Home Inspector Stuck on Roof

In my over 40 years of inspecting residential & commercial dwellings, I’ve made stupid or foolish mistakes either trying to impress a client or Realtor OR because I simply did NOT wanta say NO … I’m not doing that. Some of these things (like trying to climb roofs that your roofer would not go on without toe blocks, a harness, etc) that could have gotten me killed or badly injured if it had gone south. Fortunately I was a halfway quick learner and quit that after my first 2-3 yrs.

Here is a link to a full TV clip of something that happened in St Louis yesterday that could have gone really bad.

https://www.kmov.com/news/crews-rescue-man-hanging-from-roof-of-south-city-home/article_abe599fa-9450-11e9-b36e-df610cbf9933.html?fbclid=IwAR1WGvJktxZjw9mHKp8M9pG9rP42W5zA4-az3tvdMvgpRlKTw6GwiDJiwRA

The house is at 3325 St Vincent in St Louis . Look at that roof on Zwillow or Google Earth. Looks like its about 3’-4’ of foundation out of the ground then its a 3 story house and a 8/12 - 9/12 pitch roof. The inspector said when the ladder went down his helper could NOT RAISE it alone. I USED to carry a 28’ and 32’ ladder. Either could be raised by 1 person. Inspectors name is Mark Goodman and I’ve heard from some of the other ASHI inspectors in the St Louis area that he has been the past chairman of the St Louis ASHI Chapter’s education committee. I met him briefly this past year at an educational seminar in Columbia, MO and I believe I heard he’s the current President of the St Louis ASHI Chapter. The video kept calling him a city inspector for some reason instead of a home inspector.

Anyway he’s very lucky as that would have been a real long way down with a hard stop at the bottom and you can be sure he’d of been hurt real badly or killed.

Its your life we’re talking about here … Know when to say NO and refer it to a commercial roofing contractor, etc

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My normal job is I work as an engineer on a tug boat doing harbor services (pushing massive ships around) and occasionally drive barges around. The weather where I work (Alaska) is some of the most dangerous in the world. Customers that want some cargo moved around want it NOW no matter what. We have absolutely zero problem telling these customers NO because of weather and it’s unsafe. They’re mad sometimes but it’s us who are putting our lives at risk while they’re cozied up at a desk. Saying “no” is second nature in my world for safety. I could care less what a client or a realtor want.

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Thanks for posting Dan. It is a good reminder for all.

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Hi Dan.
Reminds me of an Inspection I carried out this past December.
We were having extremely high temperatures in our Province (about 40 km from the Kruger National Park in South Africa) and it is a relentless, baking sun in the Southern Hemisphere - on that day probably about 48°C (118°F), and noted that there were some problems on the roof and a closer look was needed. I have almost given up roof walking - age, mobility and having some previous bad experiences - and was not wearing my “roof walking shoes”. These are shoes which have special rubber soles, and normally stick like the proverbial to an army blanket… The soles only last about 12 months and are only used on roofs. I have carried out literally thousands of roof inspections - walking - in my time (as an Insurance Assessor, doing about 10 roofs per day in peak season for 11 years) so this was nothing unusual. I work alone, and this particular dwelling was unoccupied, and reasonably isolated
Anyhow having climbed up the ladder in the most likely spot - one which won’t damage gutters or barge boards - I started up the roof. This particular roof has a pitch of 30°, and is of ribbed cement tile. Over time, I discovered, the worn-look was in fact pollution fall-out from nearby trees, plantations and dust. Having reached the ridge, I halted and tried to turn to get a view for my camera. Then it all “went South” !!!
I started slipping on the loose surface, and had to sit down to get some sort of grip - sound familiar to many of you?
Well, the surface temperature of the tiles at that time was probably closer to 65°C (149°F), and my hands and butt were starting to burn, and blister. I have particularly dry hands and skin, so the grip I was trying to gain was paltry, to say the least. Halfway down, after giving a bit of saliva and sweat from my dripping face to my palms - one at a time - I halted my downward journey. The ladder was directly below me, and the guttering was PVC - not exactly any sort of resistance to a 110kg (242lbs) load on its way down!! The saliva and sweat, having given some purchase, also formed a perfect contact to the tiles, which needless to say, was not pleasant. I then very carefully, worked my way down in this manner, as my shoes were worse than useless as a braking system. This took the best part of 20 minutes, and I was on the back section of the dwelling, overlooking a timber plantation - nice and quiet, so nobody could see my plight from the front, or the road. I could not get to my phone, as that would mean releasing one hand for a period of time, and maximum grip was all-essential.
Having reached the ladder leaning against the gutter brackets (unsecured mind you!!) I now had to swing my bulk up and over the top of the ladder to stand on the rungs - another 5 minute exercise!
I finally reached terra firma, was never more pleased than being able to sit with wobbly legs in my air conditioned car, with a half-frozen bottle of water (always travel with one in my cooler box in this weather. The ice cooled my blistered hands which were raw for the next week.

Lessons to and old fool:

  1. Follow the safety rules, as set out in the courses.
  2. Do not operate in isolated areas alone
  3. Get over yourself and your ego in thinking that you are still 18 - 63 is “getting on”, especially if you are unfit, overweight etc.
  4. Look at alternatives - I subsequently purchased a drone, and once I qualify for my RPL, I will complete the InterNachi Drone course and continue from the ground.
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Thanks for sharing the story Robert. I do not envy you inspecting in your hot climate!

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