In this Instructable I'll show you how to make a rope ladder using standard paracord with wooden rungs.  You can use rope ladders for just about anything, from treehouses to boats to haylofts.  They can also be used as emergency escapes in case of a fire.  This is also one of my entries for the paracord contest so, please vote or rate!

Step 1: Bill of Materials

Here is what you will need:

Paracord(see step 2 for exact amount)
Wood dowels(see step 2 for exact amount)

Where you can get your materials:

Paracord - I got mine from the local military surplus store, at 9 cents a foot.  You can also get 300' of it here for $13 for a much better deal.

Wood - Your local hardware store, Home Depot, Lowe's, or equivalent.

You'll need to use dowels, the knot I use needs a circular surface.  I used a 1" dowel, but be sure you choose one that will support your full body.


Step 2: Preparing the Materials

At this point you'll need to decide how tall you want your rope ladder to be.  There really is no formula for telling how much rope you need.  Take the desired height, multiply by two, and add 10-20'.  I bought 26' of paracord and my ladder was about 6-7 feet tall with rope left over.  The reason you'll need extra is because of the knots in the paracord. As far as rungs go, you'll need one rung every 8-12 inches.  As far as width goes, it really depends on the application. 12" is a good mark, try not to go too wide if your wood cannot support it.  I made my rungs 8" wide because I wanted them to be stronger. 

Step 3: Cutting the Rungs

     Next, you'll need to cut the rungs from the dowel.  I was supposed to end up with 6, but I had some issues with the saw and only got 5.  This step is pretty self explanatory, just make a mark on the dowel where you want to cut, and make the cut.  REMEMBER:  ALWAYS WEAR SAFETY GLASSES!

Step 4: Preparing the Paracord

Now you'll need to get your paracord and make it into a very narrow U-shape, as shown below.  Take a piece of masking tape and mark the center, or the bottom of the U.

Step 5: Learning the Knot

The knot we'll using is called the constrictor knot, below are some pictures to help you learn it.  Try practicing a couple times before you use it on the ladder.  You need it to be tight and economic.  When pulled tight, this knot is very strong.  You can also use the double constrictor(here) but keep in mind that it will use more rope.

Step 6: Tying the Rungs

     Now, use the constrictor knot to tie the paracord around the dowel.  Try to get the spacing on either side of the dowel roughly the same, you can fine tune later.  This is where the tape comes in handy.  Try to get the two sides going to the first rung the same length.  This will help keep your ladder in balance.  When you're done, make sure all of the knots are tightened and properly aligned so they won't slide.  When you step on it for the first time, they might slide, but just fine tune the knots to get rid of the unbalance.

Step 7: Continue Down the Ladder

     Now, just repeat this step until you are done.  Keep spacing in mind, try to make it all equal.

Step 8: Mounting the Ladder

     There are many ways you can mount the ladder.  Some might choose to mount it on the inside of their window as a fire escape.  I chose to just test it for now, and I did this by punding in a 3" nail to a solid beam in my barn.  Keep in mind, this is NOT the best and or safest way to mount it, but it worked good enough for testing.  If you do this, try to tilt the nail so it will hold stronger.  Caution:  When I tested my ladder, i used an adjacent ladder to support me in case the paracord ladder broke.  Don't just assume that it is strong enough!

Step 9: You're Done!

     This ladder has an infinite amount of purposes, whether it be for emergency escape, a treehouse, or just to have a rope ladder!

Here are some ideas for you to try out:

-Braid the paracord to make it stronger

-Use better quality wood for the rungs

-Put a wooden mounting bracket at the top

-Find a way to secure the knots so they wont slide as much

     Thank you for viewing my instructable, please comment and rate!
I wouldn't hesitate to use this method, doubling the paracord just to be on the safe side, to make an escape ladder for the second story of our cottage, where we heat with wood. Thanks for this 'ible. Added to my projects folder.
No problem! I was actually going to double or triple braid the paracord, but I didn't have time to go back to the military surplus store to get more paracord. I was in a hurry to get the project done by the time of the paracord contest, but I forgot about the deadline anyway so I guess it doesn't matter. The single strand can be kind of flimsy, but doubling up would help a lot.
TRIPLING it up on either side (meaning 6 lines in all) would make it 'reasonably' safe as long as you're just climbing and not doing any serious bouncing around. Working load ratings of rope and cord are typically 10%-20% of static load ratings. Therefore, if you have a few thousand pounds of static load bearing capability, then the working load should be at least a few hundred pounds (ie: reasonably safe for the average person).
PS - I found myself here because I'm making something similar (an emergency fire escape ladder). However, I'm using seat belt webbing which is rated to about 6,000 pounds static load. With one on each side as my primary ladder supports, I'll have 12,000 pounds static, or more than 1,200 pounds working load. <br>Stitching, knotting, and any other mods to the primary line will decrease that number significantly, which is why I started with something rated well above what I needed. It's flat webbing, so it will pack small, yet will have the strength of much bulkier materials.
To anyone looking to make one of these, PLEASE remember that para cord is NOT climbing rope! It WILL support 550 pounds as a STATIC load. That means a load that doesn't bounce, swing or move around. <br> <br>A 150 pound person can exert a thousand pounds of force on a line by bouncing or other activity that adds MOMENTUM to the weight equation. This is why climbing ropes have &quot;static load&quot; ratings numbered in the thousands of pounds, but have &quot;working load&quot; ratings of a few hundred pounds. <br>Para cord was designed for use as shroud lines in parachutes, BUT you have several dozen lines running down to the harness which equally distribute the many thousands of pounds of force exerted when a chute deploys. <br> <br>Therefore, you should NEVER attempt to use single (or even doubled) para cord as primary climbing line. It WILL break as soon as your weight shifts or bounces, and thus multiplies the static load by exerting momentum. <br> <br>As an example of this effect, if you carefully rest a cinder block on your foot, your foot will easily hold that weight. Now drop that same cinder block on your foot from a few feet... presto... broken bones! You've multiplied the weight exerted by the cinder block to that sufficient to cause damage. Same principle goes for ropes and cordage. Always make sure you know whether you're looking at a 'static load' or a 'working load' rating, and the difference between them!
I understand that this is just a quick test, but three nails knocked in side by side about an inch apart would be much better as the end two nails would share half the load, and if any one of them failed, the other(s) would still hold the weight.
but is this safe to use? someone on instructables said it's not safe to use this to repel because the force can equal more than 550 pounds
Hmmm... Cool 5/5
Nice 'ible. I would have used the marlin hitch, but that is for something a little more temporary.

About This Instructable



Bio: I love to build stuff.
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