All roof repair jobs merit proper care and preparation. The safest roof repair job is one hired out to a professional, but if that isn’t an option, it involves ensuring both person and equipment are in good condition, handling the ladder using proven methods, and adopting climbing techniques for all ladder and roof movements. National and state Standards of Practice require home inspectors to traverse the roof whenever possible and to document the reasons when it is considered non-traversable. The documented reasons most often given for not traversing are endangering the inspector and endangering the roof.
Repair work on the roof entails some level of risk for its entire duration and regardless of its nature. This holds true particularly for the weekend warrior who is apt to lose himself in his work and take his mind off the constant need for taking precautions. It doesn’t matter whether the task is patching leaks, replacing all or part of the roof, eliminating debris from roof and gutters, scraping established moss off of shingles, or treating inchoate moss with chemicals.
Care begins with positioning the ladder securely and continues while raising person and equipment onto the roof safely. During repairs, one must maintain in consciousness an awareness of place. Precautions are in order constantly to avoid slipping or falling and to keep ladder and equipment within safe reach. Caution doesn’t end until person and gear are back on the ground safely.
Ensuring person is in good condition should be one’s first step, for not attempting repairs when one is anything less than one hundred percent is only wise. Better to defer the task than to regret it. The second step is to check weather conditions. With the rooftop exposed to the elements, working in adverse weather is essentially inviting trouble and increasing the chance of losing life or limb.
Ensuring equipment is in good condition goes beyond having the right specific gear to properly complete the repairs; it also includes general gear such as ladder and shoes. To most safely traverse the roof, the soles of your shoes should be slip-resistant. The base feet of the ladder must also be slip-resistant, and use of stabilizers and anchoring mechanisms improve safety. Tighten loose parts and replace missing ones. And don’t use a ladder if its weight rating is less than everything going up it, body, equipment, and tools included.
Position the ladder on the ground so that nothing can interfere with it. An excellent idea is to employ a stabilization method at the roof end of the ladder. This will keep it in place throughout the repair job and will also reduce the odds of damaging gutters or eaves. The distance between the ladder base and house wall at ground level is ideally one-fourth the height of the ladder. Securing it to the wall or anchoring it with heavy objects is good practice.
When ascending and descending the ladder, maintain three points of contact at all times (e.g., don’t free a foot and a hand simultaneously). Do the same while doing your roof repairs. Consciously attempt to maintain balance and low center of gravity the entire time spent on the roof.
Prepare for your roof repair tasks by etching these precautions firmly in mind, exercising proper care and doing the most to maintain your safety.