Roofers can face challenging jobs in the harshest conditions – from extreme heat and sun exposure to frigid, windy, cold conditions. For protection, roofing clothes must be durable, flexible, breathable, and UV-resistant without sacrificing breathability, comfortable and safe.
This guide to what to wear when roofing has many helpful reminders for beginners and pros alike.
What Do Roofers Wear to Stay Safe and Cool?
We’ve all seen it before: a guy on top of a house with no shirt on. This is about the worst thing a roofer could do. Besides being unsafe and unprofessional, it’s a great way to amplify your chances of getting skin cancer. Proper roof wear covers up as much of the body as possible, from sun hats to work boots.
There are a lot of considerations in roofing gear, such as breathability, room for movement, protection from nicks and cuts, and blocking the sun’s harsh rays. But given that roofers work very hard for long hours, comfort is also a big deal.
A Short History of Roofing Apparel
Old pictures of roofers in britches, vests, collared shirts, and little caps look downright formal to us now. But that was the workwear of the day–a style far different than the roofer hoodies and high-performance fabrics in use today.
Some of the most iconic American fashions began as workwear. A good example is the denim jeans patented by Levis Strauss and Jacob Davis in 1873. Strauss and Davis took a sturdy indigo-dyed twill cloth and placed copper rivets in all of its stress points to keep it from ripping. One hundred fifty years later, everyone has worn Levis jeans, from supermodels to roofers to the president.
Other examples of utilitarian clothes turned fashion statements include overalls, cargo pants, combat boots, and even military surplus. But, of course, modern roofers aren’t likely to be wearing pricey authentic hand-dyed indigo dungarees – at least not on the job, after all.
Roofing Uniforms Today
Identifying workers began in the medieval period with specific clothing or emblems. Around this time, it became common for the nobility to hand out uniforms decorated with the master’s coat of arms to their servants, and nations would garb their armies in standard attire.
Over time this evolved into numerous ways of visually identifying people’s rank, profession, and status in society. Today, uniforms are essential for many reasons, like advertising your brand and establishing safety standards.
Branding Roofing Uniforms: Modern companies use uniforms with specific colors and logos to distinguish their employees from the competition and inculcate a sense of unity and teamwork. For example, roofing uniforms may consist of t-shirts printed with the company logo or simply a badge placed on the chest. Learn about customizing Suntect UPF roofing shirts.
What to Wear When Roofing
Let’s break it down into the dos and don’ts of roofing apparel, for roofer work pants, tops, jackets, base layers, gloves, hats, knee pads, and even underwear. All these garments have essential roles to play for safe roofing. So here are some qualities to look for in the best roofing gear.
- Pants, Kneepads
- Hats, helmets
- Tool Belts
- ANSI vests
We can’t stress enough the importance of wearing the most appropriate shirt for the job when you’re up on a commercial or residential roof. Roofers toil under the blazing sun all day, their torsos vulnerable to a heavy beating from harmful UV rays. And, believe it or not, a regular cotton shirt isn’t enough to protect you from cancerous rays. To keep workers safe from heat stress, skin cancer, and accidents with tools, the best roofing shirts are:
- Made of sun-protective UPF fabric
- loose-fitting enough to be breathable
- long-sleeved and in good condition
Roofers should avoid short sleeves and anything with tatters or loose pieces that could catch to cause an accident. Roofing pros should also avoid 100% polyester fabrics that aren’t breathable or moisture-wicking and may melt in extreme heat.
Roofing Hoodies and High Vis Vests
Roofer hoodies are very practical. Not only do they provide warmth, but protective coverage can reach over the neck and head. Any area of skin that you can protect from the burning sun, mosquito bites, or sharp objects like nails is a good thing. As for hi-vis vests, they are an essential piece of PPE for any construction worker, including roofers.
Experienced roofers know that roofing and shorts do not mix. Installing, repairing, and replacing a roof can be tricky, full of hot, rough surfaces and sharp pointy objects. For pants, try a pair of sturdy roofing trousers with reinforced knees and plenty of pockets and loops for tools.
Roofing jeans and roofing pants have to balance toughness with flexibility and breathability, so 100% cotton is recommended, or maybe with a touch of spandex to assist movement. Baggy pants are bad for roofing since excessively loose clothing can contribute to an accident.
Hats, Neckwear, and Sunglasses
Extra items to protect against the sun are essential to roofing gear. Neck gaiters or old-fashioned bandanas can be helpful to extend the coverage of a wide-brimmed hat. Sunglasses should block UVA and UVB rays and be wraparound if possible.
Gloves and Footwear
Many roofers choose to wear gloves to protect their hands from the elements, as well as cuts and nicks. A high-quality pair is essential to retain dexterity. As far as footwear, it’s a matter of preference whether to use heavy work boots that offer maximum protection or lighter sneakers that don’t add extra drag. Either way, a good grip on the tread is crucial to avoid falls.
Tool belts and Knee Pads
As a roofer, you can’t climb up and down to your truck all day, nor can you set a toolbox on the steep pitch. So perhaps more than any other construction worker, you’ll need high-quality tool belts that will hold everything required to perform your job. Avoid back problems by finding one that fits snuggly and distributes weight evenly to prevent carrying all of your heavy gear all day.
The last item that many roofers swear by is knee pads, as you will spend a great deal of time crouching and kneeling on hot, unforgiving surfaces. Investing in a good pair is a decision no roofer ever regrets. On the other hand, some veteran roofers have admitted to cutting up old couch cushions and using those instead.
What to Look For in Roofing Clothes
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, roofing is the third deadliest profession after hunting/fishing and logging. In 2020 the rate of fatalities for roofers was 47 for every 100,000 full-time workers, down from 54 the previous year. Most of those were from falls, but there are plenty of other hazards on roofing jobs. Clothing is the first line of defense against most of them, from bee stings to heatstroke. Here are a few key things to look for in roofing apparel.
- UPF Protection
- Breathable Fabrics
- Visibility Features
- Layers for cool days
- Pockets and utility loops
- Anti-fungal properties
- Durable, quality materials
UPF Protection Against Harmful Sun Exposure
As noted previously, roofers should wear long sleeves and pants and cover as many other areas of the body as possible to protect against damaging UV radiation. Although it may seem like no big deal when you’re young, the sun is extra punishing up on the roof and will cause many problems later. This is why UPF clothing is highly recommended for any roofing uniforms.
Breathable Fabrics To Keep You Cool On Hot Days
Choose loose-fitting garments so that wind can pass through and cool you off as it blows against your sweat. There’s no official agreement on whether natural fibers, such as cotton and wool, or synthetics designed for performance, are better at breathing and wicking away moisture.
Visibility Features to Meet Safety Standards
Hi-vis vests help roofers meet specific industry visibility standards with neon fabrics and reflective tape. Depending on your particular job site, performance shirts of dayglo orange, yellow or green may do the trick.
Warm Layers for Cooler Days and Colder Environments
As a roofer, you don’t only face scorching heat–you with wind and cold as well. So layering with high-performance fabrics is the best way to meet inclement conditions and remain comfortable. Merino wool is one of the most technical fabrics out there, as it is highly insulative even when wet (from sweat or rain).
Anti-fungal Properties To Reduce Stink in Humid Seasons
Another benefit to merino is that it is naturally antimicrobial. Antimicrobial means that it will resist odor buildup as you work and sweat day after day in your shirts, long johns, and even merino briefs.
Durability and Material Quality to Last Longer
Roofing clothes are essential tools of the job, and skimping out on price won’t do you any favors. So instead, invest in good-quality garments that will help keep you safe and comfortable for years to come.
Learn How Suntect UPF Apparel Protects Roofers From UV
Sun safety is a critical priority for roofing professionals. A standard cotton t-shirt is not protective enough against deadly ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The best clothes for roofing are:
- Long sleeve, sun-protective UPF roofing shirts
- Durable, high-quality roofer work pants
- Performance base layers and roofer hoodies for cold weather
- Hats, neckwear, and sunglasses for additional sun protection
- Gloves to protect hands from sun, cold and cuts
- Heavy-duty boots or sneakers with good tread
- Tool belts and knee pads
Are you looking to outfit your team with the best roofing gear? Find out how our comfortable UPF50+ sun protective clothing is lab-tested to keep roofers safe on the job – from the short and long-term effects of working in the sun.
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