Asphalt Tiled Roofs and Safe Roof Access
Roof shingle fragility and damage risks
Foot Traffic Damage to Roofs: Walking on some roofs causes damage as the photograph at the top of this page shows. That roof damage occurred when an inspector stepped on the fragile corner of an asphalt roof shingle. This pattern of breakage traced his footprints right up the roof to the chimney and back down the other side. These are the very “footprints of damage” which we have reported in some other articles on fragile, old, worn roof shingles.
This “failed” roof was not leaking until the fellow who was asked to inspect it walked across this fragile surface. From a ladder at the roof edge one could clearly see the virtual footprints of broken shingle edges where the “inspector” had walked. In this case the “inspector” was a roofing contractor who came back down to the ground and told the home owner that she needed a new roof right away.
She was upset because her ASHI-certified home inspector had said that the thought she could use the roof for another two to five years. Our opinion was that she did need a new roof very soon but that had not been the case until “bigfoot” had stomped all over it.
Worn out fragile roofs
The roof in the photograph shown here is one which is worn out, probably already leaking at least into the layers of roofing material, and it is so fragile that it should not be walked-on. I would stay off of worn, brittle, or cupped-shingle roofs, particularly in cold weather (shingles are more likely to break).
If we absolutely have to walk on such a roof, we would tiptoe carefully, avoiding stepping on the raised or cupped shingle sections, or if doing repairs, we would prop a ladder up off of the roof surface and work from that scaffold as is sometimes done with slate or other fragile roof surface repairs.
Personal Protective Equipment
At a minimum, safety wear should include
- Appropriate trousers – working on roofs means protecting legs from cuts, grazes and splinters, so shorts are not recommended.
- Protective footwear. Steel toecaps (or equivalent) are needed to protect against dropped objects. Midsole protection is needed to prevent puncture or penetration by nails and other sharp materials. Rigger boots should be avoided, as they can cause sprains and there have been reports of cement burns.
- High visibility clothing is needed on all construction sites where there are vehicles. However, it is good practice to wear it on all jobs.
- Safety helmets. There are two reasons to wear safety helmets when working on roofs. The first is to protect against anything that may fall off the roof, when climbing up or down, or when on the ground. The second is protection in case of a fall.
- Safety glasses should always be worn in situations where material is likely to fly into the eyes. This includes all cases where cutting or sawing is taking place.
Knee pads should also be considered, to protect the knees from strain and damage, due to compression and wear on the joint.
Tips for Walking On Your Roof
- Distribute your weight evenly
- Transfer your weight between your feet gradually as you walk
- Walk on the balls of your feet
- Never jump or leap from tile to tile
- Make sure you’re wearing soft-soled shoes with good grip.
Competencies to assess brittle roofing
It takes a high level of skill to assess the condition of a roof for stability and brittleness. Roof assessment should only be undertaken by a competent person.
A competent person should be able to:
- carry out their assigned duties at the level of responsibility allocated to them
- understand any potential hazards related to the work (or equipment) under consideration
- detect any technical defects or omissions in that work (or equipment) and recognise any implications for health and safety caused by those defects or omissions
- In this context, for assessing brittleness, a competent person is one who can demonstrate that they have:
- thorough knowledge of roofing and of the mechanical and physical properties and behaviour of the particular roofing material and methods of installation
- extensive knowledge and experience of installing the product the roof is made of, its usage limitations, behaviour, and mode of failure in service
- an understanding of the effects on the product the roof is made of ‘under test’ when purlin centres are increased and decreased, and the ways the roofing material could fail when the resulting structure becomes more or less rigid.
How Do Solar Panels Attach to My Roof?
Solar panels can attach to roofs in different ways. The attachment method used will depend mainly on the material and the pitch of your roof. In most cases, with the exception of standing seam metal roofs, solar panels are mounted with a system that drills into the rafters. Let’s Asphalt Shingle Roof: For asphalt shingle roofs, solar panels are attached with a standard penetrating mount, which is easy to install.
- Tile Roof: Solar panels can be installed on tile roofs with a standard penetrating mount that raises them above the roof. Attaching solar panels to a tile roof can require some extra labor since tiles may need to be cut or removed to make way for the mounts.
- Standing Seam Metal Roof: The raised seam allows solar panels to be attached with a clamp, so there’s no need to drill into the roof.
- Flat Roof: On flat roofs, either a ballasted racking or standard penetrating mount can be used to install solar panels. Tilt-up brackets are used to keep solar panels at a 30-degree angle.
Some homeowners may be concerned about drilling into their roofs. However, the stanchions used to mount panels to rafters are flashed, which keeps water from leaking into your home.