Rooftop Safety

Steel Access Ladders vs Aluminum Access Ladders – Which is Better

Steel Access Ladders vs Aluminum Access Ladders – Which is Better

The question around purchasing a steel or aluminum roof access ladder is a common one. Let’s look at the differences between the two materials as it relates to safety & compliance, lead time, installation process, costs, durability and climbing experience.

Roof Safety & Compliance

From a compliance standpoint, you are indeed still in compliance with either an aluminum or steel roof access ladder. If it is constructed in the manner stated by your local safety guidelines and includes corrosion-resistant protection (applicable to only steel ladders), your roof ladder should be compliant. When it comes to aluminum access ladders there is no need to worry about including a protective film, as the material itself is corrosion resistant. You also won’t need to maintain an aluminum ladder over the years by reapplying that protective layer/paint, as you would for a steel ladder.

Unsure if your roof meets local height safety requirements? Ask about our complimentary roof hazard audit program.

Lead Times

Lead times vary for both steel and aluminum ladders, although because steel ladders require a protective coating, it isn’t uncommon to see longer lead times. The added protective coating process will extend the lead time of your order, making it difficult for a quick turnaround when an urgent safety solution is required.


Have you ever worked with aluminum? Your local contractor may prefer a commercial aluminum roof access ladder because of the following reasons.

  • An aluminum ladder can easily be brought to the roof via the maintenance elevator as it is extremely lightweight. There is no need to rent a crane to transport your materials to the roof, or close roads and your building’s parking area. Ultimately, drastically reducing transport and installation-related costs.
  • With aluminum being much lighter than steel, it makes the installation process that much easier and quicker, requiring less labor hours. Yielding reduced overall installation costs.
  • Aluminum fixed ladders also subject less load to the wall and roof surface. A steel roof ladder may require the surface it is being fixed to, to be reinforced.
  • Cutting aluminum on-site, in order to ensure an exact fit, is quick & easy.

At Skyline our aluminum access ladders are built in modular sections, making it extremely easy to handle, ship and install on-site. If repairs are required you can easily replace the modular piece versus the whole ladder.

Durability & Maintenance

Due to steel ladders being heavier than aluminum ladders, there is a perception that they are much more rugged. This is somewhat true, generally, a steel roof access ladder will better handle a transport truck backing into it. But keep in mind, for what the ladder is intended to be used for, there is no real need for such a heavy and rugged solution. Their weight is also considered to be a major disadvantage. In order to install steel ladders and move them around the roof, you’ll have to recruit help. Or rent a costly crane to bring the material to the roof.

We also tend to forget that steel ladders require routine maintenance. In order for a steel rooftop access ladder to stay looking brand new and keep its integrity, it needs to be maintained regularly. Outdoor ladders are subject to corrosive environments, think about the winter conditions we experience in Canada. As a result, building owners and facility maintenance teams do not want to deal with the yearly required maintenance to upkeep the protective paint and coating on a steel ladder.

Climbing Experience

We often find that fixed steel ladders are supplied with 1/4 inch rungs, offering limited traction (especially during rain and snow), resulting in an uncomfortable climb. Our aluminum ladders are manufactured with a wide profile serrated rung, making your climb to the roof comfortable and safer with the added grippy surface.

Aluminum vs Steel – Which Is Better?

If we look at which ladder is safer, well both materials would be considered safe, assuming they are designed to meet your local safety guidelines. Both ladder types offer an excellent solution for accessing your roof. That being said, you are most likely reading this article because you are looking for a solution to not just get the job done but meet compliance requirements today and tomorrow in a cost-effective manner.

Here at Skyline we are roof safety specialists that focus on aluminum ladders due to their ease of installation, flexibility in design, and overall reduced costs in installation and maintenance. When considering the above categories, it is the material that excels in each category.

Working on an industrial or commercial roof project? Or looking to schedule a complimentary rooftop safety lunch & learn for your team? Call our team of rooftop safety experts to help navigate our array of aluminum ladder configurations.

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