How Roofing Codes Compare to Snow Guards

Right now, our homes are comfortably situated in the summer heat that’s keeping the usual mountain snow at bay. But in six months, we’ll all be under the usual, familiar white covering that can cause so many problems for our roofs and homes in general. And, like it or not, snow with all its magical qualities isn’t great for you as an individual, either, unless you have snow guards for your metal roof.

The Scenario: No Snow Guards

Snow falling might be a beautiful sight, but if it doesn’t melt completely on your roof type with the help of snow guards or another snow guard-like retention system, keeping snow from hurting you and your family in the winter months can prove to be difficult. To prevent damage, you need to make sure the snow stops compressing on your house to avoid a sudden release of an avalanche below. Different snow guards can be used on different roofs, but all snow guards designed to help your roof will get the job done. Snow guards will keep snow from compressing and snow guards will keep your house safe.

But maybe you’re not sold on snow guards just yet. Why aren’t snow guards included in every home design then? Why do you need snow guards? Are snow guards expensive?

snowy suburban roofs need snow brackets

Let’s make this more personal, so you can see the benefits for you and your home of installing a snow guard system on your metal roof. Picture three feet of snow and ice sitting on the metal roof above your front porch.  The sun is heating the frozen snow, and your four-year-old son is riding the brand new bike he got for Christmas and shivering at the temperature outside. 

You let this happen because you trust your metal roof. Metal roofs are prepared to protect against a roof avalanche, you’ve been told. The codes that were followed when the roofing contractor installed roof will protect you and your son from being hurt by snow that might fall off the roof, right? 

Whether you’re working with a metal roof, slate roofs, a steel roof, or a standing seam metal roof, you’ll be protected from extensive damage when it comes to snow. That’s the trust you have in your contractor and your community. There are ordinances and codes keeping you safe.

That’s your government’s job and the job of any individual whose resources you purchased for a price while building your home. They sold you a great product, and, as part of the job and your construction project, they made sure that each shingle was safe. Right? They followed the codes.

The Truth

Except there aren’t any codes referring to house protection from snow or installation of snow systems on your roof. Thousands of codes have been developed for construction all over the country.  However, roof snow retention to keep dangerous snowfall from affecting your daily life has never been addressed.  As a result, individuals who trusted the people building their house have neglected installation of snow protection for their roofs and suffered the consequences every year.

Why do we stand by and allow millions of dollars of property damage and even deaths to occur every year from sliding snow when adding snow guards to your building could easily solve the problem?  Codes governing products, installation guides, and standards are not in place to protect the consumer.  In fact, currently, anyone can cast a wax snow guard, spread some cement on the bottom, tell the consumer how to install it without any testing whatsoever, and then market it. Your roof isn’t tested and tried against falling snow or the issues that are caused when snow can melt and cause problems when you don’t have snow guards in place.

Snow weighing down roof

Inferior products are out there with no consumer protection in place.  Roofers and roof consultants are left with the daunting task of judging whether or not what they are specifying and installing will provide adequate safety and effectiveness in snow areas.

As a roof consultant, what methods should be used to determine which types of snow guards to recommend?  Are you assuming that the snow retention manufacturers have engineered their snow retention products from the fail point of the roof system?  Are the current U.S. codes providing the standard to assure safety from sliding snow? Installation of snow systems to stop sliding snow on slate and other roofs aren’t regulated. But you, as a homeowner, can control the installation that will protect you this upcoming winter.

The Research that Led Us to Snow Guards

Brand new house with snow guards

Architects, roof consultants, builders, and roofing contractors make a lot of assumptions concerning snow and ice, and, as they are not guided by a consistent system process, they often fail. Our trial and error process hasn’t worked perfectly.

The simple truth is that most snow retention manufacturers do not design their products from the fail point of the roof system, resulting in many failures.  There are no ICC codes for snow retention.  The standard for the roofing industry is to just do what you have done in the past or guess that three rows at the eave of the roof will be just fine. Is this what our customers deserve for their roof systems?

Since the government isn’t protecting your roof, it’s up to various industries who have installed these systems in the winter for years. There is another industry that one would think ought to have taken a lead in this life-threatening concern.  The insurance industry is often expected to pay for failures in adequate systems.  In the state of Utah, children have been killed from snow and ice falling off roofs.  Snow avalanches have caused death, vehicle damage, and roof and gutter damage.  Since there’s no regulatory process that demands a house have protection against snowfall installed, insurance companies refuse to pay for these damages because they’re labeled as an “act of God”.

death by snow roof incident

It is true that we don’t have control over snow movement on roofs. Small amounts of snow, when left on your roof for long periods of time, can create pressure so great it can tear through even the best roof. But refusing to acknowledge that a simple project with a verified contractor can improve the quality of your roof’s protection from snow is an outdated idea.

Comparing how Europeans and Americans design their snow retention systems explain some reasons why the standards in America are not working.  In America we have no standards, whereas in Europe, designers look at the potential fail points of the roof and then design the system from the starting point.

The Questions to Answer When it Comes to Snow Guards

There are six key questions to ask when planning a roof snow retention system:

  1. What is the sheathing type and thickness and how is it attached to the substrate?
  2. How is the snow bracket attached to the sheathing?  How many fasteners per bracket are required and what is the pullout load of each fastener in the particular type of sheathing?
  3. What are the fail point loads of the snow bracket?
  4. What is the slope of the roof?
  5. What is the ground snow load?
  6. Where and how might ice dams occur?

After they have gathered all this information, European engineers develop layout charts using all the data.  These charts include specific types of roof and snow brackets and snow guards installed on different sheathing types and thicknesses, snow load, roof slopes, and the number of snow guards needed per roofing square. 

Then snow guards are placed according to the layout charts from eave to the ridge, which eliminates all snow and ice movement.  This protocol of snow guards placement results in placement of snow retention devices from eave to ridge, never just along the edge.

The snow and ice is restrained in place across the entire roof.  It just melts in place in the spring, eliminating damage to people or property and so-called “Acts of God.”

Until a comprehensive standard is accepted and approved, all roof consultants would be wise to work with manufacturers who will provide them with this type of comprehensive data and then design roofs in accordance with the six suggestions above. 

This will help ensure customers are getting a quality design and protect consultants from lawsuits if someone is maimed or killed or property is damaged by falling snow and ice.

unsafe roof with snow that could lead to death

Snow Guards The Invisible Code

Snow retention codes do not seem to be a priority in the United States’ roofing industry. But it is very common to see snow and ice sliding off of a metal roof’s slippery surface. Snow and ice crush cars, and damages the roof, gutters, and landscape.  In some cases, snow and ice cascading off roofs have killed people. Codes for snow retention systems are essential to protect people and property from sliding ice and snow.

There are many reasons snow retention systems fail and why we need codes in place.  Some examples are:

PRODUCT FAILURE

snow retention system

This snow retention system was not engineered for some variable of the project that caused it to fail.

The snow guard was not strong enough to hold the load it was carrying.

Anyone can cast a wax snow guard, spread some adhesive on the bottom, and tell the consumer how to install it without any testing of the product or the system. Codes would provide a standard to ensure adequately designed products are utilized.

SHEATHING/ROOFING MATERIAL FAILURE

Roofing material is inadequately secured for the shear created by sliding snow.

If the roofing material is not securely fastened to the deck (specifically on standing seam metal roofs), added weight can cause the standing seam metal roof to slide right off, along with the rest of the roofing material and snow retention system. There is a code requirement in place for wind uplift on standing seam metal roofs, but not for shear strength.

Screws or fasteners pull out.

sliding snow and ice

Sliding snow can be incredibly dangerous.

When installing snow retention on roof sheathing, the thickness and type of the sheathing determines the fastener pull-out strength.  If one is installing a snow retention system on 7/16-in. OSB board, the fastener will fail more quickly than when using ¾-in. plywood.  (See chart below.) When designing a layout for a project, many snow retention manufacturers do not test for these variations.  If the snow retention system was designed for ¾-in. plywood and the project is using 7/16-in. OSB board, the whole system needs to be redesigned.

The fastener does not penetrate the sheathing.

If the fastener/screw is not penetrating the sheathing, the snow guard will not have the holding strength for which it was designed.

 

 

ADHESIVE FAILURE

plastic snow guards

These plastic snow guards fell to the ground because the adhesive did not bond properly

When using an adhesive, if the surface is not free of dust, dirt, oil, or waterproofing; or it is not clean and dry, the adhesive will not adhere properly.
If the temperature is not above 50 degrees F, the sealant will not cure. If a load is placed on the snow guard before the 28-day cure time, the snow guard is more likely to fail. (This is according to the Technical Data Sheet  for SB-190)

SYSTEM FAILURE

The system is not designed for the roof slope and snow load.

When designing a snow retention system, factors change from project to project: the slope, roof type, sheathing type, and roof snow load.  If the snow retention system is not engineered for the variables of the project, it can fail.
Most snow guards are not tested to the fail point of the system.

Many snow guard manufacturers claim theirs are tested, and many of them are, but they are not tested to the fail point of the entire system.  The product may be tested to maintain its shape, but was it tested to stay on the roof?  It’s great if the product stays in one piece, but not if the fastener fails, the adhesive fails, and the sheathing fails.

snow retention code

A snow retention code needs to be put in place to help prevent injury to people and damage to property.

INSTALLATION FAILURE

The product was not installed to manufacturer’s specifications.

The manufacturer’s instructions need to be followed meticulously in order to ensure safety and to keep warranties in effect.  Many manufacturers have specific torque requirements, placement, and maintenance instructions.  If these instructions are not followed, the system can fail and the manufacturer is not at fault.

Obviously, there are valid reasons why the United States should establish codes for snow retention on roofs.  Why hasn’t this happened?  A few reasons could be:

  1. Snowfall occurs in certain areas of the country but not nationwide; therefore, the demand for codes is minimal.
  2. Not many deaths occur due to ice and snow sliding.
  3. Property damage is localized.
  4. The insurance industry is not pushing for this type of code.

There are many other codes in place to protect people and property; so why not for snow retention?  We have codes for wind uplift and ICC test standards for product failures due to wind and moisture penetrations, to name a few.  How many life threatening events need to occur before we do the right thing when it comes to a code for snow retention on roofs?

It’s time to make the invisible snow retention code visible.

References

  1. Surebond Technical Data Sheet SB-190.

About the author

Terry E. Anderson has been in the roofing industry for over 35 years. He is the owner of Anderson Associates Consulting and president of T.R.A.-MAGE, Inc., a manufacturer of roof snow and sun accessories. Anderson was sought after to solve tile roof problems, eventually researching solutions to the frequent structural damage caused by sliding snow and ice. Traveling to Europe, Terry studied how the roofing industry there successfully dealt with snow and ice issues. Using his years of experience and research, he coauthored Concrete and Clay Tile Roof Design Criteria for Cold and Snow Regions. Anderson founded T.R.A. Snow and Sun, now in partnership with MAGE and known as T.R.A.-MAGE, and is recognized as a leader in snow retention systems. He is a member of RCI, WSRCA, and on the technical committee for the Tile Roofing Institute (TRI).

Published: Interface Dec 2011

[gview file=”https://trasnowandsun.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Anderson-Dec-2011-Interface.pdf”]

Is Plastic Snow Guard Retention Better Than Metal?

Every once in a while a customer will ask us why they should purchase our metal snow retention rather than the plastic ones they see. We typically don’t like plastic snow guards for many reasons.

The first reason is because of the type of adhesive used to attach plastic snow guards. Through our testing, we have found that failure exists when freeze-thaw temperature is introduced to the adhesive.
The second reason, they crack and deteriorate when continuously exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet light (UV). See the images below.
 
The third reason, manufacturers don’t warranty failure when the plastic snow guards pull apart from the adhesive.
From all of these reasons this why metal snow retention is a much wiser choice!

 

plastic vs TRA

TRA Metal Clamp-on vs Plastic Guards

 

Most plastics eventually become brittle when exposed to the sun.

Because of its tough nature, metal can withstand the sun’s destructive UV rays. Over time plastic will crack and deteriorate when continuously exposed to the sun.

                        plastic-snow-guards-park-valley-school-9plastic-snow-guards-park-valley-school-8

Cracked, Brittle and Broken “Plastic Snow Guards”

 

TRA’s metal snow retention systems are attached securely using a variety of durable and strong mechanical methods.

Unlike metal, plastic snow guards are usually attached to a roof using caulking, which is likely to fail for the following reasons:

  • If the roof is dirty or wet when installing this makes the adhesive not adhere properly. When have you ever seen a truly clean roof?
  • More common than not snow guards are installed at temperatures below 40 degrees.
  • Caulking cure time can be more than 30 days above 40 degrees.
  •  Over time plastic will crack & deteriorate when continuously exposed to the sun UV.

 

1 rail snow guard for metal roof

TRA C21Z Clamp-on with Ice Flags 

 

Unlike plastic, metal lasts.

Plastic snow retention manufacturers generally do not warranty the attachment just plastic snow guard. If a plastic snow guard fails, the architect or contractor becomes liable for the damage to property /or human life.

Next time you are near a roof with plastic snow guards, see if any are missing and let us know!

We recommend only metal snow retention because we know it can properly protect those in and around your home. For extra protection, we engineer from the sheathing up with the fastener and provide a warranty on the entire snow retention system. Before installation, we engineer a specific layout to see that the system is exactly what you need for your specific location and weather. Contact us with any of your project details and we’ll provide you with the best snow defense system that’ll get you ready for winter.

 

Snow Retention The Invisible Code

Snow retention codes do not seem to be a priority in the United States’ roofing industry. But it is very common to see snow and ice sliding off of a metal roof’s slippery surface. Snow and ice crush cars, and damages the roof, gutters, and landscape.  In some cases, snow and ice cascading off roofs have killed people. Codes for snow retention systems are essential to protect people and property from sliding ice and snow.

There are many reasons snow retention systems fail and why we need codes in place.  Some examples are:

PRODUCT FAILURE

snow retention system

This snow retention system was not engineered for some variable of the project that caused it to fail.

The snow guard was not strong enough to hold the load it was carrying.

Anyone can cast a wax snow guard, spread some adhesive on the bottom, and tell the consumer how to install it without any testing of the product or the system. Codes would provide a standard to ensure adequately designed products are utilized.

SHEATHING/ROOFING MATERIAL FAILURE

Roofing material is inadequately secured for the shear created by sliding snow.

If the roofing material is not securely fastened to the deck (specifically on standing seam metal roofs), added weight can cause the standing seam metal roof to slide right off, along with the rest of the roofing material and snow retention system. There is a code requirement in place for wind uplift on standing seam metal roofs, but not for shear strength.

Screws or fasteners pull out.

sliding snow and ice

Sliding snow can be incredibly dangerous.

When installing snow retention on roof sheathing, the thickness and type of the sheathing determines the fastener pull-out strength.  If one is installing a snow retention system on 7/16-in. OSB board, the fastener will fail more quickly than when using ¾-in. plywood.  (See chart below.) When designing a layout for a project, many snow retention manufacturers do not test for these variations.  If the snow retention system was designed for ¾-in. plywood and the project is using 7/16-in. OSB board, the whole system needs to be redesigned.

The fastener does not penetrate the sheathing.

If the fastener/screw is not penetrating the sheathing, the snow guard will not have the holding strength for which it was designed.

 

 

ADHESIVE FAILURE

plastic snow guards

These plastic snow guards fell to the ground because the adhesive did not bond properly

When using an adhesive, if the surface is not free of dust, dirt, oil, or waterproofing; or it is not clean and dry, the adhesive will not adhere properly.
If the temperature is not above 50 degrees F, the sealant will not cure. If a load is placed on the snow guard before the 28-day cure time, the snow guard is more likely to fail. (This is according to the Technical Data Sheet  for SB-190)

SYSTEM FAILURE

The system is not designed for the roof slope and snow load.

When designing a snow retention system, factors change from project to project: the slope, roof type, sheathing type, and roof snow load.  If the snow retention system is not engineered for the variables of the project, it can fail.
Most snow guards are not tested to the fail point of the system.

Many snow guard manufacturers claim theirs are tested, and many of them are, but they are not tested to the fail point of the entire system.  The product may be tested to maintain its shape, but was it tested to stay on the roof?  It’s great if the product stays in one piece, but not if the fastener fails, the adhesive fails, and the sheathing fails.

snow retention code

A snow retention code needs to be put in place to help prevent injury to people and damage to property.

INSTALLATION FAILURE

The product was not installed to manufacturer’s specifications.

The manufacturer’s instructions need to be followed meticulously in order to ensure safety and to keep warranties in effect.  Many manufacturers have specific torque requirements, placement, and maintenance instructions.  If these instructions are not followed, the system can fail and the manufacturer is not at fault.

Obviously, there are valid reasons why the United States should establish codes for snow retention on roofs.  Why hasn’t this happened?  A few reasons could be:

  1. Snowfall occurs in certain areas of the country but not nationwide; therefore, the demand for codes is minimal.
  2. Not many deaths occur due to ice and snow sliding.
  3. Property damage is localized.
  4. The insurance industry is not pushing for this type of code.

There are many other codes in place to protect people and property; so why not for snow retention?  We have codes for wind uplift and ICC test standards for product failures due to wind and moisture penetrations, to name a few.  How many life threatening events need to occur before we do the right thing when it comes to a code for snow retention on roofs?

It’s time to make the invisible snow retention code visible.

References

  1. Surebond Technical Data Sheet SB-190.

About the author

Terry E. Anderson has been in the roofing industry for over 35 years. He is the owner of Anderson Associates Consulting and president of T.R.A.-MAGE, Inc., a manufacturer of roof snow and sun accessories. Anderson was sought after to solve tile roof problems, eventually researching solutions to the frequent structural damage caused by sliding snow and ice. Traveling to Europe, Terry studied how the roofing industry there successfully dealt with snow and ice issues. Using his years of experience and research, he coauthored Concrete and Clay Tile Roof Design Criteria for Cold and Snow Regions. Anderson founded T.R.A. Snow and Sun, now in partnership with MAGE and known as T.R.A.-MAGE, and is recognized as a leader in snow retention systems. He is a member of RCI, WSRCA, and on the technical committee for the Tile Roofing Institute (TRI).

Published: Interface Dec 2011

[gview file=”https://trasnowandsun.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Anderson-Dec-2011-Interface.pdf”]

Why Specify Snow Guard Retention

WHY SPECIFY SNOW GUARDS FOR SNOW RETENTION?

There are several factors that one must evaluate when determining if a particular building requires a snow guard retention system. During the winter months, as snow accumulates on your home, gravity will begin to pull it down the slope of your roof. There are many reasons this can be harmful to your home or even dangerous. In worst structural 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.

Low-slope roofs with parapet walls naturally keep snow and ice on the roof. On a sloped roof, however, large chunks of snow and ice can slide off as the snow melts. Avalanching snow is probable on roofing systems with a steep enough slope and/or a low coefficient of friction. This is especially dangerous for pedestrians walking below.

SOME REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD SPECIFY SNOW RETENTION SYSTEMS:

  1.  Damage/Injury – People and property can be struck by snow and ice falling from the roof. Property damage and injuries, even deaths can occur when snow is not properly retained on a roof.
  2.  Limited Access – Entrances to buildings can be blocked by snow and ice that falls from a roof.
  3. Roof Damage – When snow and ice masses slide off a roof, costly damage occurs.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT SNOW RETENTION SYSTEM

There are many types of roofing materials, each has advantages and disadvantages and each should be considered when determining the placement of snow retention on the building.

When considering whether to install a snow retention system on your roof, you may first want to consider what type of roof you have. Will your roof allow snow to slide? Probably. In places with heavy snows, like areas in Utah, it is common for snow to slide off of all types of roof systems, leading to heavy ice and snow build up in gutters, which causes damage over time. If you have a metal, tile, slate or membrane roof with a pitch of 1/12 or greater, snow will definitely slide off and cause problems.

Engineered snow retention and solar mounting solutions

WE CAN HELP…

TRA snow retention systems are available for all types of roofs and come in a variety of options. The specific snow retention equipment recommended for your roof will depend on the type of roof system installed, the pitch of the roof, snow load, sheathing type, how old the building is and budget.

Our snow fences, brackets, and clamps are all types of snow retention systems that prevent large sheets of snow or ice from falling off a pitched roof. The systems hold the snow on the roof so it can gradually melt off, preventing damage to people and objects below.

At TRA Snow and Sun, we engineer and layout each project free of charge using the unique factors specific to your project. TRA Snow and Sun representatives will work with you to design the most efficient snow retention system. We can design your roof to work with a variety of applications. Just give us your project details & we will design your Snow Retention System to fit your project. For more information call TRA Snow and Sun at 801-756-8666.                                                                                                           

                                                                    REQUEST A QUOTE

Slogan

 

The Snow Has Landed!

WOW! Look at all that snow in Atlanta. As you watch the Falcons play football from your comfy home you know you’re safe and protected from dangerous weather.
What about if you attended the game in person?  How safe are you?
Just as the world-class Falcons prepare for the possibility of an incoming storm of opponents, the stadium has also prepared for all possibilities and so should you.
The $1.5 billion Mercedes Benz Stadium is using the best, as a game winning option when it comes to retaining snow on their roof with TRA Snow Retention

Keeping snow and ice from avalanching off a roof requires a system of superior strength.  When strength really does matter to save lives and prevent damage to property, how does a home or business owner know what snow retention product is strong enough?

How does someone decide what product measures up?

How does one decide the best method of installing a safe and reliable roof snow retention system?

If your answer to these questions is, “I can find that out.  I’ll just look it up online under building codes or ask my roofing contractor.” 

Well, good luck.

There are NO codes for roof snow retention!  None.  Nil.  Nada.  (Our owner, Terry Anderson, is serving on a committee right now to finally establish standards.  Watch for updates on this in the future!)  If a contractor starts sitting codes or standards, be wary.  The contractor might have his own standards, and we sure hope they all do, but there are no national or international standards for snow retention.

This makes it very important for owners, architects, engineers, and contractors to take extra care when designing a snow retention system. At TRA Snow & Sun, we seek to offer high-quality snow retention devices ENGINEERED for the unique snow & ice and building conditions relative to each specific project.

Snow retention as a science has emerged as a technological know-how for human safety. The laws of physics have to be used when holding back lots of destructive snow and ice. Annual assets and personal damage from destructive sliding snow and ice is in the millions, however, the price of a human life is incalculable.  If someone dies as a result of no snow retention or faulty snow retention, the liability threat to household owners and business proprietors is astronomical.

By retaining snow on the roof of a building and allowing even snow melt-off, injuries to residents/guests and property below the roof of a building can be avoided, saving money and limiting the possibility of personal loss. By installing snow retention you can:

  • Prevent danger to residents and guests.
  • Prevent costly roof and property damage.
  • Maintain safe access, keeping entrances/walkways free of snow and ice.
  • Promote energy efficiency by retaining snow which is a good insulation blanket.
  • Trust in the best with the highest quality snow retention devices.

How does one avoid the potential pitfalls of a bad snow retention product?

It can get perplexing with several hundreds of different snow guard types and designs to consider from. With a TRA snow retention system, you know you’re safe because we have gone through extensive product testing. Our products are built to last to the fail point of the snow retention system, not just the product. Unlike other plastic type snow guards that turn yellow and fail over time, TRA’s snow retention systems are superior in strength. Our superior snow retention is designed to manage snow migration on any type of roofing is made of stainless steel or brass.

plastic vs TRA

TRA CLAMP-ON SNOW FENCE vs PLASTIC GLUE-ON SNOW GUARDS

In simple terms, a first-rate snow retention product coupled with a reliable and safe FREE engineered spacing layout will help lessen the legal responsibility related to the unexpected slid of snow and ice from roofs. All requesting clients can receive free engineered layouts within 2 working days for each project’s specific requirements. For a free layout, data sheets, specs & quote contact us at 855-542-1861.

Game Winning Option!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Atlanta Falcons are off to a great football season with a 3-0 winning record and will battle the Buffalo Bills this Sunday in Atlanta.  As you watch the game from your comfy home you know you’re safe and protected from dangerous weather.
What about if you attended the game in person?  How safe are you?

The Falcons’ new $1.5 billion Mercedes Benz Stadium uses TRA Snow Retention on its roof to keep fans safe in the event of a snowstorm (yes, Atlanta does get snow!) 

Just as the world-class Falcons prepare for the possibility of an incoming storm of opponents, the stadium has also prepared for all possibilities and so should you.

Keeping snow and ice from avalanching off a roof requires a system of superior strength.  When strength really does matter to save lives and prevent damage to property, how does a home or business owner know what snow retention product is strong enough?

How does someone decide what product measures up?

How does one decide the best method of installing a safe and reliable roof snow retention system?

If your answer to these questions is, “I can find that out.  I’ll just look it up online under building codes or ask my roofing contractor.” 

Well, good luck.

There are NO codes for roof snow retention!  None.  Nil.  Nada.  (Our owner, Terry Anderson, is serving on a committee right now to finally establish standards.  Watch for updates on this in the future!)  If a contractor starts sitting codes or standards, be wary.  The contractor might have his own standards, and we sure hope they all do, but there are no national or international standards for snow retention.

This makes it very important for owners, architects, engineers, and contractors to take extra care when designing a snow retention system. At TRA Snow & Sun, we seek to offer high-quality snow retention devices ENGINEERED for the unique snow & ice and building conditions relative to each specific project.

Snow retention as a science has emerged as a technological know-how for human safety. The laws of physics have to be used when holding back lots of destructive snow and ice. Annual assets and personal damage from destructive sliding snow and ice is in the millions, however, the price of a human life is incalculable.  If someone dies as a result of no snow retention or faulty snow retention, the liability threat to household owners and business proprietors is astronomical.

By retaining snow on the roof of a building and allowing even snow melt-off, injuries to residents/guests and property below the roof of a building can be avoided, saving money and limiting the possibility of personal loss. By installing snow retention you can:

  • Prevent danger to residents and guests.
  • Prevent costly roof and property damage.
  • Maintain safe access, keeping entrances/walkways free of snow and ice.
  • Promote energy efficiency by retaining snow which is a good insulation blanket.
  • Trust in the best with the highest quality snow retention devices.

How does one avoid the potential pitfalls to a bad snow retention product?

It can get perplexing with several hundreds of different snow guard types and designs to consider from. With a TRA snow retention system, you know you’re safe because we have gone through extensive product testing. Our products are built to last to the fail point of the snow retention system, not just the product. Unlike other plastic type snow guards that turn yellow and fail over time, TRA’s snow retention systems are superior in strength. Our superior snow retention is designed to manage snow migration on any type of roofing is made of stainless steel or brass.

plastic vs TRA

TRA CLAMP-ON SNOW FENCE vs PLASTIC GLUE-ON SNOW GUARDS

In simple terms, a first-rate snow retention product coupled with a reliable and safe FREE engineered spacing layout will help lessen the legal responsibility related to the unexpected slid of snow and ice from roofs. All requesting clients can receive free engineered layouts within 2 working days for each project’s specific requirements. For a free layout, data sheets, specs & quote contact us at 855-542-1861.

The Vandelay Project

Snow Retention Case Study – Providing Engineered Snow Retention Solutions for HALF THE COST!

TRA Snow and Sun solves problems!  It’s not just our motto to provide Engineered Solutions.  We really DO IT!

On an addition to a home in Northwest Montana with a high snow load (100 psf); how do you retain snow on a cedar shake roof with a 12/12 pitch, whilst keeping it economical, aesthetically pleasing, and in line with the existing design?

After reviewing their options, Vandelay Construction was ready to order from a competitor, but was concerned about the high cost of the snow retention system, so they did one last internet search of roof snow retention.  They found a project with TRA Snow and Sun snow retention in Bozeman, Montana, liked our product and designs, and contacted us.

Using the information the contractor provided to us, we increased the thickness of the copper from the standard ¼” to 3/8” and designed a 3 rail snow retention system (D3H Deck Mount Snow Fence) specific to the project – cedar shake, 12/12 slope, copper, attaching to 16” OC rafters.  Copper was used to match the decorative end caps on the heavy timbers in the construction of the building.

Not only did the homeowners get a beautiful, warrantied system, but OUR SYSTEM WAS HALF THE COST OF OUR COMPETITORS.

We love the result.  See for yourself.

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At TRA, we provide Engineered Solutions to all kinds of problems.  Let us help you with your snow retention needs!

Snow Retention Systems for a Metal Roof

Installing a snow retention system on your next metal roof can provide protection for the building owner and extra income, credibility and market share for you.

As the winter build-up of snow and ice begins to thaw, and even in the dead of winter in some places, building owners run the risk of a heavy avalanche of snow or ice falling on property or people as it slides off the roof.  You can see “Caution: Sliding Snow and Ice” signs in front of some buildings every year and probably witnessed a YouTube video of this happening.  Deaths and injury occur every year when people are hit by the heavy ice and snow build-up.Sliding Snow on a Metal Roof

Anticipating and addressing this liability with your customer can provide them with valuable protection from the risk of snow and ice damaging property or even killing a person and could establish you as the contractor that goes the extra mile for his customer.  It’s not a time consuming or expensive add-on when you follow some simple guidelines and understand the issues involved.

Metal roofs have different properties from other roofs when it comes to sliding snow and ice; namely, metal roofs shed it quickly with little warning!  This is partly due to the lack of friction provided by metal as well as its conductive properties.

There are several “Don’ts” when it comes to putting any type of snow retention on a metal roof:

  • Be wary of gluing snow guards on the roof.  Adhesive-attached snow retention must be installed on perfectly clean surfaces and at certain temperatures.  Even when applying them correctly, glued-on snow retention devices they are vulnerable to release during freeze/thaw cycles.  Mechanically fastened snow fences are a better and less labor-intensive method
  • Do not use dissimilar metals.  If your roof is steel, use steel snow retention.  Don’t put copper or aluminum on a steel roof and vice versa.  By mixing the metals, you risk galvanic action (corrosion).
  • Never penetrate the roof system!  This will void the manufacturer’s warranty on the metal roof.
  • Do not assume that you can place one or two rows of snow retention near the eave of the roof.  This is a common mistake and can result in snow fence failure due to using a system that was not engineered.  When the snow releases on this type of amateur design, it can take penetrations, gutters and the snow retention devices off the roof.  Sometimes whole panels slide off.  Various factors must be considered when safely laying out your snow retention

 

There are some basic “Do’s” to a good snow retention system on a metal roof:

  • Use systems that clamp on seams.   Besides maintaining the manufacturer’s warranty by not penetrating the roof system, clamps with 3-4 ” of contact with the rib will provide more security for the snow fence system
  • Clamps should attach under the hem on the seam.  This prevents twisting and detachment when the snow fence is under pressure from the weight of snow and ice.
  • Part of the clamp should sit on the base of the metal panel.  This helps keep the clamp and rib stable and upright, preventing the rib from bending sideways.

Single and Double Rail Clamp On Snow Fence, Nita Lake Lodge, Whistler Canada 2011 16

The Importance of an Engineered Layout

Snowload -Either listed on the plans or obtained from the local building department.Engineering the snow retention system is of paramount importance to protect the roof system, the owner and you.  Don’t be afraid of the word “engineering!”  Some reputable roof snow retention companies provide this free.  All it takes is gathering a few facts:

  • Roof Slope – Obviously a 12/12 sloped roof will need a different layout than a 4/12 but the actual layout should never be left to guesswork.
  • Rib Type – Different clamps are designed to work with different rib types.
  • Rib Spacing – Rib spacing affects the number of clamps needed.  The strength of the snow fence depends on how far apart the clamps are spaced
  • Method of Panel Attachment – If a panel is attached with a clip which does not stop vertical movement, the snowload can cause the panel to fall off the roof.  Knowing how the panel is attached will affect what type of snow retention to use.
  • Eave to Ridge Length – This affects how much snow that area will be supporting which will determine the number of snow fences needed up the span from eave to ridge.

 

Correctly installed snow retention is a good idea for the owner because it protects property and people from significant damage or even death.  By adhering to a few simple Do’s and Don’ts and using an engineered layout, it could also be a significant way to enhance your business.

Terry Anderson has been in the roof consulting and roof accessory business for over 30 years.  He is a Registered Roof Consultant, member of TRI and co-author of Concrete and Clay Tile Roof Design Criteria Manual for Cold and Snow Regions and the owner of several roof accessory patents including the original Snow Bracket and Ridge Riser®.  His company, TRA Snow and Sun, Inc. manufactures snow retention devices for all types of roofs, solar mounting systems, and flexible ventilation and flashing products.

Published: Metal Construction News April 2014

Vent a Metal Roof? Absolutely

Did you know that venting underneath the roof surface can prevent problems with condensation, ice damming, and increase energy efficiency?  A ventilated system causes warmer air to move through the system and escape through the ridge while cooler air enters at the eave.  This phenomenon has tremendous benefits and an excellent payback.

CondensationArrowhead, Snow Brackets, Vented Roof

A brief lesson on condensation and dew point temperature:

Condensation occurs  when dew point is reached.  What  is dew point?  Dew point temperature is the point at which saturated air can no longer hold water in the form of vapor and it condenses into water droplets against a cool surface.  We’ve all witnessed this phenomenon when the air against a cold glass of ice water forms droplets on the outside of the glass.  The same thing can happen as warm vapor-filled air escapes up through our ceiling and into a cold attic or on to the back of a cold roofing product.  Ventilation provides a means for that water vapor to escape before it condenses in an attic or on the backside of a roofing product, like a metal panel.

How many of us have had that moment lying in bed staring at the ceiling and we see that brownish water spot on the sheetrock and think.  We think, ” ____(insert expletive here), a roof leak!”  But it might not be a “leak.”

Often water damage perceived as a roof leak is actually caused by condensation within the attic, walls, or underneath the roof material.  If water vapor accumulates in any of these areas it can condense to form water droplets, which will eventually cause serious damage to wood, insulation, sheetrock, etc.  In coastal areas, the damaging effects of water condensing under the metal panel is intensified by the corrosive nature of the humid air and salt.  That moist air needs a way to escape and one way to assist with this problem is by ventilating.

Ice Damming

Ice dams are formed in snow climates when warm areas of a roof cause snow and ice to melt.  After melting the water then runs down the roof to an area where the roof is very cold, re-freezing into ice.  Eventually enough water has frozen, forming a wall of ice which prevents water from running down the roof surface.  This water inevitably backs up and finds a way into the building.  Ice dams can also cause serious problems when they eventually break loose and damage gutters, roof penetrations, and possibly people and property below.

The solution to ice dams is to keep the roof temperature even, preventing warm and cold spots.  Without ventilation, eave overhangs tend to be very cold and roof areas above the living spaces within the building tend to be warmer.  This scenario lends to the formation of ice dams.  By venting underneath the roof surface, any warm air escaping the building can exit through the ridge while being replaced by cooler air entering at the eave.  This keeps the roof at an even temperature so that ice dams never form.

Although ventilation can help prevent the formation of ice dams it won’t prevent sliding snow which can still cause serious problems.  An engineered snow retention system should always be considered.

Energy Efficiencyvent a metal roof

If you have ever worked in an attic space on a hot summer day you know how miserable that is.  Obviously roofs get hot from the sun and that heat enters the building.  Metal panels as well as other roofing products radiate that heat to the surrounding air and materials.  If there is a vented air space underneath the roof material, then the heat exiting the material warms the surrounding air molecules.  The molecules rise, escape through the ridge and are replaced by cooler air entering at the eave.  This drastically decreases the heat that enters the attic space or building by as much as 50% according to studies done at Oakridge National Testing Laboratories.

This decrease in entering heat equates to savings in cooling costs.  Those same studies from the testing lab showed as much as a 25% decrease in cooling costs.  The resulting savings makes for an incredibly rapid payback to the cost of adding a vented space under the roof surface.  An added benefit is that we conserve our limited resources, ensuring  a better future for all of us and generations to come.

Doing It the Right Way

Many factors play into the design of a ventilation system including determining the height of the air space needed and the size of the input and exhaust.  Some rules of thumb when installing a ventilation system are:

  1. Intake and exhaust should always exceed the size of your vented space
  2. Intakes and exhaust should be increased in size to accommodate for losses  to function created by screening as screening can significantly reduce airflow.
  3. The vented air space under the roofing product should be sized according to rafter length and roof slope.
  4. Steeper slopes tend to vent better than lower slopes and shorter lengths also tend to vent better than longer lengths.  So, steep short lengths require less of a ventilation space than low sloped long lengths.
  5. Cut up roofs with dormers and valleys also create challenges when designing ventilation because eave intake areas are limited.

When designing ventilation for your roof you should consult with an expert to get a properly designed system.

To sum it up, metal roofs benefit in many ways from a ventilation system.  A metal roof shouldn’t be installed without first giving these benefits consideration

Terry Anderson is CEO of Anderson Associates Consulting, Inc. and President of T.R.A.-MAGE, Inc.
He gives credit to Dr. William Miller of Oak Ridge Testing Laboratories and Dr Nigel Cherry of Redlands Testing Lab, London, for their work on ventilation.

Picture – Nomograph 4-21 from “Concrete and Clay Tile Roof Design Criteria Manual for Snow and Cold Regions” showing the height needed for air space based on slope and length of rafter.

Picture – “Ice dams and eave ice.jpg” showing a vented roof system in the background and a non vented roof system in the foreground.

By: Terry Anderson

Published: Metal Construction News January 9, 2012