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Under One Roof

Canadian Roofing Reference Manual

1.9.2 Moving Equipment And Materials Handling Roofing Materials & Loading Trucks

One of a roofer’s tasks is to get equipment and materials safely to the job site. This usually involves loading trucks or other vehicles that will be used to transport the materials and equipment. To make sure that they arrive to the site and on the roof undamaged, several measures have to be taken. The truck used to transport materials to the job site must be checked and properly loaded, materials must be unloaded at the job site, lifting and hoisting equipment must be checked (any defective equipment must be appropriately tagged out of service and left at the shop), and the materials must be properly loaded on to the roof.

Many accidents occur when loading and unloading trucks. Most accidents can be avoided by taking simple precautions and pre-planning. When loading or unloading trucks, trailers and forklifts remember the following:

  • Identify the steps involved in checking out the truck that will be used to deliver roofing materials to the job site.
  • Study truck and forklift safety precautions.
  • Make sure your co-workers understand the proper loading procedures for roofing materials and equipment.
  • Identify the major considerations involved in loading materials on the roof.
  • Always make eye contact with the operator.

Checking the Truck

The first task in preparing to begin any roofing job is to ensure that the truck used to move materials to the job site is in good working order.

Before any equipment or materials are placed on the truck, check that the vehicle’s oil and fuel supplies, lights, windshield wipers, tires, brakes and hitches are in good working order. Forklifts, bobcats, kettles or any other rolling equipment to be towed should also be thoroughly inspected. The inspection should include an examination of the hydraulic systems, the locking brake, the towing hitch, and the safety chain. Before the vehicle is towed, forks and buckets should be placed in the down position, and the safety brake should be released.

Operating Trucks and Forklift Safely

Most regulations pertaining to the operation of forklifts, industrial trucks, and industrial tow tractors deal with the safe operation of these vehicles. However, the roofer apprentice, as well as the journey-level roofer, should be aware that many injuries occur to persons just walking or working near forklifts and industrial trucks and tow tractors.

Loading Materials on the Truck

A truck that is to be used to transport materials and equipment to the job site should be loaded with the particular job in mind. The materials  and equipment  should  be loaded in such a manner that they can be taken off the truck in the order in which they will be needed. Items needed first should be loaded last and vice versa.

Properly Loaded Trucks

Whatever the materials or equipment being loaded, those loading the truck must be careful to distribute the load as evenly as possible over the wheels of the vehicle to prevent the load from shifting, damaging materials and equipment and possibly causing the truck to overturn.

Loading Built-up Roofing Materials

You will save a lot of time and energy by properly loading the truck. It is important to plan the load so that the materials can be removed and placed on the roof in an orderly fashion. Load the truck so that the materials that will be used first can be removed from the truck first. For example, on a built-up roof over a steel deck, the adhesive and vapour retarder should be loaded on the truck last. In this way, these materials will be the first on the roof allowing the crew to start quickly. When loading built-up roofing materials remember:

  • Rolls of felt, base sheet etc. should be stacked on ends, in rows, against the cab from one side of the truck to the other. Rolls should never be laid flat, because this will press the rolls.
  • If the truck is not specially equipped to hold such tools and equipment as mops, brooms, and shovels, these should be placed upright in or between the felt rolls.
  • Asphalt – This is usually among the first materials to be used, and so it should be placed on the rear of the truck. The asphalt should be positioned against the felt and equipment, from side to side of the truck. Remember, cartons or kegs of asphalt are heavy. Make sure that they are neatly stacked and they will not shift in transit. The weight of the asphalt can be used to hold the rest of the load in place. But if the load is very large, it should be secured with ropes.
  • Trucks should be equipped with ladder racks. If they are not provided, place them on top of the load and securely tie them down to prevent falling off.

Towing A Kettle

If a kettle is to be towed to the job site, the last step in the loading process is hooking it up to the truck. This connection is usually made with a trailer hitch or pin. The safety chain should be connected every time the kettle is hooked up to the truck and the kettle leg must be raised before the kettle is moved. The burner should never be in operation while the kettle is in transit, and nothing should be hung on the kettle. If a brake light connection is available, it should be used.

Loading Asphalt Shingles

When a truck is loaded with asphalt shingles do not concentrate the load at  the  back  of the truck. This could strain the axle, and if the truck were to strike a bump it could result in a broken spring. Distribute the bundles equally from side to side and from back to front. To prevent stacks of asphalt shingles from sliding or toppling, alternate the bundles in layers of three: The first layer facing in one direction, the second layer crisscrossed on top of the first, and forth.

Clay tiles should be stacked on ends, if loaded loose, and as straight as possible to prevent breaking or cracking. Most manufacturers deliver tiles to the shop or job site already stacked on pallets and secured with metal bands to keep them from slipping. NOTE: Before cutting the metal bands on stacks of tile, the roofer should make sure that the tile is not leaning to one side. If the tiles are leaning, they will fall when the pressure from the band is released.

Loading Rigid Cement, Slate and Rigid Plastic Tile

Rigid cement, slate, and rigid plastic tiles should be loaded flat on the truck. They should not be stacked so high that the weight of the material breaks the bottom rows. They must never be stacked on edge, because the edges may be damaged to a degree that would render the tiles useless. If they are stacked in tiers, the tiers should be crisscrossed in the manner described for clay tile in the preceding section.

Loading Metal Roofing

Metal roofing is normally very rugged, and the shipping package will usually be sufficient protection against bending or mashing. However, when aluminum shakes are loaded, care must be taken not to damage the exposed ends, because any damage makes the shakes useless.

Reloading Materials on the Truck

When the job has been completed and the truck is being reloaded for the return to the yard, trash should be separated from leftover materials. If trash is stacked on top of the leftover material and equipment, good materials or equipment may be thrown out with the trash. A common practice is to place trash at the rear of the truck and tools, equipment, and leftover materials against the cab. If the materials were delivered on pallets, the pallets can be placed on the trash to prevent it from blowing or falling off the truck. Particular care should be taken to load hot mops so that they do not come into contact with flammable materials. When the truck is returned to the yard, the mops should be removed, the kettle should be disconnected, and both should be put in a safe place at once.

Unloading of the Materials Truck at the Job Site

Because competition demands efficient operation, the unloading of the materials truck at the job site (as well as all other loading and unloading operations) must be well organized, with materials and equipment handled as few times as possible.


Before any material or equipment is unloaded, determine the best location for the kettle and truck. The best location for the kettle is the safest place that is convenient to the job site (but far enough away from buildings to avoid fires in case of a flash fire in the kettle or damage from splashing hot bitumen or fumes).

The best location for the truck is usually next to the building to be roofed. If the truck cannot be parked next to the building, it should be placed as close as possible to eliminate unnecessary carrying. If the truck can be left near the building throughout the application of the roof, many roofers prefer to leave materials on the truck until they are needed. However, if the truck cannot be left, the asphalt should be unloaded immediately and placed conveniently near the kettle. Other materials should be placed near the roof-loading device.

If a forklift or lift bed truck is used to hoist materials directly to the roof, care should be taken to park it on level,  solid ground. Lift bed trucks and forklifts with lifted loads can  easily tip  if the terrain is not solid and level. Heavy planks can be placed under each tire to provide additional support for the vehicle.  Loading of Materials on the Roof

Proper loading of roofs requires skill and knowledge of the roof structure. Unless careful consideration is given to loading properly and safely, damage to the roof and to the interior finish may result. When materials are loaded on a roof, consideration must be given to the strength of the roof deck, condition of sheathing boards, weight distribution, accessibility of the materials for application, and the order in which the materials will be needed.

Care must be exercised in placing materials onto the roof to prevent damage to the roof and to the interior finish of the building. When a roof is loaded, consideration must be given to the strength of the roof deck, condition of the sheathing boards, weight distribution of the materials to be placed on the deck, accessibility of materials for application, and the order in which the materials will be needed.

A good roofer will inspect the roof deck before loading any materials on it to determine whether it can support the load. Cracked sheathing or sheathing with large knot holes, for example, may break under the weight of the material. Overhangs or eaves should never have loads placed on them.

Among the things the roofer should determine is the spacing of rafters and rafter supports, which are the parts that can carry weight. If the rafter location cannot be easily determined, as in re-roofing, try tapping the roof in various locations until a solid pattern of sound is found. Rafters are typically placed every 400 mm to 600 mm (16 in to 24 in) apart.

A location that will be accessible to all sections of the roof should be selected to receive the materials from the ground. A location close to the edge as practical and as close to center of the deck as possible is best as this would allow the shortest possible distance for distributing material to all parts of the roof. The location selected should be clear of obstacles that may be a hindrance in transferring material. Avoid skylights, curbs, dormers, valleys, and high fire walls.

As a rule, materials are loaded on the roof deck starting at the highest point, with care taken to distribute the weight. If too much material is loaded in one spot, the weight may cause the roof deck to collapse. All roll roofing, such as cap sheet and felt, must be loaded in an upright position.

On steep roofs where this is impossible, rolls should be laid flat and parallel to the rafters. They should never be placed on top of other rolls, because this causes them to lose their shape and makes them difficult to work with.

Two dry chemical fire extinguishers must be provided before the roof is loaded, one on the ground and one on the roof.

Gravel or rock should be loaded after the roofing felts have been applied, and distributed to avoid placing too much weight in one spot. All material and equipment should be set down carefully on the deck and never dropped. Dropping them can damage the material, roof deck, structural members, and interior.

Damage to roofing materials, from handling or improper storage can cause problems in application. Rolls must not be damaged by being dropped on their ends, piled too high, or piled in a horizontal position. Some types of thermal insulation, even when wrapped, can have corners broken through careless handling off a truck and to the roof level by a mechanical hoist.

Dirt, ice and debris on cartons of asphalt can be dangerous. If debris reaches spigots in a spreader, the outlets may block causing a poor application. Ice or snow in the carton can cause splash-back and serious injury.

Kettle operators should always prepare a flat, clean work area for the bitumen.

Gravel should be clean, dry, and free of dust and fines. Sand and dirt can reduce the embedment in the hot flood coat.

Asphalt in paperboard cartons should all be stored upright and not more than one tier high for Types 1 and 2, and two tiers high for Type 3. Place a layer of plywood between the tiers. Heat and pressure combined with rain may collapse the cartons making the preparation for the kettle extremely difficult, and the paper liner impossible to remove.


Cedar shakes are packed in tight bundles, and strapped to make them relatively easy to handle. Covered storage is not required for shakes, but underlayment felts should be protected against rain, snow and ground moisture.

Asphalt shingles come paper wrapped in bundles. Each bundle weighs about 32 to 38.5 kg (70 to 85 lb) depending on the type of shingle. Remember that asphalt becomes stiff in cold temperatures so a bundle of asphalt shingles should never be dropped or mishandled. Also remember that the paper or plastic wrapper can be slippery. Always ensure that the bundle is placed so that it will not slide from the roof.

On single-storey houses, composition shingles are very often loaded directly from the truck to the roof. When loaded from the truck, they should be placed beyond the overhang and then distributed along the ridge where the roof has more support and where the shingles will not have to be moved by the applicator. On higher structures, where loading directly from the truck or ground by using an A-frame or ladder hoist, make sure that the hoist is level and has adequate counterweights. On steep roofs where shingles will slide, roof brackets and planking should be used to hold them. Remember, however, that a plank can only hold so much weight, and, if necessary, use several brackets and planks to hold the shingles.

Cement shingles are loaded in the same manner as composite shingles. However, because they are made of cement, they are very brittle and extreme care must be used when handling and loading them. They must be laid flat because if they are stacked on edge, damage may be done to the edges that would render them useless. Likewise, care must be taken not to bang the corners because they will chip off. If the shingles are stacked in tiers, three should be placed in one direction and the next three crisscrossed on top.

Stacked in tiers, they cannot topple over. Placing strips of wood lath between tiers is also a good idea. Cement shingles have almost twice the weight of composition shingles; therefore, they must be distributed more widely on the roof deck to equalize the weight.

Loading a Pitched Roof

The strongest part of a gable roof is the ridge. The hips on a hip roof may also be used for loading. In addition, the support called a purlin that is usually placed midway between the ridge and outside wall at the eave may be loaded. Material should never be loaded in a valley because the valley has the least support of any part of a roof except the overhang. Nonetheless, the valley is still the safest place for the roofer to walk on a steep roof.

Loading Flat Roofs

On flat roofs, the weight of the materials must be equally distributed over the roof. Overloading the deck and/or structure can cause permanent deflection, damage to interior finishes and even collapse. Although barrel roofs do not have a ridge, they are strongest along the highest part. In either case, the greatest part of the load should be placed over the trusses. Generally, the equipment needed for the job is placed on the roof even before the materials. Be sure to cover or erect guardrails around all roof openings.