I have always been terrified of going up on my roof. Today I decided that
was silly; people spend all day on them, how dangerous could it be. It was
something I had to get over.
Walking up the roof is actually pretty easy, but walking down it is not.
Walking forward I feel like I might fall, and walking backwards is really
clumsy. I think it is just harder to keep your weight over your feet going
down than up.
How is it best done?
Diagonally. No, seriously. When you are going downhill on anything over
about a 5/12 pitch, zig-zag down like a skier- it will be less scary. And if
you slip, you will fall on your side and butt, not forward.
What is your roof pitch? At my age, anything over about 8/12, I leave to
the pros. I also don't scoot along on my butt on the roof edge to clean
gutters anymore- I use a leaf blower from several feet back, or do it from a
ladder. The old inner ear told me there was just too much chance of tumbling
12/12, like on a cape cod, should always be left to the pros, both due to
the chance of injury, and how easy it is to trash the roof with the jacks
and safety gear.
That, and I heard from a Occupational Therapist that the nerves coming
from your feet and ankles don't transmit signals as well as they did 50
years back, giving you less feedback to help you balance.
I've started seeing how long I can stand on one foot while moving the
other foot around in a sort of circular pattern. When I first tried it
I'd have to put the raised foot down in a few seconds or fall on my ass.
After doing it for a couple of weeks I'm up to over 30 seconds now,
which the OT told me is about average for someone 30 years old.
I think that walking upstairs or up a slope is "easier" because you
realize that if you do fall forward it'll be a much "shorter" fall than
if you fell forward while facing down the stairs or slope.
And you have your hands to stop you and hold on.
When I'm really having trouble getting down a hill without slipping, I
turn and face the hill and get down on my hands and feet and walk
backwards down the hill on all fours.
My wife will not stand up on a roof. But she scoots on her butt and
can drag a 40 pound load with her. It does get expensive with her
buying new jeans after a couple of days because she wears the seat
So scoot on your butt.
It is harder. Also hiking on hills it's harder to go down than up. I
think you can practice in the hills or mountains near you. Safer than
a roof. It's also cooler there in the summer time. I'm serious.
On the roof, wear rubber soled shoes, ankle high, laced firmly. Gives
much greater stability, or the feeling of it.
Also, learn to tie a knot correctly. It turns out there are two ways
to tie ones shoes, and one way is wrong. The second overhand knot
should be tied in the opposite direction as the first overhand knot,
so that the resulting knot (below the bow) is a square not and not a
If you do that, your shoes won't come loose or untied.
I still can't tell if my second knot is opposite to my first or the
same, but I've reversed the direction of my second knot and it works a
I think most of what you feel is psychological than anything, but it really
depends on the roof pitch. I had the same basic concerns last year, did it
and found that on a shallow roof walking is no big deal. Think about it, do
you get that vertigo feeling when walking down a hill? of course not,
because there is land all around you, its only when there isn't anything
around you that you get all twitchy. I mountain climb religously, it took a
few months to get used to the lack of solid ground around you, but now free
climbing ledges isn't a big deal anymore - well I take that back, it IS a
big deal it just isn't phobic to me anymore.
For me the biggest problem I had was stepping off the ladder onto the roof,
I still have that problem and that same problem has prevented me from taking
difficult routes when mountain climbing.
Don't walk backwards, you will trip and fall.
Getting off the roof back on ladder is my Mr Yuk. Working on reroofing a
house now. Fortunately there is a one story roof below the 2nd floor
roof. Made ladder out of 2x4's. Used siderails that were 2-3ft higher
than eave and put no rungs above eave. Always go up and down between
I used to go up on my roof often, Today, I find it easier to write a check
to someone else. I've not been on mine since 2000 or so. If you have a
steep pitch, don't be afraid to just say you don't want to go up there and
stick to your word.
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