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Installing Roof Jacks

Safe Roof Repair:

Installing Roof Jacks And Planks On A Steep Roof

Roof Work Is Easier And Safer When The Proper Scaffolding Is Used

 
In This Article:

Shingle tabs are lifted up and metal roof jacks nailed through the roof into the framing. 2x10 planks are fastened to rows of roof jacks to create a stable work surface.

 
Related Articles:
Skill Level:
3 (Intermediate)
Time Taken:
About 12 Hours
Author:
, Editor
Project Date:
November 2010
 
 
Start >>

 

In October 2010, the Midwest experienced a large windstorm, with several days of near hurricane-force winds. In my area of Northern Michigan, we had winds reaching 70 miles per hour.

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Wind Damage:


When the wind shifted and was coming straight out of the south, my house had no protection from trees or other buildings, and about 30 shingle tabs (and some full shingles) lifted up and broke off.

Asphalt shingle roof with wind damage, broken, loose and missing shingles.
 

 

Broken asphalt shingle tabs caused by high winds.
WIND DAMAGE:

It's common to have most of the shingle damage around the perimeter of the roof.

 

 

Rather than filing an insurance claim, (which would result in higher insurance premiums, eventually) I decided to just repair the damage myself. These repairs took about 4 afternoons, working at a casual pace. I spent 20 bucks on a bundle of shingles and another 30 dollars on roofing tar and nails.

 

PARTIAL ROW:

The proper way to work on a steep roof is to install roof jacks and planks to make a scaffolding system.

When several rows of this scaffolding are installed, all areas of the roof can be reached safely and easily.

Here I've started installing the first row of roof jacks, just above the eaves.

Start of roof jack installation on shingle roof.
 

  

Warning: Read Our Disclaimer

Also read: Tips On Not Dying while working on the roof.

 

Roof Jacks:
Adjustable roof jacks or roof brackets.

These are adjustable roof jacks, (sometimes called "roof brackets") which cost about $10 at Home Depot.

These roof jacks are made from heavy steel, and fold up when not in use. There are 3 holes that the lower support arm can engage. The lowest setting makes a 45 degree angle, which is equivalent to a 12-in-12 roof pitch. The other positions are for steeper roofs.

 

Since my roof has a 9-in-12 pitch, I could not get a level surface with these roof jacks. It wasn't a problem, because the boards were tilted towards the roof. I would not want to walk on planks that were tilted away from the roof.

 

When To Use Roof Jacks -
How Steep Is Your Roof?

  • 4-in-12 roof slope or less: I don't use roof jacks. Easy to walk on, and things don't slide off too easily.
  • 5-in-12 roof pitch: I've never worked on a roof with a 5:12 slope, so I can't tell you my experiences. This slope is common on BOCA modular homes, which are built in a factory with conventional wood framing. One row of roof jacks at the lower edge might be a good idea.
  • 6-in-12 roof slope: Walking on this slope is possible, but it gets dicey at the lower edge. I install one row of roof jacks at the lower edge. This also provides a place to rest tools and materials.
  • 8-in-12 or steeper: I always use multiple rows of roof jacks as shown in this article.
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Installing Roof Jacks Under Asphalt Shingles:

PRYING UP A SHINGLE TAB:

Once I identified a location for a roof jack, I used a small pry bar to carefully lift up the shingle tab.

With architectural shingles (which don't have the 3-tab design) it may be necessary to lift up most of the shingle. These thicker shingles can be difficult to bend, especially when cold.

Lifting up asphalt roof shingle to install roof jack.
 

 

Placing metal roof jack under shingle.
ROOF JACK LOCATION...

I slid the upper part of the roof jack under the shingle tab...

 

 

...ROOF JACK LOCATION:

...until the bottom hole (white arrow) was just barely visible.

Vertical Position Is Important:

If the roof jacks are placed too low, the lowest nails can create a roof leak.

If the jacks are placed too high, it's really difficult to bend the shingle up to drive the nails into the jack.

Aligning roof jack with lower edge of shingle.
 

 

Nailing roof jack with long roofing nail.
NAILING THE ROOF JACK:

While holding the roof jack from sliding downhill, I drove a 2½ inch roofing nail into the teardrop-shaped holes.

 

 

 

NAILING THE ROOF JACK:

I found that a pry bar can be wedged under the shingle to hold it up while the nails are driven.

Installing roof jack on asphalt shingle roof.
 

 

Location of nails in roof jack.
NAILING THE ROOF JACK:

If the nails penetrate a rafter, I will use at least 3 long roofing nails to secure the roof jack.

  

If any of the first row of nails do NOT go into a rafter, I continue driving nails in the slots until I have at least 3 nails that penetrate a rafter.

 

  

Warning:

There is a potential hazard to using just the teardrop-shaped holes: The nail heads can slip through the holes if something causes the roof jack to be pushed upwards. If at least one nail is driven into the slots on the right-hand side, that should prevent the roof jack from being pushed or lifted upward.

 

 

The instructions say to use 16d framing nails to install these roof jacks. Every carpenter I've known just uses long roofing nails (2½ to 3 inch).

The instructions also say that each hole and slot should have a nail. Given the spacing of the rows of holes, it's tricky to drive all of those nails into a rafter or truss, unless all the nails are driven at an angle, which can cause the nail heads to puncture the shingle laying above them.

I try to get one row of holes aligned over a rafter, and add more nails if the roof jack is anything less than rock solid.

 

ROOF JACK - ONE OF MANY:

After installation, the roof jacks just rest on top of the asphalt shingles.

Roof jack after installation on shingle roof.
 

 

Row of roof jacks used to access roof for repairs.
ROW OF ROOF JACKS:

Roof jacks are intended to be installed in straight rows.

Roof jacks are supposed to be nailed into a solid framing member, such as a rafter or roof truss.

Since the rafters are spaced at 16 inches on center, I had the option of installing the brackets 32 or 48 inches apart.

 

 

ROOF JACK SPACING:

I used this 48-32-16 inch spacing pattern on this project.

The ends of the 8-foot planks will land in the 16 inch space.

Roof jack spacing of 48, 32 and 16 inches used with 8-foot planks.
 

 

Roof Jack Spacing:

When using 10-foot planks, I have used a 48-48-16 inch jack spacing pattern, although that pattern may not work for every board in a row.

Maximum spacing is dictated primarily by the strength of the planks used, and the weight of people, materials and equipment bearing down on the jacks and planks. Personally, I would not use a spacing greater than 48 inches.

I used 8-foot planks because I could store them standing up in my garage. My garage ceiling is slightly higher than 8 feet, so 10 foot boards would need to be stored some other way, and I don't have enough room.

It's important to minimize the overhang at the ends of adjacent boards, because when you step on the joint between boards some of the roof jacks can be lifted upwards. 8 to 12 inches of overhang with 2x10 planks seems to work for me.

 

2x10 plank set in place on roof jacks.
LAYING A PLANK ON ROOF JACKS:

I set an 8-foot long 2x10 on the roof jacks and pulled it forward so it was captured under the hooks.

 

 

CONNECTING THE PLANKS:

Then I placed a 5-inch L-bracket (Simpson Strong-Tie) against the edge of the planks, straddling the joint between boards so the holes were no too close to the ends.

I drove in 8 screws to secure the L-bracket to the planks. These screws were 1¼ inch truss-head screws made by Simpson and sold alongside their metal connectors at Home Depot.

Fastening roof jack planks together with metal angle bracket.
 

 

Securing board to roof jack with screw.
SECURING THE PLANKS:

I also drove screws into the planks at each roof jack. This will keep the planks from moving and create a more secure-feeling scaffold setup.

 

 

ROOF ACCESS:

Once all the planks were fastened, I leaned an extension ladder against the plank.

Note how much the plank overhangs the roof jack on the right-hand end... it's only a couple of inches. Keep the end-of-row overhang to a minimum.

First row of roof scaffolding installed at lower edge of roof.
 

Also note that my row of scaffolding didn't reach the end of the roof. That's okay, because the next row will be staggered slightly so the plank is closer to the edge of the roof.

Securing ladder to roof scaffolding with bungee cord.
LADDER-KEEPER:

To keep the ladder from shifting (or falling over) I strapped it to the plank with a bungee cord.

I hooked the ends of the bungee cord to the outer edge of the ladder rungs (red arrows)

 

 

Reaching Higher Parts Of The Roof:

PLANK HOLDS STEPLADDER:

To reach higher points on the roof, I just laid an 8-foot stepladder on the roof, with the feet resting against the plank.

HOWEVER... The ladder feet were just barely catching the plank, so I had to be extra careful when climbing the ladder.

Lower end of step ladder placed against roof scaffolding.
 

If those larger feet slipped off, the smaller back legs of the ladder would catch on the plank (or slide under) and stop the ladder from sailing off the roof with me aboard.

In hindsight, the best solution would've been to fasten a piece of 2x4 to the inner edge of the plank, giving the ladder a bigger surface to rest against.

Roof Jacks & Planks Completed:
Two rows of roof scaffolding made from roof jacks and 2x10 boards.

By using the stepladder to access higher points, I was able to quickly install a second row of roof jacks and planks.

This new row was about 9 feet higher than the first row.

Note: If the second row is too close, the stepladder might be "captured" under the plank, making it difficult to move the ladder.

 

 

PHOTOS FROM ANOTHER HOUSE:
 

Row Spacing For Roof Scaffolding:

Many builders and roofers install rows of roof jacks spaced about 3 to 4 feet apart and simply step, climb or slide between rows.

I followed this method the first time I used roof jacks on one of my own projects, and I quickly realized how much extra time is needed to install and remove all those extra rows.

And climbing between rows is slow and quite taxing on the legs, I found.

 
 
Home-made ladder-stairs used for climbing between rows of roof scaffolding or jacks and planks.

So I built a simple "ladder-stair" with 2x4 side rails and 5/4 x 6 deck boards for stair treads. Since that house had a 12:12 roof pitch, I built the ladder-stairs with the treads set on a 45 degree angle from the side rails.

Each stair tread was attached by driving 3" deck screws through the side rails. Then I installed a steel angle bracket under each end of all stair treads.

These ladder-stairs allowed me to use a much wider spacing between rows of scaffolding.

 

The rows of roof jacks on this project were a little more than 6 feet apart.

Reaching the highest points on this 2-story house was easy and safe with two rows of scaffolding and a few home-made ladder-stairs.

On this project I built 3', 6', and 9' long ladder-stairs. The 9' ladder was kinda awkward to move, so I later cut in into 6' and 3' sections.

2-story house with rows of roof scaffolding and ladder-stairs.
 

Probably the best feature of these ladder-stairs was the convenience and comfort. Moving around the roof was as simple as walking up and down stairs. I could sit on a stair tread and comfortably work on any details without getting sore feet or legs. This is important. Resting against a conventional stepladder (or a wood ladder with round rungs) is very taxing on the body, especially the feet. The fatigue developed by a long day of working in uncomfortable positions can cause you to make mistakes or lose your balance. The small additional time and expense of building these ladder was well worth the money. (Read more about this major re-roofing project.)

 

REPLACING BROKEN SHINGLES:

Once the scaffolding was in place, I replaced the damaged shingles by removing the nails and sliding out the bad shingle.

Removing damaged asphalt roof shingle.
 

 

Steep roof after shingle repairs have been completed.
ROOF EASILY PATCHED:

It took me about 6 hours over two afternoons to repair all the damaged shingles. With the proper scaffolding and good weather, replacing shingles is easy work, almost fun.

I repaired the damage at the top first, then I removed the upper row of planks and roof jacks.

There are still a couple of broken shingles on the far left side.

 

 

Removing Roof Jacks:

When the repairs on the upper section of the roof were complete, I removed all the screws in the planks and metal connectors, and carried the planks down to the ground.

MORE SHINGLE DAMAGE:

It's easy to tear a shingle when installing or removing roof jacks. I had to replace a few more shingle tabs.

Roof jack to be removed, with damaged shingle tab.
 

 

Prying up roof jack to remove it.
PRYING UP ROOF JACKS:

First I inserted a prybar underneath the roof jack and pried upwards to loosen the nails slightly.

 

 

PRYING UP ROOF JACKS:

I also pried up on the other side of the metal mounting tab to loosen the left-hand row of nails.

Prying roof jack up with shingle tab lifted.
 

 

Removing roof jack from nails in roof.
LIFTING OFF ROOF JACK:

Once the nails were backed out about 1/4 inch, I lifted up on the roof jack and wiggled it until the nail heads popped out of the holes.

The shingle tab became cracked while doing this, so I tore it off for the sake of taking pictures.

 

 

DRIVING NAILS IN:

I pounded the nails down.

Important: DO NOT remove nails used to install roof jacks. They are supposed to be driven flush with the shingles, to fill the hole and help prevent roof leaks.

Hammering down nails used to fasten roof jacks.
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
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Applying roofing tar under loose shingle tab.
TAR UNDER SHINGLE TABS:

As soon as I remove a roof jack, I apply roofing tar underneath the shingle tabs that were lifted up.

I apply a line of tar beneath the lower edge of the tab, a little bit up each side, and a dab of tar on all nail heads.

If I wait and apply the tar later, it's easy to lose track of which shingle tabs need the tar.

 

 

Almost Done...

I removed the upper row of roof jacks and planks in about 45 minutes.

Removal of this scaffolding is faster than installation... even if a few shingles need to be replaced.

 

Asphalt shingle roof after repairs, one row of scaffolding remains.
 

 

Tear-Down Cautions:

Don't throw the planks off the roof, no matter how fun, gratifying or macho it seems. The boards will get cracked, or a shrub will get flattened, or a person will get clobbered. Just carry the boards down the ladder until you can drop them gently.

Don't throw or drop the roof jacks from the roof, because you might harpoon someone's head... and because the manufacturer says dropping can damage them and they must be discarded. Okay, just don't beat the hell out these things or hit anybody.

 

Roof Repaired:
Shingle roof after replacing broken shingles.

This asphalt roof should last another 10 to 12 years before it needs to be replaced.

Even though the new shingles were not an exact match, I can't tell where the damage was.

While working on the roof, I looked around for loose shingle tabs, and applied tar under any that I found. I used 10 tubes of tar on this project.

 
More Info:
Tools Used:
  • Roof Jacks
  • Ladders
  • Hammer
  • Pry Bars
  • Mechanic's Punch, 6"
  • Cordless Drill/Driver
  • Caulk Gun
  • Bungee Cord
Materials Used:
  • Asphalt Shingles
  • Roofing Tar
  • Screws, 1¼ inch
  • Roofing Nails, 2½ inch
  • 2x10 x 8'
  • L-Brackets, 5", Simpson
 
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