You can earn an OSHA fine (for clarification, click here) for leaning a stepladder up against a wall, but often this is one of the most convenient ways to use one of these ladders on a jobsite. One exception to this OSHA rule is for a ladder that's actually designed to be used in a leaning position, which is why the Little Giant King Kombo articulating fiberglass stepladder caught my eye at the 2019 International Builders Show. It’s a versatile “3-in-1” fiberglass ladder that can be used as a stepladder, extension ladder, and a lean-to ladder. Intrigued, we requested a sample of the King Kombo and another Little Giant ladder called the Hyperlite Sumo, and for the last 10 months have been using both of them on our jobsites.
Rated as a type 1AA ladder with a 375-lb. load capacity, the King Kombo has numerous features in addition to its 3-in-1 versatility. For one thing, the conversion is very simple, and after 10 months of use, some of which was during the rainiest winter we have had in decades, all the parts still function flawlessly.
Another feature that works well for us is the ladder’s rotating wall pad, which allows us to lean the ladder on studs, as well as on inside or outside corners and walls. When used as an extension ladder, the King Kombo has something called a V-Bar that allows for the same function.
Other features we like include the high-visibility green fiberglass construction, which is non-conductive, and the wide-flared legs, which provide side-to-side stability. We use tripod ladders like this one because they are extremely stable, much more so than four-legged ladders, and we have noticed that all our subs borrow our ladders when they are onsite (either they like these ladders so much, or it’s easier than unloading their own ladders).
We’ve been using the Model 6 King Kombo, which is the equivalent of a 6-foot stepladder. When used as an extension ladder, it has a maximum height of 10 feet. Other sizes are available, from 4 feet up to 8 feet. At about 22 pounds for this particular model, the ladder is slightly heavy, and we certainly don’t need or use all the ladder's features all the time. But in our experience, it is certainly worth having at least one of these ladders on the jobsite, and at about $210 (though currently discounted to $160 with free shipping and a 30-day trial directly from Little Giant), I would recommend buying one, and then seeing if you like it enough to buy more to replace your other ladders as they age out.
We also have been trying out Little Giant’s Hyperlite Sumo fiberglass extension ladder. Because we don’t typically deal with electrical hazards, we’ve always used lighter aluminum extension ladders to access roofs or – when coupled with another ladder, a pair of ladder jacks, and a plank – to install siding. One complaint I’ve had with our ladders is that we usually have to dig on uneven ground to level them, and even then they don’t feel very stable. I just don’t like being way up high on our extension ladders.
Being made out of fiberglass, the Sumo is heavier than our aluminum ladders, flexes less, and just feels more stable. But the Sumo's best feature are the legs, which are adjustable for uneven ground. You can also widen out the legs to stabilize the ladder. Both of these features work very well (though the legs stopped sliding on our first test ladder, and no one could figure out why. The second test model that the company sent to us has worked flawlessly).
In addition to the leveling/outrigger system, the Sumo has a side-to-side bubble level, and a front-to-back angle indicator to help set the ladder up safely. The ladder feet can also be set to flat or spiked positions, depending on where it is being used. In a word, this non-conductive OSHA-compliant ladder is incredible, and we are very protective of it because we like it so much (though we did lend it to our painters, who showed up while we had it out one day, and kept borrowing it while working on our site).
We’ve been using the 28-foot Type 1AA version, but it’s available in lengths from 16 to 40 feet. Right now, the ladder is available for about $500 directly from Little Giant, which includes free shipping. littlegiantladder.com.
Photos by Tim Uhler