DIY Roof Inspections and Maintenance: Will a Roof Support Your Weight?

January 8, 2021

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If you’re a homeowner keen on managing your own home repairs as much as possible, you might eventually start asking, can a roof support a person? This is a vital question as falling off a roof, or crashing through it to the attic below, is dangerous if not downright deadly! While your safety is important enough to consider staying off your home’s roof, note that it’s also easy to damage a roof during DIY inspections or repairs.

Roofs are designed to hold what are called live loads, which are temporary, and dead loads, or permanent weight such as from shingles and tiles and other construction materials. The amount of weight a roof can support depends on its construction materials and structural stability.

Before you head up to your home’s roof for an inspection or repairs, consider some important tips for ensuring your safety and for evaluating the roof’s structural stability. As with all home improvement projects, always put safety first; if you’re not sure of a roof’s condition or suspect it’s unable to hold your weight, call a roofing contractor near you. Their costs are well worth keeping you safe on the ground and avoiding added roof damage!

repairing a damaged roof in Fort Collins with our affordable roofing in Fort Collins

How Much Weight Can Your Roof Hold?

Shingled roofs can typically hold about 15 pounds per square foot, while sturdier metal and clay tiles might hold up to 27 pounds per square foot. This doesn’t mean that one square foot of roof space can only hold 15 pounds, as that weight is distributed over the roof’s entire surface!

This calculation means that every 100 square feet of roof space can typically hold about 1500 pounds. An average residential home usually has between 1500 and 1700 square feet of roof space, allowing that roof to support even a team of roofers!

Before you assume that it’s safe to walk on your roof, however, note that a roof’s surface is already supporting hundreds of pounds of roofing materials. Shingles might weigh up to 80 pounds per bundle, and it might take 3 bundles to cover 100 square feet of roofing surface, so your roof is already supporting up to 240 pounds of shingles alone on that 100 square foot surface.

Heavy snow and ice also add to the weight supported by a home’s roof, as do bundles of new shingles you might bring onto a roof with you for repairs! It’s also vital to avoid walking on a damaged, weak roof! Note some signs that your home’s roof might be too weak to support your weight:

1. Never walk on a sagging roof!

Sagging definitely indicates structural instability and weakness along a roof’s surface. Unfortunately you might not notice a sagging area while on the roof! Typically it’s easier to note uneven surfaces from the ground and even across the street. On the roof, you might notice discoloration or what look like water stains where a roof sags and pulls away from the surface.

A homeowner should also note the roof’s feeling underfoot. If areas seem spongy, soft, or otherwise anything but firm and solid, this often indicates sagging; avoid these areas and keep them clear of tools, new shingles, and other items.

roofing contractors in Fort Collins CO

2. Be mindful of cracks inside and outside the home

Cracked interior ceilings and floors and cracked interior and exterior walls indicate that something is wrong with your home! Interior cracks can result from plumbing damage and resultant water leaks, but a faulty foundation can pull on interior and exterior surfaces, resulting in cracks and other such damage.

A weak foundation also pulls on a home’s roof, resulting in weakness and structural instability. If your home has interior or exterior cracks along walls, floors, and other surfaces, avoid walking on the roof and call a roofing contractor near you for a needed inspection instead.

3. Leaks indicate a damaged roof

Plumbing damage can result in water stains along a home’s interior ceilings and walls, but those stains can also be the result of a roof leak! A leaking roof is a weak roof, so it’s vital you have a roofer check for cracks and other damage and then repair those leaks before walking on the roof.

Water-damaged roofing materials are also weak and prone to cracking. After checking for and repairing cracks, a roofer will need to check roof decking, felt, and other materials for needed replacing before it’s safe to walk on the home’s roof.

4. Be wary of unusual sounds on the roof

A cracked or otherwise damaged roof might make cracking sounds underfoot. Squeaking, groaning, and creaking also indicate movement of the roof’s structural materials. If the home’s roof is weak and damaged, you might also notice these sounds inside the home during high winds or strong sounds!

If you do notice any unusual sounds inside or outside the home, stay off the roof and invest in a professional roofing contractor instead. He or she should check for damaged joists as well as loose decking and make needed fixes before that roof can support your weight.

5. Harsh weather almost always weakens a roof

golf ball sized hail in Fort Collins

Strong storms, high winds, and hail especially all damage and weaken a roof quite easily. Even if you can’t see this damage, use caution when walking on a roof after a storm. Note if the roof seems brittle, is missing lots of shingles, or otherwise shows signs of damage and weakening. If so, stay off the roof and call a roofing contractor instead.

Is It Bad to Walk On Your Roof?

While a home’s roof can support a person and even a team of roofers, this doesn’t mean you should walk on it unnecessarily. Walking on a home’s roof degrades shingles, puts pressure on clay tiles, and can also damage metal panels.

If the roof is already weakened and damaged, walking on it can make that damage even worse! Your weight can easily dislodge loose shingles or split overly dry and brittle shingles. This exposes roof felt and decking, leading to more potential damage.

In some cases, walking on a roof yourself might void the warranty if roofing materials, or nullify a homeowner’s insurance claim for damages! If you walk on your home’s roof and dislodge or otherwise damage tiles and shingles, your insurance company might deny a claim for reimbursement and a shingle manufacturer not replace those tiles.

How Do You Walk on a Roof Safely?

When a professional roofer walks on a roof, he or she takes great pains to avoid damaging that roof as much as possible. They will usually wear rubber-soled boots, which provide needed traction without stripping tiles unnecessarily. Roofers will also walk softly yet deliberately, ensuring they have solid footing without putting added weight or stress on the roof.

Roofers also know how to inspect a roof visually, looking for loose granules, torn shingles, cracked tiles, and other such damage that mean unsafe footing. A roofer will also remove vegetation, dust, and other slick residues before walking on the roof.

Many roofers will also stretch ladders across a roof, allowing them to scale a steep pitch easily and without damaging roof shingles and tiles. To help protect your roof and keep it in good condition, avoid walking on it unnecessarily but call a trained contractor for needed inspections and repairs.

roofing contractor on laying shingles

Is It Okay to Sweep a Roof?

Now that you’ve reviewed some cautions about walking on a roof, you might wonder if it’s okay to sweep a roof. The short answer is that sweeping or brushing a roof can actually protect it, as long as you do this correctly! Sweeping and brushing remove heavy snow that can crack a weak roof, as well as damaging storm debris, bird’s nests and droppings, and other residues.

To avoid damaging a roof while sweeping or brushing it, ensure you use a tool made for roof cleaning specifically. These will usually have softer bristles or a rubber edge, to prevent abrasive wear on shingles and tiles. Avoid scraping the roof as you work, but use gentle pressure only to remove snow and storm debris.

For thick dirt, dust, and other residues you can’t clean so easily with a brush or other tool, rely on professional roof cleaning services. Soft wash pressure washing removes drying soot, twigs and leaves, and other debris, for a clean roof in good condition.

Is It Safe to Walk on Ceiling Joists?

If you’re a homeowner needing to access a home’s unfinished attic, it’s vital you exercise extreme caution. Ceiling or roof joists themselves are typically strong enough to hold your weight; however, walking across them is very tricky, especially if the attic is covered in fiberglass insulation.

Homeowners might find it safer to simply crawl across ceiling joists rather than walk. If you do walk on those joists, use a miner’s helmet or other light source you don’t need to hold, so you can grasp the rafters above firmly. Go slowly and ensure you have a solid footing underneath before you move forward.

Also, if the attic is covered in blown insulation or is so dusty and dirty that you can’t see properly, it’s best to stay out. You might assume there is a solid board underneath your footing, only to find that a joist is cracked or weakened, or that you’re walking on old drywall not secured firmly. To ensure your safety, rely on a roofing contractor near you for ceiling joist and roof rafter repairs.

A Word From Our Roofer Team

Fort Collins Roofing Company is proud to present this information to our readers and hope that you found it helpful. If you’re still wondering, can a roof support a person, it’s best to call a professional roofing contractor rather than risk walking on an unsafe roof and suffering a fall, or causing more roof damage! At Fort Collins Roofing Company, we offer a complete roof inspection for Fort Collins, Colorado, residents and stand behind all our work with a full guarantee you can trust. To find out more, don’t hesitate to use our contact form or call us today!

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