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Super Handyman: Use extension ladders safely

Extension ladders allow you to reach up much higher than an ordinary stepladder. But, unlike stepladders, an extension ladder needs to lean against a surface in order to reach those heights.

Here are some tips to help you do so safely and a few extra hints for how to deal with other situations:

• Before you ever use the ladder, take a closer look at it. Make sure that everything looks like it’s still in place and that there are no broken joints or loose nuts and bolts. Check the rope for frays and cuts.

• Having a spotter or assistant when working is always a smart thing to do.

• Consider the angle at which you place the ladder. It should be about 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet in height – that’s a 1-to-4 ratio.

• Check the weight limit of your ladder, especially if you’re carrying a heavy load.

• Make sure your ladder is on stable ground. If you are trying to work on soil, grass or rocks, set your ladder on top of a piece of plywood.

• Any time you need to set the ladder up on a slick or slippery surface, place a rubber mat under the legs. This is a great idea when working on slippery floors or wet surfaces.

• If you need to lean the extension ladder against a wall, your siding or any other surface where you don’t want to leave marks or scratches behind, slip a pair of socks over the top rails. The socks will protect the wall from damage.

• One way to avoid a slipping ladder is to tie it in place. If it’s possible, do so.

• If you are working around electrical wires, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder.

• There are some really nice extenders that can be added to the base of your ladder that enable you to work on an uneven surface, like a step. You can get creative and can make your own, but make sure that it will be very secure.

• Always keep both feet on the ladder rungs. It might be tempting to put one foot on another surface, such as a windowsill, but don’t do it. It can cause the ladder to be off-center and slip.


Q: I have a copper range hood in my kitchen. It’s spectacular, but hard to maintain. I’d like to see if there is a way to protect the shine once I get it cleaned up. What do you recommend? – V.W.

A: You can use a spray polyurethane once it’s clean. Just make sure you follow the directions on the can and add extra ventilation while doing so.

Super HandyMom tip

When I have leftover boiling water from cooking something, I choose where I want to dump it. Of course, it’s great to pour down your drains to melt and flush grease away in the kitchen. I also have used it to kill grass and weeds on my brick patio.


Toolboxes sure have come a long way. Stanley’s Click ’n’ Connect 2-in-1 Tool Box is a neat one. It’s totally customizable. The inserts easily can be moved to create smaller or larger compartments inside the toolbox, and several sizes of boxes are available; they can fit on top of each other and snap together. Some compartments are large enough for power tools. You can bring one box or several, all at once, depending on your needs. It’s a little wider than the average toolbox, and can be accessed from both sides. And the handle is superstrong. Check it out at your hardware store or home center. You also can find out more at

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