Is it OK to walk on a tile roof?
Whether a structure has an asphalt shingle, metal, clay or concrete tile roof, walking on the roof for seasonal inspections and cleanings is inevitable. However, when it comes to tile roofs in particular, there is a proper way to walk on the tiles in order to avoid damage.
Often times, roof tile manufacturers do not specifically warrant breakage due to foot traffic, so it is important that caution be exercised when doing so. Not only do you not want to break your roof tiles, but you also do not want to put your safety at risk. It is suggested that you hire a licensed and bonded roofing contractor to do the job.
If you choose to perform the task yourself, it is recommended to step at the bottom three inches of the installed tile when walking along your roof. This section is supported by the lapped tile beneath it and the weight is then transferred to the deck below. Orient your feet in a direction parallel with the ridge and try to distribute your weight evenly, walking as softly as possible. On high barrel tiles, such as Eagle Roofing Products’ Capistrano concrete roof tile profile, you should distribute your weight with the heel and toe on the high points of adjacent tiles. If tiles are broken, you’ll want to have them replaced as soon as possible to avoid damage to the underlayment from water intrusion and exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
You will also want to stay away from hips or valleys to avoid breaking cut tiles that could be more difficult to replace. The exception to this would be in situations where the hips and ridges are bedded in mortar or foam, in which case they may be preferred walking paths. Valleys may also be access paths if the tiles are cut away from the center of the valley wide enough to allow foot traffic on the metal valley flashing.
Getting on Your Roof Safely
Wait until the tiles are completely dry before getting on your roof. Tiles have a flat, smooth surface so they don’t offer a lot of grip when you step on them. Once tiles get wet, they become even slicker and could cause you to slip and fall. If it rained recently or your roof is wet for any reason, wait 1-2 days so the tiles have time to dry before you stand on them.
Never get on your roof while it’s wet since it increases the likelihood that you’ll fall down.
Wear soft-soled shoes to prevent damage to the tiles. Avoid wearing heavy shoes or boots that have a hard sole since they’re more likely to break tiles and you won’t be able to move around as well. Look for shoes that have soft rubber soles with grips, such as sneakers or light work boots, so you get better traction on the tiles while you’re walking on them.
Don’t wear open-toed shoes like sandals or flip-flops since they don’t offer protection if you accidentally slip or fall down.
Climb a ladder to access your roof safely. Choose a ladder that extends 3 feet (0.91 m) taller than the edge of your roof so you can climb it safely. Place the base of the ladder ¼ of its height away from your home and make sure it’s on level ground so it stays sturdy. As you climb the ladder, maintain 3 points of contact at all times so you’re less likely to lose your balance or fall down.
For example, if you have a 16 ft (4.9 m) ladder, you would place its base 4 feet (1.2 m) feet away from your home.
Ask a helper to hold the ladder in place while you climb it so it’s less likely to fall down.
Warning: Avoid standing on the top 2 rungs of the ladder since you could easily lose your balance and cause it to fall.
Use a safety harness if you have a steep roof. Safety harnesses anchor you to your roof so if you slip, you won’t fall all the way down to the ground. Put your legs through the loops on the safety harness and tighten them around your thighs. Put the top of the harness around your waist and tighten it so it’s secure. Tie a rope around a sturdy object on your roof, such as a chimney, to use as an anchor to break your fall.
- You can buy a safety harness online or from a home improvement store.
- You can also make your own harness with ropes.
- While you don’t need a safety harness for a roof with a gentle slope, you can still wear one if you want to reduce the risk of falling down.
- If you don’t have a chimney or sturdy object on your roof, slide 2-3 tiles on your roof up so you can access the rafters underneath. Screw a harness anchor onto the rafters and tie the rope to it.
Where Should I Step?
Knowing where to place your feet when walking on a tiled roof will help to keep you safe.
The majority of concrete roof tiles will be slightly lifted from the roof’s surface as they sit on top of wooden batten strips. This creates a space beneath the tiles to allow for better ventilation.
When you step on the roof tiles, ensure you’re stepping on the tile peaks rather than the valleys, and step on the part of the tile which is reinforced i.e. the lower part of the tile you can see.
Whenever possible, there are some key precautions that you should take. If you have a harness, you should always wear one, and make sure to have someone with you at all times who can get help should you have an accident.
Walking on a Clay Tile Roof Can Cause Significant Damage
Besides the danger of walking on an uneven surface, it’s easy to cause significant damage to your roof by walking on the tiles. If you weigh more than 100 pounds, the force of your weight alone can cause the tiles to crack and break. Clay, is fantastic for heat distribution and protection from the inclement weather during a storm in Georgia, but it can be brittle. A little bit of weight distributed incorrectly can mean the different between a dozen tiles that need to be replaced, and a roof that looks great. Of course, tiles breaking isn’t the only thing that can happen when walking on a clay tile roof. If the tiles weren’t installed properly, your feet could easily dislodge them, causing areas where rain or hail could potentially affect the underside of the roof.
Assess the Roof and Take Safety Precautions
If your roof has a steep pitch, you may want to avoid getting up there at all. Since clay and concrete tiles can break easily, you can also lose your footing easily and wind up injuring yourself from a fall. You may just want to save the trouble and call a professional if dealing with a sharper incline.
Wear a basic harness with climbing rope as well if you have it, just in case you do slip, and have an assistant nearby with a phone readily available so you aren’t alone if you do sustain an injury.
Find Your Path
Barrel and S-shaped tiles are costly to replace and can’t sustain weight very well, so it’s important that you have an idea of how to proceed before you ever set foot above.
There are a couple of different things to keep in mind. Roofing tiles usually aren’t backfilled, so there is no support underneath to take your weight. As such, do not step in the middle of a tile or it will definitely break. A better area to place your feet is actually where the bottom of one tile overlaps the top of another. This is a much stronger section that will be able to hold weight more reliably without incident. So, when you begin walking across your roof, make sure you take the most direct route to where you need to go and carefully make sure each step falls in the right spot.
Also, make sure that you keep an eye out for and avoid any tiles that appear to already be damaged. This may seem obvious, but even something as small as a hairline crack could cause the tile to break under your feet regardless of what you do to avoid it.
Distribute Your Weight
Another important thing to remember is that you will need to distribute your weight evenly between both feet. Whether you’re walking or standing as you conduct your work, make sure to stand on separate tiles as well.