so it won't be tall enough for projects higher than 9 feet off the ground.

Whether you're painting the inside of your house, installing a new light fixture, or embarking on the latest home improvement project, the Rubbermaid Lightweight Aluminum Step Stool is a portable yet sturdy companion to help you get the job done. It's foldable, making it super easy to stow away in a closet when it isn't needed, yet it easily folds out and locks into place when you're ready to use it.

Our testers found that even on the top step, this ladder was quite sturdy and didn't wobble around, so they felt safe putting their whole weight on it without fear of it falling. Its large non-slip feet give it added grip, meaning you don't have to worry about it slipping when you move around.

This step ladder also has a magnetic project tray, which makes it easy to keep track of loose screws, nails, and other small items you may need while working. Additionally, the project tray includes a paper towel holder, an oversized platform, and a container capable of holding a paint bucket and various tools. We loved this feature, since it makes it easy to keep all your necessary tools within reach as you work.

Because it's only 5 feet in height, the Rubbermaid ladder is best suited for projects no higher than 9 feet off the ground. You'll want to invest in an extension ladder or something taller if you need to reach higher than this in or around your home.

Price at time of publish: $90

Product Details:

  • Ladder Type: Step ladder
  • Ladder Height: 5 feet
  • Duty Rating: Type 1
  • Weight Capacity: 250 pounds
  • Material: Aluminum
Best Ladders
Better Homes and Gardens / Dera Burreson

Best Budget: Delxo Three-Step Folding Step Stool Ladder

9 Best Ladders For Painting
Courtesy of Amazon

Why You Should Get It: This small but mighty step ladder can hold up to 500 pounds.

Keep in Mind: The steps don't have grips on them, so the ladder may become slippery when wet.

When all you need is a little extra height to reach the top shelf in your cabinets or swap out a lightbulb in the bedroom, it doesn't make sense to purchase a full-size ladder for your home. Instead, a small step ladder—such as the Delxo Step Ladder Folding Step Stool—is an easy solution that won't take up tons of storage space.

Made from alloy steel, this reliable step stool measures 43.2 inches tall on its highest step, giving you just enough height to reach overhead spaces inside your home without having to drag out your full-size ladder. You'll be able to use it when hanging picture frames, applying wallpaper, and tackling other household projects where you need a little extra height. It also locks into place automatically when you unfold it, so it won't collapse on you.

Our testers gave this step ladder a perfect rating for its portability. Since it only weighs 12.5 pounds and neatly folds to a 2.2-inch depth, it's easy to move around the house without being cumbersome to carry, and it's effortless to store without taking up tons of space. Given its smaller size, we were surprised that this ladder can hold up to 500 pounds, making it stronger than many other step ladders we tested.

During testing, our experts mentioned that it felt slightly precarious to stand on the top step since the handrail was too low to be useful at that height. However, if you have a wall to steady yourself on, this may be less of a concern.

We also wished this ladder had rubber grips on the steps themselves. Since the steel material doesn't provide much friction and would likely be slippery when wet, we don't recommend using the ladder unless it's completely dry.

Price at time of publish: $77

Product Details:

  • Ladder Type: Step ladder
  • Ladder Height: 3 feet
  • Duty Rating: Not listed
  • Weight Capacity: 500 pounds
  • Material: Alloy steel
  • Best Ladders
    Better Homes and Gardens / Dera Burreson

Best Aluminum: Little Giant Ladders 17-Foot Multi-Position Ladder

9 Best Ladders For Painting
Courtesy of Amazon

Why You Should Get It: This model can be adjusted to fit multiple configurations, including an A-frame, extended, and 90-degree ladder.

Keep in Mind: This ladder is quite heavy, so it may be difficult to transport from one area of the yard or house to another. Thankfully, it has wheels to make moving it easier.

Regardless of the task at hand, the Little Giant 17-Foot Multi-Position ladder is likely a welcome tool to help you reach high-up spaces inside your home or out in the yard. It's designed to be versatile, converting into an A-Frame shape for interior painting, extending for cleaning out the gutters, and adapting to uneven surfaces to help change that hard-to-access lightbulb above your staircase.

This is because of several knobs located at various joints on the ladder, which allow you to fold it in half, extend the legs, and tilt it at different angles before locking the ladder safely into place. Our testers were really impressed by its versatility while still remaining sturdy, easily supporting their weight no matter what configuration it was in. They also noted that it had no trouble remaining balanced on uneven surfaces, thanks to the device's leg levelers, which help to keep it stable.

Transporting such a hefty ladder is never going to be easy—this ladder weighs 35 pounds and is quite bulky in size—but thankfully, it has built-in wheels that help move it around more seamlessly. We found that this didn't help much on grass or uneven terrain, though, so it'll still require considerable effort to move and set up this ladder.

In particular, our testers recommended this ladder for homeowners who tend to have a wide range of projects on their to-do list. Since the price point for this ladder is higher than more simplistic models, it's a great investment for someone who has a variety of tasks to complete (think exterior painting, gutter cleaning, tree trimming, wallpapering, and more), but it may not make sense for someone who just needs a basic step ladder.

Price at time of publish: $307

Product Details:

  • Ladder Type: Extension ladder, A-frame ladder, 90-degree ladder
  • Ladder Height: 17 feet
  • Duty Rating: Type 1A
  • Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
  • Material: Aluminum

Related: The 13 Best Outdoor Storage Essentials for Your Backyard

Best Ladders
Better Homes and Gardens / Dera Burreson

Best Step: DeWalt 4-Foot Fiberglass Step Ladder

9 Best Ladders For Painting
Courtesy of Amazon

Why You Should Get It: This ladder has grips on its feet, making it super sturdy and resistant to slipping.

Keep in Mind: It doesn't have wheels for transporting, so you'll have to carry it.

A-frame ladders (also known as step ladders) are the best ladder types for a majority of indoor projects since they're tall enough to reach most ceiling heights without needing to lean against a wall for support. We chose the DeWalt Fiberglass Step Ladder as the best A-Frame ladder because it earned near-perfect scores for its sturdiness and design during our tests.

Compared to other ladders we tested, the DeWalt ladder has extra-wide steps that allow for better footing, so you won't feel as unstable when you stand on it. It's made from fiberglass, so it's less conductive than an aluminum or steel ladder, making it suitable for use in electrical projects. Our testers found that its wide and sturdy base—complete with slip-resistant feet—helped to stabilize the device so it didn't wobble in the slightest while using it.

The top "step" of the ladder doubles as a workstation and has a magnetic tray for storing nails or screws, a hardware tray, tool slots, a paint bucket holder, and a 2x4 holder. This makes it easy to keep everything you need close by as you work, rather than having to dismount the ladder every time you need another tool.

At 4 feet long and weighing 14 pounds, it's a bit bulkier than some of the other step ladders we tested. While we wish it had wheels to make transporting this device from one area of the house to the next a little easier, our testers reported that it was lightweight enough to carry without too much effort.

Price at time of publish: $165

Product Details:

  • Ladder Type: Step ladder
  • Ladder Height: 4 feet
  • Duty Rating: Type 1A
  • Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
  • Material: Fiberglass
  • Best Ladders
    Better Homes and Gardens / Dera Burreson

Best Extension: Louisville Ladder Fiberglass Extension Ladder

9 Best Ladders For Painting
Courtesy of Amazon

Why You Should Get It: This ladder comes in seven different sizes, ranging from 16 feet in length to 40 feet.

Keep in Mind: The 16-foot length is a little short compared to most extension ladders.

Whether you're painting the outside of your house, hanging up Christmas lights, washing your home's second-story windows, or some other project, the best extension ladders will help you access high-up places in your home or yard more safely. Based on our tests, the Louisville Ladder Fiberglass Extension Ladder is one of the sturdiest and easiest to use.

When extending and retracting this ladder, our testers found that it was super smooth and user-friendly to operate. There are heavy-duty metal guides on both sides of the ladder that prevent you from over-extending it, and the rung lock secures the two separate ladder pieces together once you've reached your desired length.

It also has two serrated swivel shoes at the base of the ladder, which help it resist slipping, and the serrated D-shaped rungs provide a little extra grip as you climb. Since the Louisville fiberglass extension ladder is less conductive than steel or aluminum, it's safer to use for any electrical work you may be doing. Plus, the ladder can support weight up to 300 pounds.

We tested the 16-foot version of this ladder, which is recommended for use up to 9 feet in height, according to Sherwin-Williams. However, you can also purchase this ladder in six other lengths, up to 40 feet long. Our testers reported that the 16-foot ladder was extremely sturdy, but as ladders get longer, they become more wobbly, so be extra careful if you decide to purchase one of the longer models.

Price at time of publish: From $269

Product Details:

  • Ladder Type: Extension ladder
  • Ladder Height: 16 to 40 feet
  • Duty Rating: Type 1A
  • Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
  • Material: Fiberglass
Best Ladders
Better Homes and Gardens / Dera Burreson

Best Telescoping: Ohuhu Aluminum Telescoping Ladder

9 Best Ladders For Painting
Courtesy of Amazon

Why You Should Get It: This ladder retracts with the press of a button.

Keep in Mind: It's aluminum, so it's not safe to use for any electrical work.

Telescoping ladders are the best ladders to use at moderate heights since most extend to around 10 to 15 feet, and they're suitable for use anywhere you'd normally use an extension ladder. The benefit of a telescoping ladder is its collapsible design, making it easier to transport and store when not in use.

We liked the Ohuhu aluminum telescoping ladder, which has non-slip feet to hold it in place and extra-wide steps to make climbing easier. Each rung automatically locks into place as you extend it, ensuring that it doesn't collapse on you while you're working (listen for the "click" sound as it extends). Plus, it's strong enough to support up to 250 pounds of weight at a time.

During testing, our experts described this telescoping ladder as "solid," saying that its rungs and thick base made it feel extremely sturdy even when they climbed all the way to the top. It's very easy to carry and hold when collapsed, making it a great option if you want to save storage space or you plan to move the ladder around frequently. While it doesn't have any standout features, such as a tool tray or special grips on its feet, our testers still found it to be quite functional.

We also loved that this telescoping ladder will retract itself with the press of a button, so you don't have to manually compress each rung into the one below it. When you're ready to put it away, there's a convenient hand grip located on the bottom rung for comfortable carrying.

The only thing to keep in mind with this ladder is that it's made of metal, so it'll be highly conductive. This means it shouldn't be used for any electrical projects you may have on your to-do list.

Price at time of publish: From $110

Product Details:

  • Ladder Type: Telescoping ladder
  • Ladder Height: 12.5 feet
  • Duty Rating: Type 1
  • Weight Capacity: 250 pounds
  • Material: Aluminum alloy

Related: The 8 Best Lawn Mowers to Keep Your Yard Neat and Trim

Best Ladders
Better Homes and Gardens / Dera Burreson

Best Folding: Bauer Corporation Fiberglass Lightweight Folding Step Ladder

9 Best Ladders For Painting
Courtesy of Wayfair

Why You Should Get It: This heavy-duty ladder can support up to 375 pounds.

Keep in Mind: Because it's a commercial-grade ladder, we don't recommend it to anyone who uses a ladder infrequently.

We were particularly impressed with this folding step ladder's sturdy, long-lasting design. Made from fiberglass, the Bauer Corporation Lightweight Folding Step Ladder is a great investment if you frequently embark on new home improvement projects or you have a lot of yard work that requires a ladder.

During testing, our experts said that it had impeccable quality, specifically noting the deep treads on the ladder rungs, which make it easier to grip as you climb. We liked the sturdy locking mechanism, which prevents the A-frame shape from collapsing when weight is added. There's even a small parts tray at the top, perfect for collecting nails, holding your tools, or hanging a paint can.

The Bauer Corporation ladder is a commercial-grade ladder, so it's heavy-duty enough to last through years of home improvement projects, yard work, and more. The slip-resistant feet stop it from scooting when you step onto it while also preventing it from scratching your floors. It's also approved for both indoor or outdoor use, so you'll be able to use it for just about any project under the sun.

However, if you only need a ladder occasionally, we don't necessarily recommend the Bauer Corporation ladder. Since you likely won't be using it often enough to require such a durable ladder, there are less-expensive models on the market that'll do the trick.

Price at time of publish: $248

Product Details:

  • Ladder Type: A-frame ladder
  • Ladder Height: 6 feet
  • Duty Rating: Type 1AA
  • Weight Capacity: 375 pounds
  • Material: Fiberglass
  • Best Ladders
    Better Homes and Gardens / Dera Burreson

Best Collapsible: Xtend & Climb Pro Series Telescoping Ladder

9 Best Ladders For Painting
Courtesy of Amazon

Why You Should Get It: This telescoping ladder extends to 12.5 feet in length, but condenses to just 32 inches when collapsed.

Keep in Mind: It's a bit heavier to extend than other ladders we tested.

If you're short on space in your storage closet or tool shed, investing in a collapsible ladder is a great way to have all the function of an extension ladder without the necessary storage space. The Xtend & Climb Pro Series Telescoping Ladder was one of the top-scoring ladders of the day, earning our testers' praise for its high-quality construction and design.

While it takes a bit of a learning curve to get it set up (the telescoping mechanisms are tricky to figure out at first, according to our testers), this heavy-duty telescoping ladder feels extremely sturdy when standing on it. Angled thumb releases allow you to extend or collapse individual rungs without pinching your fingers in the process, and the feet of this ladder provide plenty of traction to prevent slipping.

The Xtend & Climb Pro Series telescoping ladder extends up to 12.5 feet, which is tall enough to help you access heights up to 16.5 feet when using it. However, it easily condenses down to just 32 inches when fully collapsed, making it easy to store in a tool shed or toss in the back of your car for offsite tasks. At 32 pounds, it is one of the heaviest ladders on our list, but given its compact size, it was still relatively easy for our testers to carry.

Our experts noted that it takes a lot of effort to extend the individual rungs on this ladder—most likely because of the quality and durability of the materials. You'll need to use one foot to hold the bottom of the ladder down while elongating the rest of it, so be prepared to put in a little elbow grease to use this device.

Price at time of publish: $390

Product Details:

  • Ladder Type: Telescoping ladder
  • Ladder Height: 12.5 feet
  • Duty Rating: Type 1A
  • Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Best Ladders
    Better Homes and Gardens / Dera Burreson

Best Multi-Position: Gorilla Ladders 14-Foot Reach MPXA Multi-Position Ladder

9 Best Ladders For Painting
Courtesy of The Home Depot

Why You Should Get It: This ladder can convert into 13 different positions to suit different projects and needs.

Keep in Mind: The rungs are narrower than other ladders we tested.

The best ladders for working on stairs are typically multi-position ladders because they can be converted into an A-frame ladder and will extend or retract from both ends. However, they're also great for a ton of other projects since they're extremely versatile, and the Gorilla Multi-Position Ladder is no different.

This aluminum ladder converts into 13 different positions, including trestle-and-plank, extension, step ladder, a 90-degree ladder, and more. It reaches up to 14 feet when fully extended, making it helpful for a variety of indoor and outdoor tasks. Our testers were impressed by its versatility and stability, saying it was even easier to operate than a traditional step ladder.

At just 24 pounds, it's pretty easy to carry from one location to another without your arms getting tired, and its foldable design makes it easier to transport. Speed locks located at several points across the ladder allow you to extend the legs or bend the ladder in half. It also has heavy-duty hinges that prevent it from feeling weak or wobbly, no matter the configuration you're using it in.

Our testers noted that when fully extended, this ladder had a slight wiggle to it, but not enough to make them feel unsafe. When climbing the ladder, the rungs were narrower than some of the others they'd tested, so you'll want to be more careful not to slip when using it. However, our experts still felt extremely safe when using this ladder.

Price at time of publish: $180

Product Details:

  • Ladder Type: Multi-position ladder
  • Ladder Height: 10 feet 10 inches
  • Duty Rating: Type 1A
  • Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
  • Material: Aluminum

Related: The 10 Best Outdoor Sheds to Keep Your Backyard Organized

Best Ladders
Better Homes and Gardens / Dera Burreson

The Bottom Line

After putting the best ladders on the market to the test, we chose the Rubbermaid Lightweight Aluminum Step Stool as the best overall ladder since it is extremely sturdy, easy to store, and has a handy project tray to keep your tools within reach at all times. For outdoor projects, we also liked the Louisville Ladder Fiberglass Extension Ladder, which extends easily, remains sturdy throughout use, and comes in seven different height options.

Our Testing Process

Our team of home and garden experts spent an entire day testing different types of ladders—including step ladders, extension ladders, A-frame ladders, telescoping ladders, and more in our lab in Des Moines, Iowa. We closely examined each model for quality, stood on each step to test how sturdy or wobbly it was, and carried them around to determine if they'd be easy to operate and store. After collecting detailed insights from each of our testers, we created a final list of the best ladders for indoor and outdoor use.

Best Ladders
Better Homes and Gardens / Dera Burreson

What to Know About Ladders Before Shopping

The best ladders will be versatile enough to work for multiple home improvement projects so you don't have to clutter your storage space with a ton of different tools. They'll also be extremely sturdy, allowing you to use them without the ladder slipping or collapsing. Keep the following things in mind when shopping for the best ladder for your home.

Project Type

Depending on the types of projects you typically accomplish, the best ladders for your specific needs may vary. The classic step ladder is common in households because of its versatility. It can be used indoors or outdoors, but it isn't very helpful (or safe) to use against a wall. Extension and telescoping ladders are great indoor/outdoor ladders that lean against walls for projects like cleaning gutters. Other ladders to consider include versatile multi-position ladders, twin ladders that can hold two people at once, podium ladders for 360-degree work, and attic ladders.

Material

Aluminum ladders are lighter than most fiberglass options without compromising stability, making them ideal for household jobs like painting. However, they are electrical conductors, so if you're planning on doing electrical work, use a fiberglass ladder instead. Fiberglass ladders are typically more durable, stable, and heavier than aluminum or wood models. They're weather- and flame-resistant, and they are not conductors of electricity, making them the best ladder choice if you're working near power lines or electrical wires.

When testing the best ladders in our lab, we found that aluminum ladders tended to be the easiest to transport since the material is lighter than steel or fiberglass ladders. However, in terms of sturdiness, our testers preferred fiberglass since it was less wobbly and more durable than other ladders we tested.

Wood ladders are sturdier than you might think. However, they can erode with time and when exposed to water and humidity. They are technically non-conductive, but they can be conductive when wet and some have metal bearings that are conductive.

Best Ladders
Better Homes and Gardens / Dera Burreson

Ladder Height

The height of a ladder and its reach height are two different considerations. Before starting your project, measure the height of the space you're working in, whether that's the height of your ceiling or roof. Different ladder styles have different reach heights to keep you safe while working.

Step ladders typically have a reach height of 4 feet above the ladder height: meaning an 8-foot ladder has a 12-foot reach height. Multi-position ladders have a 1-foot reach height above the ladder height, and extension ladders have a reach height that's 1 foot less than the height of the ladder. If you're looking for an attic ladder or fire escape ladder, measure the ceiling height or height from your window to the ground.

Safety

Even the sturdiest and best ladders can be dangerous if not used properly, so keep in mind the ladder's weight capacity and duty rating to make sure you're using the right ladder for the right job. Type 3 ladders start at a weight capacity of 200 pounds and are recommended only for indoor household use. Type 1AA is the most sturdy ladder with a weight capacity of 375 pounds for professional and home use.

When using a ladder, double-check that it's positioned correctly and on stable ground. It's also a good idea to have someone around to spot you or provide extra stability.

Best Ladders
Better Homes and Gardens / Dera Burreson

Other Ladders We Tested

Gorilla Ladders Aluminum Dual-Platform Heavy-Duty Ladder

Our testers liked the build quality and functionality of the Gorilla Ladders Aluminum Dual-Platform Heavy Duty Ladder, but it lacked anything to truly make it stand out from others. The tool tray was less impressive than other ladders we tested, and it was a little more wobbly than we'd expect out of an A-frame model. Therefore, we chose not to include it on our list.

Stealth 13-Foot Aluminum Extension Ladder

The Stealth 13-Foot Aluminum Extension Ladder's biggest drawback was its bulky, heavy design. Our testers wished it had wheels to make transportation easier, and it lacked a tool tray which many of the other ladders we tested offered. Given its higher price tag, we didn't think this ladder was worth the purchase.

Your Questions, Answered

Are extension ladders safe?

When operating an extension ladder, it's important to make sure you're following good safety practices to keep yourself and the people around you from getting hurt. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, you can select the best ladders for your project based on its duty rating and weight capacity. You should also keep three points of contact (two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand) on the ladder at all times to prevent falling and avoid carrying tools in your hands while climbing. You should also avoid placing the ladder on an unstable surface since this increases the risk of the ladder slipping.

What type of ladder is best for home use?

If you're purchasing a ladder for use in or around the house, you'll likely have different needs than a professional contractor. The best ladders for home use will be easy to carry, will fit comfortably in a garage or tool shed, and allow you to reach the ceiling or access your roof easily. For indoor use, we recommend purchasing a step ladder (like the Rubbermaid aluminum step stool we tested in our lab), while extension ladders can be helpful for outdoor projects.

Best Ladders
Better Homes and Gardens / Dera Burreson

Who We Are

Samantha Jones is a commerce editor at Better Homes & Gardens, writing about a variety of home and garden products including the best vacuums, patio umbrellas, hand mixers, and more. For this story, she thoroughly researched the best ladders and important features to consider when purchasing a ladder for different types of home improvement projects, then compared her research to testing insights gathered from our lab tests in Des Moines, Iowa.

What is BHG Recommends?

Next to all of the products on this list, you may have noticed our BHG Recommends seal of approval. Products that earn the seal have been put through rigorous testing to make sure they're worth a spot in your home. We buy most of the products we test ourselves, but occasionally we are provided samples by companies if buying isn't an option. In these cases, we use the same testing criteria we use to test the purchased products and we let you know that we got it for free to remain as transparent as possible about our picks.

Looking for more products that have earned our BHG Recommends seal of approval? Check out our picks for everything from picnic blankets to humidifiers.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles