Know your Ladder

Discussion in 'Traditional Window Cleaning' started by steeky147, Apr 8, 2016.

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  1. steeky147

    steeky147 Guest

    I've been reading a lot on this forum about extension ladders and I thought to put some of my own views across. As a matter of fact I have been looking out for new ladders for a while now and have been disappointed with so many. My main concern is that most people seem to look and see the EN131 trade ladder label and then consider that as being a good ladder, but in my view thats not always the case. Trade ladder are usually a little wider than domestic ladders and thicker styles to prevent bend etc. But in my opinion them things alone are not as important as the strength of the actual rungs themselves.

    Four years ago I was working and moved my ladder to the next window and once I put my foot on the bottom rung and went to climb (as I had did thousands of times before), the rung snapped off like it was a matchstick and my feet hit the ground. The shock on my face must have been priceless to say the least, as I watched the rung rolling on the concrete. That was the start of me being a lot more careful about any future ladders and from that time on I have lost a lot of trust with certain ladders. Just to say briefly that I've been a steady window cleaner for over 20 years, and work 5 days a week and I am 12 stone weight with equipment on. The ladder with the broken rung was four years old and I got it from lewis ladders and it is identical to a Lyte Trade ladder, and I mean identical. I would suggest probably made by Lyte and sold under the name Lewis.

    Firstly I am no expert, but I have given some thought to the matter, so here goes:

    There are two types of rungs in a manner of speaking, one type; during manufacturing the rungs are put into a press and there are rims formed that sit up higher than the rest of the rung ( Lewis ladders call this process Bubbling) eventually these rims will be seated just on the inside of the ladder styles. (photo A) This is a weak point of any ladder made in this way whether DIY or Trade, and this is the part at which my rung broke off. I did a video and put it on youtube at the time, although I had less knowledge back then, I did my best to understand the problem by dismantling the ladder for inspection. Anyway, from what I can gather, when the rim is formed it seems to thin out the actual alloy of the rim, compared to the thickness of the rest of the rung itself and I think that this is what makes these type of rungs dangerous. Sure it will be fine for some years of use, but as time goes on with the constant weight of you bouncing up and down they will weaken, also when you're constantly extending the ladders day after day then on occasion the hooks may hit these rims and chip them, which will further weaken them until they can no longer support your weight. Lyte trade ladders and also clow ladders are two well known brands that both make ladders in this way. Both good ladders, but you should inspect them as often as possible and I would suggest changing them every 5 years, but that too depends on the amount of usage and your body weight etc. Lets not forget also that aluminium can corrode with age and that too in itself will weaken the rims in time, in my opinion. Another thing to mention, and just to be fair, the rim on my broken rung had possibly a very rare defect in the manufacturing process of forming the rim, so that too is also worth considering.

    The second type of rungs are far superior. But on saying that, they really aren't much different apart from the most important fact of all, which is that the rungs themselves go through the holes that are bored into the styles of the ladder itself (Photo B) This obviously means that there's less chance that the rims will get damaged and weaken as they will be joined together (spun) inside the box section itself and if there is ever a weakness and a rung becomes loose, then at least it gives you warning that it's time to get new ladders and it'll not just snap off as the rungs with a rim could do. Heavy industrial ladders are usually made in this way, but also some trade ladders too.

    I presently use a clow group light trade ladder which will be at some stage getting dumped as the rims are chipped and I have very little trust with this type of ladder anymore. I also have two Titan classic ladders which I prefer for the reasons mentioned. In my opinion, out of all the ladders I've looked at, I would say that the werner 722 series or abru promaster Ladders (same thing) are the best. Also I would recommend the Titan classic, although I hate the thumb locks (Which I drill off) and there's a slight problem with the design of some of these that can make them rattle when extending as the outter rung ends hit off the guides, but the rung strength and grip are excellent on the Titans.

    Don't get me wrong either. the rim version of a trade ladder is decent enough for a limited time, but if you ever have the choice, then the other type is far superior. I've even seen very lightweight DIY ladders with the rungs spun into the style without any sign of rims and I would love to get the hold of a set, but unfortunately they stopped making them. The make was called duraflex ladders; mind you the tread on the rungs looked to be quite poor compared to trade ladders, so no matter what ladder, they all have their pro's and con's. The same as those TB Davies ladders- they look good apart from the lack of tread on the rungs, but again no rims on them and the rungs are spun into the styles.

    One last thing to mention is that I also used a Titan competitor ladder (DIY) for 12+ years and it never let me down once. On saying that I could not recommend them to anyone, especially after my experience since them times. Once a rung breaks and you start thinking that it may have been a top rung instead of the bottom rung, then you realize that risk needs reduced whenever possible; so never forget that when you're at the working height on your ladder, there is only one single rung between you and the ground.

    Thanks for reading all of this.

    Take care

    Stephen McAdam

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  2. boarcity

    boarcity Guest

    #2 boarcity, Apr 8, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 8, 2016
    i think a good policy is to buy new ladders every 2 years at the most. you need not be much out of pocket either. i renewed All my ladders recently [3 sets ] and then sold my originals on ebay . these made about 75% of what the price was of them new! which suprised me

    even if they hadnt realized much money,the money to renew your ladders regularly is very low when you think about it,theyve earned you thousands so its peanuts to renew them -for your peace of mind
  3. steeky147

    steeky147 Guest

    Two yearly is overkill in my view if you have a good quality ladder like a werner/abru promaster. but I get what you're saying and each to their own, as we all have our ways
  4. boarcity

    boarcity Guest

    steeky147 out of interest -that day when the rung broke-did you carry on up the ladder and get the job done?

    it could be it was metal fatigue caused the problem [from letting the ladder slam down repeatedly onto rung no.1 when closing up the ladder]
  5. TolishAPurd


    Nov 3, 2013
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    Good posts. It goes to show that inspecting ladders is no joke, and should be done regularly. Wasn't there some kind of scrappage scheme for ladders? Not sure if it's worth it as like boar says, they get good money on eBay.
  6. steeky147

    steeky147 Guest

    Yes m8 I still work the rest of the day with the ladder. yes the bottom rung generally gets a lot of abuse, but none so than the two rungs your weight if on for the most part of the time, which is usually the third and fourth rung from the top. On the youtube review I did the experiment on the second rung from the bottom and it broke off quite easily.
  7. daveyboy

    daveyboy Legend

    Jul 10, 2014
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    I am wfp now but have a set of 7 rung triples that originally came from do it all about 10 years ago that i use for conny roofs etc
    I am pretty sure from memory they have no rims and are square rungs
    They also have no holes on the outside of the stiles
    They are diy rated and have never let me down although I do check them regularly as i am 15st and don't fancy a fall even though i never go more than 4 rungs up nowadays
    My lyte ladders were solid but i would check them constantly after reading this
  8. boarcity

    boarcity Guest

    is your youtube review vid still up? be intrested to see that
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  9. steeky147

    steeky147 Guest

    Yes I could post a link, but at that time I knew a lot less as I did not understand the rims thing at that time.
  10. steeky147

    steeky147 Guest

    defo best off with a diy ladder without the rims than a trade ladder that has rims m8. I guess the ladder with the square rungs is made by youngman. I thought about getting one myself but unsure if the rungs will hurt the soles of my feet as I'd be standing on the edges of the squares. How comfortable are they? and is there good grip too?...