December, 2015

Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Safety Concerns Up on the Roof


A roof is probably one of the most dangerous sites to inspect. Although The ASHI School teaches students how to inspect roofs, we also want everyone to be aware of the safety concerns associated with inspecting a roof. Working in these high places on potentially slippery surfaces, home inspectors often are subjected to windy conditions and the forces of nature.

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) provides information and guidelines for the roofing industry. NRCA has a technical database to help workers find out anything they need to know about the roofing industry. NRCA’s mission is to help homeowners and building owners (and building inspectors, for that matter) make informed decisions about maintaining or inspecting their roofing system. For more details, visit

Here are a few suggestions and tips to remember when you are inspecting a roof:

Types of Roofs There are two basic kinds of roofs: flat and pitched (sloped). Most home inspectors should be trained to work with either kind of roof. Flat roofs usually are found in larger projects such as office buildings, and pitched roofs are more likely to be found on smaller buildings and personal residences.

Fall Protection
Each day that a home inspector goes to work on a roof, he or she should ask these questions before taking the first step:

Inspectors should follow exacting safety standards when working on a roof. Fall protection, such as the use of roof brackets on especially steep roofs, is recommended. Roof brackets are readily available at hardware stores.

The ultimate protective device for preventing falls is a safety harness. Many times workers are poorly trained or simply inexperienced on a roof. Using a proper safety harness (especially when inspecting a steep or slippery-surfaced roof) may mean the difference between a successful inspection and a disaster.

Electrical Safety
Electricity can leap or “arc” from a wire to a ladder several feet away. Make sure to use a non-conductive ladder made of wood or fiberglass when working near wires. Never touch electrical wires with your hands or with tools. Remember that metal materials such as flashing and drip edges should never touch electrical wires. Important note: If it’s necessary to inspect areas near electrical wires, call the power company first. The power company’s technician should inspect and insulate the wires, if necessary.

Asbestos Exposure
Until the past couple of decades, many roofing and siding products were made with asbestos. Inspectors can be exposed to harmful asbestos dust when working with these asbestos-containing materials. Handling or disturbing severely worn or damaged asbestos tiles, shingles or other products can allow the release of asbestos particles into the air and into your breathing zone.

Most roofing and siding products today are made without asbestos, but older products that are found on many homes still may contain asbestos.

Remember, just having asbestos siding and roofing on a home does not pose a hazard to your health. Asbestos-containing roofing and siding that are in good condition are best left alone. However, damaged roofing and siding should be handled carefully.

Upcoming Classes at The ASHI School

January 4-15, 2016
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February 8-19, 2016
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