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Ladder Safety -- Roof Access

I need to be able to get onto my roof. I have an extension ladder that is plenty long enough, but I don't feel comfortable making the transition between the ladder and the roof. In particular, one of the rules of ladder safety is to never extend your reach to a point where your center of gravity extends beyond the ladder's legs -- and thus I don't feel comfortable stepping off the ladder "sideways."

Do you know of a product (such as an extension) that allows for this transition while at the same time doesn't violate this safety rule? For example, is there such a thing as an extension ladder with "missing" rungs at the top that would allow you to step onto the roof while still maintaining a hold on the legs?

I guess I should also mention that my roof is low pitch. The eave is about 10 feet above the surface where I would mount the ladder.

A. Spruce
Re: Ladder Safety -- Roof Access

Your concerns are unfounded, unless you're extremely uncoordinated and accident prone, then the safest thing you can do is stay off your roof.

As long as the ladder has firm footing, is set at the proper angle, and is resting squarely against the roofs edge, it is perfectly safe to step around the side of the ladder to make the ladder to roof transition. If you'd like a little more security, then I would suggest installing some anchor points into the fascia and tying the ladder off.

BTW, stepping around the side of the ladder is far safer than trying to step over the top rung, even if there is a rung or two missing to give you better hand holds. The only exception to this is a welded escape ladder that is designed for this purpose.

Re: Ladder Safety -- Roof Access

Yes, it does look like you did your homework about ladder safety, but maybe a little too well...enough to make you worried.

If you follow these standard precautions, you'll be OK, whether you have a one story house or a two story house:

- position the base of the ladder at a distance which is about 1/4 of the verticle height of the ladder, in a secure manner.
- Max length of the ladder is 44 ft.
- ladder should extend about 3 ft above its resting point.
- you can install ladder supporters for added safety, so it doesn't slide from side to side.
- don't set metal ladders near electrical wires.
- in wet conditions, better not use a ladder.

As Spruce mentioned, sometimes it's better to let a pro do the rooftop work. After all, roof injuries are the nastiest of all injuries.

Stay safe.

Re: Ladder Safety -- Roof Access

Thanks. Aside from the ladder supports, I did a "dry run" that included all of your recommendations. I even took the added step of attaching some bungee cords to the gutter supports for added stability as per a YouTube video I watched (though I can't remember which one). My ladder was going nowhere!

All that said, I climbed up the ladder with no problems at all... but couldn't quite work up the nerve to transition to the roof knowing that the transition back to the ladder would be worse.

Anyway... I really prefer to do my own house maintenance, especially since my house has a low pitch roof and isn't all that far off the ground (one story), but if I can't get used to it, I guess I'll hire someone.

A. Spruce
Re: Ladder Safety -- Roof Access

It is best to access the roof from a gable rather than a gutter line. You can too easily damage the gutter, especially now-a-days with the use of aluminum seamless gutters which are extremely fragile. It's actually easier to make the transition back and forth when you're stepping sideways onto the slope, the ladder is already angled a little bit towards the slope, so it makes the transition a little closer than trying to step behind the ladder.

I wouldn't recommend connecting to gutter supports either, while they do a great job of holding gutters in place, they are not designed for side loading, which is what you're doing when you tie a ladder off to them. If one of the gutter supports comes unhooked from the gutter you can all too easily find yourself in a pile on the ground with the ladder and gutter laying neatly on top of you.

Another tip that can make ladder transitions easier is if you can set them in a valley section of the roof, where you step directly to the side of the ladder. You just have to be slightly more careful that you don't push the ladder away from you as you do it.

Finally, while we can appreciate you liking to do your own maintenance and repairs, keep in mind that a trip to the ER is far more expensive than hiring a licensed and insured professional for more dangerous things that you're not really comfortable with.

Stay safe! :cool:

Re: Ladder Safety -- Roof Access

If the only place to put the ladder is against a gutter, I always place the ladder where there is a gutter nail. This way I don't damage or dent the gutter.

When you reach the top and put one leg on the roof, your other leg and weight are still on the ladder. Quickly shift your weight to that leg and step up - and you're on the roof.

If you have a block wall around your house, you may want to practice on the fence.

Spruce, I wish you and everybody else a nice and safe labor day.

Re: Ladder Safety -- Roof Access

It's a little hard to describe, but if you want to set up a ladder on a gable end against the sloping edge of the roof, you don't want the ladder rungs to be parallel with the wall (as you would leaning it against the gutter). Doing so may cause the ladder to twist, lose stability and fall sideways in the downslope direction of the roof.

Instead, you want the rungs to be at a slight angle to the wall (though still level -- your ladder rungs must always be level!). The idea is that when you pull the ladder away from the roofline (with the feet firmly on the ground) and return it, you want the rails to touch the roofline at the same time.

You can test the stability of your ladder setup by placing one foot on the bottom of the ladder, and slowly tilting the ladder away from the wall until it is standing nearly straight up. The rungs must be level and the rails must be plumb side-to-side; if they lean when you pull the ladder away from the wall, you must reposition the ladder. Gently return the ladder against the wall. The rails must meet the wall at the same time; if not, you must reposition the ladder. This will test that both feet are evenly and firmly planted on the ground, and that there will be no twisting which could cause a foot to come off the ground.

If you have a hard time telling whether the angle is correct, just look at the rungs. The flat part on top should be level.

You should ALWAYS test the stability of the ladder, even if you have a helper holding it to give you confidence. (I'm not a big fan of having someone hold the ladder; for some reason it makes me more nervous. But then, I've never had a fear of heights.) Once a ladder starts going, it's unlikely that a helper could stop it anyway; at least make sure they have a phone to call 911. :D

Re: Ladder Safety -- Roof Access

Here is the ladder safety video I was referring to:


I wrapped a couple of bungee cords around one of the gutter supports as he shows in the video.

To express my concerns another way, I am not afraid of heights. At the same time, I am not someone who would feel comfortable jumping out of a perfectly good airplane -- even with a parachute and all the appropriate safety precautions taken. I have no idea what it feels like to skydive, but I imagine that this ladder transition thing feels a bit like it. :)

My previous home was a townhouse, and the roof was easily 50+ feet off the ground. When I needed some roof repairs, I didn't think twice about hiring someone. Now, I am in a one story home with a roof that is perhaps 10-15 feet off the ground. Unfortunately, the easiest (and lowest) way to get on the roof has a gutter in the way.

I am sure that this can be done. It is just a matter of getting used to it.

A. Spruce
Re: Ladder Safety -- Roof Access

While I'm a proponent of ladder safety, I don't agree with the guy in that video. Tying off to the gutter is a bad idea! Gutter spikes are more stable than gutter ties, but the average DIY'r isn't going to know that. The difference is that a spike goes through the gutter and into the fascia or rafter tail behind, so it should be fairly stable, a gutter tie just interlocks into the folded lip of the gutter, again, with the prevalence of aluminum gutters, I would NOT trust my safety to one.

The thing is, you don't know the integrity of that gutter spike or tie, the last thing you want to happen is have the ladder shift and either lose your tie off point or damage the gutter, let alone fall.

Secondly, you NEVER want to nail a 2x into the surface of the roof, you're only going to cause an entry point for water, no matter how many nails you put back into the hole you created and how much caulk you smear over the top of it. If you MUST spike a 2x into the surface like that, then the proper fix would be to lift the damaged shingle and put tar into the nail hole, then press the top shingle back down until the tar squirts out of the surface hole a little bit. I guarantee that this repair won't leak - ever - and will lay you very good odds that the other guys method will, only you won't know it until you see the roof sheathing full of rot damage. Also, if you do this every time you get on the roof in the same spot, you're going to destroy the water proof ability of the roof no matter how well it's resealed when the spikes are pulled. Other issues with driving nails like that is that unless the roof sheathing is substantial, there's very little grabbing power there, and, wherever nails poke through the other side you'll have holes or blow-out.

Re: Ladder Safety -- Roof Access

preach it brother spruce, preach it

he is correct on that, a good portion of the how-to videos you find on the internet are terrible. just one persons way of trying to correct something, most times they arent tradesman or have much experience in the first place. if i do watch a how to video 99% of the time its been published by taunton press, the guys who make finehomebuilding magazine and the "by pros for pros" books

Re: Ladder Safety -- Roof Access

jkirk, you're right about those "how to" vids. Some of them are simply dangerous, and should not be allowed on YT.


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