I am looking to do some work at the peak of the gable shown in the picture. It's about 25ft to the peak from the walk way. I don't have an assistant, so I am looking for advice on how to safely place the ladder and about what size ladder to get. I have a 22ft ladder currently, and plan to rent a 30ft ladder. will this size be long enough, and what is a safe angle placement?

I have a John Deere riding lawn mower, would putting it in park with the parking brake on, and putting the ladder in front of that be a good alternate to an assistant standing at the bottom of the ladder?

I've seen people around me use ladders on the roof to access the second story setup like I have with 2x4's secured to the roof to hold the ladder from sliding, but I am trying to avoid doing that and creating any holes or damage to the roof shingles.

I appreciate any advice. Thanks!

Front of house

  • 2
    At that height, it would much safer to rent a man lift. You have to anchor an ladder from going sideways also, not just from sliding away. You never heard of the guy tieing a ladder to his car and the wife driving it away.
    – crip659
    Oct 7, 2021 at 22:16
  • Thanks for the response. I did think about a lift, but I am looking to install a spot light, and tuck the wire under the eave. So I won't be up there long. Just long enough to get the wire to a place I can reach while standing on the roof instead of the ladder then I am done. So renting a lift for an hour or so of work didn't seem practical if I could use a ladder.
    – eaglei22
    Oct 7, 2021 at 23:03
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    There is no safe way to do this with a ladder and without an assistant. The expense of @crip659's suggestion of a man lift is a lot less than the medical and physical expenses of falling off the ladder because you overreached and there was no one to jam down the ladder, or because the bottom of the ladder slipped because the tractor slipped out of Park. Best to consider staying alive and healthy vs the cost of the man-lift, or hiring an electrician. Oct 7, 2021 at 23:05
  • Thanks, I def understand your point, but going the DIY approach is so I can stay within a budget. Rentals for lifts are far from me, so delivery and rental fees for an hour of use just isn't practical unless there was literally no other way. Same with paid help, it just starts to become too costly for what is being done. I agree, staying healthy is always a number one priority. That's why I came on here to get other's perspectives with more experience than me, I don't want to assume anything and find out the hard way.
    – eaglei22
    Oct 8, 2021 at 3:29

5 Answers 5


Yes the ladder-standing-on-roof technique can work. But in your case it won't be safe at least because of the angle. Even if the ladder feet were placed at the edge of the porch roof, right next to the rain gutter, the ladder's angle reaching up to the peak of the gable would still be too steep. It would be prone to tipping backward away from the house while you're climbing it. Then of course there are other issues such as having no place to stand to climb onto the ladder, no margin for error if the feet of the ladder slipped even a fraction of an inch, etc.

The American Ladder Institute asserts that the optimum angle for an extension ladder is 75.5 degrees. If we accept that at face value, then to access a peak elevated 25 feet above the walkway, the feet of the ladder would be 25 / tan(75.5) = about 10 feet out from the wall and the ladder would need to extend 25 / sin(75.5) = about 27 feet. So it seems the 30 foot rented ladder should fit the bill (but I'd probably get a 32 foot instead).

For a climb that high an assistant sure would be nice -- maybe it's a good excuse to make the acquaintance of a neighbor? You could prevent slip-out of the ladder in other ways if necessary. Tie a rope or chain back to some blocking placed spanning the front doorway for example. A parked vehicle in front of the ladder could work too. If you go for the lawn tractor perhaps park it perpendicular to the ladder. That way you're not depending on its park function, but rather the friction of tires sliding sideways.

Simple weight/mass at the bottom of the ladder can't help stabilize it in case it should start tipping or sliding in any direction -- but then again, many assistants might not be aware and ready to help in such an event either.

  • Thanks for all the great information. Good idea on other anchoring techniques. Reminded me I have the twist in the ground anchors, and ratchet straps I can make use of for an extra layer of safety.
    – eaglei22
    Oct 8, 2021 at 3:17
  • The math is excellent! I've always been told that the rule of thumb is place your feet at the feet of the ladder, extend your arm straight out at shoulder height - it should be just touching the ladder. Now I'll have to get out a level and protractor to see how close that gets me to 75°. (I'm going to ignore that 1/2°, let's be real, everyone will.)
    – FreeMan
    Oct 8, 2021 at 13:45
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    @FreeMan Yeah I've heard that rule of thumb too. Thought about including it, but -- it's only useful when you're already on site with a ladder. It's no help for answering "what length of ladder will I need?" so I had to resort to using real math! I'm on an extension ladder roughly once a week but I admit I've never consciously used the rule of thumb; I just go with instinct. Sometimes after climbing the first few rungs I decide "nope, too bouncy" or "nope, feels like it's gonna tip backward" and have to re-adjust.
    – Greg Hill
    Oct 8, 2021 at 16:52
  • Another simple rule by OSHA - the legs shall be placed at a distance of d = h/4, for which "h" is the vertical distance from the ground to the point you wanted to reach. After calculating the ladder length, add at least 2' to the length. For this case, the ladder will be quite flexible, ideally, braces shall be added at the mid-span, maybe you can utilize the window opening.
    – r13
    Oct 8, 2021 at 19:26

As an alternative you could consider hiring someone who has a truck with a bucket lift.

Some companies that perform power washing also hang Christmas lights in the off season with the same truck, and perhaps they are able to perform that portion of the installation for you.

The cost of this approach would be offset by the cost & effort you save by not renting the ladder, any damage caused to soffits & gutters while trying to extend it 30 feet, and any heart beats you missed with even the slightest wiggle at that height.

  • Renting the ladder will be about $30, and I can keep it from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning. True, but there is a lot of work out here for people, because of how fast the area is growing, so the prices are always pretty high, and a long wait list unfortunately. So I tend to do a lot of my own work.
    – eaglei22
    Oct 8, 2021 at 3:40

You want a ladder with good, wide, wheeled standoffs. You can get them as attachments rather than have to buy a whole new ladder. That way, I'd say your 22ft might just be long enough.

If you get a ladder that reaches to the gable or beyond, you'll have to contend with either a sloped resting point at the top, or moving the base partway onto the grass - neither of which I'd consider safe.

Looking at the picture, the pathway you're going to have to stand the ladder on isn't directly under the centre of the gable. This is going to mean, whatever you stabilise the bottom with - parked lawnmower sounds fine; sideways, not relying on the brakes - your biggest issue is going to be sideways slippage of the ladder.

Good, wheeled standoffs will stop the ladder slipping sideways even if you hang from one of the standoff arms. A bit of leaning to the right, especially if you're right-handed, will be well in tolerance.

'scuse the "fine art"…

enter image description here


People are much to scared. I've been up and down ladders all my life on countless houses. This situation is decently safe because the roof overhang will prohibit the ladder from tipping to one side or the other.

Yes, a lawn mover to keep the ladder from sliding outward is a good idea.

In my mind, I call that distance '2 and 1/2 stories'. A standard 32 foot ladder will reach that distance.

I have no idea what you intend to do at the peak, but I own a ladder stand-off and I find it very useful. If you're going to rent a ladder, then consider renting a stand-off to hold the ladder away from the house and give it a much more solid stance on top.

Even though I've taken the fright of a ladder ride to the left and to the right and more often down with the bottom sliding outward, I still don't find ladders scary. If you take basic precautions as you intend to do, then your ladder won't be going anywhere.

  • Curious, how will the over hang keep it from tipping? I am assuming the ladder will go from the sidewalk to rest along the siding above the window. I could bungee strap the ladder to the gutter anchors to keep it more stable. Good idea, I'll look into the stand off, as well.
    – eaglei22
    Oct 8, 2021 at 3:47
  • I am adding spot flood lights to the peaks of each gable. The other gables are easier to work on and not as high.
    – eaglei22
    Oct 8, 2021 at 3:49
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    @Paul It is one thing for you or I to use ladders in safe or unsafe ways. It is much different to recommend the same to a person who we don't know their knowledge of ladders. People do get hurt using ladders for simple jobs.
    – crip659
    Oct 8, 2021 at 9:09
  • @eaglei22 Bungee straps and gutter anchors are probably not the most solid ways of anchoring a ladder. You want the most solid straps and anchor points. The ladder should be solid from moving in any direction, it should feel as solid as the house before going up it, especially if doing it yourself.
    – crip659
    Oct 8, 2021 at 9:16
  • People fall off 6' A-frame ladders and get hospital levels of hurt. I was painting about 12' up on a ladder and had the legs slide out on gravel (I'd been there 20 min before it happened). I was blessed to not be injured, just like you've been. That does not give either of us the right to recommend unsafe practices to others.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 8, 2021 at 13:43

Working with both hands, as is required to mount a light fixture, while standing at the top of an extension ladder, is one of the few things I do not do DIY. Adding to the usual dangers a discomfort with the positioning of the ladder, working at a roof peak above both an overhang and a set of steps, and being very high .. all that adds up to me as "hire a pro".

A professional with the right equipment and/or experience will be able to do this at a lower cost and much faster than you renting a power lift or a whole scaffold system.

Or you can just put the light here, where it will also be easier to maintain! You can use a shorter ladder and use the little wall extension for balance and stability:

enter image description here

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