Should You Walk on Your Roof

A person might want to walk on the roof of their house for several reasons. While it appears to be the most efficient way to hang holiday lights or fix a leak or clear debris off the roof shingles so it doesn’t end up in the gutters, most roofing professionals advise against it. Reasons include personal safety, the type of roofing shingles, extensive moss growth, and steep roof pitch.

Proper Safety Equipment

Safety first! Unless working in the construction industry, many homeowners don’t have the proper safety equipment. Safety equipment you need to safely walk on a residential roof, especially one with a steep incline, include an roof anchor, a safety harness, a sturdy ladder, a ladder stabilizer, and high-traction boots or shoes.

Roofing Shingle Materials

What is your roof made of? While they are designed to take a beating from wind, rain, and snow, some types of roofing shingle materials can’t handle directly applied pressure or weight. Roofing shingle materials such as sand cast, concrete, and clay, don’t have any supportive backing and can be easily cracked if a foot lands in the centre of the tile. Asphalt shingles have protective granules that can be loosened or removed if walked on regularly.

Asphalt Shingles and Direct Sunlight

When asphalt shingles are subject to a combination of direct sunlight and temperatures over 27° C (80° F), they can soften at the base. While the process of softening and then returning to normal after temperatures have cooled isn’t a problem in itself, if asphalt shingles are hot (soft) when stepped on, they can become damaged.

Steep Roof Pitch

Steep pitch roofs such as a gable roof, hip roof, gambrel roof or skillion roof are beautiful to look at – safely, from the ground. A steep roofing system can be difficult to access and walking on it can be tricky for the average homeowner.

Extensive Moss Growth

Not only does extensive moss growth need to be removed, it can make a roof dangerous to walk on. Organisms like moss and algae retain moisture which can become a slipping hazard. Since water adds weight, moss, especially if it’s invading the entire roof, should be dealt with by a roofing professional.

Age could be a Factor

Particularly if you don’t know how old the roof of your home is, the age of the roofing system might be a good reason to avoid walking on it. Older roofs, even ones that have been maintained in the past could have developed structural issues that will become worse and/dangerous when walked on.

Safer Alternatives

There’s a large damp mark on the living room ceiling that wasn’t there three days ago or last night heavy rain storm with high winds pummeled the house – your first instinct would probably be to get up on the roof to see what’s causing the leak or if the storm did any damage. Good instincts, but there are safer alternative to actually walking on the roof itself. If there is something wrong or you do see missing shingles, then call a roofing professional. Alternatives to getting up on your roof include:

  • Using binoculars and viewing the roof from the ground or a ladder
  • Clean the gutters from the ground – you can purchase extender/extension kits for common household tools like shop vacs or leaf blowers
  • Visually inspecting the roof for missing shingles, curled shingle edges, dents, etc. – stand on your property as far back as you can to get a clear view of the roof and walk around the perimeter
  • Inspecting the attic; roof problems often appear in the attic first – look for holes, gaps, or water stains
  • Paying attention to your yard – if you see shingles, broken branches, etc. it might be time to investigate further.

When You Have To

Walk on the roof or your house only when it’s absolutely necessary; if you need to, do the following:

  • Be safe – follow safety protocols for using a ladder, working from a ladder, and climbing on to a roof
  • Wear the proper clothes – non-skid shoes, long pants, etc.
  • Don’t walk on a roof that’s too hot or too wet
  • Avoid climbing on a roof when it’s very windy