How to Properly Care For a Wooden Ladder
Replace Old or Rusted Hardware
The first step is to replace old or rusted hardware on the ladder when it will be used as more than a decorative piece. Rusted hardware on the ladder can break easily under a small amount of weight. It also tends to accelerate the deterioration of the wood around the metal parts. This can quickly make the ladder unusable after just a few seasons. Replace the hardware with exact matching pieces whenever possible.
Add Oil When the Ladder Starts To Look Dry and Brittle
If the ladder starts to look dry and brittle, then treat the surface with some oil. The best option is linseed oil although other specialty oil products will work too. It is generally not a good idea to attempt to paint or seal the surface with harsher products since they can make the ladder slippery. One treatment with linseed oil every year or two is usually enough.
Store the Ladder in a Sheltered Place
Avoid storing a wooden ladder outdoors where sunlight, pests and weather can cause problems. This will dramatically shorten the life of the ladder. Keep it in a sheltered location with some temperature control like an insulated garage. If it is necessary to store the ladder outside, then keep it somewhere protected like under a porch or awning. This will prevent many problems such as premature rotting.
Use the Ladder as Intended
A final step is to use the ladder as intended unless it is going to be a purely decorative piece for the home or garden. Do not place the ladder on the edge and sit on the side railings. Move up the ladder slowly. Avoid bringing too much weight onto the ladder. Ensure the feet of the ladder are firmly planted on level ground before climbing up. This will prevent damage from regular use.