Tools for Climbing a Steep Roof

Jane Ann

Learn how to access your roof safely and save cash on bills for removing branches and moss, clearing gutters, repairing leaks and replacing shingles.

Caution must be taken when climbing steep roofs.

As a safety precaution, tools for climbing a steep roof must never be used when snow adds to the existing weight borne by the roof, as this causes the roof to weaken and even collapse, in some cases.


Wooden or aluminum extension ladders available in various lengths are sold at hardware stores. These are the tools most frequently used by homeowners for climbing a steep roof. To safely access your roof by ladder, set it up allowing a 1-meter overhang at the top of the ladder. Secure a ground-based ladder to any safe and sturdy structure, such as scaffolding, with rope to prevent accidents when stepping down onto it and hook a knee over a rung, if using both hands for tasks. Draw tools up to your position using a bucket on a rope, rather than carrying them up there with you. Ladders lashed in a grid formation across the roof offer you a place to sit and safer footing than walking on the roofing materials or on unsecured boards. The rungs on ladders tied across roofing sections are especially good for moving vertically up the surface, without damaging the shingles.

Climbing and Rappelling Gear

Climbing and rappelling gear, as well as fall-arresting anchors and harnesses, require a safe and strong anchor, such as scaffolding or a suitable tree nearby. A chimney is not a good place to tie on to, since it may not take your weight, especially on an older house. Under no circumstances attempt roof repairs if you suffer from dizziness, and be vigilant for changing circumstances, such as weather conditions. Once up there, sit down on the roof ridge or any available and safe surface and alert those on the ground near the roof or eaves to give the area a wide berth until while repairs are carried out. A selection of climbing gear is available from outdoor outfitter stores.


Scaffolding made from metal sections that slot together with planks laid on top offers a number of advantages as a tool for climbing steep roofs. Its sturdy nature, when properly erected, allows you to firmly tether ladders, boards and a safety rope handrail system to it. Disadvantages include the time and room required to install it. Scaffolding is available for rental from building yards.

Roof Jacks

Roof jacks made from thick steel are one of the best tools for climbing a steep roof. Pairs of these brackets are fitted on nails hammered into rafters, and then planks are laid between them.

Sets of brackets, combined with strong planks to create a work platform or a system of “steps” across a steep roof, is the system favored by professional roofers.