Few members of the roofing community disagree on the value of snow guards for roofs and their function is essential if your home or business is in a location that receives a regular accumulation of at least 4-inches of snow and ice regularly.
But just because a typical winter season is expected to deliver 4-inches, your total roof accumulation could add up to 12-inches by the start of spring. At that point, the meltdown begins.
What’s the biggest risk? Sliding accumulation could potentially damage a roof’s surface, tear off gutters, and if someone happens to be standing beneath eaves, you can imagine the worst.
For these reasons and more, don’t overlook the many benefits these rather inexpensive guards can offer you in terms of time, money, and stress.
What is the purpose of snow guards?
These low-profile, “pad-like” aids are fastened to roof exteriors with the overall goal of giving “the snowpack something to ‘grab’ onto so it does not avalanche off the roof all at once,” according to one manufacturer.
Individual or rail-type snow guards are installed in patterns that cover the roof in a way that dams up thawing snow and ice so melting takes place in a controlled manner.
They’re not designed to stop movement. They are designed to slow it down. One expert likens snow guards to speed bumps that are designed to slow down not stop cars.
Types of snow guards for metal roofs
Let’s now see some types of snow guards for metal roofs below:
Snow rails and bars
Best defined as snow guards for standing-seam metal roofs, snow rails and bars are produced by myriad manufacturers under both names.
They are installed by attaching them to the seams of a standing-seam metal roof or they can be bolted down instead.
Some snow rail and bar products use non-penetrating roof clamps that fasten to roof ribs to keep them in place.
Clamps are laser cut for uniformity and a properly engineered system requires continuous lengths of bar or rail that run across the entire roof.
Some are held in place by mechanically fastened aluminum brackets.
Individual Seam-mounted guards
Considered by many homeowners to be more aesthetically pleasing than rails and bars, seam mounted guards are pad-style systems fabricated of materials that add friction to surfaces for a slower release of impacted snow.
These snow management systems that have received the greatest number of upgrades since this style of snow guard was introduced to the market.
Seam-mounted guards tend to have a deeper profile, in that they act like saddles that are installed with screw sets and connective webbing that forms a bond between clamps and saddle.
As a result, the system is stronger. Professionals say that seam-mounted guards are easy to install because they’re built as individual units by manufacturers so you could save time and money with this option.
Fence-style snow guards
Best described as a system of multiple horizontal tubes that act as a fence, fence-style snow guards tend to be higher and more noticeable than pad or bar types.
Often more noticeable, fence-style systems act as barricades that retain snow accumulation for longer periods, so it melts more efficiently and is shed as water rather than clumps of ice and snow.
Fence-style snow guard systems tend to be more efficient at dealing with a wide variety of snow loads and usually come with bracket-type install hardware.
Small profile snow guards
As the name suggests, small profile snow guards are designed to be so low they may be hidden from view. But that doesn’t mean these products don’t do a good job.
Low profile products meet aesthetic criteria of homeowners, but your local building codes, roof pitch and the amount of snowfall your region typically gets could make this a choice that isn’t worth the trade-off.
On the other hand, there’s lots of variety: Choose from rails, bars, seam-mounted, pad-styles and fences.
Typical small profile snow guards measure less than 4-square-inches. They are attached to a roof near eaves and extend to or near the peak of the roof.
Large profile snow guards
For a snow guard to be categorized as large profile, it must have a pad face of more than 4-square-inches and function as a true barrier to slow movement.
Pad face areas can measure as much as 15-square-inches and this snow guard style is usually installed in rows or at slightly staggered intervals around 12-inches from eave edges.
This configuration could be enhanced by more rows of guards if the roof pitch is extreme and if you factor in extreme snowfall collection, large profile snow guards make sense.
Attractive? Not necessarily, but you’re being asked whether it’s more important that your home’s silhouette be pleasing to the eye or whether you’d like to extend the life of your roof when you shop!
Snow Guards By Material Type
Does it matter which material is best for the snow guard system that works best for your metal roof?
After all, there are so many choices on today’s market, you may have to rely upon your contractors or the depth of your research to decide.
Assuming you’re interested in a diversity of materials, these are currently most often recommended:
It offers you a long life that is equal to or greater than the roof itself, so if you want your roof to enjoy that long life, extruded aluminum is readily available and moderately priced.
This is considered an unbeatable fabrication material so even if it costs more, you’ll enjoy a world of benefits for a longer period than you would with plastic or cast aluminum.
While efficient, light, and perhaps less expensive, plastic won’t necessarily stand the test of time as it can break, fracture, or become so brittle, it falls apart.
Considered by the industry to be a top option, brass is a surprisingly strong and long-lasting medal, as is copper if you’re looking for the crème de la crème of materials.
Unlike its cousin, extruded aluminum, this material tends to be budget-friendly buy as plastic, fractures, breaks and decomposition may occur over time.
What is a snow guard?
It’s an invention that may look as modern, but these invaluable roof products have been in use for more than 300 years, according to industry historians.
The most “recent” iterations came along in 1897 when Dr. M. Halliday realized how frustrated homeowners were when the slanted roofs on their New York City homes were subject to a freeze/defrost cycle that shortened the lives of their roofs.
His first snow guard install was on the roof of the historic Belleview Hospital, and over time, engineers have continued to invent new guard products.
How important are materials used to install snow guards?
In a word, extremely so. Attachment products could also determine the longevity of your guard setup.
Your contractor may recommend “plastic/metal individual snow guards that have to be glued to the roof panel in which the glue will have a certain holding strength that is less than a mechanically attached option,” according to the website Metal Construction News.
Clamps attach to seam ribs and screws are employed too. This is considered the best non-penetrating installation process.
Screw down brackets are preferred if there are exposed roof panels. Further, “roof panel manufacturers prefer clamp-on snow guards due to the non-penetrating attachment” that won’t interfere with the roof panel warranty, say experts.
Glues manufactured for attaching snow guards may have adverse effects on the paint used to decorate and seal metal roofs. That’s why checking with your roof panel fabricator is so important.
Do I Need Snow Guards on My Metal Roof?
It can’t be said too often: Yes, you do. In addition to reasons listed within the body of this review, you will want to factor in the probability of heat buildup from within and without that can push accumulations over the edge and your gutters may be the least of your worries.
If meltdowns are dynamic, you risk everything under roof, including your cars, your family and even your pets.
Where do you put snow guards on a metal roof?
Experts recommend two rows or sets of staggered guards be located two feet on center on slopes of 2½ and 6½ feet.
Steeper roofs (6½ feet) benefit from rows of guards in straight lines installed across eaves.
Brakes, fences, rails and other bar or fence-type guards can always be installed as single, contiguous systems from 1 to 3 feet above the eaves.
Experts recommend placing a first row of snow guards at or above the load-bearing wall.
Snow guards should never be installed beyond load-bearing walls on extended roofs. Every snow guard system is unique, so when in doubt, always install per the manufacturer’s directions.
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