Why multi-ladders on SED Tech site?

A thread in a UUA forum and our own search for a multi-ladder led me to create a table to supplement what we could find online. This sure isn't a really important technical issue at many congregations, but just in case you too are shopping for one of these ladders that can:
  • become an adjustable height step ladder that can be safely used on stairs
  • accept two people to put up miscellaneous large items on a wall or ceiling,
  • span equivalent to a 17 foot extension ladder
  • become a dual ladder for creating a work platform a few feet above the ground
  • take accessories to create secure work platforms for extended periods of time
  • be setup quickly for tasks like one story gutter work than standard extension ladder
Vulcan 17 Ft Multi-ladder
Vulcan 17 Ft Multi-ladder

A Ladder Journey

Here is my (Mark at C3HUU) personal summary of a quest for a ladder for our family, and recommendation for a sister congregation. It all started with a search for a taller step stool or small step ladder to reach over 10 feet high and allow two people to work together up to ceiling height. As soon as we started looking at step ladders, the multi-ladder kept popping up as a more versatile alternative for very little extra $$. Telescoping ladders were considered briefly, but they are not as versatile, require something to lean against, and were just as heavy as the multi-ladders. This whole exercise is starting to resemble the "If You Give a Pig a Pancake..." story by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond.

After testing many other ladders for the tasks above, we got the first one listed in the comparison table below: a Vulcan brand 17 foot multi-ladder marketed by Harbor Freight Tools (HFT). This multi-ladder was the lightest of the 17 foot multi-ladders and sturdier than the least expensive. We kept the packing material for the top hinges which is really useful when putting into the trunk or hatch of a car or small SUV, though a pair of cut-up old athletic sock does almost as well! All other entries were made from hands-on testing.

Ladder & Accessory Comparison

We had a hard time trying to compare side-by-side using information from some of the web sites especially actual weight and usable length excluding product packaging and accessories. These tidbits are essential to understand if the ladder is actually something one person can lift and fit into a vehicle. For instance, the Werner MT series 13 foot ladder weighed in at 31 lb and the 17 foot Vulcan multi-ladder weighed 30 lb. The 13 foot ladder is of limited value to me, but the 17 foot is much more widely usable. The 17 foot Werner MT and original Little Giant both weigh about 40 lb which is just heavy enough that it is uncomfortable for me to move it around. By comparison at home we have a 15 year old, 24 foot extension ladder which splits in two and weighs 43 lb including an attached leg leveler. I usually ask for assistance in setting this up as an extension ladder.

At the very bottom of the table is a listing for the high end step stool that we almost purchased, but we realized that a 6 foot tall person could barely reach 10 feet comfortably with this step stool. We would also need two of them for two people to maneuver large objects to ceiling height. Two step ladders are within $5 of the Harbor Freight price for the Vulcan 17 foot multi-ladder which breaks in two if needed. We've had several people ask about the even more compact telescoping ladders too, so we included the two most popular telescoping ladders. Neither is as stable at full extension as the 17 foot multi-ladder, nor as versatile, but they are comparably priced and weight.

So here's a table of personal evaluation with some hands-on of each item and our criteria and notes in the last column. If the row is light green, then we still have that one. If the row is light red, we did acquire the item, but no longer have it either due to return, sale, or donation to Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Rows without any coloring indicate that we tested friends versions, so have less experience. We have no relationship to any of the vendors, just a bit frustrated we couldn't find much of this info at a glance anywhere else! We added a quality rating because some of the items listed here seemed better built or suited for the stated purpose than others. This rating column is very subjective.

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