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Every year, thousands of people are treated for injuries that occur from falling off of a roof. Roofers protect themselves by using proper safety precautions. Wearing appropriate clothing and footwear, keeping the area free of debris and avoiding slippery conditions can help you stay safe. But some industry professionals use toe boards to prevent slipping off of the roof.

What Are Toe Boards in Roofing?

Toe boards are a basic safety feature that roofers use to reduce the risk of accidents. They’re a vertical barrier that stops things from sliding off of a raised surface. Roofers, painters, siding experts and other contractors use them on the job site.

If you’re on the roof and you take a hazardous step, a toe board can prevent your shoes from slipping further. These safety devices also keep tools, nails and other equipment from careening off of the ledge and posing a threat to people underneath. 

Toe boards are used in any unprotected edge that introduces the risk of falling, including:

  • Guard rails
  • Scaffolding
  • Ramps
  • Elevated walkways
  • Platforms


Toe boards are generally the size of a 2 by 4. They may look like narrow shelves that are secured to the roof with small brackets. They need to be securely fastened so that they support the weight of the workers without shifting or loosening.

They’re installed along the edges of steep slopes. Alternatively, toe boards may also be used in other areas to provide additional footing for workers. Toe boards provide a safe surface for footfalls on slippery and wet surfaces. They can also be placed around skylights and other openings in the roof for added protection.

On residential homes, toe boards are only installed temporarily. The roofers will move this safety feature from place to place as they work on your roof. This allows them to fill and cover the holes as they go. They’ll remove it completely when they’re done with the job, leaving your home looking pristine.

Installing Toe Boards Properly

Toe boards provide a benefit for the roofers. But are they bad for your roof? If they’re not installed properly,  toe boards can leave open holes on the exterior of your roof. This can lead to leakage, water damage and pest damage even on a new roof.

You don’t want to install toe boards on the outermost layer of roofing material. When you pull them up, the nail holes will be exposed to the elements. Instead, you should layer them beneath the upper surface of the roof. In other words, make sure that intact roofing material will cover every spot in which a toe board fastener was used.

If you don’t, you’ll have to spend time and money fixing the exposed fastener holes in your roof. At an average cost of $10 per shingle, this can add up. Moreover, nailing into the outer surface of the shingles may void their warranty.

It’s frustrating to go through repairs on a roof that was recently installed. But you should also bear in mind that other professionals can damage your roof by installing toe boards incorrectly. Inspect your roof after plumbers, electricians and other tradespeople access it to ensure that they haven’t damaged it.

Common Mistakes When Installing Toe Boards

Some of the most common errors that occur when installing toe boards are as follows:

  • Using wide nails, creating large holes that can’t be filled adequately
  • Peeling or damaging existing shingles when installing or removing toe boards
  • Being careless when removing nails, expanding the hole
  • Filling fastener holes with the wrong materials, such as low-grade caulk, instead of roofing cement
  • Fastening toe boards over existing shingles and failing to cover or fill the holes
  • Leaving toe boards in place


Are Toe Boards in Roofing Required?

Professionals in this industry are often required to use toe boards. OSHA requires compliance with specific safety measures, including fall protection. However, the regulations vary. Roofing companies have to follow the laws in their jurisdiction. 

OSHA considers roofs with a pitch of 4:12 or greater to be steep and requires contractors to use guard rails and other safety measures on these slopes. However, if a contractor believes that using the safety equipment has more risks than benefits or is not feasible to use, they can generate a written plan to use alternative safety measures. One of those alternatives is the toe board.

Other Roofing Safety Measures

Whenever you’re working more than 6 feet off the ground, you need to take precautions against falls. The importance of safety measures increases with the height and slope of the roof. It’s essential to train all roofers on these safety features. 

Guard Rails

In addition to toe guards, many roofers use guard rails when the conditions require them. These are usually installed temporarily on residential buildings. However, some commercial and flat roofs require permanent guard rails. 

Whereas toe guards help with lower body balance issues, guard rails protect you from upper body imbalances. They’re much taller than toe boards and reduce your risk of falling. However, you should still use toe boards to prevent materials from sliding off of the roof. 

Restraint Systems

Restraint systems are an even more secure way to prevent falls. These systems often involve a harness and tether system, which connects the worker to the roof. The individual can move as far as the tether allows. 

Fall Arrest Equipment

Fall arrest equipment also uses a harness and lanyard to protect the worker. However, this technology doesn’t prevent them from falling. Instead, it suspends them so that they don’t make contact with the ground if they do go over the edge.

Ladder Safety

While roofers spend most of their time on top of your house, they also risk falling while getting up there. Ladder safety is vital for ensuring worker safety. 

Start by using the right type of ladder for the job. Many homeowners don’t have the right equipment to perform roofing projects. Therefore, it’s best to leave this hazardous job to the professionals. 

If you do need to access your roof with a ladder, follow these safety guidelines:

  • Inspect the ladder for damage or defects before each use
  • Place the ladder on a secure, stable surface
  • Don’t set up the ladder in a high-traffic area
  • Secure the ladder properly
  • Avoid resting the ladder on the gutter, which won’t provide adequate support
  • Extend the ladder at least 3 feet above the roof’s access level
  • Always face the ladder while climbing it
  • Use a non-conductive ladder if electrocution is a risk
  • Clean the ladder after each use to keep it free of oil, grease and dust


Do Toe Boards for Roofing Prevent Slipping?

While toe boards are an  essential part of a comprehensive safety plan, they won’t prevent every type of roofing accident. Therefore, other measures should be used to prevent falls. 

At Presidio Roofing, we pride ourselves on protecting our employees, your family and your roof. We follow all safety guidelines. In addition, we safeguard the integrity of your roof by installing and removing toe boards properly so that you stay protected for years.

Let us know if you need a roof replacement or repair. We can also fix the holes from toe boards that another contractor used on your roof. This is a common cause of leaks, and it’s easily remedied if you know what to look for.