Not too many years ago, you could have counted the number of major snow guard manufactures / suppliers on one hand. Fast forward to today and there are 20+ major manufactures / suppliers. The products offered range in various sizes, shapes, attachment methods, materials, designs, and color options. They are also called by many names, such as Snow Retention, Snow Guards, Snow Stops, Snow Blocks, Snow Rails, Snow Catchers, Snow Bars, Ice Flags, S-5! to name a few.
So how do you choose the right snow guard system for your project? And why are these options so important?
Purpose of a Snow Retention System:
The key purpose of a snow retention system is to hold and retain snow / ice on the roof while allowing a controlled evacuation of the snow, which will help protect your assets & decrease your liability. A properly designed and installed system will retain the snow on the roof and prevent damage to gutters, signage, lighting, landscaping, canopies, awning, vehicles and most importantly of all - people. Architects and contractors are incorporating snow retention systems in the original design of new construction projects but there is still a great amount of buildings that do not have snow retention.
Also, re-roof projects that did not originally have a system in place may now need one. Did the roof slope change? Was the roof material changed from asphalt shingle to metal? A metal roof will be a much slicker surface compared to asphalt shingle so snow and ice sliding off will bee an issue that was not happening before.
Did you know Snow actully melts from the bottom up? It is know as "Snow - Melt Phenomena"
How the snow guard system attaches to the roof is crucial in the selection process. There are plastic / metal individual pad style snow guards that have to be glued to the roof panel in which the glue will have a certain holding strength that is considerably less than a mechanically attached option. There are clamp on snow guards that attach to the standing seam ribs and use set screws to mechanically attach. This attachment method yields the strongest holding strength of the non-penetrating methods. Furthermore, there are screw down brackets for the widely popular exposed fastener roof panels. Most of the roof panel manufactures prefer the clamp on snow guards due to the non-penetrating attachment and not interfering with the roof panel warranty. The glues used to attach the individual glue on can have adverse effect on the Kynar paint that carries a 20 year warranty. It is best to check with the roof panel manufacturer before making your decision
Plastic, extruded aluminum, stainless steel, brass and cast aluminum are available material choices. The best option is extruded aluminum, stainless steel or brass (for copper roofs) systems. Over time, plastic and cast aluminum will become brittle and break or fracture. Aluminum, stainless steel and brass systems will have a longer life span equal to or greater than the metal roof itself. There have been independent studies proving that metal roofs last 40+ years longer than other roofing materials. There are options of various sizes also: 3/8” solid rod, 1” pipe, 2 ½” special shaped pipe, and extruded aluminum.
Snow guard systems that mechanically attach are proven to be stronger than glue on snow guard systems. A majority of the time, a single row of a mechanically attached system can be installed at the eave of the roof compared to multiple rows of glue on plastic snow guards due to the holding strengths. Will one row of a continuous mechanically attached system cost more than multiple rows of a plastic snow guard system? Typically not when you factor in all of the criteria - cost of components and installation time. With that said, there are mechanically attached individual aluminum (not cast aluminum) snow guards that are available for residential, retail centers, restaurants, banks, etc. that do not need a continuous system making them a perfect fit. Most all of the snow guard manufactures/suppliers offer design calculators and design assistance. Use this service to correctly design your system. If a manufacture/supplier does not offer this service, it is best to move on to another. Also, ask for their independent test results.
Years ago, the technology of color matching snow guards to the roof panels significantly enhanced the overall look. Systems can painted or powder coated to match. Some system are designed to accept a strip of Kynar coated roofing material. The Kynar strip insert is the superior option due to it will weather over time the same as the roofing material it is being installed on. However, there are times when a non-painted system better fits the look that is trying to be achieved.
LMCurbs and S-5! have been snow retention partners for 23+ year. Together we have helped countless customers solve their snow retenion problems all over North America. Please let LMCurbs help with your next snow retention project.