Visually inspect your extension ladder to be sure that it is safe. Check the rope, the pulleys, the feet, and the rungs & locking mechanism (2 "hooks" that catch a rung when the ladder is raised). No special skills or knowledge are required here...just a common sense look at the ladder. If you see excessive wear or breakage on any of the parts, DO NOT USE THE EXTENSION LADDER.
If the wear is only on the rope (very common...especially if stored outside), you can replace that and render the extension ladder safe. Use a heavy duty nylon rope and be sure that it is secured firmly. There are rope crimping kits available, but a well-tied knot will do.
Raising the extension ladder is most safe when done with two people. One "foots" the ladder, by keeping a foot on the bottom rung, and the other "walks" the ladder upright by walking towards the person footing the ladder and raising their end as they go. ALWAYS CHECK FOR POWER LINES BEFORE RAISING! The extension ladder can be raised by one person by "footing" the ladder against the base of a wall and then walking it up, but this is not advisable.
Once raised, the ladder should be positioned against the wall at about a 75 degree angle. One way to check that is to stand at the base of the ladder and reach your arms straight out...they should just touch the rung. Move the ladder with it completely vertical as it can get way from you if you let it start to lean.
If the ground is uneven, the ladder can slide and you can be seriously injured. Some ladders have adjustments on the feet, or there are ladder levelers available, which attach securely to the extension ladder and allow proper leveling. USING WOOD BOARDS, ROCKS, ETC. TO LEVEL THE LADDER IS VERY DANGEROUS!
Stabilizing the extension ladder at the top is also very helpful, especially when working around windows or other fixed structures on the wall. Stabilizers or "stand-offs" are available and are secured to the ladder before raising. JUST BE AWARE THAT THEY WILL INCREASE THE WEIGHT AT THE TOP AND MAKE RAISING THE LADDER SAFELY MORE DIFFICULT.
- The weight of the ladder can be deceiving
- Always safer with 2 people