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Blue Ridge Roofing, Inc.
(434) 979-0501
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What is Snow Retention and do I need it?

We frequently hear questions related to snow and ice on the roof. In this article, we will address a few of these questions including “What are snow guards”, “Why do I need them”, and “How many snow guards do I need”.

  • What is a Snow Guard?

A snow guard is a component of a snow retention system. When snow and ice accumulate on the roof, they are pulled by gravity and want to slide down the slope of the roof. A well designed snow retention system is intended to hold the snow on the roof so that it can melt in place.

There are many types of snow guards and they are designed for both function and appearance. Functionally, guards are designed for the many different types of roofing materials used. Aesthetically, they are designed to coordinate with many different architectural styles as well as personal preferences.

  • Do I need them and if so, why?

There are several factors that must be evaluated in determining whether a particular building requires a snow retention system.

Lower Level Conditions – The first question to answer is “What will happen if the snow slides off of the roof”. The second question is “Do we care”. When snow slides off of a roofing surface it piles up on whatever is below the edge of the roof. Snow retention is frequently used to protect landscaping around the perimeter of the building, to protect guttering systems around the edge of the roof, and to keep snow from piling either on a lower roof level or on decks, sidewalks, and at garage entrances. If none of these are issues, it may be best to let the snow and ice slide off unhindered.

Roof system type and material - Some types of roofing materials have more “grip” for the snow and ice. An asphalt shingle roof is one example of a high grip material. The granules on the surface of the shingle are rough and offer lots of surface irregularities for the snow to hold on to. As long as the slope is moderate, most asphalt shingle roofs do not need any snow retention system. A metal roof, on the other hand, has a hard and smooth surface. The snow has little to grip to and readily begins to slide, even at lower roof pitches.

Roof Pitch – The relative steepness of a roof slope is a key issue. As the slope of the roofing surface increases, the pull of gravity more readily begins to move snow down the roof slope.

  • How many Snow Guards do I need?

For many owners, the answer to this question is likely to be “more than I really want to pay for”. A well designed snow retention system can add a significant amount to the total cost of a roofing system installation. However, that additional cost may be a very worthwhile investment over the long term.

Here in Central Virginia, we rarely have heavy snowfall. However, on occasion it does happen and when it does, an inadequate system is quickly overwhelmed. In worst cases, this can lead to damage to costly gutter systems, structural damage to lower roof levels, and even destruction of mature landscaping around the perimeter of a home.

A careful evaluation of the specific characteristics of an individual building is essential in making a recommendation. Give us a call. We'd love to talk with you and evaluate the appropriateness of a well designed snow retention system for your home.