A Guide to Roof Jacks: What You Need to Know!

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A Guide to Roof Jacks: What You Need to Know!

A Guide to Roof Jacks: What You Need to Know!

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Working on sloping roofs is dangerous, to say the least. 


Whether you’re shingling a new roof, repairing an old one, or doing anything else that requires you to stand on the roof for long periods of time, roof jacks are essential to keeping you safe and making the work easier overall. 


Gone are the days of balancing on steep, elevated roofs, hoping and praying that you won’t slip – all while trying to get the job done right! 


Roof jacks, when used in combination with wooden staging planks, turn slip hazards into safe, sturdy structures. 


They are by far the optimal roofing construction preventative safety measure.


With these precautions in place, you’ll be free to focus on the job at hand and won’t have to worry about whether your work boots have enough tread- or if a strong gust of wind will blow you right off the roof! 

What are Roof Jacks, and What are They Used For? 

roof jacks

A roof jack is an adjustable lever with a J-shaped bend on the adjustable end. 


A major difference is that at the end of the J-shaped bend on the lever is a flat surface that’s designed to hold wooden planks. 


This component is attached to a flat surface with various points for nails to go through, allowing it to be secured to the roof.


Like car jacks and other supportive tools, roof jacks stay securely in place where you fix them- so they can be trusted! A good roof jack setup will anchor you to the roof.


Roof jacks are used to create semi-mobile/temporary platforms for workers to place their feet on when working up on a roof. 


The installation of these platforms ensures the workers can kneel securely on the roof, supported by a solid structure. 


Without roof jacks, workers are left to plant their feet wherever they can find footing. Many roofs are steeply sloping and short-shingled, with no spots that could really be considered good enough to stand on safely. 


Even moderately-sloping, metal roofs that aren’t as steep or short-shingled are still not ideal places to stand or kneel. 


A worker will have to rely solely on their balance in these scenarios, and is at the mercy of factors such as weather conditions and the current state of the roof. 


For example, shingles may be loose, or sections may not be able to support a man’s full weight. 


Instead of braving these conditions to risk your life for a job, it’s often a better idea to simply install a set of roof jacks where you’re going to be working.


This way, you’ll be able to get the job done while not having to worry about somebody falling!

How Far Apart Should Roof Jacks be Placed?

Roof jacks should be placed between six and eight feet apart. 


Any further, and the support planks running between may sag, buckle, or even break under your weight!


Six to eight feet is considered a safe standard by the roofing industry.

What Kind of Nails do you use for Roof Jacks?

It’s recommended that you use common nails for setting up roof jacks. 


Though you might expect that roofing nails may be more appropriate and useful for roof jack installation, they’re actually inappropriate to this type of job for a number of reasons.


Roofing nails have the following attributes which make them incompatible with a safe roof jack setup:


  • Broad, fragile heads: Roofing nails have a tendency to become detached easily, meaning that using these on roof jacks comes with the risk of the jack coming loose- endangering you, and everyone in the surrounding area


  • Short shanks: While other characteristics of roofing nails such as head size and shank girth may be varied, all roofing nails have short shanks.

    What does this all mean? It simply means that the part beneath the nail head (i.e. the rest of the nail) is shorter than standard nails.

    As a result, roof jack manufacturers have deemed them unsafe, and it’s the primary reason why common nails are recommended instead.

What Size Nails do you use for Roof Jacks?

The size of nails recommended for use on roof jacks ranges between 10d to 16d. 


These nails should be driven completely through the roof sheathing into the supporting frame beneath. Nails driven merely into the sheathing are likely to fall out, creating a massive hazard.


Although you’re completely free to do whatever you choose, certain professionals advise using only a small amount of nails per jack if the nails are of the comparatively heavy duty 16d variety. 


The nail holes are designed to angle in such a way that hitting the jack upward will release it from the roof. 


If you have really gone to town and used more than 2 to 4 heavy nails, it can be a challenge to unfix the roof jacks.


Swinging upwards with all your strength on a roof is not the safest activity. As such, make life easier for yourself during uninstallation by only using 2-4 nails in standard roof jack situations! 

How Long Do Roof Jacks Last?

Roof jacks and their staging planks are temporary structures, designed to be installed only for a short period. 


Though in theory they will last as long as the structure holds and the metal doesn’t rust, it’s best to remove them as soon as you have finished the job. 


Otherwise, the places where they are fixed may become structurally weakened over long periods of time. 


However, if it’s absolutely vital that your roof jacks stay fixed to the roof for longer than average, you can rest easy knowing that they’ll last indefinitely. 


Roof jacks are made of steel and can stand the test of time if it is required of them.

How To Install Roof Jacks


Installing roof jacks is a relatively simple process. Below, we’ll be taking you through a list of detailed steps to guide you through the setup of your roof jacks and staging planks.


After following these instructions, you’ll have a safe platform on the roof to work from!

Step 1

Using a ladder, access the roofing area. Make sure your ladder is placed on stable ground at the recommended angle for maximum safety.

Step 2

Locate the trusses or rafters. This can be done either by banging around with your roofing hatchet, listening for the distinct sounds of rafters beneath, or by hammering in shingle nails. 


Shingle nails will feel far different when going into a truss, as they will be encountering greater resistance than if they were driven only through a shingle.

Step 3

Fix the roof jacks to the trusses or rafters by nailing 10d-16d nails through the appropriate holes on the jack’s flat surface. 


It’s common practice to lay between three and four rows of shingles before affixing your roof jacks to the structure. 


For pinpoint accuracy and level staging across rafters, it can be helpful to run a string line at the point you want all of your jacks, and then partially hammer in a nail along this line on each rafter. 


By doing so, you’ll be able to provide more stability to the work platform!


Each jack should be between six and eight feet apart from the others; any further, and the support boards may start to bend under your weight. 

Step 4 

Fix the staging planks to the jacks. 


It is highly recommended that you nail these planks in place, although many cowboys of the industry are content with just placing the planks where they need to go without affixing them to the jack securely. 


This is dangerous, for obvious reasons! 


Roof jacks come with nail holes where you can drive nails into the staging planks, rendering them immobile and far safer for you and other workers. 

Can you use Roof Jacks on a Metal Roof?

Yes, you can use roof jacks on a metal roof- as long as you still fix them into the framing beneath, rather than to just the roofing material itself.


However, before installing roof jacks on a metal roof, consult a professional roofer first if you’re not as experienced yourself!

Where Can I Buy Roof Jacks?

Roof jacks may be bought online at Amazon, or at any local hardware store or building appliance shop. 


Out of all the products that are available, Guardian Roof Jacks one of the most popular and reliable options.


They are designed with a variety of angled jack fittings to fit either 2 by 6 inch or 10 inch planks. 


Guardian roof jacks are a distinctive red color that is highly visible, which is obviously ideal in a construction setting. 


They weigh roughly 1.9 pounds, or .86 kilograms, meaning they are light and easy to transport from ground level to the roof.


Constructed entirely of steel, their durability is unquestionable. While they’re manufactured in China, their design is compliant with OSHA regulations as defined by the U.S. 


Overall, Guardian roof jacks are a safe and economical product that will keep you sturdy and stable as you work on roofs! 

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