The holidays are right around the corner, and for many homeowners, that can mean only one thing: hauling out the strings of lights and turning your home into a show-stopping, fuse-blowing winter wonderland as seen in that holiday classic, “Christmas Vacation.”
Sure, Santa Claus makes it look so easy to navigate a rooftop with an overflowing sleigh full of gifts and eight sure-footed reindeer in tow. But for many homeowners, holiday decorating can lead to accidents.
Holiday Injuries & Decorating Disasters
On average, there are about 250 injuries a day during the holiday season. Adding safety to your checklist can keep a holiday tradition from becoming a holiday tragedy.
It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but a trip to the emergency room because of a decorating accident will make any homeowners’ holidays a lot less jolly. That’s why it’s important to keep these basic roof safety tips in mind before you start channeling your inner Clark Griswold.
1. Prep your materials.
There’s nothing more frustrating than getting all the way up to the roof and finding out that your lights aren’t working, or even worse, getting zapped from a short in the cord. It’s worth the extra few minutes to check your outlets and power sources, as well as your lights and cords.
Untangle and plug in all your lights while you are on the ground, and replace strings that are out or even blinking with lights and extension cords rated specifically for outdoor use.
2. Pick a light/clear time of day.
It may be tempting to wait until dusk so you can see the lights all lit up as you go, but don’t. Set aside a good chunk of daytime so you don’t feel rushed and check the weather forecast to make sure there’s no rain, snow, or wind expected. You don’t want to wrestle with an inflatable snowman on a windy day or try to secure a plastic sleigh on an icy rooftop.
3. Clear the roof.
A clear and clean roof is important for many reasons, including preventing decorating accidents. No matter how many decorations you want to put on your roof—heck, the more the merrier—you should always start by making sure your roof and gutter system is clear of dirt, debris, leaves, and other materials that could present a tripping or slipping hazard.
Scrape off any moss or lichen, and check for any signs of unwanted animals (squirrels, rodents, birds, insects) looking for a place to ride out the winter months.
4. Stay safe on the ladder.
The CPSC says that 36 percent of holiday decorating injuries are the result of falls, half of which are falls from ladders. In fact, so many people have fallen off ladders while decorating that the CPSC posted guidelines on how to use one safely. A few things to keep in mind: Make sure you have a sturdy ladder designed to support your weight.
Set up your ladder on a flat, level surface, such as a driveway or walkway, and away from power lines, electrical equipment, and doors that could be opened. Speaking of electrical, a fiberglass or wooden ladder is preferable to an aluminum one.
Your ladder should be set at a 75-degree angle, extended at least three feet over the roof line or working surface, and you should not stand on the top three rungs of the ladder. Also, consider getting a spotter or helper.
5. Gear up for safety.
Wear shoes with a soft rubber sole for extra traction and keep the bottom of your shoes free of mud and dirt. Use a tool belt to carry your tools and decorating essentials. Speaking of tools: leave the staple, nail, and glue guns on the ground. You should never use staples, nails, screws, or other penetrating fasteners to attach holiday decorations to your roof.
Instead, use removable plastic clips and hooks that can be put back in the toolbox come January. There are even magnetic clips and lights that can easily attach and detach from metal gutters and roof eaves.
6. Don’t be a holiday hero.
Finally, know your limits. Don’t get on the roof unless you’ve done it before, you’re in great shape, and you have excellent balance.