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A combination ladder, for those not in the know, is a ladder that combines a step ladder, extension ladder and sometimes a stairwell ladder all in one. Because of the construction and design of combination ladders, they work very well as extendibleÂ step ladders: self-supporting but with a taller reach than any other type of step ladder.
Most combination ladders comprise three sections which can be extended as a standard 3-section extension leaning ladder for use where a supporting wall is available. The uppermost section is usually easily removable should you only require a 2-section ladder thus reducing the weight in use. But combination ladders all have ingeniously designed top brackets which allow two of the three sections to open and lock in the 'A' frame position making the ladder 'Freestanding' and climbable when there is no wall or structure to lean the ladder against such as on theatre stages, gymnasiums, sports halls etc. The versatility of this design is further enhanced by the ability to extend the third ladder section above the other two. This means that when the combination ladder is deployed as a step ladder, the third section can be extended to provide extra height or to serve as an extra hand hold. This allows access to much higher levels than would normally be reached from a step ladder, making combination ladders exceptionally popular for adjusting / changing lighting in theatres, concert halls etc... Many popular combination ladders allow the 'A' frame to be configured in different positions so that one side of the frame is longer than the other making this type of ladder ideal for working on stairs or sloping ground. This setting is where the combination ladder really comes into its own. Because the ladder has two sides, it is very stable and can be positioned over walls, on sloping driveways and on staircases as well as being entirely self supporting. The versatility of these ladders is so great that the industrial standard combination ladders on the market can actually be used in six ways: as single, double or triple leaning ladders, extending step ladders, stairway ladders and trestle step ladders. They are most often used in places such as theatres, concert halls and indoor sports arenas because they are more lightweight and easier to move around than a scaffold tower or platform steps and have a much greater reach (up to around ten metres). They are self supporting, allowing quick, safe access to great heights with a very nimble piece of kit. In order to provide lateral stability when used in the freestanding format all combination ladders are fitted with a wide horizontal stabilizer bar at the base so they can't topple over in use.
If you thought that combination ladders coped well with uneven ground, you would be right. However, German manufacturer Hailo has developed a model that not only works like a normal combination ladder and can be adjusted for stair use, but also has an adjustable base stabiliser, allowing for fine lateral adjustments and extra stability. The bottom of the ladder has a curved brace running through the two feet. On top of the brace, just under the first rung, there is a foot lever, which allows for automatic adjustment and locking at any desired angle. Not only does this mean the ladder can cope with two different planes of unevenness, but the curved stabilising feet also give more stability by spreading the load of the ladder over a greater distance. The stabilising base on this combination ladder is similar to ladder leg levellers already on the market; the difference here is that the levelling device is inbuilt, not fitted after market. This design innovation makes the Hailo self-levellingÂ combination ladder the perfect choice for working outdoors. The ladder is free standing, self-supporting and can easily be positioned over low walls, into trees and alongside hedges. Any banks or slopes are easily overcome by using the stairwell mode of any combination ladder, and the self-levellingÂ base easily handles any further unevenness in the ground. We will compare and contrast some other combination ladders from different manufacturers in a product review post later on this week.