How To Secure a Ladder To a Roof Safely: 4 Easy Steps

Doing roof work is often exhausting and very time-consuming labor, so you’ll want to waste as little time as possible setting up your ladders and making sure everything is safe. Sometimes you can accidentally skip or improperly do a step in the setup process, so here’s a quick guide on how to attach a ladder to a roof.

To attach a ladder roof, find a place along the roofline with a gutter and flat ground below. Place the ladder’s base one foot away from the house for every 4 feet of height and carefully lean it into position. Use wood or rocks to stabilize the ladder on the ground and a bungee cord to secure the top to the gutter.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the steps you can take to safely and quickly set up a ladder to get on a roof, how to ensure your ladder doesn’t slip or wobble, how to set up a ladder to get from one roof to a higher roof, and much more.

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How To Set Up A Ladder To Get An A Roof

There is a lot to consider, and it can be somewhat nerve-wracking to ensure everything is safe and secure when attaching a ladder to a roof. For the safety of yourself and your property, it’s essential to take it slow and make sure everything is properly in place before ascending a ladder.

Below I’ll walk you through a simple step-by-step process that you can follow when setting up a ladder to get onto a roof to ensure you find the best place for it, set it up properly, and adequately stabilize it at its base and top.

1. Find An Appropriate Area Of The Roof

When setting up a ladder to climb onto a roof, the first thing to do is find the right spot to attach the ladder to the structure. When looking for a good location, there are two areas where you must look: the roofline and the ground.

Ideally, find a spot along the roofline that has a securely attached gutter. If there is no gutter where you want to place your ladder, ensure the area doesn’t have any rot damage on the eaves or that anything is loose along that section of the roof.

The ground in the area where you want to set up your ladder should be very flat and firm. Don’t try to set up a ladder in soft dirt, garden beds, recently disturbed earth, mud, or anywhere else that is not flat and solid.

If there are large rocks, sticks, debris, or other objects in the area where you want to place your ladder, take the time to remove them. Even small things on the ground can make a ladder wobbly and cause it to be unbalanced and even fall.

2. Situate The Ladder Into The Appropriate Position

Once you’ve found the ideal spot for your ladder and have done some work to get the area ready, it’s time to set everything up. 

Most people will want to use either a step or extension ladder to get onto their roof. It depends on which one you have available, but step ladders are a set height, so they may be too short to get onto some roofs. Ideally, you should get an extension ladder so you can adjust it to be the perfect height for your particular situation.

A good rule of thumb is to position your ladder’s base 1 foot away from the house for every 4 feet of height. 

According to Bob Vila, most standard ceilings are 9 feet tall, so the edge of the roof is usually not much different (depending on the length of the eaves, trim, and overhang). 

Here are some common roof heights and how far the base of your ladder should be from the house: 

Distance from the Ground to the RoofLadder Base Distance from House
9 feet2 feet and 3 inches
10 feet2 feet and 6 inches
12 feet3 feet
16 feet4 feet
20 feet5 feet

You can bust out your measuring tape to measure the distance from the ground up to the edge of the roof, or you can just estimate the distance. Ladder rungs are typically 1 foot apart, so you can lean your ladder up against the house and count how many rungs it takes to get to the roof.

If you have an extension ladder, position it to extend 3 feet above the roofline. Doing this will make it easier to climb onto the roof and make the whole ladder more stable.

3. Stabilize the Ladder from the Ground

If you’ve picked an excellent spot to put up your ladder in Step 1, there won’t be much you need to do to stabilize your ladder on the ground. If you follow the 4:1 ratio mentioned above and choose a flat, solid location, most ladders won’t budge.

Even if you find the perfect location to put up your ladder, you may want a little more stability just for extra safety. Ladder ground stabilizers like Ladder Lockdown are great. They allow you to create a grippy surface for your ladder to help stop shifts and help prevent situations where your ladder slides out from underneath you.

If you have no other options, you can use 2×4 wood to level a big piece of plywood to form a platform for your ladder. It’s imperative to make sure anything you put your ladder on is exceptionally stable and won’t shift once you put your weight on it. Never try to use cinder blocks, bricks, rocks, or small pieces of wood to stabilize the base of a ladder.

4. Climb Up The Ladder And Secure It To The Roof

Once you’ve correctly set up your ladder and done any stabilization that you need to on its base, you’re ready to climb up the ladder and secure it to the roof. At this point, the ladder should be pretty stable, and this last fastening is just for an extra bit of safety.

There are two main options for securing the top of a ladder to a roof: a cord or a specialized device.

If a gutter runs along the roofline where you are setting up a ladder, using some type of cord to attach the top of the ladder to the roof will be your best option. Tie one end of the line onto the top rung of the ladder, loop it around the top rung and the gutter, and securely tie it off. 

You can use almost any strong cord, but below are a few of the most popular cord options for securing the top of a ladder to a roof:

  • Bungee cord
  • Sturdy rope
  • Parachute cord
  • Strong wire

If there isn’t a gutter running along the roofline, or you want to use something other than a cord, you can go for a ladder stabilizer or hook. Ladder stabilizers attach to the top of a ladder and stabilize it by providing a larger surface area contacting the roof.

Whichever option you choose, make sure everything is secure, so your ladder won’t shift laterally or slide out from under you.

How Do You Keep Ladders From Slipping?

According to the CDC, 43% of all fatal falls involve a ladder. For construction workers, this number jumps up to 81%. All of this to say, ladder falls are more common than you might think and extremely dangerous.

Reckless behavior and not paying attention cause many ladder accidents, but wobbling and slipping ladders are also significant concerns. So what can you do about stopping your ladder from slipping or wobbling?

It primarily comes down to two main factors: location and stabilization.

  • Picking a solid, flat place to put up your ladder should be your number one priority. Never use small objects under the feet of your ladder to help stabilize it; they will end up slipping, and the whole ladder will come tumbling down.
  • Securing the top of the ladder using a stabilizer or cord is also crucial. Lateral movements to the side often happen, so securing the top of the ladder to the roof will help mitigate the chances of it happening.

There’s no way to 100% guarantee that your ladder won’t slip or wobble, but the more time and effort you put into making everything sturdy, the safer you will be. Always work calmly, slowly, and deliberately when putting up a ladder, climbing one, or working on a roof.

Using A Ladder To Climb From A Roof To A Higher Roof

Many residential homes have a single-story portion (usually an attached garage) and then a part of the home that is two stories tall. Once you’ve used the above steps to get onto the lower portion of the roof, you may need to get onto the higher part.

Attaching a ladder to a roof to get onto a higher section of the roof can be tricky and dangerous, so if you’ve never done it before, it’s usually best to call in a professional who will know what they’re doing and have the proper safety equipment.

Equipment Needed

To stabilize and set up a ladder on a roof, you’ll need to following essential equipment:

  • Two extension ladders (step ladders won’t work)
  • A PiViT LadderTool
  • A ladder hook
  • Lots of towels or canvas
  • Harness and safety equipment

How To Get A Ladder On A Roof

Getting your two ladders onto the roof can be tricky, so it’s essential to make sure your ladder going from the ground to the first roofline is sturdy. Ideally, have someone on the roof help lift the ladders, but if you’re by yourself, you’ll need to carefully pull them up the ladder that’s on the ground and onto the roof.

How Do You Stabilize A Ladder On A Roof?

Here’s how you stabilize a ladder on your roof in three steps.

  1. To stabilize a ladder on a roof, first lay down your towels or canvas to avoid any accidental scratches to the roof.
  2. Attach a ladder hook to the top of one of your extension ladders, hook it to the peak of the lower roof, and lay the ladder down on one side of the roof. Everything should be an appropriate distance from the higher roofline according to the 4:1 rule previously discussed.
  3. Next, install your PiViT LadderTool on one of the laying-down ladder’s rungs. Make sure everything is sturdy, and then lean your second extension ladder against the upper roofline and use the PiViT tool as a surface for the ladder’s base. Secure the top of the second ladder to the upper roofline, and everything should be sturdy and secure.

Safety Tips

Stabilizing and attaching a ladder to a roof is very tricky, and innumerable things could go wrong. Below are a few of my best safety tips for doing the job correctly and safely:

  1. Make sure the roof hook attached to the roof’s peak is very secure
  2. Work slowly and make sure everything is sturdy before continuing on
  3. If the roof is 10 feet or higher, make sure to wear a securely attached harness for safety

Final Thoughts

Securely and safely putting up a ladder, whether on the ground or the roof, is an essential job that can result in disaster if you don’t do it correctly. Make sure your equipment is in good shape, pay attention to your ladder’s weight capacity, and work slowly to help mitigate any accidents resulting from being in a rush or carelessness.

If you cannot find the proper equipment or a suitable location for setting up a ladder, it’s better to postpone the job than attempt to make it work with what you’ve got. Always play it safe and make sure everything is safe and secure before putting your weight on it.

Sources:

How to Attach a Ladder to a Roof

Don’t Be an Idiot: How to Use Any Kind of Ladder Safely

How to Properly Stabilize a Ladder

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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