Performing minor repairs and maintenance to your roof is very possible, but you need to work safely and if possible work with a helper. Using the correct tools and equipment is an important part of working safely. Have a look at our guides if you are looking for advice on Repairing Roof Felt or Flat Roofing Materials.
Whenever you are working on a roof, you must use a roof ladder. A roof ladder features a large hook and a set of wheels at one end, allowing you to roll it up the roof without shifting any tiles and then flip it over so that the hook catches on the ridge. You can hire roof ladders fairly cheaply, or you can buy a hook and wheel set which can be attached to a standard ladder. You must make sure the roof ladder is long enough to reach from the ridge to the gutter, so that transferring from the upright ladder to the roof ladder is a safe as possible.
When choosing a ladder with which to reach your roof, you need to make sure that it is at least 500mm longer than the height you need (normal ladder rules apply: make sure the angle of the ladder is at least 1m out for every 4m up the wall). You can buy an attachment called a stand-off bracket which holds the ladder out from the wall and avoids you having to rest the top end against the gutter.
An alternative to using a ladder is to hire a lightweight scaffold tower. This should help you to feel a lot more secure, but you need to make sure that it is erected according to the instructions and that any bracing legs and supports are fitted correctly.
Like a large set of snips, slate cutters are used to slice off the edges of slates so that they fit at the edges of the roof. Practice on a couple of old slates before trying to cut new ones.
A slate ripper is a large, thin-bladed chisel used for cutting the nails which hold tiles in place on the roof. The thin blade is slipped under the tile and the hooks on either side of the blade are hooked around the nail. A sharp pull or hammer blow away from the tile will then cut through the nail and the process can be repeated for the second nail holding the tile. The tile can then be pulled loose.
Also called a Seam Chisel, the plugging chisel is designed to remove the mortar from between bricks or other pieces of masonry. The blade is fluted to allow the easy removal of debris.
A rubber mallet (or other soft-faced mallet) can be used both for tapping tiles into place and for shaping sheet metal or lead flashing. Rubber mallets are particularly useful when renewing a valley between two sloping roofs.
The perfect tool for cutting through any lead, zinc or sheet metal you may need to use when making repairs to your roof. Tinsnips are available in several sizes, but generally the longer the better as the longer ones give you greater cutting power.
Working on roofs safely
If possible, always work with a partner. Your helper can both help to steady ladders, etc, and also speed the job up by being ready to pass you tools and materials. Even if you’re working on a lower roof, such as when replacing shed roof felt, you should be careful when on a ladder.
Buy or hire a purpose-made harness and secure it to a firm point such as a secured roof ladder or chimney stack.
Think about where you will hold your tools when not using them. A purpose-made tool belt, a tray attached to the ladder or a sturdy bag slung across your chest.
If you need to get rid of debris from a roof, lower it to the ground in a strong bucket or sack, securely tied to some heavy rope. Dropping debris off of a roof could easily injure someone below and also cause damage to things it hits.