Why are ladders made from aluminium?
Ladders can be made from several materials. The reasons for making ladders specifically from aluminium are that it is incredibly strong and yet very lightweight so a set of aluminium ladders are easy to carry around and relocate.
Ladders made typically from steel or timber have tended to be much heavier and a lot more difficult to manoeuvre into place.
For this reason, much taller ladder sets are much more manageable for applications like cutting tall hedges. In fact, we have an article on ladders for cutting hedges here.
Timber ladders can also soak up a lot of water if kept outside which will increase it’s weight much more.
So, as well as being lightweight and very strong, aluminium is very durable and can take a lot of punishment.
It is also very resistant to the elements and can be stored outside without the worry of the them deteriorating.
Why are aluminium ladders so popular?
So, as well as the inherent properties we discussed above, aluminium ladders are popular because they are lightweight, which makes them easy to use.
Many aluminium extension ladders can be used for both domestic and commercial purposes because they are safe and easy to move around.
Aluminium metal is also relatively cheap.
With the price of ladders made from other materials being so high, aluminium metal ladders are a worthwhile investment to make if you need one.
And because aluminium is so flexible, ladders can be made in all sorts of different styles and sizes that will cater for most if not all tasks.
The aluminium ladders are so popular is because the material is light, strong and can be easily made into extending long ladders for roof work to small folding steps to reach a kitchen cupboard. (…..and everything in between!)
Presenting, The Telescopic Ladder
The ingenious Telescopic ladder could be the only ladder you’d ever need. Easy to store, use inside and outside and easy to transport!
Which ladder is better, steel or aluminium?
Both materials have inherent properties which make them ideal for ladders. Aluminium has the added benefit of being lightweight, making them easier to use.
Steel ladders are more durable and can hold heavier loads than aluminium ladders (provided they are handled correctly) but by their nature are much heavier.
Aluminium ladders should not be used where certain corrosive substances may come into contact with it. This is because aluminium can react with certain chemicals.
When aluminium comes into contact with certain acids it can deteriorate and cause weakness.
When in general usage, aluminium ladders are fine. It is advisable not to paint aluminium ladders however, only ever do it with specific aluminium friendly paint.
Other paints contain things that will cause accelerated corrosion.
How long do aluminium ladders last?
If looked after, there is no reason that a set of aluminium ladders can’t last a lifetime.
Aluminium ladders are extremely durable and aluminium is not as soft as some other materials.
The wear that aluminium ladders might show at the end of their life span would more likely come from general deterioration rather than excessive use or incorrect upkeep.
Any weathering or loss of coating would have been caused by climate exposure over a long period of time and aluminium ladders would still be functional after this treatment.
The only reason to replace a set of aluminium ladders would be if they have sustained any “physical” damage that would make them unsafe to use. Being made from aluminium, they can also be recycled if too unsafe to use.
The aluminium used in ladders is a high grade aluminium alloy, which means it is made up of several individual metals combined to create the aluminium we know so well.
Aluminium ladders in general will not corrode or rust in any way unless the ladder has been left out exposed for an extended period of time in certain conditions like saltwater or salty coastal air for example.
One issue with aluminium ladders that does come from mixing them with other types of material, which may lead to chemical reactions between the different materials that can cause corrosion if untreated.
An example of this would be aluminium being stored near steel for a long time leading to corrosion on the surfaces where they are in contact with each other.
Because of the differences in the material, they can create a weak electrical current where they touch causing accelerated corrosion.
(In fact a friend of mine at university did exactly this and, accelerated steel corrosion within concrete with a weak electrical current in the lab for his dissertation!)
Can aluminium ladders be stored outside?
Aluminium ladders can be stored outside due to the inherent characteristics of it’s material.
It will stand up to storage outside more robustly than steel but over time, will degrade, albeit at a slower rate.
Exposing aluminium ladders to the elements such as rain and snow is not ideal but as stated, will last longer than steel ladders.
If aluminium ladders are stored in a dry location however, then they can last a lifetime.
Aluminium is very resistant but can corrode when exposed to corrosion or acid, so aluminium that has been exposed to the elements should be washed before use.
This can be in the form of salt or sea water, sea air or even acid rain.
Because aluminium in these conditions tends to oxidise and form aluminium oxide on its surface, this can further protect it.
Aluminium oxide can be seen in the form of a white deposit on the surface. Similarly when copper is also exposed, the protective layer is green which is copper oxide.
The Combination stair ladder!
The combination stair ladder not only has the flexibility to adjust to suit your stair type, it’s combination types are perfect for all those inside and outside jobs!
Can aluminium ladders be used for electrical work?
As a rule, it is not advisable to use any metal ladders for carrying out electrical work.
Steel and aluminium ladders are very conductive and let electricity pass through them, (and you!) very easily.
In simple terms, when you get an electric shock, the current needs to complete a circuit which means it needs to pass through you, through the ladder and go to ground.
This is why electricians use fibreglass ladders as fibreglass has insulating properties and doesn’t conduct electricity, thus protecting the user from grounding the current.
(It’s the reason why birds can sit on high voltage cables without getting fried! Now, if a bird had a really long wing that could touch the ground….he’d be toast!)
Are aluminium ladders safe?
As with all forms of access equipment, aluminium ladders are very safe as long as you remember some basic safety tips and use them within the manufacturers guidelines.
All ladders that you purchase will have been stringently tested and certified.
When used, any safety features like locking stays to prevent the sections from splaying out must be fully engaged.
When using combination ladders, ensure that any specifically designed angled locking hinges are engaged fully and you here the “click”.
Lastly, telescopic ladders will also need that reassuring “click” when the individual sections are opened. You can read more in our article on telescopic ladders here.
All aluminium ladder manufacturers recommend that you check your aluminium ladder from time to time for signs of wear and tear.
It’s always a good idea to visually inspect any ladder before use to highlight any defects that could cause an accident.
Do aluminium ladders rust?
Aluminium ladders are very tough and resistant which makes them ideal for a ladder material.
Although tough and resistant, they can rust over time when exposed to certain things.
Average exposure like normal rain will not have a great effect on aluminium ladders.
They may over time just form a layer of aluminium oxide which will protect it further.
Other conditions that can accelerate the process are saltwater, seawater, sea air or another metal like steel being in contact with the aluminium.
When used normally and perhaps stored in a garage or in the house, provided that they aren’t damaged, aluminium ladders or steps can last a lifetime.