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I have a pair of long 4x4 posts holding my chimney, and I'd like to build a ladder in to the posts for maintenance. In some ways this could be safer than using an extension ladder, as the posts are well-anchored.

I was thinking I could screw some short 2x4s on to posts as steps. A quick search on building a ladder says to notch the verticals, which seems nice and strong, but would be difficult to do in this setting.

As an experiment, I used a pair of 3 1/2"-long screws to attach a rung just above ground height. I jumped up and down on it and it held. Based on that data, I could use twice as many screws and be safe, right? Or not...

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If you do this, make sure you use pressure treated wood (to prevent rot), coated screws (to prevent rust), and visually inspect the ladder from time to time (and repair any damage). –  Tester101 Nov 11 '11 at 20:12
    
I wonder if were one were to be injured using a home-made ladder like this, if there would be implications for getting health insurance? Most ladders have UL certification. –  gregmac Nov 11 '11 at 22:09
    
One advantage of a standard ladder is the angle that it rests, putting your center of gravity on the step with a lower risk of falling backwards. –  BMitch Nov 12 '11 at 2:20
    
As an alternative how about EZY® Climb Detachable Tree Steps, used by hunters to climb to tree stands. Or Pole Climbers, used by Lineman to climb utility poles. –  Tester101 Mar 21 '12 at 17:11
    
It's not safe! If it doesn't get built correctly it could break and you could die! –  cheyenne Sep 19 '13 at 3:32

2 Answers 2

building a make-shift semi permanent ladder is not a great idea for a couple of reasons.

First: It is very possible that your homeowner's insurance will insist it be removed or cancel your coverage. I know this for fact as my insurance company (Good Neighbor) did an informal walk around my house and discovered a homemade ladder going from the sunroom roof up to the second floor roof. I had built it strong and attached it to a back wall in order to get up on the highest roof to remove snow. My agent called and explained the situation. a homemade ladder cannot be certified safe for a fire escape and by being permanently attached to the house invites unauthorized use and opens the Insurance company to liability. Needless to say, they insisted I take it down.

Second reason: Although it may seem safe and secure at first, anything could happen. 2X4's as rungs could split. the angle may be bad and you might fall off.

Last reason: None of your friends here at SE want our favorite Yurt builder to get hurt.

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@shirlock is right. Just about any homeowner's policy will require that you remove a ladder like what you are describing. They won't expose themselves to such potential massive liability. So the short answer is: Don't do it.

With that disclaimer out of the way, if you still want to forge ahead, here's my advice on HOW to do it:

The problem with what you proposed in your question is that you are screwing into end grain. That strikes me as a recipe for disaster. I would advise instead to install 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" (ie, 2x2) cleats to the 4x4's using exterior lag screws. Then secure the step treads to the cleats. You can use regular exterior screws or nails for this because these fasteners are really just keeping the steps in place (they are not really providing much structural support).

With that setup the stress is on the lag bolts which are screwed through the 2x2 and into the "long grain" of the 4x4's. Also, be sure to predrill holes for the lag bolts, especially through the 2x2 cleats, otherwise they may split. An added benefit of this is that it will be much easier to install if you predrill the cleats on the ground.

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I agree, screwing into the ends of the 2x4s does not sound great. Real wooden ladders are not designed that way for a reason. –  auujay Mar 21 '12 at 17:05

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