How To Choose a Fire Escape Ladder?

Your home keeps you safe and comfortable – it’s designed to do so. But disasters can happen within the home, especially when there are numerous fire hazards in close range of one another. To get your family to safety, a fire ladder is an essential tool in case of a fire.

Factors When Choosing a Fire Escape Ladder

There are many kinds of fire escape ladders, each with its pros and cons that you need to consider when buying them.  Following are the key features that you need to take into consideration:

Type of Building

Typically, old commercial buildings use foldable fire escape ladders, whereas new buildings are bound to observe Business Regulations. Many standard fire escape ladders are not suited for thicker walls. Here are a few things you need to tell the person selling you the fire escape ladder:

  • If you’re allowed to carry out alterations to the building.
  • How sturdy is the wall above and under the window.
  • Are there any windows under the escape window? 

Building Height and Number of Floors

Determining the fire escape ladder’s length depends on the floors that a building has and the building’s height. Here are a few guidelines

  • A single-story house is about 8 feet from the floor; maximum, it will be 12 feet. 
  • Double story houses are about 20 to 25 feet.
  • Each floor of the commercial buildings are from 12 to 16 feet.
Choosing A Fire Escape Ladder

Get a ladder that’s about the same height as the building. Most of the time, a bit too long is better than too short.


Ideally, a fire escape ladder should be long enough to touch the ground from the window. Fire escape ladders come in only two lengths:

  • 15 feet
  • 25 feet

Pick the best option after considering the building’s size, the story from which the ladder will be perched, and the obstacles from the window to the ground. Fire escape ladders are usually flexible and can run over porches, balconies, and multiple roofs. 


Fire escape ladders are usually made of steel and aluminum as these are the most heat-resistant; other materials are rare. Make sure that all the materials in your ladder are heat-resistant. Some models of fire escape ladders use a nylon rope – avoid these models! Nylon is susceptible to melting at high temperatures.


The design of a fire escape ladder includes the dimensions, materials, and usage. Dimensions further include the length of the ladder, the width of the steps, and the inclination. Whereas materials usually include steel and aluminum, other materials are rare. 

Fire escape ladders are designed differently for different purposes. Pick your design based on why you need them, and your options may include:

  • Balcony access designs
  • Safety cage designs
  • Fall arrest system designs
  • Counterbalanced designs


Ideally, a fire escape ladder should be able to bear a load of about a thousand pounds. Any less than that makes the ladder unreliable in cases of an emergency when the ladder will be used to carry the weight of objects and multiple people simultaneously.

Multi-Use vs. Single-Use

The cheaper fire escape ladder options in the market can only be used once. This isn’t ideal because you need to practice with the ladder before using it in emergencies. 


Fire escape ladders’ price generally varies, but one rule of thumb would be not to buy the cheapest options out there. If you want all the safety features, you will have to pay for them.

Most portable fire escape ladders are priced between $50 and $100, whereas permanent, metallic, and attached-to-the-building ladders might cost over $100. While affordability is a genuine concern, please don’t trade-off your and your loved ones’ safety and security. 

Anti-Slip Rungs

The last thing you want when you’re trying to escape a fire is to slip and fall off from your escape plan and get injured. The anti-slip feature on a fire escape ladder helps non-disabled adults, children, and persons with disabilities.

Ease of Installation

Installation depends on the kind of ladder, of which there are two:

  • Portable
  • Built-In or Permanent

Portable ladders don’t need installation as such – they come in boxes and are unboxed and attached to hooks on windowsills when there’s a fire. Alternatively, the built-in fire ladder is permanently attached under a window and will require minor carpentry, the instructions of which will be written on the package; you can DIY or hire a carpenter to do it.  

Consider the standoffs when installing the ladder too. Standoffs are protrusions on the wall of the house that keep the ladder in place, especially during a fire when the temperature of the wall increases. They also keep the ladder balanced as it holds large amounts of weight.

Another thing to keep in mind when installing the fire escape ladder is quantity: every room on the first floor and above needs to have its own fire escape ladder. 

Storage and Access

Storing the fire escape ladder properly is crucial to prevent delays or obstructions to your safety and security. 

If your ladder is foldable, it will come in a box that you can put away in a drawer; this keeps it from being tangled up with other objects in the room and makes access easier. Plus, people usually don’t like having a ladder take up square footage in their bedrooms for aesthetic reasons.  

You don’t want your escape plan to be tangled up, out of reach, or obstructed in cases of emergency. So make sure that the ladder you get is easy to store and access. 

Ease of Use

When there’s a fire, you need to move quickly – every second counts and can cost you your life. You don’t want a fire escape ladder that is hard to use. If possible, try out multiple models when buying the ladder, see if you can carry it around, and attach it to a window. 

If you have someone in the house that has a disability, have them test it out too.  You need to make sure that the fire escape ladder you’re buying is easy to use for everyone who can use it. 

Permanent Exterior Fire Ladders vs. Window Ladders

Permanent Exterior LadderWindow Ladder
You don’t have to worry about locating or mounting this amid an ongoing fire.You have to locate them and mount them to the wall during an emergency.
They can’t be relocated to different places.They can be relocated to another place.
They’re more commonly found in commercial buildings.More commonly found in residential spaces.
Easy assemblyAssembly happens mid-crises

To Conclude

Not only do you have to make an escape plan, but you have to put it into practice multiple times a year so your family knows what to do when there’s a fire. You also need to ensure that every room in the house has a fire escape ladder that’s reliable, sturdy, and functional for everyone. 

We hope this guide on how to choose a fire escape ladder was helpful! No one knows what works for your house, your family, and your individual needs better than yourself – so make sure you make the right decision! 

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Nick Klamecki, Author
About Nick Klamecki, Author

Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use. Learn more about Nick here or connect with him on LinkedIn | Medium