Aluminum ladders vs. Steel Ladders: Detailing the Pros and Cons
While from the outside a steel and an aluminum ladder might look the same, the difference in materials brings several distinct advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the core differences between aluminum and steel ladders that matter most for architects, developers, construction managers, retail store operators, and contractors.
Aluminum’s Many Benefits
For example, aluminum ships ladders made from aircraft-strength material offer decades of use without any wear. There are multiple other benefits of aluminum for ladders, including:
- Aluminum does not rust or fade. It’s a maintenance-free material which means users do not incur ongoing costs over an aluminum ladder’s service life. This is not only important for aesthetic reasons, but it also ensures repeatable and safe operation. Steel ladders placed outside in the elements corrode in the sun or rain, making them unsuitable for construction projects, fire ladders, outdoor ships ladders, and other installations.
- Ladders made with aluminum produce less waste because the material is frequently recycled. The majority of the aluminum ever produced is still contained within products because the recycling rate is so high.
- Customization and modification is easier and safer with aluminum.
- The lighter weight means aluminum fixed ladders don’t often require cranes or lifts for installation, which provides operators with considerable savings. They also place less loads onto roof and wall surfaces, so architects and builders might need to make fewer corresponding changes to account for additional weight.
When considering a ladder for a job site or retail installation, it’s vital to review the quality of the materials. For example, at Alaco Ladder Company we use aircraft grade 6061-T6 aluminum in its products. This is a much higher quality and stronger aluminum than that used by other manufacturers who offer products that aren’t suitable for settings such as fire escapes, libraries, warehouses, and various other settings.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Steel Ladders
Some industrial-strength ladders are built with steel in environments where the additional weight and potential rusting and corrosion issues are not a primary concern. These ladders can offer strong platforms for users carrying heavy loads, and other high-use environments where load-bearing is the primary goal. However, aircraft-quality aluminum offers the same advantages, without steel’s significant drawbacks.
Extension ladders, platform ladders, and other movable ladders are typically moved by people. A steel ladder of comparable size and function to an aluminum one will weigh considerably more. This extra weight means the ladder’s often impractical for repeated moving, and it might be unwieldy or dangerous for a single operator. Aluminum ladders are stronger and lighter, so they’re easier to transport, safer during an accident, and put less strain on workers.
On construction sites, steel ladders can pose issues on several fronts. They can produce sparks if they clang against another ladder. Aluminum ladders won’t spark, so they’re safer on construction sites around flammable materials. Steel ladders are also magnetic, so they can pose a risk to areas using magnetic equipment.
Have more questions about the strength, durability, and customization possible with aluminum ladders? Talk to one of our expert staff at Alaco, the leaders in high-quality industrial-grade aluminum ladders for dozens of different applications. Visit our Aluminum Ladder page to learn more.