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2017 Update of Conversation With Fakro Factory

At 3/5/2017, Further Edit Remarks For Fakro Attic Ladders, Better Informed By 7/24/2015 Factory Visit.
Safer steps with protruding edges? Accept factory decision to discontinue this feature of OLN, LTK and LWF ladders, these known to me through USA sales and installation. The cantilevered leading edge may sometimes break off. Where the protrusion was a feature of now-discontinued cheap OLN  ladders with 25% narrowed steps and perhaps less-select wood grain, I have personal experience that such fracture can be dangerous, sometimes releasing one side of a step to fall under user weight. Know there is a way to safely have protruding steps.to promote toe space. Calvert USA makes ladders with strong birch plywood that will not split. Calvert USA at this time, does not offer protruding steps. 

Debate over where to divide default ladder step sections - I have voted for division of Fakro wood ladder sections at closest proximity to a step that the hinge bolting allows, rather than about midway between steps. I call this "2009 Design." I believe design at 2015 is restored to such cuts.

A safer wood ladder top step - As one who climbs attic ladders thousands of times in a year, I have stepped many times with regret, on the top of a side rail, instead of upon the ladder top step. I find this upsetting though I am usually secure, holding onto grips of a safety pole.
This is a safety pole bridged between elements of a tall 2x4 truss array. Safety poles more often bridge between attic floor joists and roof joists. So far, all employ select, smooth and strong kiln-dried 2x4 fir lumber.

I don't yet have a completed example of the safer top step of a Fakro wood ladder. Here is my current offering of longest-reach LTK ladders at 60° door angle, without broad top step.

Here is imagined and rejected LTK arrangement with possible addition of a broad top step, rejected as silly:

A better stock arrangement of steps would have sensible conversion for simplicity and maximum reach:





Here is a previously-offered graphic, where broad top step made sense with a low ceiling. The graphic was intended to show virtue in least-steep door angle, for large carried loads. And, yet, a 47" door is ample.





Please know I have diminished interest in ladder stowage tenting.  Tenting is a necessary consequence of seeking more reach in adding a fourth ladder section, not just controlling door angle by added hinges. Tenting when wanted, still needs some invention of tent rests. I will give new attention to tent rests, upon customer demand.

The concepts of tenting are indicated, with some need of explanation. Please step back with me to my first education in tenting, in July, 2008, with a ladder newly produced by SSC MidMade, purchased from Sweden via Conservation Technology, in Baltimore.
 
Lower Tenting Latch or Tent Rest

Upper Tenting Latch

Please see steel upper and lower tenting latches and tenting variability in cut-to-fit of only the added fourth section (extension kit). Tent center of gravity here, distant from the door face, gives need of the upper latch. I have employed such extension kits as needed, whether or not understood and supported by other manufacturers. I have learned to shape better tents, where the second section is shortened, the third section has evolved to have at most two steps, and where I now wish for great freedom in length of the extension-kit fourth section. I have come to want tenting of four ladder sections in most installations, whether or not a three-section stock ladder might reach the floor. I have come to understand, and to assure that I provide, safe tenting, that I now define. 

A safe tent does not come apart when the ladder is stowed in the attic, to interfere with door opening and sections deployment.
A safe tent has care to keep center of gravity closer to the door face and has least-steep ladder door, to minimize turning moments upon a jarred tent.
A safe tent has a lower latch that stays engaged where jarring drop of the door might put the tent in motion absent an upper latch.
A safe tent includes an upper latch, if needed.
A safe tent is retained by the ladder frame if it rolls about the first section hinges.

Safe tenting is fully the responsibility of the installer, Yet, in the graphic for the proposed twelve-foot LWF ladder, I toyed publicly with notion of full reliance upon a tent block, as the only means of tent control with a quite-long fourth section. I think we should fully reject that possibility. I do seek to avoid need of upper latches. A stiff upper latch might be as troublesome as is a tent collapsed in the attic. If an upper latch resists, up so high, how do you act upon it? A manufacturer should be aware of such installer thinking, but hopefully will not let worry stand in the way of flexible customer service. As more possibilities are allowed or are even encouraged, let there be means of growing the pool of installation professionals. Let there be internet resources to inform a home owner, in reviewing custom work done by an installer.

One more on-ladder feature to be promoted in this conversation with Fakro, is use of 
 leveler legs.

Here are refined drawings of my wishes of a 54" LWF ladder to serve with twelve-foot floor to ceiling distance:



Here is the tented condition in-attic, and detail of a perhaps-universal tent rest. The tent rest must not release with expected tent jarring where the door might slam in stowage, or the door slams open in deployment. Tent with the bottom of the step sections just clearing the ladder frame, to be nearest to hand. Tent rests must have very secure arrangement. A release and crash could cause injury.




At the factory, I saw the test fixture for burn testing of a fire rated ladder, and was inspired to question impact of variable installation on test results. Doesn't it matter how a wood frame of a fire rated ladder is sealed into the ceiling? Enter my flexible grout. I install a Fakro LWF ladder with the bottom edge buttered by a thickness of at least 1/8" flexible grout, and clearances between the ladder frame and surrounding plaster or drywall are fully filled with flexible grout.  I believe flexible grout is an excellent fire barrier. More than half of flexible grout by volume is ceramic microballoons. In alternative framing with thin wood trim bridging sometimes-large clearances about the ladder frame, isn't that a fire path threatening ladder fire rating?

Consider now the notes to self I wrote at the factory meeting, where I was unable to draw what I asked of the factory.

  1. A four section ladder does not have added danger of falling on someone. Prove this. I think I have done so in the discussion of safe tenting, and in refined drawings of a ladder serving twelve-foot floor to ceiling distance. I will seek always to have safe tenting, without a tenting upper latch.
  2. A compact ladder with 31" frame length is a misconception of customer needs. Prove this.
I despise my single installation of such a ladder, a Calvert with 34" frame, in June, 2009. There was plenty of space in this ceiling for a 48" door. The short door was no asset to clearing a door header in steps deployment. I ask for demonstration of any customer situation demanding a short door. I don't expect ever to see such a situation, where I have good methods of four-section compact deployment, within the landing space, and of very-compact deployment with yet-smaller swing distances. Upon request, I will do further on-paper studies to defend this position.
There was no restraint on landing space. The so-steep ladder with tiny hole, is almost useless, in a very large attic where excellent access was badly needed. My relentless urge to think out better ways to serve a customer is fed by shame in such failures.

My last at-factory note to self was to draw and reimagine the header clearance needed for this customer.



My customer badly served with a 31” ladder at 70°, could now have my ordinary installation of an LTK ladder with 60° door angle. I shall offer a replacement, with apologies, at cost of materials. This is yet warranty service, after six years without complaints. At full cost, I should replace any 31” ladder. Let us please abolish 31” ladders and their odd four-section arrangements.

The LTK customizing features are adapted from May, 2015 installation for customer Kolinski. For this conversation, further improve the Kolinski ladder. Add the broad top step and the tent rest. Then offer video of deployment of this ladder, voice in English, and voice in Polish. A first tent rest may be hand-fabricated, even of nylon, tested to refine ease of setting and releasing.

Please know this arrangement was rejected. The tenting would be a lot of compromise, for benefit of a broad top step. At 2017, I have imagined above, new steps arrangement in hypothetical "professional ladders" that do not require tenting within about 102" reach of 47" ladders at 60° angle.




At 3/12/2017, show what can be achieved in long reach of a ladder with 47" frame, an LTK with rearranged steps.
Reaching 128" at 60° Angle:




Reaching 144" at 60° Angle:


Add now photos of a very successful trial of a broad top step, on a Calvert 2254 fire-rated ladder.

Door spring tension is increased and pulled from higher points to balance the greater weight and shift of center of gravity, of the door and step sections.

The broad top step is easily found with a probing foot, assured of not losing balance upon something else. The step also serves as another good hand hold.



Employ all available hand holds for safety atop a ladder, and have secure flooring. Here is the usual principal hand grip and lighting control, upon the safety pole. There should be a lot more to each ladder installation, than can be imagined by a ladder manufacturer.

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