Snow Guards: Do I Really Need Them?

It’s 78 degrees outside. Your roofer is ready to start installing your new composite slate roof. He has just one question. Do you want roof snow guards?

Don’t let the warm weather fool you. Especially if you live in an area that gets regular snow fall each year. Roof snow guards are an excellent idea. Particularly for a composite slate or shake roof.

Snowguards NeededWhy Snow Guards?

Try to forget about the warm weather you’re feeling right now. When it’s 25 degrees outside next January with snow falling fast, you want your composite roofing to have snow guards. Why? Because composite roofs can be slippery. However, roof snow guards can help stop a snow slide.

The “movement” of a snow avalanche coming off your roof all at one time can harm landscaping. To counter that, snow guards help break up melting snows so they come off in smaller amounts.

Roof snow guards perform a very specific function. They break apart snow as it melts off a composite roof. This helps prevent snow masses from “avalanching down” on walkways and landscaping.

Science to Snow Guards

There’s actually a science to adding snow guards to structure with composite roofing in snow-prone areas. To understand the process better, we asked Lars Walberg, President of Rocky Mountain Snow Guards, to walk us through the steps.

“First we look at a roof diagram for the building,” says Walberg. “This can be an aerial picture of an existing structure. Or, for a new structure it can be an architectural drawing.

“We ask the customer to identify areas over driveways, entry doors, walks, dog runs, decks and other key ‘traffic’ locations. We also ask about important landscaping areas. Then we design a roof snow guard system to help protect those eaves and areas from a snow slide.”

snow guards protect roofs and help prevent ice dams

How It’s Done

The science behind the operation comes in determining how many snow guards to specify. It’s important to determine placement, the snow load and retention.

“We’ve calculated and designed a number of different patterns of snow guards that are effective for different situations,” says Walberg. “Several aspects play a role in determining how many snow stoppers are needed.

“We consider the steepness of a composite roof. Then we think about long runs and the lower coefficient of friction of the roof covering. In addition, we consider how much snow can a roof hold. We also review what placement pattern should be done for the roof. Finally, we determine what roof snow guards will be most effective.”

protect your roof with snow guardsStylish Protection

There’s even more science involved. According to Walberg (See “Ask the Expert: Snow Guards”), placement distance of the snow guards from the eaves of the roof is a function of “eave to peak distance, pitch and snow load.” After that, there are different considerations if you’re installing composite shake roofing versus composite slate shingles.

Finally, know that there are a variety of options when it comes to roof snow guards. You can select decorative ones in painted aluminum or steel. Or, choose different materials, like copper. You can even select powder-coated styles that are color-matched to complement your DaVinci composite roof.

Overall, if you live in an area where accumulating snowfall is possible, snow guards should be an essential part of your roof.  However, they do not need to be intrusive. For more details, see Q&A: A Guide to Snow Guards.