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.
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.
Working around high windows is easier with a stabilizer set up in a wide stance. Something as light as a gallon of paint can safely hang from the stabilizer's arms, but otherwise avoid placing weight on them.
Paint trim on a wide overhang without performing a backflip. A stabilizer permits a direct view of the work area and makes this kind of work safer and less tiring. Fixed-depth stabilizers, like this one, attach to an extension ladder by slipping (and locking) over the top two rungs.
Use a stabilizer to stand a ladder away from a deep soffit—providing a gap to lay a gutter section in—and making working alone easier. Some adjustable stabilizers, capable of multiple configurations, can be set up to work in front of soffits as deep as 24 in.
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:
Be aware of overhead power lines. You could be electrocuted if you touch them with your ladder or stabilizer.
Carefully attach a stabilizer to an extension ladder. Read the directions and determine whether the stabilizer is designed to fit aluminum and/or fiberglass ladders. Attach the stabilizer only at the top of the ladder and position the U-bolts and angle clips correctly on the side rails and around the ladder rung.
Convert adjustable-type stabilizers so they have a wide stance and shallower stand-off OR narrow stance and deeper stand-off. The foot pads and the stabilizer arm sections can flip-flop into either the wide or deep configuration. The rubber foot pads are detachable and set up on either end of the stabilizer arms. The rubber pads allow the firmest grip on siding. To prevent black marks on the siding, cover the pads with accessory fleece bonnets.
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.
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: