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10 Aug 2023

small step ladder

Both ladders and step ladders are great pieces of equipment to have on hand, but how do you know which one will work best for you? In this blog, we’ll break down the key differences between ladders and step ladders to help you choose the right one.

What is a ladder?

A ladder is a vertical set of rungs sandwiched between two outer rails. Lots of ladders will also have additional fixtures, such as ridge hooks that can be attached to the edge of a roof. Ladders are used in all sorts of different work environments to access high places.

Types of ladder include:


What is a step ladder?

A step ladder is a freestanding A-shaped ladder comprising a set of flat steps, sometimes terminating in a work platform. Step ladders provide stable access to high places.

Types of step ladder include:


What is the difference between a ladder and a step ladder?

The main difference between ladders and step ladders is that a step ladder can stand up on its own, whereas a straight ladder must be leant up against a wall (or another vertical structure that’s strong enough to support it).

Here are some of the other differences between ladders and step ladders...



A ladder’s rungs are often thin and rigid, and evenly spaced apart. These ladders are not designed to be used as a working platform; they are for climbing and descending only. The most common materials used for ladders are timber, aluminium and fibreglass. Wooden ladders are great because they are resistant to the elements. However, they will rot over time. Aluminium and fibreglass ladders are stronger and more durable.

Each step (or ‘tread’) on a step ladder is much wider than the rungs of a ladder. This design makes for a much more comfortable experience for the user, which is one of the reasons why step ladders are recommended over normal ladders for tasks that take longer to complete. The top platform of a step ladder also allows the user to feel more stable at the top. Typically, step ladders are manufactured using aluminium or fibreglass, which makes them very strong and sturdy.



Step ladders work best during small to medium tasks, particularly around the house, although they’re often used for industrial purposes, too. Typically, the tallest step ladder you can buy won’t be any larger than 4m – 6m.

Ladders are great for heights above this. Most extension ladders available to buy can reach up to at least 10m. However, if you’re going to be working at height for a long time, you may want to use a scaffold tower instead – ladders are best for quick jobs.


Weight limits

It is a legal requirement for all ladders, both professional and non-professional, to have a minimum weight capacity of 150kg. There are more heavy-duty ladders out there to support weights above this but the majority of ladders and step ladders available to purchase will have a max load of 150kg, so there’s not much to compare here.


Which should you choose?

Deciding whether a ladder or step ladder is right for you will depend on what you plan to use them for.

As they don’t require a supporting wall to balance against, step ladders can be more easily positioned in different environments. They also feel more stable and can be used as a working platform. For those harder to reach areas such as ceilings and roofs, however, a ladder is going to be your best bet.

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