People often ask us, “Is it safe to walk on my roof?” It’s important to distinguish between what is good for you and what is good for your roof.
Is it safe for me to walk on my roof?
While there are several factors that can make walking on your roof more or less safe, walking on your roof is dangerous. The safest option is to just keep your feet on the ground and hire a professional to get up there and take the risk.
However, if you’ve read this far, you are probably still planning to get onto the roof. When it comes to the roof itself, there are two main factors that you should look at.
What material is my roof?
- Slate or tile roof - Do not attempt to walk on these types of roofing
- Metal - Almost always a bad idea. Never walk on a wet metal roof
- Shingle - Mostly safe as long as it isn’t too steep and the shingles are in good condition. If the shingles are deteriorated or crumbling, do not attempt to walk on the roof.
- Flat, Rubber or Thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) - Safe, but remember you’re still on a roof. Avoid the edges.
What is the pitch of the roof?
Once you know the pitch of your roof, it becomes much easier to determine if it is safe for you to walk on it. If you are new to walking on a roof and are a bit nervous, it is best to avoid anything steeper than a 6/12 pitch. If you are feeling confident and well balanced, then you might try a 7/12 or 8/12 pitch. Anything above an 8/12 should be left up to the professionals. Even experienced roofers often avoid anything over a 9/12 and will usually use an anchor and harness for any roof that is 9/12 and up.
What if I don't know the pitch of my roof?
If you do not know the pitch of your roof, you should measure it before you get onto the roof. I’m sure you’re wondering, “How am I supposed to measure my roof to determine the pitch if I can’t get up there?” Good question!
Roof pitch is typically measured in 12’s. For every 12’ horizontal, how many feet vertical? If I measure horizontally from the peak of the roof to the gutter, and it is 12 feet across, and then I measure vertically from the gutter to the height of the peak and it is 6 feet high, then I have a roof pitch of 6/12. Likewise, if the roof is 24’ horizontally and 12’ vertically then I still have a 6/12 pitch. (See diagram)
Now that you understand the basics of how pitch works, there are great apps for your smartphone that will help measure for you. Just search “Roof Pitch Calculator” in your phone’s App Store and you will find some good free options. Just be careful not to drop your phone!
Am I qualified to climb on my roof?
Aside from the structure of the roof itself, you should consider your own capabilities. No one likes to be told they can’t do something, but there is a certain edge or ability that can only come from experience. If you aren’t used to walking on rooftops then you need to take that into consideration and exercise great caution. Honestly consider how comfortable you are with heights. If you feel uneasy climbing up a ladder, climbing off one and onto a rooftop is probably not a good idea. In addition, some people are naturally more balanced than others, more agile, more fit and steady on their feet. You know your own physical limitations better than anyone, so take these things into account when making your decision.
The next question you should ask yourself is whether or not it is good for your roof if you were to walk on it. We’ve explored that question further in our next article.