When setting up an extension ladder:

  • Position the base of the ladder out from the wall 1/4 of the ladder’s height.
  • To keep the base of the ladder from sliding, drive 2×4 stakes into the ground and screw a 2×4 horizontal brace to them.
  • To prevent the ladder from sliding left or right, don’t lean out and keep your hips within the vertical rails of the ladder.

Watch the video above to find out more.


Danny Lipford: Well, Joe, what are you going to do today?

Joe Truini: Hey, Danny. I’m just setting up this extension ladder because I have to work on the side of this house to attach the TV cable.

Danny Lipford: Now a ladder can be a big source of falls around the home, so you need to make sure when you’re working on your ladder, set it up right, right off the bat.

Joe Truini: One problem that homeowners often have is that the ladder has a tendency to slide away from the house as they’re working on it. To prevent that I’ve driven two, two by four stakes into the ground—these are about 20 inches long—then I screwed a two by four brace to the stakes.

When you cut the brace, it’s always a good idea to make it about 12 inches longer than the width of the ladder. In this case it’s about 28 inches long.

Danny Lipford: Now, what about when you’re setting it up in terms of the angle? I’ve seen some homeowners that will stand it straight up, others that will, kind of make it real, maybe too lazy. So what’s kind of a general rule of thumb?

Joe Truini: Well what you want is the distance off the house to be about one-quarter the height of the ladder. So in this case we have about 12 feet tall of ladder, so I set this about three feet off the house.

Danny Lipford: OK. Now, another thing I’ve seen a lot is homeowners painting the eaves of their house or whatever, and reaching out a little too far. And the ladder slides, boom, they fall over.

Joe Truini: Right. Well the tip there is that when you’re on a ladder, always keep your hips within the vertical rails of the ladder. That’ll prevent it from sliding to the left or right.

Danny Lipford: OK. Also, when you’re positioning your ladder, make sure it’s on good solid ground—good level ground—and not on any snow, ice, or mud that can cause it to slip. Now if you’ll follow these tips, your work on the ladder will be a lot safer.

Further Information

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Joe Truini

Joe Truini

Radio Show Co-Host

Joe Truini is a contractor, author, and the host of “Simple Solutions” on Today’s Homeowner TV and the weekly Today’s Homeowner radio show. He has worked on both large commercial projects and residential remodeling, and has written for national publications such as This Old House and Popular Mechanics. He has also written eight books, including three best-selling shed-building books. Joe lives in Connecticut with his family and enjoys hiking, traveling, and baseball in his spare time.

Learn More