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Ladder Stabilizers

Ladder stabilizers mount on extension ladders, and are essential for working around windows, eaves and high walls when painting, siding or doing any exterior repair work.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Overview

When the fates dealt me a one-two punch one afternoon, a ladder stabilizer saved my life. I was rebuilding soffits and fascias three stories up on my 40-ft., fully extended ladder. As I juggled tools and lumber, rising winds began buffeting the ladder. It wiggled and jiggled, but withstood the gusts, thanks to the stabilizer. Then, in a Keystone cop-like maneuver, my partner accidentally banged a 1x10 across the bottom of the ladder. It shuddered even more, but stayed put. Without the stabilizer, that ladder and I would have slid off the gable wall and crashed to the ground.

A ladder stabilizer (also called a stand-off) is an accessory with wide tubular arms and non-skid rubber pads that grips a house wall, increasing both a ladder’s stability and your “reach”working aloft. Stabilizers mount on all types of extension ladders, allowing them to straddle wide windows or “stand off”farther from a house to reach deep eaves, while providing a rock-steady workstation. We'll show you how a stabilizer can extend your ladder’s capabilities and how to use it to work faster and more safely.

Stabilizers help ladders do more

Although ladders are the No. 1 tool for helping you work up high, their narrow, 16- to 20-in. stance sometimes limits their ability to position you properly and safely for tackling these tricky tasks:

  • Accessing all sides of a wide window (Photo 1). With a stabilizer, you position the ladder only once to efficiently reach all areas around the window.
  • Painting the rake board of a wide overhang (Photo 2). A stabilizer allows you to see and reach the work from a more comfortable position.
  • Working around a deep soffit to hang a gutter (Photo 3). If the ladder rests against the house, you have to bend back too far to work on the fascia. If it leans against the fascia, the ladder interferes with placing the gutter.

Renting scaffolding can solve most access problems. But you'll save a lot of money and setup time by renting or buying a ladder stabilizer instead.

Caution!

Be aware of overhead power lines. You could be electrocuted if you touch them with your ladder or stabilizer.

Adjustable stabilizers are the most versatile

Stabilizers can be divided into two groups: fixed-depth and adjustable. Before renting or buying either type, verify that it’s intended for use with your aluminum or fiberglass ladder. To install a fixed-depth stabilizer,like the one shown in Photo 2, slide it over your ladder’s rungs and lock it in position with the safety clip. A typical model spans about 45 in. and holds the ladder 10 in. away from the house wall. They have a load capacity of 300 lbs. and are sold at home centers. Adjustable stabilizers are the most versatile. Attach this type to your ladder’s side rails with U-bolts (Photo 4). It too has a 300-lb. load capacity and quickly converts from variable widths of 49 in. to 65 in. (at a 12-in. depth), to a narrower width of 48 in. (but at a 29-in. depth). You can get one at a rental center or from home centers and large hardware stores.

Use your stabilizer safely

Apply this ironclad rule: When installing a stabilizer, position it so it will be between the house and ladder (Photo 5). Follow these other rules too:

  • Don't use the type of stabilizers shown here on most folding (also called “articulated”) ladders. Use only the manufacturer's recommended stabilizer for the model and duty rating of folding ladders.
  • If necessary, enlist a helper to raise the ladder (with stabilizer) into position, especially around power lines and trees.
  • Don't stand on the stabilizer.
  • Stabilizers aren't load-rated to carry the additional weight of ladder jacks and walk planks hung from the ladders. Also, don’t use the stabilizer arms to support planks.
  • Working aloft using old joint compound buckets to carry tools and materials is wonderfully efficient. For maximum safety, limit the weight of the filled bucket so the total load (including your weight) doesn't exceed the capacity of either the ladder or the stabilizer. Tie a rope to the bucket, climb the ladder, haul the bucket up and tie it to the ladder rails, not the arms of the stabilizer. Stabilizers can give you an increased sense of security aloft, but know your limits! Avoid a mistake caused by overconfidence—like overreaching to get an additional 6 in. closer to a spot—that could lead to tragedy.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Extension ladder

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

You’ll need either a fixed or adjustable ladder stabilizer

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