You will need
- A length of wooden board
- A strong bungee cord with metal (not plastic) hooks
- A drill and a wood bit (approx. 3/16" or 5mm)
- Thick foam material and glue (optional)
The board needs to be strong and stiff - an offcut of floorboard is ideal. It should be about 8-10" (20-25cm) wider than your ladder - my board measures 22" x 5" (56cm x 13cm) and my ladder is 14.5" (37cm) wide. The bungee needs to be a little longer than the board when measured unstretched between the curves of the hooks at each end - I used a 24" (61cm) bungee. If in doubt, cut the board long and then shorten it if necessary to suit your bungee.
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Step 1: Drilling the Holes
Drill a hole in the approximate centre of each end of the board. The diameter isn’t vital, but the hook on the end of the bungee needs to be a loose fit (with the plastic end cap removed) in the hole. Drill the holes to the depth of the straight end of the hook.
Step 2: Adding Foam (optional)
To provide extra padding, you could cut a piece of thick foam or rubber to the size of the board and stick it in place. A closed cell foam would be best for this. Test any black rubber or foam first as it may mark light coloured surfaces.
Step 3: Fitting the Spreader Board
Lay the ladder on the ground with the side that is to go against the building downwards. If it is an extending ladder, leave at least the top rung of the highest section (which will be uppermost) clear of the other sections. Slip the board under the top of the ladder. Remove the rubber caps from the bungee hooks - they will only get stuck in the holes otherwise. Put the hook at one end of the bungee deep into one of the holes you drilled and run the bungee across the top of the ladder, securing the board in place by putting the other hook in the hole at the other end. Position the bungee just below the top of the ladder so that the board protrudes a short way above the ladder.
Check that the bungee is tight enough to hold the board firmly, but it shouldn't be stretched so tightly that the board can't "flip" - see next stage. If the bungee seems loose you could try tying a knot (or two) in it. If it is so tight that it was hard to get the second hook into its hole then you may need to saw a bit off the length of the board.
Step 4: The Spreader Board in Use
Now you can lift the ladder into position and the board will stay in place. It will rest flat against the top of the ladder during this process, but once the ladder is placed against the wall the board will magically flip into place against the wall, spreading the load.
There is one thing you need to watch out for when lowering an extension ladder with a spreader board fitted to it - always leave at least one rung of the top section clear until you have the ladder on the ground and can remove the board. If you forget and drop the top section fully with the ladder held vertically, in the normal way, there is every chance that the board will be pushed off as it comes into contact with the section below it, and hit you on the head. Guess how I found that out.