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​Protecting Rain Gutters from Ladder Damage

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In reviewing innovative ladder safety products, author and construction pro Chip Macdonald had this to say about preventing damage to rain gutters (eavestroughs) in Roofing Contractor Magazine:

Let me try and recall how many gutters I have crushed, repaired and then crushed again while setting up and/or climbing ladders to the roof in the past 40 years. On second thought, let’s not go there.

There are more than a few ladder stand-off and/or stability devices out in the market today designed to eliminate the damage and mitigate the hazards involved with landing ladders near gutters, roofs and windows. As a matter of fact, Ladder-Max™ describes and compares a number of them on the company’s Web site, www.buyladder-max.com. I selected the patent-pending Ladder-Max to review because of its simplicity, its lightweight design, its ease of installation and its undeniable stability. I also like it for standing off of the fragile drip edges of slate roofs and aluminum roofs, both of which I have damaged, even with ladders equipped with foam rubber mitts. The point loads applied by the side rails of a typical 1A-40 foot ladder are fairly unforgiving and can cut like butter while the rhythm of climbing flexes the ladder. Many contractors I spoke with assume the repair cost liability at the ladder site as just another part of doing business. With the Ladder-Max, worrying about this problem is simply not necessary.

The Ladder-Max ladder stabilizer is designed to prevent damage to gutters, eaves, overhangs and metal siding.
It features heavy-duty, non-marring, flexible plastic tips.



The Ladder-Max, which has a suggested retail price of $59.95, is designed to fit all modern ladders manufactured after 1972 (and many made before). It will fit on both extension and single section straight ladders. It even fits on my Little Giant. The 16-gauge galvanized EMT arms are tied together with a 16-gauge galvanized cross arm EMT tube. The anti-torque bracket steps are “nested” over two consecutive rungs at the top of the ladder and are designed to be level when the ladder is set up at the required 75.5 degree angle.

The bottom step is fastened to the rung with 16-gauge heavy-duty galvanized steel, slip-resistant steps and locked into to lower rung using two zinc anodized, spring-steel loop pins. The manufacturer states that these pins do not contribute to product safety, as the Ladder-Max stabilizer is actually held in place by gravity when the climber loads the ladder. The pins are merely used to hold the stabilizer in place on the ladder during movement and placement of the combination.

The non-marring rubber safety tips actually provide four points of contact. All of the nuts are stainless steel Nyloc with stainless steel bolts and washers. The assembled stand-off arms incorporate both the arc and the wedge to maximize the device’s stability, providing a 40-inch wide span for the best stability with a 19-inch stand-off for room to work on the eaves.

Pros:

• It’s a product that works just like it says it will - 100 percent satisfaction guaranteed.

• The instructions said it would take an average of 7 minutes to assemble with just a 7⁄16-inch box wrench. OK, so it took me almost 10 minutes. Once assembled, the Ladder-Max attaches and detaches from the ladder in just seconds, without tools. Contractors I lent it to tell me it really is a cinch to use and easily transfers between all of our ladders on the site.

• Because the Ladder-Max actually attaches to the rungs and not the side rails of the ladder, I am able to apply it to all of my ladders, including the Little Giant. It meets or exceeds OSHA/ANSI standards A14.1, A14.2, A14.5 and even the new A14.10 for Type IAA special duty 375 pound rating. It will attach to all modern wood, fiberglass, aluminum and articulated ladders.

• The device is a great stabilizer. I have de-iced plenty of roofs in the winter here in upstate New York, and I fully intend to use the Ladder-Max for the task this year. Although the tips may slide slightly on roof ice during installation, once the device is loaded with the climber’s weight, the 36-inch spread will resist that lateral “skate effect.” I’ll never enjoy de-icing, but now it won’t be so frightening.

• The “arc and wedge” principle of the Ladder-Max really does make a difference. I particularly like the way my ladder could be set up directly in a roof valley with the 36-inch span and rubber safety tips locking the ladder into the opposing planes.

• You just can’t beat the reasonable price.



Cons:

• The manufacturer of the Ladder-Max requires the ladder user to ensure there is at least 12 inches of structural surface on either side of the stand-off tips when used on roof or wall applications and a minimum of 12 inches of decking to the leading drip edge of the roof. While this is a reasonable safety factor to prevent accidental tip-over, it may preclude the use of the device in a few limited spaces. This is not really much of a problem. Just remember to keep your belt buckle between the side rails when reaching laterally.

• The climber is prohibited from standing above the lowest rung on which the Ladder-Max is attached. In most cases, this will be the second from the last rung, which is already an ANSI/OSHA prohibited step. If the device is attached at a lower rung location, the climber may not exceed the lowest attached rung. Under normal circumstances, however, this should not be a negative purchase factor. Competent ladder use always requires planning ahead.

• When the ladder is used as an access method to a roof, it must be extended at least 36 inches vertically above the discharge point. Depending on the roof pitch, I found that this will most likely place the lock-rung of the Ladder-Max on the fourth rung from the top. At this point I had to sidestep the ladder to dismount. I found the ladder was adequately stabilized for this maneuver, and the ladder attachment greatly enhanced the safety and convenience of the side-dismount.

 

Safe-T Ladder Rail Extension handrails allow for easy mounting and dismounting at the top the ladder.



The device works extremely well with the patented Safe-T Ladder Rail Extension handrails available through Ladder-Max (www.buyladder-max.com). When I reviewed this product for my 2005 “Ladder Innovations” article, I was able to attach the device to the top of the ladder rails with the Ladder-Max stabilizer already attached in place. This combination made for an incredibly stable and safe means of stepping onto and off of the ladder without sidestepping.