How to Install Snow Guards on a Metal Roof

How to Install Snow Guards on a Metal Roof

There’s no doubt that snow can be a beautiful and exciting part of our lives. Even when you live in areas of wester Texas that can get significant amounts of snow each year, its annual appearance can be something you look forward to. Indeed, the vision of snow-topped roofs has long been one of the mainstays of the traditional winter wonderland aesthetic.  

Yet, for all the awe-inspiring beauty, that’s not to say that snow and ice on your roof is necessarily a good thing. It can present various hazards to homeowners — particularly when you have a metal roof. At different stages of its lifecycle, from the dense packed material,  through slush and water, it can prove to be a samaging presence on your home. This means that it is important you take precautions that prevent its pleasant appearance from transforming into a wintertime catastrophe. One of your best protections is knowing how to install snow guards on your metal roof.

What Are Snow Guards?

Snow guards are designed to prevent sheets of snow and ice from sliding off of your metal roof. One of the dangers is that this packed, dense material starts to melt underneath the surface, causing it to become unstable and liable to sliding. There’s a few ways this can cause problems. Firstly, it’s a health hazard for anyone walking around the outdoor vicinity of the building. Being on the receiving end of an avalanche of packed roof snow or ice can cause various types of impact trauma — fractures and concussion among them. Indeed, the higher your roof, the more serious injuries may become. Similarly, there is a risk to any vehicles parked close to the house. It can also cause property damage, not just from the perspective of falling materials, but also heavy snow and ice can cause your metal roof to dent and sag, impacting its expected lifespan

So, how do snow guards work? They come in a couple of different designs. There are long rails types, and those that come in a single spike style. Both types ensure that the melting snow doesn’t shift all at once, but in smaller pieces instead. The guards hold compacted snow and ice in place, allowing the material to melt underneath, and gradually drain away. This not only means that the snow doesn’t fall as large avalanches, it also creates an even distribution of the material on your roof. This means it isn’t all gathering in a single place, which minimizes the potential for sagging and dents. 

Knowing What You Need

So, you’ve established that you get enough snow to warrant some protection. However, this isn’t enough information to know how to install snow guards on your metal roof effectively. You can’t just get a guard and slap it on your roof, and walk off. In fact, the first part of the process is tailoring to your individual needs. 

Not everybody’s roof is the same — size and pitch have a role to play in your installation. This is in fact why it can be wise to team up with professional roofers if you’re not certain how to proceed. They’ll be able to accurately assess the amount of guard rows that will be appropriate for your roof, and how to disperse them across the surface. 

In general, though, the steeper the pitch of your roof, the more snow guards you’ll need. This is because you’ll need to install each row of guards closer together moving up the depth of your roof area. The shallower your roof is, the less need there is to create barriers to it sliding off. 

Your need also has to take into account the materials to affix the snow guards to the roof surface. If you’re looking for longevity, you are likely to find the clamping method most effective. This involves mechanical clamps securing the guards to the seams of your metal roof panels, and tends to create a stronger hold. However, it does also tend to be a pricier option. Another route is a chemical adhesive, which is applied to the metal surface of the roof and the guards attached on top accordingly. This can be a cost effective solution if you don’t get a lot of yearly snow, but it doesn’t usually stand up to as much pressure as clapped versions. 

Correct Installation

In order to avoid having to get roof repairs in the future, it’s important to get your positioning right. As such, the procedure for how to install snow guards on your metal roof should run along the following lines. 

1. Measurement

Before you start clambering up onto your roof with snow guards, you need to ascertain the pitch of your roof. This isn’t a difficult task, as long as you have access to your attic space, an 18-inch level, and a tape measure. Measure 12 inches along the level and place a pencil mark or a strip of masking tape in that position. Then, hold the level horizontally at the lowest point of the roof rafter. At the 12 inch mark of the level, use the tape measure to find the vertical distance from the level to the rafter. Measured in inches, this gives you the pitch. If the distance is 9 inches for every 12 inches, your pitch is 9:12. 

If you have several slopes on your roof — separate areas that represent their own peaks — you’ll also need to measure the pitches of these. 

2. Planning

While installing snow guards is not a complicated process, it can be wise to take a moment to prepare before starting. This minimizes the potential for mistakes. If you need to, draw a diagram of your roof and the positioning of your guards. If you have a relatively low pitch, around 3:12 or 4:12, you should be fine planning a row of snow guards for every 10 feet up the roof’s depth. For 5:12 or 6:12, you should be planning for a row every 8 feet. Between 7:12 and 12:12, you shouldn’t be going further than 5 feet for each guard. 

Along with your plans, gather your materials: guards, clamps or adhesives, a ladder, a pencil or marker, and some gloves. 

3. Attachment 

First, measure and mark out the areas on your roof you’ll be attaching your snow guards. This is simpler for single rail types. But for singly spikes you should also mark their positions every 24 inches horizontally. Then, working from the top peak down to the bottom edge, you can start installing your guards. The process you’re using will depend on the type of attachment here.

If you’re using adhesive, make sure you clean the surface before applying the chemical. Take your time, and spread the adhesive evenly, making sure it’s tacky before placing the rail on top of it. You should then place some additional adhesive around the edges of the guard to ensure any gaps are filled. 

Clamped guards are generally best applied by a roofing expert — as they’ll have knowledge of both the right screw torque for the job, and sealants that are metallurgically compatible with the material of the roof.  

Wrapping Up

Knowing how to install snow guards on a metal roof correctly shouldn’t be left down to guess work. Make sure that you understand the type and number of guards that are most appropriate for your roof and its pitch. While it’s not an especially complex physical process, it certainly benefits from partnering with an expert to ensure both efficacy and longevity. 

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