carpenter pointing out a step ladder feature


Sep 23, 2023

Step ladders have many more functions than most people realize. This short article and video from The Honest Carpenter will teach you 6 of the most helpful step ladder tricks and secrets! (Note: #4 is one of the most helpful tips I use on a regular basis…)

(The following content contains affiliate links.)


6-foot Louisville Step Ladder

8-foot Louisville Step Ladder

Rare Earth Magnets

50-foot Power Cord

Super Glue



Several tools in tool holders

Our first trick has to do with these little holes on top of the ladder. They’re easy to overlook, but these are actually tool holders. They’re perfect for smaller things like screwdrivers and nutdrivers—but they can also hold needle nose pliers point down.

And, they’re large enough to hold the single handle of a bigger tool like adjustable pliers or a nail puller. Keeps your hand tools right where you need them.

My 8-foot Louisville has an oval-shaped hole—that’s for holding a hammer. You can just drop the handle through the opening and it will hang beneath the top.

My 6-ft Werner has a circular hole in the center that accomplishes the same thing. And, since this one is a bit larger, it also has a second function–it can hold a drill as well. It’s just big enough to fit the chuck and drill bit through, and it keeps the handle pointing up towards you while you’re working.


Can of paint hanging from provided tab

For years, I had no idea what this tab was for until I saw somebody use it. It’s for holding your paint can!

You can hook the wire handle of a one-gallon paint can behind the lip of this little tab, and the bucket will just hang down in front of you. You can then just reach over the ladder with your brush, and paint straight out of the bucket.



Indentations for different sizes of paint cans

These concentric circles are also for holding paint buckets, but a little higher up in case you’re working higher on the ladder.

The slightly smaller circle is for quart cans. And the circles even smaller than that are for a range of products. The second-smallest one can hold my tub of spackle. And the smallest one holds sample-size cans, like my little tub of plastic wood.

My Louisville only has one circle, and it’s for quart-sized cans. So, older ladders tend to not have as many of these features, but they do generally have at least one circle, which could come in handy.



Hardware pocket for nails and screws

This rectangular impression is a pocket for holding hardware.

Nuts, bolts, screws—any type of fastener you might need. This little pocket is helpful, but I have one big problem with it–if you have to move the ladder, your hardware can easily be fall out.

To solve this problem, I like to use neodymium magnets. Just put a few dabs of super glue, or krazy glue, on the back of a rare earth magnet. Then, carefully reach under the ladder and press the magnet to the underside of the fastener pocket.

Magnet glued under the hardware pocket

Hold it in place for thirty seconds, and that’s it—it’ll be attached. Now the fasteners stay right where they’re supposed to. This saves you so much trouble when you can just toss fasteners down here and be sure you aren’t going to lose them.

The older, 8-foot Louisville doesn’t have a single pocket for this purpose, but the whole top is slightly recessed. So, you can just pick a corner, glue your magnet there, and you’ll have a secure spot for your fasteners.



Hanging a drill on a stabilizer bar

For any tool that I frequently use when I’m up on ladders, I like to make sure it has one of these little hooks on it. They’re called “skyhooks” in some cases, or just utility hooks, and most tools come with them these days (though you can buy aftermarket ones as well.)

These hooks let you hang your tools anywhere that the hook will fit. For instance, I like to hang my drill on the spreader bar on my Werner ladder. I can easily reach it there from lower positions on the ladder if need be.

I also only buy caulking guns with this big U-shaped hook on the end. That way, I can hang them on the back support bar of the ladder.


Tying off an extension cord

In instances where you can’t use a cordless tool, and have no choice but to set your tool on top of the ladder, you need a way to deal with the cord. Otherwise, it’ll keep unplugging itself when you attach it to a power cord—or worse, the weight of a heavy cord will pull it right off the ladder!

This can be disastrous when you’re working with a saw like this multi-tool. You can either get injured, or break the tool, or damage your house.

To deal with the issue, I like to tie my power cord to the highest back support of my ladder. I just make a quick loop around the bar, and leave about two to three feet of slack. Now the cord is right where you can reach it.

As a bonus, if you have one of these Werners, you can actually accomplish the same thing with this little semi-circular groove on the front. This groove is made to hold some sort of accessory paint tray. BUT, it’s also perfectly shaped to hold the end of a power cord.

Notch for extension cord plug on a Werner ladder

You can just wedge it down in there, where it gets trapped, and now you can plug straight down into it.

I don’t know if Werner intended that, but it’s yet another benefit of buying one of these ladders, which I really do think is the best 6-foot, fiberglass step ladder on the market.


I have affiliate links to both of these ladders in the Tool List section above.

That’s it—6 step ladder tricks and secrets for you. I’m going to add one more in the “Tip of the Week” section on my homepage, so be sure to check it out.

I also have links to both of these ladders in my Shop, so if you’re interested in getting one you can find them there.

Thanks for visiting The Honest Carpenter–check back for more tips and articles soon!


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