Go to How Not to Build an Addition Index! This page includes notes on shingles surfing.


Much has been written (most of it by me) about the potential for falling several stories while roofing. Shingle surfing is one of the more popular modes of slipping from a roof, but there are a variety of others, including collapsing scaffolding, tripping on a bundle of shingles, and looking the other way while walking off the edge.

Shingle surfing has much to recommend it over ocean surfing: you are not likely to drown; a surf shingle probably will not kill you if it hits you in the back of the head; and for sheer terror ocean surfing cannot come close.

I have a personal experience with shingle surfing. It happened while I was sitting about three feet from the edge of a second story roof. For security, I had tied a rope through my belt loops. As I worked, I kept my immediate supply of shingles under a knee to prevent their sliding.

My roofing technique is to line up a shingle and lightly pound a nail until it stands on its own, then I drive the nail home with two or three good whacks.

On this particular occasion, I must have been distracted by a bird or an insect (it could not have been inattention) because I missed the nail completely.

The nail popped out of the shingle and began to slide toward the edge of the roof. Watching the nail slide, I was like a cat mindlessly playing with a ball of string. My instinct to grab the nail overpowered my fear of plunging twenty feet to the cement walkway below.

When I reached out to grab the nail, I naturally put all of my weight on the leg securing the loose shingles. Of course, the shingles began to slide...and so did I. With eyes wide and heart pounding, I rode those shingles to the end of my makeshift harness.

They say that when faced with death, a man's life flashes before his eyes. I had a very different vision. I could see myself either hanging over the side of the house and being rescued by laughing firefighters; or worse, I might flip upside down and spill out of my pants. The paramedics would find me lying on the ground in my underwear, and my pants hanging in the air.

Thankfully, I reached the end of my tether before I ran out of roof. I did get close enough to the edge that my legs dangled over the side. I watched my shingle surfboards flutter to the ground below. I am proud of the presence of mind that I displayed in this emergency; as it happens, I recalled my safety training. I yelled, "Look out beloooow!"

Those who heard me claim my warning sounded more like, "AAAAAAAA." I admit it came out rather choked and high-pitched. I can explain this: the taut rope turned my jeans into bib overalls, and while kicking my legs in the air, I got the wedgy of the century.

Next Page

Tools and Materials
Shingle Transport
Felt Paper and Tar
How Many Shingles
Shingle Surfing
Laying Shingles

How You Really Shingle a Roof!

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About the Author:
W.J. Rayment built an addition on his house, and in the course of the project learned from his many mistakes. This on-line compendium is his effort to help you learn from his experience. The advice and stories are often humorous, sometimes silly, but always informative. for yourself or as a gift for family or friends.

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