How to Set Up a Ladder

In roofing, safety is paramount. A critical aspect of maintaining a safe work environment is the proper setup of your ladder. Improper ladder setup can lead to serious accidents, but with the right techniques, you can ensure stability and safety. 

1. Choose the Right Ladder

Selecting the correct ladder for the job is the first step. Here are some considerations:

  • Type: For roofing, an extension ladder is often the best choice.
  • Height: The ladder should extend at least 3 feet above the roof edge.
  • Material: Aluminum ladders are lightweight but can conduct electricity, while fiberglass ladders are heavier but safer around electrical hazards.

2. Inspect Your Ladder

Before setting up, always inspect your ladder for any damage:

  • Rungs: Ensure all rungs are secure and free from cracks.
  • Feet: Check that the feet are in good condition and equipped with slip-resistant pads.
  • Locks and Braces: Confirm that all locks and braces are functional.

3. Find a Stable Surface

The ground where you set up the ladder must be stable and level. Avoid soft or uneven surfaces that could cause the ladder to shift or sink.

  • Level Ground: Use a ladder leveler if the ground is uneven.
  • Non-slip Base: Place the ladder feet on a solid, non-slip base. If necessary, use a board to create a stable base on soft ground.

4. Angle Your Ladder Correctly

The proper angle is crucial for ladder stability. Follow the 4-to-1 rule: for every 4 feet of ladder height, place the base 1 foot away from the wall or roof edge.

  • Angle Indicator: Some ladders have built-in angle indicators to help you achieve the correct angle.
  • Test the Angle: Stand with your toes touching the ladder’s base and extend your arms. Your hands should touch the rung at shoulder height.

5. Secure the Ladder

Once the ladder is in place, ensure it is secure to prevent slipping or tipping:

  • Tie Off the Top: Use a ladder stabilizer or tie the top of the ladder to a secure point on the roof.
  • Block the Base: If possible, have someone hold the ladder base while you climb. Alternatively, use ladder hooks or anchor the base to prevent movement.

6. Climb Safely

When climbing the ladder, follow these safety tips:

  • Three Points of Contact: Always maintain three points of contact with the ladder (two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand).
  • Face the Ladder: Keep your body facing the ladder at all times.
  • Don’t Overreach: Keep your hips within the side rails and move the ladder as needed instead of overreaching.

7. Use Proper Accessories

Utilize ladder accessories for added safety and efficiency:

  • Ladder Stabilizers: These provide extra stability and can prevent the ladder from sliding.
  • Roof Hooks: Useful for securing the top of the ladder to the roof.
  • Tool Lanyards: Keep your tools secured to prevent dropping them.

8. Weather Conditions

Be mindful of the weather conditions when setting up and using your ladder:

  • Avoid Wet Surfaces: Wet or icy surfaces can be extremely slippery.
  • Wind: Strong winds can destabilize the ladder, so avoid using a ladder in high winds.


It’s critical to set up a ladder correctly for any roofing job. By choosing the right ladder, inspecting it, ensuring a stable base, securing the ladder, and climbing safely, you can minimize the risk of accidents and focus on completing your roofing project efficiently. Always prioritize safety and use the right tools and techniques for the job.

Stay safe up there, and happy roofing!