To walk or not to walk....

I’m new to the inspection business and am trying to figure out all of the equipment that I need to get together. I’ve read several articles on here that are either for or against walking on the roof. One of my friends is a realtor and he seemed less than impressed and said his clients are less than impressed with an inspector that only looks at the roof with a good pair of binoculars. Is this pretty standard across the board? Here in Kansas City there is a wide array of roof pitches. I’m thinking a pair of cougar paws for the ones I’m comfortable with and a ladder on the eaves with binoculars for the ones I’m not. IMO it doesn’t seem worth it to spend a ton of money on good climbing equipment to keep from falling off a step roof when I could probably achieve the same result by looking at the roof from the eves. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

I walk the roofs I consider safe to do so. I’m not risking my life to try an impress a realtor. The rest I view from the eaves, binoculars and ladder. I need to get a pole for my camera too… Some guys have started using drones.

Follow your gut if it does not feel right don’t walk it. I been at it 18 years and there are very few I don’t walk you just can not see all the problems from the ground or the drip line

I walk roofs and have a 24" ladder on my truck.

Anything over 6/12 I think about depending on if thei
r cut up or not.

9/12 I say forget it.
I have heard a few guys say they walk them all but then they say they have only the telescoping ladder which goes up 17’ I believe. That won’t do 2nd story homes.

Camera poles, drones, binoculars are all good tools to have.

I say do what your comforable doing, ain’t worth $350/ $400 if heights make you nervous. When I was young I scampered any roof like a squirrel.


I get asked once a month if I walk roofs or not. I also inspect 50-100 houses each year that I won’t walk due to snow, rain, frost, pitch, etc. None of those clients complain one bit.

If I were you I would at least do the really low slope ones so you can advertise that you do walk roofs.

There are a lot of flat roofs here in Baltimore, I use a spectoscope on those.

Most pitched one story roofs I’ll get on.

2 story pitched I use binoculars.

Never had a compliant.

I’m sure the Man with the Red Hat will chime in on this one!
And if I lived in his neck of the woods with hail storm damage being
a fairly common occurrence I would probably git up on more roofs too!

I do some, and not others. I tell folks, I will go up if it is safe for me, and my LG ladder reaches. Never a complaint that I’m aware of. There are many guys here that never go up.

Basically, if I feel safe I go, if not I try to at least get to the edge and look, if not I have binoculars too.

We have a ton of homes built in the 90"s with what I call wasted attic space 12X12 pitch I don’t walk them I crawl them but they must have the proper valley. I still like the adrenalin rush its like riding horses in Co on narrow trails that drop 2000 feet to the bottom

All it takes is once; and your done.

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We have a couple issues up here that make some roofs difficult for inspection. The latest subdivisions have 2 story homes built 8 feet apart with a fence down the middle between the homes. Even though my 26’ LG can reach the eaves on the sides, the angle is so steep the roof can’t be accessed safely. And then even if the fence isn’t there the space to get that ladder to full height is on top of vegetation / landscaping. And usually the gable front end over the garage is too high with the garage bump out getting in the way.

And then there is the almost always present, wet moss. It makes for a fun skating rink on anything over a 5/12 especially during the 7 months a year it rains and the surface is always wet.

Almost bought a bucket truck at an auction the other day. Sure would have made things easier.

Here is one for you Tommie yesterday’s inspect had to take the ladder up on the stoop above the front porch and straddle the ridge cap with the ladder to even reach the second level

Thanks for all the feedback guys! I appreciate it!

Thanks Charles!

I can’t remember what ladder(s) do you carry? Length?

My primary is a Werner reaches about 21 feet stretched out I also have a 27 footer for those old historical 100 year old monsters but I did not need it on the one in the pic

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I’m in KC. I started doing this part-time in 1976. Went full-time in 1983 or 1984.

When 2 roofers OR homeowner & roofer OR insurance company and roofer and/or homeowner disagree on Wood Shake / Shingle condition, installation, need for repair, etc …we often get called in by the Cedar Shake & Shingle Bureau to say whats right.

One of my inspectors has taught roofing courses at regional and national seminars for iNACHI, ASHI and NAHI. We’ve taught CE classes for FHA appraisers in MO & KS.

NOW … I walk some / I don’t walk some. Some I can do the inspection from my front seat as I pull in the drive they’re in such bad shape. Some are wet; VERY steep; OR covered with snow; etc… NO walkie.

I walk the roofs I consider safe to do so OR feel the need to walk. Others I don’t.

I’m not risking my life to try an impress a used house commissioned sales person… The rest I view from the eaves, binoculars and ladder. IF someone feels its ABSOLUTELY vital that the roof gets inspected from on top AND in MY SOLE OPINION its not SAFE for me or my guys to walk, I have 3 very generous options I give a REA or buyer:

a) Refund $35-$40 and let them get their own roof inspector & DISCLAIM it in report.

b) Offer to bring a sign truck out at their expense ($245 for travel + 1 hr) and let him lift me to eye level of the roof.

c) Offer to bring out our roofer ($155) and let him inspect it for them.

NEVER yet had someone move in and say we MISSED $%^##@ and roof leaks.

NEVER yet had someone (REA or Buyer) complain if we decide not to walk.

Since 1994 or 1995 in KC alone, we’ve had 5 major fall accidents from home inspectors trying to climb and walk what should not have been accessed by them

I’m respected and make > $200,000 a year even though I refuse to walk a 2 story roof. I only walk low-sloped roofs of 1 story houses when I feel its safe. I want to WALK my daughters down the isle (not have them push me in a wheel chair). Call me selfish.


I do not walk roofs as I have a licensed roofing contractor that does that for me and is included in the inspection fee. However, I do visualize from various vantage points as required in the SOP.

Thanks, in my neck o’ the woods, I used to carry a 28’ but that just wouldn’t do alot of the flat roofs round here! And according to OSHA ( not that we’re bound by them ) the tallest ladder handled by one person is 28’.

Using ladders should be done with the utmost respect and care each and every time IMHO.

The most useful and dangerous tool in our kits.

I have a non-HI friend, she’s an artist and she was using a ladder in her studio some months back to access some stored paintings. Yup, she lost her balance and fell off, maybe 6’ onto a concrete floor. Shattered one ankle, has had several operations. Lots of pins and screws. They became infected and she almost had her foot removed.

She going to be ok but it’s costing her months of recuperation and rehab and moolah and her ankle will give her grief for the rest of her days.

Tommie there is only one roof monkey I came from the industrial HVAC world where 75 % of all my work involved a ladder of some sort, some were building mounted straight up with no safety guards. I have attended more ladder safety courses than the law allows and am very comfortable using any kind of a ladder. Some guys have big Butts and were meant to stay on the ground and that is ok but some of us were meant to walk roofs, that is how it is in the wide open plains of Oklahoma:mrgreen::wink: