Oftentimes you have to use a ladder to work on the outside of your house. But first...a few ladder safety tips:
The ladder's base should rest at a distance one-quarter its vertical height from the wall. (Huh? Forget the math: A 16-ft ladder should rest 4 feet from the wall; a 12-ft. ladder should rest three feet from the wall; an 8-ft. ladder should rest two feet from the wall). Also, do yourself a favor and get one of those tool-and-paint holder attachments that fit on the ladder or get a ladder that has it built right on it.
How high is safe? The top of the ladder is the second step from the cap step. The top cap is for appearance only and small things like screws, nuts and bolts. The shelf is for larger items like tools and paint, but the step isn't for standing either. Anything above the second step can cause you to lose balance and tip over.