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Aluminum Ladders vs Fiberglass Ladders: Which is Right for You?

Wondering what the advantages and disadvantages are to aluminum ladders vs fiberglass ladders? In this guide, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each and why you should choose one or the other, depending on the type of building project you are working on.

For example, if you are working with electrical wires, you will want to use a fiberglass ladder and not an aluminum ladder. Aluminum conducts electricity. Since fiberglass ladders have both electrical and heat resistance, this makes them safer and more ideal for this kind of scenario.

How to Choose the Right Ladder

Choosing the right ladder for the job isn’t always easy. There are plenty of sizes and styles of aluminum and fiberglass ladders. In the end, selecting the best ladder for your construction or DIY project will depend on your budget and specific needs for your project.

Consider the following questions to help you select the right ladder for the job!

  • Will my ladder need to rest on an uneven surface?
  • Is the construction site going to be crowded with other workers or materials?
  • Are there going to be obstructions in the path of the climb up the ladder?

Ladder Length

Next, lets discuss ladder length. You’ll want to ensure you’ve chosen the correct ladder with the correct extension length for the job to keep you safe on the job. It is unsafe to use a ladder that is too short or too long for the project. For example, when using an aluminum extension ladder, don’t use any of the top three rungs for climbing. As a general rule of thumb, an extension ladder is too long if it extends more than three feet past the upper support point.

Safety standards require any ladder you purchase to have a label on it to identify the highest standing level.

Duty Rating

Finally, before addressing aluminum ladders vs fiberglass ladders, lets talk about duty rating. Duty rating is the identification of the maximum weight capacity the ladder can support. To determine how much weight your ladder will need to carry, you’ll need to factor in your own weight, the weight of your construction apparel, protective equipment, tools, supplies, and the tools/supplies that will be stored on the ladder while working.

Currently, there are five different categories of duty ratings for ladders:

  • Type III – Light Duty (200 lbs.)
  • Type II – Medium Duty (225 lbs.)
  • Type I – Heavy Duty (250 lbs.)
  • Type IA – Extra Heavy Duty (300 lbs.)
  • Type IAA – Extra Heavy Duty (375 lbs.)

Aluminum vs Fiberglass

Aluminum Ladders vs Fiberglass Ladders: Height & Weight

To start, lets talk about height and weight. Fiberglass and aluminum ladders both can be manufactured to reach to any height, however the weight of fiberglass ladders will increase along with height. This makes fiberglass ladders more difficult for just one person to use. Because of the increased weight, fiberglass typically is only used for step ladder designs.

The Advantages of Aluminum Ladders

When comparing the two ladder types, aluminum ladders are going to give you the benefit of being lighter and overall easier to transport. This give aluminum the advantage when it comes to straight, full-length extension ladders. Mobile ladders and platforms are also commonly designed in aluminum.

Aluminum Ladders vs Fiberglass Ladders: Strength

Looking for exceptional strength in your ladder? Fiberglass ladders generally are the stronger and more rigid choice when compared with aluminum ladders. However, they are heavier. Fiberglass models come in various sizes, which are able to support multiple weights. Heavy-duty models are capable of supporting a maximum weight of 375 pounds.

Need to Support More Than 1 Person? Use Aluminum

When compared with fiberglass ladders, aluminum ladder models can support up to 500 pounds. If you need to support more than one person, you’ll want to opt for an aluminum ladder. For additional protection, you can also use a fixed ladder fall arrest system.

Aluminum Ladders vs Fiberglass Ladders: Durability

When it comes to durability, fiberglass is overall more long-lasting and durable. However, aluminum ladders still have long lifespans if they aren’t left out in the elements and are properly maintained. If you use aluminum guardrails also, you’ll be able to use your aluminum ladder for many years.

Fiberglass Ladders Can Take More Beating

Fiberglass ladders are manufactured to withstand the elements. For example, you can keep your fiberglass ladder out in the sun or rain for multiple days in a row and you’ll find that your fiberglass ladder will not rust or lose its strength. When compared with aluminum, it is quite a bit more durable.

Aluminum Ladders vs Fiberglass Ladders: Transportation

Ladders need to be moved from site to site. When it comes to portability, since fiberglass ladders are quite a bit heavier than aluminum ladders, they are harder to transport from location to location. Depending on the scenario, you may want to opt for an aluminum ladder instead.

Aluminum Ladders are Easier to Transport

Overall, aluminum ladders are going to be the preferred option at construction sites or any other building location where transportation is key.

Aluminum Ladders vs Fiberglass Ladders: Cost

If you’ve ever shopped for ladders online or in-store, you’ve likely noticed that fiberglass ladders cost more than their aluminum counterparts.

Aluminum is More Affordable

As a result, aluminum ladders are going to be the better choice for using them outdoors or in controlled settings. If cost isn’t an issue, or if you definitely need a fiberglass ladder, than opt for fiberglass.

Aluminum Ladders vs Fiberglass Ladders: Safety

Safety is the most important deciding factor to choosing a ladder. The safety level or your ladder is based upon how you need to use your ladder and for what application. Ladder safety guidelines are set by OSHA and ensure protection of your health and safety.

Choose Fiberglass For Best Safety

As stated in the beginning of this article, fiberglass models will be overall safer than aluminum models due to their heat and electrical resistance. You should never use an aluminum ladder near electrical wiring! Another reason you may want to opt for fiberglass is because aluminum ladders may bend if exposed to heat. When this happens, they become unsafe for use (unless they aren’t damaged enough and can still be repaired).

The Verdict: Which Ladder Should You Choose?

Ultimately, the type of ladder you choose will depend on the situation for which you need it.

  • Aluminum ladders – Use aluminum ladder models for construction, industrial, or building projects where workers need to reach great heights. Don’t use for electrical wiring projects. They are lighter and easier to transport from site to site. They can support up to 500 pounds, making them ideal for supporting more than one person. They are also more affordable. Aluminum ladders are available commonly in extension ladder models, however, they also come as work stands. The only major drawback to using an aluminum ladder is that they conduct electricity, making them unsafe to use around electrical wires or power lines. Learn more about safety first when using a ladder.
  • Fiberglass ladders – Fiberglass models are often used as step ladders. They are the perfect solution for smaller jobs, such as painting, roof and fence repairs, hedge trimming, cleaning out gutters, and DIY projects. When working nearby electrical wires or power lines, you absolutely should use a fiberglass ladder instead of an aluminum one for your safety. Fiberglass ladders are strong and overall last longer, being able to withstand heat from the sun and take a beating from the weather. You will find fiberglass ladder models available as step ladders and extension ladders alike. Fiberglass ladder models include: work platform ladders, single ladders, platform stepladders, and combination ladders.