Anyone can place a ladder against any surface, wiggle it a bit to decide if it is secure enough to climb and start climbing.
However, there are some very simple ways to effectively secure a ladder before use to give extra stability and to help you to feel more secure when using the ladder.
What is the 4 / 1 Ratio?
You may have seen this 4/1 or 4 to 1 ratio mentioned on the Google auto fill box when searching for ladder safety info. You may have heard people mention it too..
Don’t worry it doesn’t mean getting your high school protractor out any time soon!
The 4 to 1 rule simply means that for every 4 feet of height you have to climb, move the base of the ladder 1 foot away from the wall.
Here’s a simple picture I created to show you visually what it means:
Another way of saying the 4 to 1 ratio is to position the ladder at a 75° angle. But who can accurately measure that whilst on the go?
Whilst the 4 to 1 ratio is the safest option for positioning the ladder, at the very minimum, use the following method to work out how far the ladder needs to be away from the wall.
There is another way to accurately position the ladder – it doesn’t really have a ‘name’ so let’s call it the ‘arm length method’.
Place the ladder on the ground in front of you with the top securely leaning against the wall.
Stand with the tips of your toes touching the feet of the ladder. (Whilst the ladder is in its leaning position.)
Reach out with both arms, can you reach and comfortably grab the rung directly in line with your arms?
If you can, great the ladder is at the right angle. Make sure the top feet are securely resting against the wall at the top before applying any weight to the ladder.
If you cant reach the rung directly in front of you, the ladder is sloping too much move the feet towards the wall a little and try again.
Repeat until you get the right angle and can grab the rung ahead of your arms.
If you reach out and grab the rungs but your arms are bent, the ladder may be too upright and therefore dangerous. Move the feet out away from the wall slightly and try again.
How to secure a ladder – accessories to help secure a ladder.
There are a number of ways to additionally secure your ladder.
Use a ‘Ladder Secure Strap’
This looks kind of like a belt – ladder straps are usually made of very strong fabric or plastic and and have an adjustable belt buckle to make them longer or shorter.
They can be attached at the top and middle of the ladder and provide actor points from the ladder to the wall – usually using hooks that are screwed into the wall.
Ladder straps are great for people using a ladder alone or when working at height. If there is no-one to support the ladder at the bottom, it can be incredibly dangerous – a ladder secure strap helps to lock the ladder in place. Without the need of a second persons help.
Here is an example of this type of strap you can use to secure a ladder for sale on Amazon:
Use a Ladder Anti Slip Mat
Have you seen these anti slip ladder mats? The serve a variety of purposes.
If you have uneven ground like gravel or dirt, the mats provide a good contact surface with enough support for the weight of you climbing the ladder.
If you are on a sloping surface, you can double up the mats using the safety ring provided to raise one side of the ladder and not the other to achieve a level ladder.
These ladder mats are available from quite a few places, some are more advanced than others.
The official ‘Laddermat’ branded mats are relatively inexpensive and will last a long time. You can buy ladder mats on Amazon here, have a look at some of the other variations.
There are more expensive types too, some costing around £80.
If you are a tradesman, maybe spending a little more would be beneficial.
But for occasional use in the home and garden. These ladders mats would do the job well.
There are other ladder safety accessories, if you want to read more, check out our ladder accessories post here.
Other useful accessories to help secure a ladder include brackets and extra legs for the bottom of the ladder, that spread wider that the ladder to stop you from wobbling.
You can get feet for ladders which have extra grip and special brackets to use when leaning the ladder up against the corner of a building.
These accessories are for more specific ladder uses, not general occasional use, so I will save talking about them for another, more in depth post.
So to summarise.
- The main way to secure a ladder is the check that you have it leaning at the right angle, either use the 4 to 1 ratio or use the ‘arms length’ method.
- Make sure all four contact points of the ladder have good contact with the floor and the walls and that the ladder does not wobble when gently shook.
- If you have any doubt about the surface that the ladder is places on, whether it is uneven ground, or a slippery surface – use a ladder accessory such as a no slip mat for extra security.
- If working alone outside, plan how to make your ladder usage safe and secure by either figuring out where to hook straps onto from the ladder as anchor points, or use extra support legs which easily attach onto extension ladders, for sideways support.
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this article helpful to you in figuring out how to secure a ladder!