Home Ladder Safety With DIY Roofing Projects
At NIR Roof Care, we always stress the importance of safety first in the workplace. Being in the roofing industry puts us in harm’s way every day and creates a higher probability of accidents. However, while we stress to our customers to leave it to the professionals, there are times at home that you may have to clean the gutter, make your way up into the attic, or paint your house’s fading exterior.
NIR Roof Care wants to make sure that you know DIY at-home safety practices, so you don’t get hurt. Take a moment to review our ladder safety tips, so you can follow best practices for home safety with DIY projects that require you to get on the roof or use ladders. We’ll cover everything you need to know about extension ladders and stepladders. If you find you need help with a roofing project along the way, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free quote!
Extension Ladder Safety
A 24′ extension ladder is the correct choice for most of these kinds of projects; lean one up against the house extended all the way, and it’ll probably touch the gutters, no problem. However, if you’re performing a DIY job at home with safety best practices in mind, you’ll want to take a moment to educate yourself about how to practice safety first when using an extension ladder.
Choosing an Extension Ladder
When exiting the ladder on a climb to the roof, the ladder rails should extend a full 3′ past the height you’ve climbed. This allows you to have the rails within reach, so you can hold on to them and have a rung very close to the edge of the roof as you transition between the ladder and roof and back again. On most two-story homes, this can only be done with a 28′ extension ladder. (This 3′ extension rule also holds true indoors and for shorter heights like one-story dwellings; you’ll just need a shorter ladder.)
Alternatively, if you have no plans to get on the roof, a 24′ ladder will typically get you to the eaves of a two-story house for painting, window repair, and other items along the sidewall. However, it’s not unheard of for folks to misuse ladders when unintended situations arise. “Nah, I’ll never need to go on the roof,” you think until a hurricane deposits a tree branch there, or blows off shingles, so it’s raining in your bedroom. Next thing you know, you’re bouncing up your (undersized) ladder because it’s an emergency. If there’s a scintilla of a chance you’ll go topside, our advice is to buy up. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Tips for Using Extension Ladders
Here are a few of our favorite tips for using extension ladders. This isn’t a complete safety first checklist, nor does it cover every situation. For complete information on the situations and ladders you have, check your ladder’s manufacturer’s guide for specifics on home safety with DIY projects.
How to Move a Ladder
It seems a little counterintuitive, but it’s easiest to carry an extension ladder vertically. Tilt it up from the ground, putting the ladder on its feet. Next, reach down with one hand to grab the rung below your hip, and up with the other hand to grab the rung above your head. Then, lift to carry the ladder. Because you’re holding the ladder vertically, when you reach your destination, all you have to do is put the feet down and lean it against the building.
Before you go anywhere, however, map your route and plan accordingly. While bumping tree branches is frustrating, bumping the electric supply line to the house is terrifying, if not deadly.
There’s a simple science to positioning the ladder against a building at the proper angle for optimum safety. If you can stand with your toes at the ladder feet and reach straight out with your hands to touch the rungs with your fingertips, you’ve got the right angle. If not, adjust until you can.
- On uneven terrain, you need to block up one of the ladder’s feet, so it’s plumb. The wider and more stable the item (think a 2 instead of a brick), the safer you’ll be. Alternatively, there are several ladder-leveling accessories on the market. Remember that whether the ground is level or not, the ladder rungs need to be level for maximum safety.
- In wet, muddy terrain, kick the ladder’s feet parallel with the rails and drive them into the mud before angling the ladder against the building. (Sometimes, you’ll need to lean the ladder on the building—lift it a little, and roll the feet with your hand.) Some feet have spikes or cleats to help them dig in.
When you’re on a ladder, follow the belt-buckle rule: Always keep your buckle between the rails. No matter how tempting it is to stretch a few more inches to paint that siding, keeping your buckle between the rails helps keep you balanced and in control.
Step Ladders Safety
Stepladders are front-line home improvement tools and one of the most misused. A 4′ or 6′ step ladder will get you to the ceiling of an average home for anything from repairing lights to installing crown molding to hanging pictures.
They work well as a team, too. For example, a 6′ step ladder is too tall and its leg-spread is too wide to fit within a door frame to set casing, while a four-footer isn’t tall enough to reach a 10′ ceiling to hang a ceiling fan. We’ve found that having both help us all over the house.
Purchasing a Step Ladder
When buying a step ladder, the rule of thumb to keep in mind is that your feet will stay about 2′ below the ladder’s nominal height. For example, a 6′ step ladder gets your feet about 4′ above the ground. Add your own height to that number for a real picture of where the ladder will get you.
The danger people usually run into with step ladders is that, despite written warnings, they insist on using the “THIS IS NOT A STEP” rung. Using this rung to reach porch gutters or trim a branch often results in meeting the ground at a high rate of speed.
Specialty Ladders & Accessories
A basic step ladder or extension ladder will usually get you where you need to go. However, because they have fixed legs and/or heights, they have their limits, which has paved the way for articulating ladders and other versatile accessories.
For example, the Select Step step ladder (from Little Giant, who pretty much invented articulating ladders) features independently telescoping front and rear legs, which let you work efficiently in all kinds of situations. Personally, we use these all over the place, from leaning the ladder snug against the wall to install a porch light, trimming a tree branch on uneven terrain, or cleaning the second-story gutters from our porch roofs. Make sure to adjust the legs in each situation, so the ladder stands close to how it would in normal use.
For a different take on the extension ladder, Extend and Climb has a series of compact, telescoping ladders good for any number of jobs. They get you where you’re going, then retract into a compact, easy-to-carry, easy-to-store package.
Reaching the top means using the right ladder the right way. Just about everything you need to know about your ladder’s safety first best practices is printed on it. Read every label, and it will help you set up your ladder and use it properly every time, ensuring home safety with every DIY project.
While most major manufacturers now make an articulating ladder, sometimes what the doctor ordered is a ladder accessory. Base Mate’s Professional Ladder Stabilizer attaches to your existing extension ladder, enabling you to adjust it easily and safely to accommodate uneven terrain. Rubber bumpers and stand-offs like Werner’s QuickClick let you prop an extension ladder more gently or away from the home, so you can span a window or keep from crushing gutters.
Explore Our Other Helpful Reads About All Things Roofing!
Now that you’ve read our DIY at-home safety tips for roofing jobs and ladder use, take a moment to explore our blog for dozens of helpful reads about roofing. From our overview of the dangers UV light poses to your roof to our guide on preventative maintenance for roofs, you’ll find all the info you ever needed to know about caring for your shingles and beyond.
If you ever need an inspection or repair on a commercial roof, be sure to reach out to NIR Roof Care for a free quote. Since 1987, NIR has provided exceptionally affordable, effective, and efficient roofing services to businesses in greater Milwaukee, Madison, Beloit, Chicago, Rockford, and Joliet. We look forward to helping you keep your roof in tip-top shape for years to come!