ONETIME- Ladder riding: Don't wind up dead or injured

Contractor Bo Trimble

One time, I rode an extension ladder down that I was using to paint the ceiling of a car dealership. Nobody was footing the bottom of the ladder like I should have had. The bottom of the ladder kicked out, I was at the top with a full bucket of paint, and as I fell, I pulled the ladder back from this giant plate-glass display room window. Somehow, I managed to pull most of the ladder back away from it, and I had gotten turned around 180 degrees. I landed on the concrete floor on hands and knees and about three inches of the ladder hit the plate-glass window and blew it out. 

That's just one example of trying to do things without help or anchoring things properly. It turns into Three Stooges/Laurel & Hardy kind of stuff.

 I've had plenty of crazy experiences with ladders. They usually happen when you set up an extension ladder when you're cleaning the gutters or painting on the second floor and you've got the ladder leaning against the house and you don't have it tied off at the top, because there's nothing to tie it off to, and you haven't been careful enough to make sure that the bottom was set properly. 

And what I've done is to reach out farther than I should because they say that you should keep your hips inside the width of the ladder– you get out towards the top of the ladder and reach out farther than you can and all of a sudden, the ladder slides. There's no way to stop it. I've been stuck hanging off a gutter ten feet off the ground waiting till somebody else came around the corner.

 People don't think enough about what happens when you get all the way up on top of a stepladder. I've been standing on top of an eight-foot stepladder and leaned over and the ladder just kicks over because there's nothing to hold it, and I've landed in a holly tree, which wasn't the most pleasant experience in the world. 

The best thing is to have somebody to foot the bottom of the ladder and to hold it. Don't try to stand on the top rung of a stepladder and try clean a gutter out or whatever, or paint as far as you can reach. Because you get up there and everything is totally top-heavy that way and if you lean too far, you'll kick the ladder over and there's nothing to catch you. 

Just use common sense, basically. Try to have somebody around to help you out. Most homeowners aren't going to have a crew around– your wife or husband will do.