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Can You Walk on a Metal Roof? (& Live to Tell the Tale)

November 8, 2023

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can you walk on a metal roof

Metal roofs are renowned for their sleek, modern look. But those smooth metal panels that add architectural flair can transform into slippery sloped hazards in the blink of an eye. While metal roofs attract the eye from the curb, walking on one requires utmost care and preparation. 

Traversing the steep planes of a metal roof deck demands respect, caution, and the right equipment. Do so improperly, and you could quickly go from inspecting your roof to inspecting the ground below from a fast-approaching angle. 

Can you walk on a metal roof? You can walk on a metal roof if you take proper safety precautions. Still, it is inherently dangerous and should be avoided if possible.

So, if you decide to chance walking on your home's metal armor, make sure you take critical precautions. Your safety depends on having proper traction, equipment, and respect for the risks involved. With careful preparation and movement, you can walk a metal roof however we strongly advise against it. 

The Popularity of Metal Roofs

Metal roofs have become increasingly popular in recent years for custom roofing and design. With their sleek, modern look and touted durability, it's no wonder homeowners are drawn to them like ants to a popsicle that fell in the grass.

But that sleekness comes at a cost - metal roofs can be slippery! So, if you find yourself up on one, either by choice or circumstance, tread carefully. Like walking on ice, it doesn't take much to lose your footing. One wrong step, and you could be headed for a painful lesson in physics.

Roof Walking and the Dangers of Falling

Falling off a roof can lead to serious injury or death. The higher the roof, the greater the risk. Impacts from falls can cause broken bones, head trauma, organ damage, and more.

Even falls from single-story roofs can be dangerous. The slope of many roofs reduces your ability to control or slow a fall. Landing on solid ground or objects below can lead to severe injuries.

So, while metal roofs are architecturally appealing, they transform into menacing slips and slides when wet. Proper precautions are a must if you plan to walk atop one.

Traction Aids - Your Best Friends

Special roofing shoes with grippy soles are a must for walking on metal roofs. The deep lugs grab and hold to the metal surface. Roofing moccasins with rubber soles also work. Some roofers use slip-on rubber cleats that strap onto shoes.

Magnets offer another traction option. Powerful neodymium magnets on shoes can temporarily hold to metal roofing. But they tend to slide and let go, especially on steeply pitched roofs. Still, combined with a good grippy shoe sole, magnets provide an added measure of traction.

Crawling across metal roofs on hands and knees is also safer than walking upright. It gives you four points of contact versus just two feet. You spread out the load and lower the center of gravity.

Can You Walk on a Metal Roof? With Proper Precautions

Besides footwear, several other precautions can help prevent falls and injuries:

  • Don a safety harness and tie it off to a securely mounted anchor point
  • Work with a partner who can assist if you slip
  • Keep the roof surface clean and dry if possible
  • Avoid working in windy conditions
  • Walk uphill, stepping on the uphill edge of panels to avoid slippage
  • Stay away from peak caps and curved sections, which become skating rinks when wet
  • Take your time and move slowly and deliberately

Also, realize that even with precautions, falls can happen. So don't get overconfident. Respect the risk the roof presents and stay focused and alert. Don't let familiarity breeding contempt put you in harm's way.

fully equipped roofer on roof

To Walk or Not to Walk?

So, should you walk on a metal roof or not? Well, that depends.

If you're an experienced roofer using proper safety gear and techniques, it's certainly possible to traverse a metal roof safely. Roofers do it routinely. But it's not without risk.

For everyone else, consider whether it's absolutely necessary to walk on the roof. Oftentimes, the risks outweigh the benefits. Instead, view the roof from the ground or a window. Snap photos with a zoom lens. Or hire a roofer to do any up-close inspections or repairs that are needed.

But if you must go up, take it slow and use every precaution available. The right footwear, safety harness, and cautious movement will help ensure you live to tell the tale of your metal roof ramblings. With preparation and care, you can master the roof and survey your kingdom in relative safety. Just remember to respect the risk those shiny metal panels present. Take it slow, and be careful up there!

Common Reasons People Risk Walking on the Roof

While traversing a metal roof is best avoided, there are times when people feel compelled to chance it:

  • Inspecting or repairing leaks
  • Clearing debris
  • Retrieving items blown or tossed up there
  • Showing off one's daring and bravado
  • Chasing a pet or wild animal
  • Proving one's manhood or stupidity
  • Living dangerously, knowing the risks
  • Being dared or pressured by peers
  • Acting impulsively without thinking

Most seasoned homeowners know better than to walk their metal roofs. But teens and risk-takers sometimes accept the challenge. Peer pressure and booze provide bad judgment.

Even seasoned roofers occasionally slip and fall. So don't be fooled - walking a steep, slick metal roof is inherently dangerous. Take a pass if you can. If you must go up, use every safety precaution available.

Roof Pitch Matters

The slope or pitch of a metal roof also influences the risk. The steeper the pitch, the more slippery the surface. Some key angles to consider:

  • Low slope - 0° to 4° pitch. Easiest to walk but allows water to pool.
  • Moderate slope - 5° to 9° pitch. Becomes slippery when wet but sheds water.
  • Steep slope - 10° or greater. Hard to walk when dry, and extremely hazardous when wet.

As a general rule, metal roofs with a 4/12 pitch or less can be walked on safely with care. Anything steeper than 5/12 pitch presents a slippery risk when wet. At 10/12 pitch and above, it's extremely dangerous to walk the roof under any conditions.

So consider roof slope as well when deciding whether to walk or not. Flatter is safer, steeper is scarier. Use good judgment.

can you walk on a metal roof

"Get Down" - Safely Descending

We've covered techniques to walk up and across metal roofs safely. But what's the best way to get back down without turning an ankle or taking a nasty fall?

Here are some tips for safely descending a metal roof:

  • Ladder - Have one properly secured for climbing up and down. 
  • Walk downhill - Step on the downhill edge of panels to avoid slippage.
  • Back down - Turn around and back down on hands and feet for maximum grip and stability.
  • Slip-resistance rope - Tie one off and use it to grip and control your descent.
  • Body harness - Always wear one secured to an anchor point for fall protection.
  • Go slow - No hurry. Take your time and remain focused.
  • Keep metal debris on roof - Don't allow leftover materials to slide down and impede your descent.
  • Mind wind gusts - Strong winds up high can throw you off balance.
  • Avoid loose clothing - Shirts, jackets, or baggy pants that can catch and throw you off balance.
  • Wait out wet weather - Don't attempt to descend until the roof fully dries after rains.

Remember, going down is often harder than going up. So take it slow and use all available safety measures. Don't let your guard down until you're back on solid ground. A successful metal roof mission means up and down injury-free!

Emergency Tips If You Fall

As a final safety note, even with all precautions, accidents happen. So what should you do if you actually fall off a metal roof? 

Here are some tips to minimize injuries:

  • Relax - Yes, relax. Tensing up tightens muscles, resulting in greater injury.
  • Roll - If possible, roll with the momentum rather than resisting. Spread the impact.
  • Aim - Try to aim your body parallel to the ground rather than perpendicular.
  • Absorb - Allow muscles to absorb force rather than bones.
  • Tuck and protect - Tuck in arms and protect head before impact.
  • Land feet first - If possible, get feet under you to land upright.
  • Bend knees - Keep them bent on landing to absorb force better.
  • Check for injury - Once stopped, carefully check yourself for injury.
  • Seek help - Have someone call 911 if needed.

By following these emergency tips, you can minimize potential injuries should the unthinkable occur. But let's hope proper preparation and safety precautions keep you injury-free up there!

roofer on rooftop

Conclusion

So, in summary, metal roofs demand healthy respect and caution when working or walking on them. But with proper traction, safety gear, and careful movement, they can be navigated safely - just don't let your guard down! Stay focused and surefooted up there.

Admire that sleek metal roof from afar if you can. But if you need to walk it, use all precautions available. Take your time, be careful, and you can live to tell the tale - hopefully with photos to share, not just scars!

About The Boston Roofers

The Boston Roofers have over 20 years of experience installing and repairing metal roofs in the greater Boston area. Our seasoned crew knows how to safely traverse metal roofs to complete inspections, repairs, and maintenance. If you have a metal roof concern, don't risk walking it yourself - call The Boston Roofers at (617) 618-5791!

FAQs

Is it OK to walk on metal roof?

Walking on a metal roof is inherently risky and should be avoided if possible. The slick, steep surface can easily lead to slips and falls. However, with proper safety precautions like grip footwear, harnesses, and ropes, traversing a metal roof is possible. But only experienced tradespeople should attempt it, using extreme care and respect for the hazards involved. For most homeowners, inspecting or clearing a metal roof from the ground using binoculars or a drone is the safest option. However, with care and planning, crossing a metal roof briefly can be done without incident.

What is the best way to walk on a metal roof?

The best way to walk on a metal roof is to wear shoes with heavily lugged, grippy soles to prevent slipping. Magnets on shoes can also provide additional traction on the metal surface. Safety harnesses tied off to anchor points offer critical fall protection as well. Move slowly, take small steps, and walk on the uphill edge of roof panels to avoid sliding. Keep your center of gravity low by crouching down. Having helpers, ropes, and ladders ready provides vital assistance if you do start to fall. Following these precautions and moving deliberately with extreme care and focus make traversing metal roofs as safe as this risky activity can possibly be.

What are the best shoes for walking on a metal roof?

The best shoes for safely walking on metal roofs have heavily lugged rubber soles to grip the surface. Look for deep multidirectional lugs and channels that can grab and hold to the smooth metal. Roofing moccasins or leather boots with Vibram soles work well, too. Avoid smooth soles that can easily slip. Consider adding removable rubber cleats for extra traction. Magnetized shoes can also help adhere to the metal momentarily while striding. The key is footwear that maximizes surface contact and friction so you don't lose your footing up there on the steep, slippery planes.

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