On Groundhog’s Day, Punxsutawney Phil predicted that spring is right around the corner, and whether you take that furry little fellow seriously or not, it is a great time to start thinking about snow guards! The average snowfall for states in the US that experience winter weather is approximately 27.25”, so it is likely that if you are reading this, you have dealt with at least some snow and ice on your roof this season. But what does a snow guard do? Do you need snow guards on your metal roof? In this blog, we will discuss what snow guards do and how to determine if your home or building should have a snow retention system installed.
What Is A Snow Guard?
Snow guards are vital for protecting your roof from dangerous snow and ice slides that are also referred to as “rooftop avalanches”. The purpose of a snow guard is to hold the snow and ice in place so that it can melt safely, while also controlling the speed and amount of snow that comes off the roof at one time. While the term "snow guard" is becoming broader every day as the industry continues to add new manufacturers and styles, the generic definition of a snow guard is simply a device that prevents snow and ice from sliding and shedding off of a roof. In the old days, this was often accomplished by placing rocks or logs on roofs. We have come a long way since then. Don’t let their small sizes fool you. Size does not always equate to strength. Proper layout, high-quality materials, and independently tested design are often much more important factors than size. Check out our blog entitled, “ What Makes a Good Snow Guard?“ for more information on this topic.
Do I Need Metal Roof Snow Guards?
Winter precipitation brings the chance of damage to your home or business and along with it, liability if left unaddressed. Sliding snow and ice not only has the potential to damage property like vehicles, HVAC units, and expensive landscaping but also has the potential, in extreme circumstances, to cause injury or even death to pedestrians and/or pets. In less severe cases, it could cause damage to gutters, skylights, vent pipes, chimneys, or other parts of the roof. To avoid these problems, a snow retention system is an easy solution.
Any pitched roof in a geographic location that receives snowfall should have snow guards installed. Even if your area doesn't receive heavy snowfall throughout the year, a snow retention system is still worth considering. This is especially true on homes or businesses with metal roofs. A metal roof has a slicker surface than a roofing material like shingles. This means it's easier for the snow to slide off of or shed from the roof. Snow guards also help with snow load by avoiding roof cave-ins since the weight of accumulated snow on your roof is more evenly distributed when installed with a correct layout.
Are Snow Guards Required By Code?
In the United States, it’s rare to find building codes that mandate snow guards. While there are literally thousands of codes that have been created for just about every other facet of construction, snow guards are left up to architects and snow guard manufacturers to provide their recommendations on project specs. There is very little regulation in the snow guard industry. That is why it is important to make sure that you are purchasing your snow retention from a trusted manufacturer with a long and proven history in the industry that also stands behind their products and offers layout recommendations. Snow guards are definitely an example of “you get what you pay for”.
What Are Some Popular Snow Guard Types?
Pad Style Snow Guards
Pad-style snow guards, like our polycarbonate SnoBlox Deuce and Icejax II or our Stainless Steel SnowCatcher, are individual snow retention devices, typically made of plastic or metal, that mount to the flat of a metal roof panel with their base or pad resting against the metal. They should be installed in staggered rows across the entire length of a roof area that needs to be protected. It is also important to add snow guards to any roof areas above the one in question as they will otherwise dump onto that area and cause overloading. These guards are installed with either a liquid adhesive, like our recommended SureBond SB-190, or by being mechanically fastened down with screws, like our recommended Master Grippers for wood buildings or our Master Drillers for pre-engineered metal buildings, and sealed with a liquid sealant like our recommended NovaFlex MR150. While exposed fastener r-panel, pbr, and ag-panel roofs can accept both methods of attachment, it is important to note that when it comes to individual pad-style guards, standing seam metal roofing can only accept a glue-down attachment. It is NEVER recommended to screw through a standing seam roof, due to its floating nature. 2.67 wavy corrugated roof panels should only use screw-down attachment with a guard that straddles multiple ribs for proper, secure attachment.
Pad-style snow guards are often preferred because of their affordable pricing and ease of installation. A large portion of our sales in 2023 were homeowners and DIY weekend warriors. When compared with some of the more complicated systems on the market, pad-style snow guards don’t require an engineering degree to install. It is always important to do your research before purchasing snow guards. This is especially true when it comes to layouts. We have FREE, full-color instructions and spacing guidelines available on our website for easy access, which will help take much of the guesswork out of designing a system. It is never recommended to install snow guards, regardless of type or method of attachment, in isolated areas such as just over doorways, walkways, HVAC units, or vent pipes. These incorrect installations are prone to failure and can cause damage to not only the roof panels but also the structure underneath.
Heavy Duty Snow Rail Systems
Snow bars, snow fences, or snow rails as they are commonly referred to, feature continuous horizontal metal bars that span the entire length of the roof area and act as barriers against snow and ice. Bar-style snow guards, such as our galvanized or stainless SnoBar and aluminum ColorBar are used by customers who may want a cleaner design or those requiring a more heavy-duty system than they can achieve with pad-style snow guards. As pad-style snow guards can only be installed on roofs in areas with ground snow load ratings of less than 45PSF, bar, and rail systems become the only choice for projects above that threshold. This includes geographic locations with high elevations and most of the northern United States and Canada.
Snow rail systems are ideal for standing seam roofs because they can be installed using non-penetrating clamps. Our patented SnoBar Clamps feature 2 cup point set screws that create a posi-lock connection to the panel without significant marring of the panel or penetration and achieve this feat with a required torque setting of almost half of what some of our competitors require for their system. We also have systems available for screw-down r-panel roofs, wavy corrugated roofs, shingle/slate roofs, and membrane applications.
Snow Rail systems come in standard mill finish and should be constructed from corrosion-resistant metals that will prevent dissimilar metal reactions. These systems can, however, be made to match the color of your metal roof using a couple of different methods. Both the SnoBar and ColorBar can be ordered in custom powder-coated finishes to match the color of the roof and blend in for a more visually appealing look. The ColorBar can also be equipped with a slide-in color strip utilizing the channel in the front of the face. For those needing a faster turnaround time or who want more hands-on control with the color application, customers may choose to order mill finish and either have the system powder coated locally or spray painted.
If you live in an area prone to snow and have a metal roof, we highly advise you to consider snow guards. SnoBlox-Snojax offers many different snow retention systems for just about every kind of roofing situation you can dream up. For more information about any of our products, you can send us an email at email@example.com or give us a call at 1-800-766-5291.