Metal Roofing and Snow Retention

A metal roof with snow on it in Stow, MA

One of the major factors for homeowners when considering a metal roof in the Northeast is the fact that they shed the potential heavy buildup of snow, and protect the home from the damages that ice dams can create. While shedding snow and ice is a nice feature of metal roofing, it can also be a dangerous proposition for those entering or exiting a home.

A responsible metal roofing contractor will survey potential danger areas where significant snow and ice coming off a roof could cause harm to people or damage property. They will mark the roof plan accordingly, show the homeowner where snow retention is necessary, and add the proper material to the quote. I have seen many metal roofs installed where snow retention is nonexistent, and not because it was unrequired. It is just a matter of time when the unexpected happens. For example, a car leaving a garage gets dumped on, an upper roof lets go of its snow only to crash below to a lower roof, or you or the delivery man dodging an avalanche at the last second.

There are various styles of snow retention on the market for a variety of metal roofs. Choosing a quality snow retention system is vital, and not something where you attempt to save money by choosing a lesser quality assembly, or worse eliminate it from the installation altogether. Further, fitting a quality snow retention system incorrectly on a metal roof may result in essentially the same end. A damaged metal roof, or worse a false sense of security and useless failsafe for occupants.

There are a few things that determine snow retention design. The pitch and length of the roof where people and property need to be protected will determine spacing and the amount of snow retention. The style of metal roof, such as a pressed formed metal shingle to that of a standing seam will typically use snow brakes as opposed to a snow rail system. In areas where homes are in close proximity to one another such as Boston proper, a neighbor’s driveway may be right next to the home, and even if it is a side of the home where the owner has no access, snow retention needs to be applied for the sake of other’s safety.

Snow retention systems are designed to keep the snow from rushing off the roof all at once. However, a good system will allow the snow to gradually make its way to the ground over a period of time. After all, the whole point with metal roofing during the winter is to minimize the weight of snow from large or continuous storms. Good design and proper location of snow guards will achieve this goal.

Snow retention systems add visual interest to the roof. Period style snow guard choices are available depending upon the style of roof chosen and the age of the home. A mini rail or double pipe standing seam snow rail may be a better choice over the more modern looking bar style on a Victorian home, and the manufactured slate pad style snow brake may be a more appropriate choice for a press-formed slate style metal roof over that of the more ornamental forged variety. There is no right or wrong choice with which style of snow retention is used, as long as it is used and properly installed as needed.

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