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Snow Retention:  Industry Products, Spacing and Installation

Why snow retention?
Snow retention systems are installed to minimize the effects of snow and ice slides or avalanches from the roof.  These systems, when installed properly, create locks around the snow and ice so they slow down or minimize the slide from the roof and allow the snow and ice to melt naturally under the climate or sun’s rays.  The popularity of snow retention has increased over the years to protect and to minimize the potential damage sliding snow and ice from the roof can create to the roof system itself, gutters, landscaping, walkways, mechanical equipment, vent stacks on the roof, and of course, any pedestrian traffic below.

Which type of snow retention do I need for my roof?
There are many snow retention system products on the market today for all types of roof systems, including metal, slate, shingle, copper and sloped membrane roofs.  Which snow guard recommended for these roof systems can vary on factors like geographical location, slope, and aesthetic preference.  Currently on the market you can find individual pad style snow guards that adhere or fasten, copper snow guards that can be soldered, bar or fence style systems that clamp to the seams of metal roof panels, and mechanically attached deck mount bar/fence systems that maintain the integrity of the roof system and warranty for slate and membrane roof systems.  Some manufacturers can even customize snow guards to provide for even the most unique situations requiring snow retention.

How do I determine how the snow retention I need and where to place them?
When choosing a product from a manufacturer, you want to always ask if they can provide a recommendation of what product and a recommended spacing/layout diagram for your specific roof system.  A manufacturer that will not provide this information is one you want to steer clear from.  These recommendations are provided to a customer based on the specific product being recommended, geographical location and snow/roof load, along with other roof characteristics like slope, panel or rafter lengths from eave to peak.  This information can be put into a calculation to determine horizontal and vertical spacing for a recommended layout.  In addition, some manufacturers have the option to provide a stamped calculation by a licensed engineer in the state the building is located.

How do I get my snow retention system installed?
Snow retention systems in general are mostly installed by a licensed General or Roofing Contractor.  Although some individuals may feel it is easy enough to do it themselves, being up on a roof with materials should be left to a professional contractor, not only for safety, but to ensure the installation is done properly and per the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Is there maintenance to do after the snow retention system is installed?
Snow retention may require ongoing maintenance over the life of the snow retention and roof system.  The snow guards are subject to varying and sometimes harsh and extreme weather conditions.  It is recommended that your snow retention system also be inspected as part of an annual or bi-annual roof inspection.  As with any product, the life of the snow retention system is dependent on a proper layout and installation.  The designs are based on historical information and safety factors when determining layouts, but excessive snow loads and unpredictable weather above and beyond the norm can also affect the life expectancy of a snow retention system.  Contact your manufacturer for further information regarding layout and product installation techniques.

Where do I buy snow guards?
There are several manufacturer’s and supply houses or distributors that provide snow retention systems.  When looking for a supplier or manufacturer, look for a company that has a history with their products and ask for references from contractors or architects that have used the specific products in the past.  This will provide you with the confidence that you are getting a quality product and the protection you need from sliding snow and ice.

Jim Carpenter is Vice President of Operations at Sno Gem, Inc. based in McHenry, IL. For more information, visit www.snogem.com or e-mail [email protected].