You don’t need to have a 19th century chateau with a library stocked with thousands of first editions to consider adding a rolling ladder to your home. In fact, you don’t need a book collection at all, since these functional and attractive ladders are every bit as useful in the kitchen, den, home office or even the garage.

Rolling ladders, also called track or rail ladders, are a familiar site in many libraries. They consist of a straight or angled ladder with rollers on the top that hook over a horizontal track. On the bottom of the ladder is a pair of fixed wheels, and the combination of rollers and wheels allows the ladder to mover smoothly along the track to the desired locations, all without the lifting, hauling setup – and occasional instability – of standard portable ladders.

Another advantage of rolling ladders over portable ones is appearance. The typical rolling ladder is constructed of furniture-grade woods such as oak or cherry, stained in any of a number of different colors. The tracks are designed as compliments to the beauty of the ladder, and are available in such finishes as bronze, brass, chrome, and enameled colors. All of the wheels used on rolling ladders are non-marring, so they can be used over hardwood floors, ceramic tile, carpet, or any other type of finished flooring without fear of damage.

During use, rolling ladders are designed to have an angle of approximately 80 degrees for easy and safe climbing. When the ladder is not in use, most designs have a feature that allows them to fold flat against the wall to free up additional floor space. Some types may also be removed from the track completely and put away for storage.

In addition to the different woods and stain colors available, the ladders are available in two different shapes. Straight ladders are the most common and least expensive type used with bookcases, display racks, and other types of shelving or cabinets that have a consistent depth. Angled ladders are used when the upper cabinets are not as deep as the lower ones, such as in a kitchen. In this variation, the lower four or five steps are relatively vertical, then the upper steps angle a bit more steeply toward the wall. This design allows more convenient access to the upper cabinets or shelves without interfering with the lower ones.

The track that the ladder rolls on is mounted horizontally to the wall using special brackets. If the ladder will travel along more then one wall, standard track corners are available for 90- and 45-degree wall angles. For corners that have angles other than these, most manufacturers will custom make the track to fit – in fact, tracks can even be fabricated to accommodate completely round rooms.

ORDERING A ROLLING LADDER

To order a rolling ladder and track setup, you need to know several things. The height of the ceiling is an obvious consideration, but so is the desired height of the track itself. A rule of thumb that most manufacturers use is that the rail should be located no more than 3 feet below the height of the highest shelf you wish to access. You will also need to know the type and color of the ladder and track materials, and if you are ordering an angled ladder you’ll need to know the height and depth of the protruding cabinet that the lower portion of the ladder needs to clear.

Finally, you will need to specify the overall length of thetrack, and the number and degree of any corners. For really large areas, the manufacturer may even recommend more than one ladder. The rule of thumb here is that if the track length exceeds approximately 40 feet, you should plan on adding a second ladder.

Rolling ladders are not exactly an everyday item, but some larger home centers, lumberyards and retails of finish trim items, such as stair parts, will typically have catalogs for you to look at, and can assist with specifications and ordering. You can also check out ladder designs and colors and get ordering and pricing information off the Web at www.alacoladder.com, www.cotterman.com or www.wallunitsinc.com.

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