How to Walk on a Metal Roof

By Amanda Lutz Updated May 10, 2024

Some instances might require homeowners to walk on the metal decking of their house, whether to inspect potential damage or get information for roofers. This guide will highlight the most important safety considerations for walking on metal roofs, including types of metal roofs and their relative levels of walkability, how to choose the right footwear before stepping on a metal roof, and whether you should have fall protection in place.

Safety Considerations for Walking on Metal Roofs

Walking on any type of roof can be a safety concern since being so far off the ground means risking serious injury in case of a fall. Tripping and falling off a roof can cause broken bones, fractures, concussions, and other types of serious injury or harm. Metal roofs can be particularly tricky to navigate because they’re slick when wet, icy, or covered in debris.

Always use the right safety equipment when walking on a metal roof, including wearing nonslip, rubber-soled shoes and a safety harness. Practice other components of roof safety, including ensuring weather conditions are conducive to walking around on the roof and having a spotter on the ground. A spotter can keep an eye on any rooftop foot traffic and, in the event of an accident, assist by bringing in help or medical professionals.

Types of Metal Roofs and Their Walkability

There are a few types of metal roofs, each with its own level of walkability. Standing seam metal roofs have flat, wide, vertical metal panels with a raised rib on each joining edge. This low-maintenance style offers leak resistance and durability. Corrugated metal roofing has metal sheets that bend into a corrugated pattern. This type of metal roof is affordable, with a distinctive look that appeals to many homeowners.

Eco-friendly and lightweight metal shingle roofs are recyclable and mimic the look of asphalt roofing, while flat seam metal roofs are usually made of copper and often used on roofs that are flat or have a low pitch. 

Choosing the Right Footwear for Metal Roofs

The right footwear makes all the difference since metal roofs are more slippery than other roofs. In general, look for shoes with soft rubber soles and good traction. Shoes should fit snugly, with no risk of flying or slipping off your feet. Work boots, trail running shoes, or good quality soft-soled shoes are viable options.

If you select work boots, make sure they aren’t too heavy or rigid, and instead look for boots with a little more flexibility. Additionally, steel-toed work boots are generally not a good option for walking on metal roofs since you can trip over them and they can damage your roof. Dress shoes, including those with hard or stacked heels, and open-toed sandals are not safe for walking on a metal roof because they’re not slip-resistant. Don’t wear worn-down shoes without grip strength, as these won’t provide the security you need for the job.

Always check that the shoes you plan to wear are clean before starting the task. Debris or small pebbles stuck in the soles can easily throw you off balance and interfere with your traction when walking.

Features to Look for in Metal Roofing Shoes

Opt for security and stability over appearance when choosing metal roofing shoes. From grip and weighty to fit and flexibility, here are a few features to look for when purchasing shoes:

Techniques for Walking on Metal Roofs

Before you walk on a metal roof, assess its overall condition. Look for any damaged areas or valleys on the metal surface that could be extra difficult to navigate. Always use a ladder to climb onto the roof, avoid sudden movements, and be aware of your balance at all times.

Navigating Peaks and Valleys

Many metal roofs have peaks and valleys that can be challenging to walk across. If you encounter these, evenly distribute your weight and use your hands for balance if necessary. Don’t step on any unsupported areas or loose panels since these could cause you to lose your balance. If you aren’t sure if an area is loose, test it by wiggling it gently with one hand.

Walking on Wet or Icy Metal Roofs

Avoid walking on a metal roof in wet or icy conditions. If you must walk on a wet metal roof, proceed with extra caution. Use a safety harness, nonslip shoe covers, and ice cleats to give yourself much-needed traction. Look out for areas of high shine, as these can be extra slick, and move slowly but deliberately.

Metal Roof Maintenance Tips for Improved Walkability

Performing regular roof maintenance can make your metal roof safer. Follow these tips to make your roof more stable for walking:

Our Recommendation

While walking on your roof might seem intimidating, it’s possible to do so without damaging your roof and with minimal risk to yourself by taking some safety precautions, such as wearing the appropriate footwear and using safety gear. Preventing damage and injury should always be your top priority when walking on a metal roof. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe walking on your roof, hire a roofing professional to complete any unsafe jobs.

How to Walk on a Metal Roof FAQ

What is the best way to walk on a metal roof?

The best way to walk on a metal roof is to wear nonslip shoes and utilize proper safety equipment, such as a harness or safety rope. A spotter on the ground can also provide peace of mind and an extra set of eyes.

Is it safe to walk on a metal roof?

Walking on a metal roof is safe, provided you follow certain precautions. Always wear proper footwear and avoid climbing on the roof during wet or hazardous weather conditions. A safety harness or rope can also help you safely walk on the roof.

What should you not do when walking on a metal roof?

When walking on a metal roof, don’t make any sudden moves. Never jump, skip, or try anything daring since you never know where there might be a loose panel or slippery spot.