Putting The Roof Over Your Head (Safely)

Roofing is often viewed as relatively unskilled home construction craftsmanship. After all, it only requires a ladder, a nail gun, and a little sweat equity, right? This misconception is one of the reasons why so many homeowners choose to tackle roofing projects themselves. What they often do you not know, however, is that roofing is far from simple and that it can be very dangerous if not performed with the help of licensed and skilled roofing contractors.

How dangerous you might ask? Fully one-third of construction-related injuries stem from roofing-related accidents. Fortunately, these tips can help you roof safely.

Staging: the most important aspects of roofing safety is staging. Staging is simply making sure that everything is in order before the roofing project starts. Your staging should focus on two specific areas: the roof and the ground.

For the Roof: you will want to make sure that you have everything you need to complete your roofing project, on-site and ready to go. This includes tools, safety equipment, and materials.

Although the type of tools, safety equipment, and materials you'll need will vary depending on your specific roofing project, the easiest way to ensure that you have everything you need before you start is to consult a roofing expert. Most roofing contractors offer free-estimates and will discuss every aspect of a roofing project with you. In fact, most roofing contractors will provide you with an itemized list of everything they would require to complete a roofing project in the bid the give you. Thus, you can see how a pro would approach the job, even if you're planning on doing it yourself.

For the Ground: you will want to designate areas for particular purposes. For instance, you should designate an area for ladders, discarded roofing materials, and storing roofing materials. The important thing to remember when staging your ground area is make sure that they aren't located near doors or other walkways that you may need to access during your roofing project. An easy way keep these areas straight is to use different colored tarps to delineate each area.  

When you're on the roof you will be able to see these areas very easily. Additionally, the tarps can prevent nails, staples, and other bothersome roofing detritus from falling onto your yard or walkways.

Ladder Safety: many roofing accidents occur when ascending, descending, or dismounting ladders.  Here's how to safely utilize a ladder:

  • Rule of Three: it's critical to always maintain three points of contact with your ladder. Thus, if you have one foot off the ladder, your other foot and both your hands should maintain contact with the ladder. This is particularly important if you try carrying equipment with you while you descend or ascend the ladder. This is where tool belts and rope pulleys come particularly in handy.

  • Center: during the course of a roofing project you may get tired causing you to focus more expediency than safety. In particular, you may tire of descending, dismounting, and moving your ladder every time you need to reach for something to beside the ladder.  When you reach too far away from the center of the ladder's rungs you're creating a recipe for a potentially dangerous fall.

  • Go Big: to function safely, a ladder must extend at least three feet above your roof line. Thus, you will want to choose a ladder that's tall enough to extend three feet beyond your roof's lowest point (which may force you to access your roof at this point only) or purchase a ladder that adjusts to suit multiple heights. If your roofing a multi-storied house you should strongly consider purchasing an adjustable height ladder.

So if your summer plans call for a DIY roofing project, make sure you follow these basic safety guidelines and ask professionals for advice and help.