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Rope ladder (glow-in-the-dark version)

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Rope ladders, whether for climbing into tree forts, boarding a tall ship, or to escape out a window in an emergency, they're an adventure to use. Rope ladders are great when storage space is at a premium or if the vertical distance to cross is nonuniform and a rigid ladder will not work. If you live or work in a building that has a drop to the ground from your window and want to have a collapsible method of escaping in case of an emergency, then a rope ladder may be just what you need.

I live at the end of the hall on the second storey of an old wood-framed apartment building. An alternate exit route was deemed necessary due to the building having wood burning fireplaces, inattentive residents who burn food, and hippy neighbours conducting seances. Considering all this, my apartment building is one mistake away from becoming a fiery inferno.

Since January of this year the fire alarm has been triggered at least once a month, I've never feared for my safety more. Never one to be caught unawares, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create my own method of escape in case of an emergency.

The ladder I made uses glow in the dark rope to promote its location in darkness, hopefully offering a faster route to safety if the power goes out in an emergency situation.
A rope ladder forms part of the solution to getting out alive in the case of an emergency or fire.
Be prepared, ensure you plan and practice your safe exit prior to any actual emergency.

Enough talk, let's build a rope ladder.
 
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Southpaw695 months ago

Great 'ible! What are your thoughts on using metal pipes or possibly heavy duty PVC pipe for the rungs?

Also, with regard to the rope weight capacity, people need to remember that with a rope ladder, you're using 2 ropes! So the weight is distributed between the 2- it's not all on 1 rope!

Certain knots can affect the rope properties- have you done any research into which knots are optimal for this purpose, in terms of being secure & strong? Maybe some mountain climbers can chime in here.

skimmo4 years ago
did you really use a hand saw? a drop saw would have made it 1000% faster
mikeasaurus (author)  skimmo4 years ago
skimmo, they don't let me use the power tools at Home Depot anymore, not since the accident.
Accident?
i understand the joke but we don't have home depot in Australia, what is it?
ac1D skimmo4 years ago
It's a huge store where you find all you need for your house/construction.
Wood, window, rope, tool, ..

skimmo ac1D4 years ago
Bunning's warehouse is like that, giant stores that sell every thing like that
The other links were a huge help. Thanks a ton!
Glad they helped; providing other methods to solve problems is always a good idea.

Did you make a rope ladder, care to share pictures?
I work in a building where windows are huge, about 6 feet by 6 feet. I have a cabinet that would take only sticks that would be 3-foot long. How can I go around that problem? What kind of ladder would you suggest for me?
this way may work but i would double check with a climber/rigger.

i am not sure what they are called possibly expanding fixing bolts (the kind used to fix a hammock chair to the cealing) but if you used two heacvy duty ones of those on the outside under the sil and fix two carabeaners to the top of the ladder rope. then clip in and clinb down.yhere may be other ways but this way would probebly best suit the size window you have.

They have some that have large hooks that actually hook onto the window sill (is that the right part? I need to brush up on my window anatomy...). These would also allow you to hook them onto balcony railings, water pipes, large herbivores, etc...

cworkman23 years ago
where in the world did you find the GLOW- IN- THE- DARK rope???
sappel3 years ago
When weight is an issue, nothing prevents the use of a 2X4, or even a 4X4, as the top brace. Likewise, if the ladder is meant for a single specific window, one could permanently mount pairs of L-braces(1 inverted) on each wall stud to be sure the top rung is placed, and remains, in an optimally secure position.
bulls-i3 years ago
I just built this using the same overall dimensions/measurements that you recommended. I used poplar for the rungs. I weigh 150 lbs. Do you think poplar is "hard" enough? I opted to get a 2" poplar top dowel to increase strength. Also, I was wondering if you could tell me how far from each end of the top dowel did you attach the rope? I assume that you also drilled a hole through the top dowel to attach the rope and knot it there. It looks from the schematic that you posted that you wrapped the rope around the top dowel. Any specifics that you could give me would be helpful. Thanks!
mikeasaurus (author)  bulls-i3 years ago
bulls-i,

Hardwood is really just a term of identification for the type of tree, hardwoods have leaves and softwoods have needles (deciduous /coniferous). Poplar is deciduous (hardwood) yet is a softer type of wood (I know, it's confusing. Who came up with these names anyway?).
Poplar is probably a safe choice provided the dowel is of sufficient diameter. For your weight of 150lbs (and with 1.5"+ dowels) you should be fine.

"Also, I was wondering if you could tell me how far from each end of the top dowel did you attach the rope?"
step3 mentions I measured back 4" from each end for my attachment points. Picture 2 in this step shows a measuring tape indicating the 4" setback before and after (though it's probably more like 5.5").
The point to take from this portion is not to have the rope rubbing against the sill or frame of the window.

"I assume that you also drilled a hole through the top dowel to attach the rope and knot it there. It looks from the schematic that you posted that you wrapped the rope around the top dowel."
Yes, and yes. I drilled throught the top dowel and knoted the rope, then wound the extra rope around the dowel towards the middle.

Let me know if there's any other help I can provide. Care to share photos of your finished product?
Thanks mikeasaurus, for your reply, sure I could take a few photos and share them. First, I have a question about rope. I purchased a twisted nylon rope using the same dimensions that you recommend. The working load limit on the package says 278 pounds, but was alarmed by all of the fine-print warnings on the label saying that 1) knots can cause the rope to lose up to 40% of its capacity, and 2) that it should not be used to support human weight, 3) that the rope can lose up to 1/3 of working loads under shock (stress, jerk). I have already assembled the entire ladder, but will use a different rope to reassemble if there is any danger of going splat. Any suggestions?
mikeasaurus (author)  bulls-i3 years ago

bulls-i,

Considering this project is intended for life-safety, it's important to use materials which are safe and also provide peace of mind.

Unfortunately, I have no answers for your questions. The rope manufacturer feels that knotting rope and jerking motions can reduce the effectiveness of the product and should not be used for human weight. This is their insurance against lawsuits from doing projects just like this, and I can't say I disagree.
That being said, we've all tied knots and hung of rope before. With the right design, appropriate for the intended weight and use, this ladder works.
If I could offer a suggestion:  braided nylon weave rope with an inner core is more suited for this type of application, not twisted nylon.

"...[any] danger of going splat?"
Yes.
I mention in this project:

If opening for top dowel is too large or dowel type/size or rope is inadequate you risk having your top dowel, ladder rungs or rope failing and exposing users and spectators to the possibility of injury or death.

If you are concerned about your design, beef it up!  After all, it's your safety. Remember that if you go with a thicker diameter rope you'll need to beef up the rung diameters too if you plan to drill through them.

I hope that helps, good luck!
Glow in the dark rope may look cool but in less it is in a lighted area charging it is useless when you need it a night. Florescent rope or just white rope would suffice. Painting the rungs white would help for seeing them at night and give the person climbing down it at night in their skivvies confidence. I would make the ladder longer reaching the ground and adding a long rung at th end. The people first down can place their feet on it helping to stabilize it for the others and offering encouragement for others that it is safe to climb down. Plus if they slip your body will break their fall! If you have one everybody in the house should practice climbing down it during the day just to build confidence. They should all know how to deploy it even young children. Chem lights should be attached at both sides at top and bottom. They will define where the rope ladder is in the dark that some one has deployed it and the light at the bottom will guide them down. You would be surprised at how many people are afraid of the dark. Attach the chem lights with sewing thread at the bottom after the last person is down you have a instant light to do a head count and guide yourself to safety. Good instructable mate.
bulls-i3 years ago
Thanks mikeasaurus, for your reply, sure I could take a few photos and share them. First, I have a question about rope. I purchased a twisted nylon rope using the same dimensions that you recommend. The working load limit on the package says 278 pounds, but was alarmed by all of the fine-print warnings on the label saying that 1) knots can cause the rope to lose up to 40% of its capacity, and 2) that it should not be used to support human weight, 3) that the rope can lose up to 1/3 of working loads under shock (stress, jerk). I have already assembled the entire ladder, but will use a different rope to reassemble if there is any danger of going splat. Any suggestions?
Lorddrake3 years ago
any idea what the weight limit for this particular design is?
mikeasaurus (author)  Lorddrake3 years ago
Lorddrake,

The weight limitations will vary drastically depending on type of rope used, type of dowel used, length of dowel used, method of rung attachment, and method of ladder bracing.
All these things considered, this design was easily able to accommodate my weight at 82kg (180lbs), and even my heavier friends' weight of 96kg (210lbs).

Hope this helps. Good luck on your build, post some pics here when you're done!

I guess I will have to go for a thicker rope and a larger diameter dowel then since I am a little over 300lbs.
Sunbanks4 years ago
Oh my, your apartment sounds like a death trap, what with those hippies and wood stoves there. This instructable makes me wish that I had a 2 story house so I could climb in and out of my window as I please. It just wouldn't be the same if I were to climb down only about 4 feet to the ground...
LOL I know what you mean Sunbanks.....If I climbed out my window, I'd touch ground before getting all the way out the window :-)
Yeah, and where's the fun in that!? There is none!
Not unless you want to dive out head first......that sidewalk outside my window would make an interesting wake up call, for sure ;-)
static4 years ago
Great instructable. Addresses what too few think about. Personally I'd tether the window anchor to the floor. With my luck in all the confusion it would slip away from me and end up on the ground. I surprised to read that there are wood framed apartment buildings that still have functioning wood burning fireplaces, scary stuff. Around here you would have to worry more about pot smoking rednecks than hippies conducting seances.
mikeasaurus (author)  static4 years ago
thanks, static!

Yup, safety is something we should all consider. Home, or otherwise.

As for the fireplace, I was shocked to find out they allowed it in a wood framed building, and a heritage one too. Bylaws here prohibit it now, but there's a handful left.

also hippies conducting a seances is a euphemism, Vancouver has some peculiarities.
i made this thanks to u :D
mikeasaurus (author)  xixperimentor4 years ago
that's great xixperimentor!

Did you make yours with glow rope, how high is your descent, have you had to use it yet?  If you post a picture of your ladder in these comments you can earn yourself a digital patch.
lucifa3654 years ago
would it be worth using glow-in-the-dark paint to mark the rungs, rather than trying to find  rungs in the dark on a swaying ladder?
mikeasaurus (author)  lucifa3654 years ago
yes, lucifa365, glow in the dark paint for the rungs would work as the paint and the rope share a common principle. An upgrade to this version would be both the rungs and rope illuminated.
geekazoid4 years ago
 Great instructable! Funny, I've been looking at rope ladders on instructables, and I had some questions: What type of rope did you use, and have you tested the ladder?

Geekazoid / LukowStudios
mikeasaurus (author)  geekazoid4 years ago
geekazoid, I used a 9.5mm (3/8") braided nylon rope with a phosphorescence nylon sheath. The rope was rated to hold 70kg(150lbs), since I was using two stringers that beefs up my rating some (though not exactly double, more than what I weigh so suitable enough for my needs).

Have I tested the ladder? Yes, please see the title shot showing my friend passing through the window.

 Thanks, missed that shot!

Geekazoid
seamster4 years ago
Did the Home Depot people look at you funny when you were taking photos in the store?
mikeasaurus (author)  seamster4 years ago
The Home Depot people always look at me funny. I'd like to think that my relationship with them has progressed some as the years pass, the "don't ask, don't tell" policy seems to keep the uneasy alliance.
Yep, all hardware store people treat me the same way. Most of the hardware store workers in my area have learned to not even bother asking what I'm making.

Huh, and the old ladies at the fabric stores too... they're especially condescending to non-female, anti-quilt sewing-types.
hardlec4 years ago
A:  How do I determine the diameter of the rope and rung prior to buying material?

B:  How do I keep the knots all nice and even, distance-wise?

Thanks
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