Cleaning the debris off your roof or making minor repairs is considered to be common practice for many handy homeowners. The longevity of your roof depends on these two activities, and you can potentially extend the lifespan of your roof by several years with the proper care and maintenance. However, some homes pose a problem when it comes to walking on the roof to take care of these chores. You will have to learn how to walk on a steep roof in order to perform these routine tasks safely.

While it isn’t impossible to walk on a steep-pitched roof, it does require a little bit of planning and a lot of safety precautions. If you need to climb up on your roof for any reason, make sure you read this safety guide first!

How to Climb a Steep Roof

Most homeowners already have some of the equipment necessary for climbing onto a steep roof. A wooden or aluminum extension ladder can do the trick to get you high enough to take your first steps onto the roof. Make sure that your ladder has a 7 to 10 feet overhang at the top of the roof. Secure the ladder to something sturdy such as any available scaffolding or a tree to prevent it from moving during your ascent. You may consider securing the bottom to the foundation and the top to the eaves of the house to prevent it from sliding.

Refrain from carrying heavy tools up the ladder with you. They can throw you off balance and make it more difficult to focus on the climb. Instead, you can haul them up to the roof using a bucket on a rope once you are already safely at the top of the ladder.

In addition to fastening your ladder appropriately, you may want to make sure that you have the proper climbing and rappelling gear. A harness can help to protect you in case you do accidentally slip while walking on the roof. Make sure that it is fastened to a sturdy anchor that will not give way under the sudden weight. Many people prefer to fasten their equipment to a close tree or their scaffolding.

In the best-case scenario, scaffolding is the best way to climb a steep roof. It is naturally sturdy, provides a built-in handrail, and allows you to tether other objects to it. It does require a little more time to set up this scaffolding system, but most homeowners feel more secure when using it. You can usually rent this equipment from building yards.

How to Walk on a Steep Roof

When you finally make it to the roof, you need to know how to walk properly in order to prevent major falls and accidents. Preparation is key in this type of situation. First and foremost, do not plan to do any work on a day where the weather is less than ideal. Avoid doing work while the roof is icy, covered in snow, or wet from last night’s rain. You need a dry roof and a day without major winds so that you can set yourself up for the most success.

You will also need to wear appropriate clothing. Loose-fitting clothes will give you the greatest range of motion. Rubber-soled shoes are also particularly helpful when gripping the surface of the roof.

In order to climb a steep roof safely, you will need to hold your body in the proper position. Lean your body forward toward the top of the roof to help maintain your balance. A steeper roof will require you to lean forward more significantly. As you advance toward the top of the roof, take it one slow step a time. Many experienced roofing experts recommend walking sideways, placing both feet together with each step.

When it comes time to dismount, remain crouched down just slightly as you descend.

If you need to know how to walk on a steep metal roof, there are a few additional precautions you need to take. Metal roofs do have a little bit of give to them, so be prepared to feel the flex beneath your feet. Stick to the rafters unless they are rotted because this will give you the most stability. These are typically spaced every foot and a half to two feet apart.

Safety First

Falls from height are one of the most common leading causes of death in construction.

Therefore, learning how to walk on a steep roof properly is extremely important if you want to make a minor repair or clear off debris from the top of your home. These chores are a bit more complicated when the pitch of your roof is extremely steep. Safety should be your first concern when you attempt to tackle these home projects. Be sure to follow all of these steps and use the necessary safety equipment.

Once you have positioned the ladder securely, make sure it’s at an adequate angle.

Avoid climbing near a power line. If you have to climb near a power line, use a wooden ladder.

Even if your ladder is secure, you will need to have someone who can help you out.

If purchasing or renting the safety equipment is cost-prohibitive, you may consider hiring a roofing professional to perform these tasks instead. The cost of their labor may be well worth it when you consider the potential consequences that could come from falling from a steep roof.

Thomas Luttrell
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