Do Snow Guards Protect Gutters?
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Do Snow Guards Protect Gutters?

Posted by Derek Gamble - SnoBlox-Snojax Specialist on Jan 4th 2024

Snow and Ice Weight Ripping Gutter From Building - Image Courtesy of Kiro7.com

As we enter the third week of winter, it is never too late to address the challenges that winter can bring to your home or business like the potential damage caused by snow and ice avalanching from your roof. This is especially true when it comes to your gutters. Your gutters play an important role in preventing costly water damage as they are designed to direct water away from your building. Shedding snow and ice from rooftops can pose a serious threat to your gutters. The added weight and velocity of snow slides can lead to sagging, bending, or even detachment from the building itself. This is where  snow guards can help.

What Are Snow Guards?

Snow guards are devices that are normally manufactured from plastic or  metal and are installed on the roof to help manage the distribution of snow and ice. Their primary purpose is to prevent sudden and potentially catastrophic snow slides from the roof. They also play a crucial role in protecting gutters. By distributing the weight of accumulated snow/ice and preventing it from sliding off in large heavy chunks, snow guards help reduce the risk of damage to gutters caused by the impact of sliding snow and ice.

Kodiak Bear SnowCatchers Holding Snow and Ice on Roof Above Gutters

What are the most popular types of snow guards?

Snow guards come in various shapes and sizes, each catering to different and sometimes specific roof panels and climates. There are 2 common snow retention types that are used frequently on today’s roofs. The first style is called a “pad-style” snow guard like our  SnoBlox Deuce and Icejax II, which are molded from UV-stabilized 100% virgin polycarbonate. Metal pad-style snow guards like our stainless steel SnowCatcher are also popular among today's consumers. Besides aesthetics, a major difference between the two materials is that metal pad-style snow guards require screw-down installation. This makes them incompatible with standing seam roofs, unlike most plastic guards which can be installed with either screws or liquid adhesive like  Surebond SB-190. Because of this, plastic snow guards are often a more desirable, universal solution for wholesalers who need to maintain stock. Pad-style guards feature flat bottoms that are typically installed in a staggered pattern across the roof to aid in even weight distribution on the roof’s surface. The need for multiple rows going up the slope is common and helps to spread the weight more evenly. For information about proper layouts for your project, check out our  Spacing Guidelines Page. It is never recommended to install any kind of snow retention in only isolated areas like those just above doorways, chimneys, vent pipes, walkways, or HVAC systems. These incorrect installations often overload easily, resulting in failure and potential damage to your building and/or the guards themselves. For more information about the dangers of isolated placements, please check out our  blog post on that topic. Pad-style snow guards are also not recommended for use on roofs located in geographic locations with ground snow loads of higher than 45psf. A quick online search or call to your local building inspector can help you determine your ground snow load easily. It can also be found on your building’s plan set.

Snow and Ice Ripping Gutters From The Roof - Image Courtesy of johnsonrestoration.net

The other main type of snow retention that is common today is “fence-style” snow rail systems. Fence-style guards like our  SnoBar, available in galvanized or stainless steel, and our aluminum ColorBar are continuous barriers, often resembling small fences, that utilize bars or interlocking, continuous rails in straight rows to hold back snow and ice. Like pad-style guards, these systems should run the entire length of the roof area and multiple rows may be needed going up the slope. The same rules about isolated installations are also true with this method as well. Snow rail systems are often used by customers because of their sleek modern looks. While their heavy-duty strength makes them the only solution we suggest for projects with ground snow loads higher than 45psf, areas with lower snow loads can also benefit from them.

How do snow guard protect gutters?

One of the primary ways snow guards protect gutters is by helping to prevent the formation of ice dams. Ice dams occur when snow on the roof melts, begins sliding down to the colder edges, and refreezes, creating a barrier that can trap meltwater. Properly installed snow guards disrupt this process by preventing large chunks of snow from sliding at all, thus reducing the chances of ice dam formation along the gutter line.

By holding back the snow and allowing it to gradually melt or slide off in smaller, controlled amounts, snow guards ensure that the weight on the roof is evenly distributed. This prevents sudden and heavy loads from impacting the gutters, thus reducing the risk of damage. Snow guards act as a barrier, shielding gutters from the force of falling snow and ice. This protection is particularly crucial during periods of thaw and freeze, where the repeated cycles of melting and refreezing can put immense stress on gutters. Snow guards help maintain the structural integrity of gutters, preventing them from bending, sagging, or detaching under pressure.

Damaged Gutters With Dangerous Icicles - Image Courtesy of firstforwomen.comAre there other ways to protect my gutters from snow and ice?

While not specifically a snow guard, another product that we suggest and offer to our customers is black gutter brush gutter guard systems like our  LeafBlox kits. These easy-to-install, low-maintenance gutter guards will keep your gutters from becoming clogged with leaves and debris. In the winter this trapped water and detritus can freeze into heavy ice chunks which can add significant weight to your gutters and further block water flow, causing them to fail. With nowhere for winter rain and melting runoff to go, it can crest the gutters and refreeze creating dangerous icicle formation. Don’t laugh! You may be surprised to learn that approximately 15 Americans die each year from incidents involving icicles. Russia reports close to a hundred people per year who suffer the same fate. The LeafBlox product not only keeps your gutters clear, allowing melting snow and ice to drain away from your home or business safely but the black polypropylene bristles have been shown to collect heat from the sun, which can assist in the melting of snow and ice around them.

In the battle against winter precipitation,  snow guards often emerge as unsung heroes, safeguarding not only your roof but also your gutters. The investment in quality snow guards can pay dividends by protecting your home from potential water damage, preserving the longevity of your gutters, and ensuring that the winter wonderland outside doesn't turn into a nightmare of costly repairs. As the snow begins to fall, consider the role of snow guards as that silent threat accumulates on your rooftop. For more information about any of our snow retention products, you can send us an email to support@snojax.com or give us a call at 1-800-766-5291