Innovative Awning System On A Retaining Wall

What do you do when you decide to put a pool where you originally planned to install a solar power system and the roof won’t work?

You get the determined folks at TRA Snow and Sun to help you think outside the box and create something we think is an innovative concept!  That’s what contractors of the Bourne, Massachusetts home project did when they encountered this issue on the project being constructed in a beautiful wooded area with a steep hillside at the back of the property.

Here’s what transpired.

Plymouth Solar Energy of Plymouth, Massachusetts was assigned the task of determining where to place the solar energy system during the construction of a large home.  After making the site visit, Greg Aborn of Plymouth, determined that the terrain was unsuitable for a ground mount system.  The soil was too sandy, unstable and steep.  When the owners disclosed that they had now decided to build a retaining wall and put a pool, Greg began research into alternative solutions.  This is how he discovered TRA Snow and Sun’s Awning Solution.

Greg says, “I am very strict with the quality of materials and products that I will allow for any of our installations, so I began digging deep into the awning- racking materials, engineering, installation methods/requirements, grounding, mid/end clamps etc… I was very pleased with TRA’s product in every way.”

Gary Heslington, of TRA Snow and Sun, was involved in the engineering and designing which began as a new concept – an awning system attached to the retaining wall, which was still in the design stage when he came on board. TRA worked hard on several different designs, trying to find one that would work well for the solar installer and homeowner.  He says, “When the concrete retaining wall idea was included where the awning system was eventually attached, we had to do three complete revisions, and then it took several months for the property owners to approve.  But we stayed in touch and were very happy when we got the go-ahead from Plymouth.”

TRA Snow and Sun has a reputation for creating engineered systems for solar mounting and roof snow retention systems and are very adept at thinking outside the box.  They used all of their experience (25+ years) and resources on this project.  The engineering and time spent was free.

Greg Aborn explained some of the difficult aspects of completing this project, “Mounting a highly visible system in a tough environment for exposure to the elements meant I needed to place significant emphasis on system durability and longevity.  I would bet my last dollar the wall will fail before our system does!”

To install this solar panel system, they fabricated custom scaffolding which allowed the installers to stage the wall in sections while not disturbing the soil retention (special grass to hold the soil together) that the homeowners were required to plant in compliance with tight property set-backs.  Erosion concerns with the abutting neighbor and steep property topography leading downhill were also factors in the installation.

TRA’s mounting system, combined with creative problem solving, eventually overcame what seemed like insurmountable obstacles across an extremely complicated range of municipal regulations and restrictions.  The finished product exceeded the homeowners expectations and created a solar power system that creates 12.3 KW of energy while conforming to the requirements of both local authorities and the homeowner.

In the end, Greg Aborn has high praise for TRA Snow and Sun’s products and service, stating, “I hope this puts as big of a smile on your face as it does mine!! I want my salesmen to sell a whole lot more of these!!”

Plymouth Solar Energy –, (508) 746- 5430, 18 Main Street Extension, Suite 204, Plymouth, MA 02360



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

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 crushes cars, and damages the roof, gutters, and landscape.  In some cases, snow and ice cascading off roofs has 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:


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.


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.




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)


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.


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 warrantees 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.


  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

Download (PDF, 407KB)

The Three Types of Snow Retention Attachments and When to use Each

There are typically three different types of methods used when installing snow retention on a metal roof.

  • Fastening through the panel to the roof deck or structure.
  • Fastening to the panel, by mounting or clamping to the rib.
  • Gluing or adhering to the metal panel.

Each method has its pros and cons, so when should each method be used? This question is usually left up to the roofing contractor or architect.

Roofing contractors should know that many snow retention manufacturers offer warranties with their products if installed to specifications.  Ice damming and snow and ice movement are two of the most common roofing problems in snow areas. Snow retention manufacturers have experience calculating loads and recommending proper layout and design for snow retention devices. Consulting with a snow retention manufacturer can save roofing contractors money, liability and ensure a high quality snow retention device that has a low risk of failure. Even snow retention manufacturers can have occasional failures due to the many variables when retaining snow on a roof, so the little extra money thatis spent for a warranted product is well worth the cost.

snow retention, deck mount snow fenceThe first method of attachment is to fasten the device to the deck or into the roofing struc-ture with lag bolts, anchors, welds, etc. This method provides great strength to the product transferring the loads to the structure itself.  When installing large, bulky snow fences this is the only way to go; it is the only way to provide enough strength to the large load that will be placed at the fence. Unfortunately fastening to the deck or structure forces us to punch holes through the metal panel, this increases the potential for leaks and forces the contractor to seal or flash the holes in some way. Also, installing fasteners through the panel prevents expansion and contraction and can cause tearing, buckling or other forms of distortion to the panel. Many panel manufacturers will not allow their product to be fastened in this way.

standing seam metal, clamp onThe second method of attachment is to fasten to the raised rib by clamping or pinching.  This method also can provide great strength, and also does not penetrate the panel in any way, reducing the chance of leaks in the roof.  This allows the panel to expand and contract as well due to change in temperature. The only problem with this type of attachment is the loading; the load is not absorbed by the structure, it is transferred to the panel, so testing also needs to be done to ensure that the panel fasteners can support the weight. If no testing is done, occasionally whole panels will shear off the roof sending not only snow but sharp metal sliding to the ground below.

glue on snow guards, plastic snow guardsThe third method of attachment is gluing or adhering the device to the panel. This method provides the simplest installation and usually the least cost. From our experience with snow retention glue-on guards, they are typically high risk. More glue-on snow retention devices fail than any other type because of the many variables of installation. Adhesives require, in general, an approximate 30-day cure time of temperatures over 50 degrees. Many mountain areas drop below 50 degrees every night even in the warm seasons. These devices are usually made of a plastic material. Plastics can be damaged over time by UV-rays causing color distortion and brittleness. Over time the plastic and adhesive break down and have a greater chance of failure.

To sum it up when holding a large amount of snow in one place (like a large snow fence at the eave) something very strong needs to be used and should fastened through the roof into the structure. In most cases a clamp-on snow fence is the best method of attachment. These are less expensive; sometimes multiple rows may be needed. And remember—the panel also needs to be fastened sufficiently to hold the weight. Glue-ons can be used to save cost and labor, but will not provide the strength, life and reliability that a clamp-on system will provide. But, on occasion glue-on snow retention is the best option. In most cases mechanically fastening to the rib provides the best bang for your buck. Just remember to always consult with one or more manufacturers instead of designing something yourself; if not you may end up paying for it later when you get back up on the roof for a repair. Most manufacturers will provide recommendations and design free of charge with a quote.

Published: Metal Construction News | April 2006

Snow Bracket Engineering: Is It Really Worth It

If you’re like most roofing contractors that work in the mountain regions of the United States and Canada, designing snow retention can be quite the chore.  Often, a call to a snow retention manufacturer leaves a roofing contractor wondering how they will explain to the customer the number of snow brackets needed throughout the roof.  It is often tempting for the roofing contractor to install just 1 or 2 or rows along the eave.  Here are a few reasons a roofing contractor may install insufficient snow retention:

  • “That’s the way the architect drew it on the plans”
  • “The owner can’t afford so many snow retention devices”
  • “I’ve seen the snow here, I think it’ll work”
  • “The snow retention manufacturer is just trying to make extra money, I don’t really need this many”
  • “I’ve never done this before, I have no idea what I need, I’ll just put on some of these that I found at my local roofing supply store”

None of these excuses are worth the liability and risk of damage that can occur.  Designing snow retention is a refined science.  If the right steps are not taken to design a system properly it is very likely to fail.  Here is a list of some of the factors that must be considered when designing snow retention on any particular project

  • Ground Snow Load
  • Roof Slope/Pitch
  • Roofing Substrate
  • Roof Type

snow bracket engineeringStudies have been performed across the United States and Canada to determine how much snow particular areas receive in pounds per square foot (psf), not inches or feet.  A certain depth of snow often weighs more in a particular area than another.  This is due to the different characteristics of snow; one foot of snow in the Sierra Nevada’s might be significantly heavier than one foot of snow in the Rocky Mountains.  Local building departments are familiar with this information and often have a code required snow load.  Obtaining the proper snow load information is the first step to designing a successful snow retention system.

These loads are then analyzed to determine how much weight is applied to the roof.  After some engineering calculations your snow retention manufacturer should be able to calculate how much force the snow is placing on the snow retention devices and therefore be able to determine how many devices are needed on the roof.  When too few snow retention devices are installed it becomes a matter of when and not if the snow brackets are going to fail, the math doesn’t lie, the snow retention will fail.  The first severe winter will take them out.

It is critical that these calculations are performed; if not designing snow retention becomes no more than a guessing game.  Often manufacturers receive calls from upset owners wanting to know why snow retention devices failed.  Many times, these customers are not compensated by the manufacture because the snow retention devices were not engineered and installed properly.

Snow Bracket EngineeringHere is one example we ran across recently.  For some unknown reason the roofing contractor decided that only 1 row of snow brackets was needed on this particular project.  During the first winter the snow brackets failed leaving the owner shaking his head and poised for more roofing expenses.  When snow retention devices fail, it becomes a matter of not just replacing the snow retention devices but also replacing other damaged items such as: gutters exhaust vents, roofing panels, etc.  In this case the owner was lucky and the sliding snow did no additional damage.

Unfortunately, the owner not only had to pay to replace the damaged snow brackets but he also had to pay for additional snow brackets so he would have enough to bring it up to manufacturer recommendations.  As you can see from the before and after photos the new design required 4 rows of snow brackets based on the design criteria for this area.  The good news is the owner now has a system that is warranted, but more importantly one that will work!  A quality snow retention manufacturer will warranty the product when installed correctly.

Here are some keys to follow when designing a snow retention system.

  • Be prepared with an electronic or faxable roof plan showing the locations where you would like the snow retained.  If you don’t have one, draw one.
  • Make sure you have obtained the key design factors (snow load, roof slope/pitch, roof type, roof substrate).
  • Make sure that you are working with a manufacture that will design the system based on the criteria mentioned above, and will provide you a drawn out plan.
  • Become familiar with the various products available and their strengths and weaknesses, a good manufacture will take time to explain these to you.

When the time is taken to design and install a snow retention system correctly the system pays for itself.  A properly designed snow retention system will prevent damage to the roof as well as people and property below the roof.  And with many snow retention manufacturers the design is free!

By: Jacob Anderson


Snow and Ice on Sloped Roofs: Shed it or Keep it on?

How would you answer this question? If you are like most roofing consultants, you would reply based upon a number of factors.  One factor would be your experience as a roofing expert.  Another would be where you live and work.  Another factor would be your training.  If you are from North America you would probably respond “shed it off.”  Our approach in North America is to use a metal roof with a steep slope that will allow the snow and ice to slide off.  Why do we design this way?  The primary reason is a fear of having the building collapse under a heavy snow load.

As I design roofs today in ski resort areas, I use one of the above types of roofs and plan to keep the snow on.  I vent the roofs for many reasons:

If you lived in Europe, however, you training and experience would be notably different.  For instance, a roofer in Germany must apprentice before he can become a journeyman. (This compares to our weekly union program that involves very little training on sloped roofs in snow climates.)  A German apprentice’s training includes classroom and onsite work.  Manufacturers sponsor training and provide detailed reference books and manuals.  One key difference in industry’s approach to snow on roofs is that keeping snow on the roof is something that they desire-quite the opposite from the trend in North America.  They would say “use a low slope (approximately 5/12) and keep the snow on.”

In an effort to solve the problems associated with moving snow and ice, I have heeded the experience and resources of European construction industry and have implemented their ideas with great success.  Here are some of the key factors in their approach to keeping snow on the roof.

Germans in general are not concerned with snow loads because they design the structure to hold the live load.  Designers there want the architectural freedom to have access around the building.  They also plan to use the snow as an insulation blanket and design a cold roof system to stop ice dam concerns at the eave.  The slope that works best seems to be 5/12.  This allows the snow to stay on while venting the roof system.  They then have the option of putting dormers on the roof without damage to the valleys, penetrations, lower roofs, and property below due to sliding snow and ice.

snow retention

snow retention

To complete this roof system, snow stops (or snow brackets) are used to stop all snow movement.  In Europe the majority of roofs are tile.  Many of the tile manufacturers make field tiles with snow stops as part of the tile. (See tile photo.)  Through extensive testing, they have found the snow stop’s fail point.  Once they know this, they engineer charts which help the consultants calculate how many snow stops are needed from eave to ridge based on roof slope and snow and ice loads to effectively hold the snow and ice on the roof.  With this information, European designers create roofs that effectively hold the snow and ice in place, as well as preventing roof damage and breakage. (See German chart, page 25.)

snow retention, snow bracket

I have found that if you want to stop damage to the roof from snow and ice, you must stop movement.  Snow fences do not do this, but properly placed snow bracket do.  In my research, I have found different conditions which require snow fences and/or snow brackets.  Snow brackets stop the movement of the snow on the entire roof.  They are typically installed over the entire roof.  Snow fences are meant to stop top-layered snow from sliding off like and avalanche over doorways.  These snow fence brackets normally attach to the rafters on two-foot centers.  If the eave-to-ridge length is over 20 feed, European designers usually place another snow fence row mid-span.  Both snow retention items are sometime necessary.  But without designing the snow retention based on accurate testing, you could be wishing you had that steep slope and metal roof (which was always intended to shed snow).  It is critical that a designer specify enough snow retention devices based on the slope and snow load.

It makes sense when designing a metal roof to shed snow, not to keep it on.  With expansion and contraction of the metal, it is difficult to attach snow retention devices into the roof decking without causing a roof leak or slotting of the metal panel from the snow bracket fastener.  If you attach only to the metal, the metal sheets can be torn off because of the use of expanding sheet clip system and the weight of the snow being held on.

The following roof types are good for keeping snow on:

  1.  Tile
  2. Asphalt shingles
  3. Wood shakes
  4. Slate

number of snow brackets, snow retentionWhen using these types of roofs, it is I important to know which climate you are in (i.e., number of freeze-thaw cycle and altitude and how to control vapor drive and ice damming.  These factors will make a difference in the roof design.  A cold roof system which controls these factors is ideal roof system.  In the cold regions of Europe, the roofers have manuals with detailed specification, details, graphs, and charts which explain cold roof system and how to successfully install them.  This is one reason keeping the snow on the roof is such a widely accepted practice-the roof are planned for it and installed correctly.  In the U.S., there is a manual on roof applications in heavy snow areas prepared by the Western State Roofing Contractors Association (WSRCA) and the National Tile Roofing Manufacturers Association (NTRMA).  This manual promotes the cold roof system and snow retention.

  1. To reduce ice dams and icicles.
  2. To exhaust vapor from the building.
  3. To extend the life of the underlayment.
  4. To provide an insulation blanket on the roof.


I follow Austrian venting charts for duct work size from eave to ridge.  I also pay close attention to air intake and exhaust size because many screens reduce air flow by up to 70%.  Then I install snow brackets and snow fences on the roof per manufacturer’s engineering design from eave to ridge.  With this I had great success in Sun Peak, Canada; Grand Targhee, Wyoming; Bear Creek, Colorado; Sundance, Utah, and many more.

Note: this year a manual called Concrete and Clay Tile Roofing Design Criteria Manual for Cold and Snow Regions was commissioned by NTRMA and WSRCA.  The manual helps determine the climate type and explains what design factors are important in the given zone.  It also explains essentials such as ice damming, vapor drive, and ventilation for cold roofs and includes venting charts.  For further information, phone WSRCA at (650) 548-0112.


  • Anderson, Terry, and Gillan, Leland, Concrete Clay Tile Roof Design Criteria manual for Cold and Snow Regions, WSRCA & NTRMA, 1998.
  • Braas Tile Venting Manual
  • Bramac Brochure on Venting, March 1996
  • Redland Roof Tiles Limited, 1998
  • WSRCA/NTRMA Cold Roof Committee
  • Zander Tile Roof Installation Book

By: Terry Anderson

Published: Interface January 1999

Download (PDF, 674KB)

Shed it or Keep it – Making Decision about Snow & Ice on Metal Roofs

snow retention, metal roofs

By: Terry Anderson

Published: Architectural West | May/June 1999

snow retention, shed it or keep it, snow and iceHow would you answer this question?  If you are like most roofing consultants or architects, you would probably say, “Shed the snow and ice.”  This is the correct answer in some cases, but a few things must be considered when making this decision.  If you decide to allow the snow to shed, you must take into account the following:

  • Penetrations through the roof should be positioned near the top of the roof, within 5’ of the ridge line.  Why?  If snow and ice is allowed to move, its force will break off any penetrations through the roof.  Moving forces are minimized the higher up the slope you go.  This design change alone will make a big difference by stopping penetration damage from occurring.
  • People and property should not be allowed in areas of shedding snow and ice.  Why?  In the past two years there have been at least three deaths in Utah and Colorado caused by sliding snow and ice off roofs.  These deaths could have been prevented if people had not been in areas of sliding snow and ice or if the snow and ice had not been allowed to move.  Even professionals such as architects and consultants are not always alert to the danger to people and property.  One architect’s Maserati was crushed by falling ice and snow.  He got it repaired, but made no changes to the roof.  The same thing happened the next year!
  • cold roof system, proper roof ventilationDormers should not be used close to the eave line when the ridge height of the dormer is much lower that the ridge height of the building.  Why?  Snow loads coming down on the main roof are much greater than loads sliding down from a dormer.  Therfore, the snow and ice come through the small valley and do damage to the dormer valley and the roofing product on the dormer.
  • No snow retention devices should be used on standing seam metal roofs.  Why?  Standing seam metal roofs are made to expand and contract with temperature changes during the day.  This expansion takes place up and down the metal sheet.  Clips are used in the standing seam, rather than nails through the sheathing because this movement.  Clips allow for the expansion without causing holes to become slots and creating leak problems.  Attachment through the panel is only done in one location, either at the ridge or eave.

If you glue snow brackets on a roof when it is above 40°, allow a 30 day cure time with temperatures above 40, and the surfaces of the roof and snow bracket are both clean, then the roof may hold snow on the brackets may not pull off.  However, if temperatures drop, cure time is not allowed, or the surfaces are dirty, the bracket and snow will come off.

snow and ice, snow retention

When the snow bracket is installed correctly, there is still the potential for the whole roof panel to come off.  Consider this:  A 120 lb. per square foot snow load being held by two or three screws through a panel on a 30’ run of roof.  This is incredible weight to put on a few screws.  This is why whole panels sometimes slide off the structure, as happened in the ski resort of Whistler, Canada.

Be careful about letting snow and ice built up on an outside bearing wall.  Why?  Often, when you hear about building collapsing during a snowstorm, a large amount of snow and ice has fallen off the roof’s eave edge and then fallen back against the outside bearing wall, collapsing the building.  The weight of the snow and ice, which came off of the roof, is the contributing factor to the collapse.

Gas line meters should not be installed on the side of the building where snow is shed.  Why?  On a house in Park City, Utah, snow and ice slide slowly down the roof.  It eventually curled under the eave and then broke off.  When it fell, it hit the gas line going into the house.  This shot gas into the house and within a short time, the house exploded into a fire ball.

What would I, as a roofing consultant, do if I were designing a roof a in a heavy snow area and the owner wanted a metal roof?

I would slope the roof to about 5:12 so that I could keep the snow on the roof and prevent the problems previously noted.  This would also give me more architectural freedom in my design.  I would then have access round the building and not worry about people and property damage.  By keeping the snow on the roof, I could doll up the house with dormers, eyebrows, walkways etc… to give it the look I want.

I would design a cold roof system and use the snow as an insulated blanket.  This would stop ice dams and also allow me to vent the attic space.  This also eliminates any water vapor barrier below the insulation.  If you do this, remember that air intake and exhaust size are very important to be sure that enough air is drawn from eave to ridge.  Check charts, such as the ones in WSRCA & NTRMA Cold Roof Manual.

To hold the snow on the roof, I would use a flat seam metal roof.  This allows me to attach a snow bracket through the metal without worrying about metal movement caused by expansion and contraction.  It also prevents degrading the flat seam.

The snow retention system I would use would be designed and engineered.  I would choose a manufacturer that tested its brackets to a fail point on a flat seam metal roof.  The system would have brackets form eave to ridge to hold all the snow on the roof and not let it move.  Having a system like this is similar to a snow cave in that is also insulates the building.

shed it or keep it, snow retention

I would also consider snow fences above any walkway where layered snow might be a problem.  This would be in addition to snow brackets throughout the roof system.  Snow fences are only necessary and a good idea in areas where layers of snow might slip off of each other onto areas where there are people, vehicles, decks, etc.

The above system has had great success in Lake Tahoe, Calif., Beaver Creek, Colo., Breckenridge, Colo., Sun Peaks, Canada, Grand Targhee, Wyoming and many more.   If you are designing a roof in cold and snowy regions, a copy of Western States Roofing Contractors Association’s new manual on sloped roof application in heavy snow areas is worth the nominal cost.

Download (PDF, 832KB)

Power of Ice – Sliding Ice & Snow Causes Roof & Property Damage

snow and ice, snow retention

By: John Del Grosso

Published: Architectural West | March/April 2003

The power of snow is seldom apparent as each unique snowflake falls to the ground.  Yet, when snow accumulates on the roof, the damage that can be caused by sliding ice and snow is a major concern.  Tim Ryan, president of the Arrowhead Condominium Association, a Private Unit Development, and head of the property-management firm for the association has firsthand experience in dealing with sliding ice and snow.

Located in Big Sky, Montana, the Arrowhead Condominium Association consisted of 24 units with metal roofs and a 12:12 slope.  These homes are only 10’ to 15’ apart, and each is a ski-in/ski-out unit on a hillside.  During harsh winter weather, the snow, ice dams, and icicles were sliding off the units and damaging neighboring homes.  The front door of one unit even collapsed three different times.  The decks on the buildings had to be closed for the winter, since many rails and decks had been torn off.  On lower shed roofs, not only was the metal roofing torn and bent, but the ¾” plywood sheathing was crushed between the roof’s rafters.

On several occasions, Ryan had worked with the Association’s insurance company assessing the damage.  The insurance company said it would not renew its policy due to the continuing problems.  “Their concern of the ice and snow killing someone was too great,” noted Ryan, “We did not know how to eliminate these problems, so we called Locati Architectures of Bozeman, Montana. They referred us to Terry Anderson of Anderson Associates Consulting, Inc.”

Anderson, who is the co-author of The Cold Roof Manual, published by the Western State Contractors Association and the Roof Tile Institute (RTI), visited the project to review all the damage and concerns.  He concluded that the only way to solve the problem was to stop the movement of ice and snow.

“Anderson recommended an engineered snow-retention system,” Ryan continued. “He also recommended a good ventilation system that, once installed, would stop most of their ice dam and icicle problems.  He visited with the board and gave them several roof options.  After reviewing the choices, the Arrowhead Condominium Association chose concrete roof tiles.  The association felt the concrete tiles had the longest record of use in Europe using a cold-roof design.  They also liked the look of the tile.”

snow and ice, snow retention

After Anderson Associates wrote the specifications and details, the project was bid out to qualified roofing companies who were familiar with the specified cold-roof system.  Trojan Roofing, from Salt Lake city, Utah, was selected.  The choice of all parties was concrete tile produced by Westile, Inc. of Denver, Colorado.

Since ground snow loads increased after the units were built, Anderson Associates hired a local engineering firm to check the structural integrity of the building for retaining snow and ice on the roof.  Securing the rafters properly to the plate-lien and purlins was the only minor change that was required.

Because it was late in the year and winter was approaching, the Arrowhead Association chose 14 of the 24 united to be reroofed immediately.  It was difficult for Trojan Roofing to work in the cold and snow conditions, but it gave all involved a great opportunity to see the difference between the old and new systems.

Many of the homeowners were concerned that the building could not retain snow on a 12:12 slope.  Anderson worked with the homeowners, assuring them that with proper engineering of snow fences and snow brackets, the roof system would retain the snow and ice on the roof.  The system was designed using a fully engineered snow-retention system with TRA Snow Brackets.

“Neither the homeowners nor the association understood what a cold-roof system was and how it would stop ice dams and icicles” stated Anderson.  “We worked very closely with them, explaining that venting air below the roof tile and above the sheathing would make melting and freezing equal from eave to ridge.  We used the RTI and WSRCA Cold Roof Manual and air ventilation charts from Europe.”

Since adequate ventilation was critical to the success of the roof system, Anderson calculated the air-duct size needed from eave to ridge.  He then designed an air-intake system from the eave and a ridge exhaust system in a raised-ridge vent.  Everyone involved was pleased to see the major difference from the old to new system, which was immediately apparent when icicles were eliminated and snow was retained on the roof.

snow retention

Homeowners of the first reroofed units were very pleased with the results.  The owners commented on how exceptional the tile looked with all the copper flashing and the copper TRA Snow Brackets.  The real proof of the improvements between the two roof systems became clear as the snow began to fall; the difference in the two roof systems was obvious.  The newly designed cold-roof system allows the snow to compact naturally with ice in the bottom 3”.  This ice freezes around the triangular portion of the TRA Snow Bracket.  This permits the natural run-off of water to shed between the ice and the roof tile when the outside temperature was above freezing.  Photos were taken to show the other property owners, who are all over the U.S., the improvements.

“The new units have stopped all snow and ice movement as well as icicles,” stated Ryan.  “The old units still have leaks, icicles, ice dams, damaged decks and snow and ice hazards.  Our association and homeowners are very happy with the look and design of the units.  We are looking forward to having the last ten units completed this spring and summer.  Retaining the snow on the roof has also reduced the heavy snow-removal cost.”

According to Ryan, “Credit needs to go to Anderson Associates Consulting, Western State Roofing Contractors Association and the Roof Tile Institute for the work on the Cold Roof Manual that made this system possible as well as the great work done by Trojan roofing while working in such bad winter snow and ice conditions.  The units look beautiful; they are safe and insurable,” concluded Ryan.

Download (PDF, 377KB)

Environmentally Friendly- Green Roofing and Snow Retention Meet at Schweitzer Mountain

snow retention, green roofing

By: Heidi Ellsworth, HJE Marketing

Published: Architectural West | May/June 2000

Where do green and white meet to create gray? In Sandpoint, Idaho at the hand of Tim Boden of Boden Design Mountain Architecture.  With a lifelong love of skiing and strong commitment to the environment, Boden has built a strong architectural business on a mountain in Northern Idaho.

The project was The Glades at Schweitzer.  Boden had been working on the project for a number of years, although he was not the initial architect on the project.  “We were looking for a special look that would run throughout the entire project,” states Boden.  “They had roofed some of the first homes using tile. Unfortunately the tiles were not the right match for the roof design in this area.  We were dealing with ice damns, ice sickles and roof damage so we needed to do something different.”

Situated at Schweitzer ski resort in Northern Idaho, The Glades development is owned by Basin Development of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The development features second homes or vacation rentals for skiers.  Architecturally they are designed in traditional 1980s ski area/condo style with cutup lines and several valley’s ridges and hips.

Boden sits on the architectural control committee at Schweitzer and has led the Glades project for the past five years.  Not only has he worked on the project but also on his offices is located at Schweitzer, with his other office in Sandpoint, Idaho.  He has been working with the architectural design of Schweitzer properties for a number of years and it has offered him a great perspective.  “Often you have outside firms trying to design buildings for the area and they do not under the special challenges of the area,” continued Boden.  “We have made a career out of designing snow load and the particular tastes of our mountain audience.”

green roofing, snow retentionBoden and The Glades developer knew they had to find a different system.  The current tiles were cracking and breaking due to the movement of the snow and ice.  Snow slippage had destroyed tiles in the valleys chimney intersections and roof eaves.  The covenant, codes, and restriction (CC&Rs) of the Schweitzer Village called for the use of tile or shakes to be used for all steep roofing system.  “We have tried to establish a look throughout the Schweitzer resort that will last,” noted Boden.  “When the clay tiles didn’t work for us, I had to find something different for the new construction we were working on.”

And it wasn’t just the breakage that was a concern.  There was also the challenge of the liabilities experience with high density construction regarding snow slippage from roof structures.  “With village or commercial building construction, posted warning signs related to the overhead danger of accumulated snow slippage has not been enough,” noted Boden.  “People and property are injured or damaged each winter due to snow slippage.”

“The people of Schweitzer Mountain are realizing that holding the snow on the roofs is the safest consideration for commercial Village Construction.  Due to the dead load weight of accumulated snow, structural design along with methods and building materials selections need to be re-evaluated.  We consistently deal with 350 to 400 pound snow loads,” continued Boden.  “Outside the village, we can let some of the snow slide, so we do use metal roofs.  In the village itself we can’t let the snow slide due to pedestrians, skiers, and vehicles it needs to be held on the roof.”

In addition to snow loads, the owners, management and architects at Schweitzer had environmental considerations.  “This is a beautiful part of the country and we are all concerned about the quality of our environment,” noted Boden.  “When I look at new building products, building green is always a consideration.”

The Glades had been executed in two phases.  Boden did not design the first phase but worked with Terry Anderson of Anderson Associates Consulting, to solve the problem with the snow slippage.  For phase two, Boden designed the two new buildings using straight gables with shed dormers.  He wanted to look at a roofing system that would meet his needs for strength, snow retention and environmental friendliness.  It was recommended that he contact the management of EcoStar, Inc. the manufacturers of majestic Slate.  Majestic Slate is 100% recycled rubber slate tile.

green roofing, snow retentionI had to look similar to the roofing on phase one to meet the developments rules and maintain consistency throughout the project.  “Majestic did not have as much profile but was very similar in color,” noted Boden.  “I researched the product and then did some testing on my own.  Besides meeting a certain look, I wanted to be sure that it would work.   I put the products in my freezer and then took it out and did several tests for breakage.   It pasted all my tests and I realized that it could meet all our needs in addition to providing the look we wanted.”

“The glacier effect on the roofs in this area is tremendous.  The snow movement basically crushes the roof,” stated Boden.  “The testing I did on the Majestic Tile showed it had enough flexibility and strength to handle the amount of movement that might occur.  I also found that it would not absorb moisture and thus not cause problems from freeze thaw cycles.”

Majestic Slate is made of Starloy, a polymer blended of 100% recycled rubber and industrial plastic.  Starloy has been in production for over 20 years and used in the manufacturing of mats for docks, mud flaps and fatigue mats.  “From the history of Starloy, we knew that Majestic Slate was designed to endure cold, freezing temperatures and stress.  The product is also beautiful, made with the feel and look of natural slate,” continued Boden.

EcoStar Inc. prides itself on offering the most natural and progressive recycled roofing product on the market.  “We believe in creating a balance between the environment and economics,” stated Kerston Russell, president of EcoStar.

Besides the look and strength, Majestic Slate also offered ease of application.  “The Peter A. Chance Company worked with us during the installation process,” noted Ed Wininger, president of Everlast Roofing and The Glades roofing contractor.  “We found the installation to be very easy and the support from the Chance Company and EcoStar management exceptional.”

“I had my doubts about Majestic just because it was a new product on the market.  A lot of people have their doubts due to past new product problems.  After testing and using Majestic Tile, we are sold,” stated Winiger.  “There is a learning curve but once you get going it is easy.  You can score it with a knife and snap it.  You can also shave the ends once you cut it to give the cuts ends a finished look.  All our guys were intrigued by the product.”

“When comparing the installation costs of Majestic Slate to traditional slate or tile, there is quite a difference,” said Chris Olson, technical representative for the Peter A. Chance Company.  “The installation cost is lower due to the reduced weight, flexibility and ease of application.  Majestic Slate weight a quarter the weight of slate or clay tile.  The reduced weight allows more flexibility in the structural design process and in the inherent flexibility eliminates broken pieces during installation, transit and loading.”

In dealing with the extreme weather, Majestic Slate carries a 100 mph wind warranty and a 50-year product warranty.  “We foresee no problems with snow loads,” stated Russell.  “The raw material Starloy has been used for years in some of the most extreme environments.  That gives us the highest level of confidence in our products.”

In addition, snow retention devices were specified in conjunction with the Majestic Tile.  “We wanted to use a cold roof system,” said Boden.  “We again worked with Anderson Associates Consulting to develop a system for phase in junction with the Majestic slate.”

green roofing, snow retentionAnderson is also the developer of TRA Snow Brackets.  He recommended following the European style of snow retention by using snow brackets throughout the whole roof.   “The United States and Canada have different concepts about snow retention that Europeans,” stated Anderson.  “The first thing American think is to get the snow off the roof with a steep slope roofs in mountain areas to keep the snow as an insulation blanket.”

As Anderson was designing the TRA Snow Brackets he was also working on developing bracket failure ratio charts.  Working with Brigham Young University, through a grant from the State of Utah, he determined that a majority of the failures occurred from the pull out of the sheathing not the brackets.  “I wanted to create charts like those in Europe for the United States using my understanding of the fail points,” said Anderson.  “When I designed the charts, we developed them using a two to one safety ratio.  We also took the friction of the roof out since the roof friction can change the ratio.  The safety factor of two to one has lead to the success of the bracket.”

“The European system revolves around three points,” explained Anderson. “One, take any vapor that has escaped in other roof cavity above the insulation and then pull the vapor out through the ridge with venting air.  Two, stop ice dams by making roof temperature equal.  By venting air into cold eave, it becomes warm from the radiant heat of the house and then exits through the ridge vent.  This makes the temperature equal from eave to ridge and this is called a cold roof system.  Third, hold snow on the roof with snow retention brackets to create an insulated blanket and stop roof and property damage.”

To enhance the ventilation process, Olson recommended using Premier Highpoint ridge vents.  Highpoint ridge vents are made by NW Building Products out of Bigfork, Mont.  “We truly believe that Highpoint is a superior product,” stated Olson. “It is natural choice for high wind areas.”

The Premiere Ridge Vents is 18 square inches per lineal foot of unobstructed net free ventilating area.  It exceeded the Dade County Hurricane Test with its exterior wind baffle.  “Essentially, there is an integral airfoil that is at the lower edge of the ridge vent.  It diverts wind, wind drive rain and snow, up and over the ridge keeping the interior dry and protecting the ridge shingles from blow-off.  It also forces the ridge vent to act as an exhaust as intended by not permitting air to be blown into the ridge vent,” noted Olson.  “Also, due to the manufacturing process of using UV-stabilized polypropylene with self closing ends, High point vents withstand dramatic temperature changes and extreme structural loading.”

With snow retention devices, the Premiere Ridge vent and the Majestic Slate Tile, Boden had a complete cold roof system for his new construction.  In the case of the old clay tile roofs, that were not project to be reroofed, Anderson recommended fixing the slide and breakage problems with snow retention devices on the full roof slope of the roofing system to help retain the snow on the roof. “Due to the cut-up architecture of the roofs, we could not develop and adequate ventilation system.  The venting did not always line up so you would have dead-end venting.” Said Boden. “We followed Terry’s advice and installed snow retention devices through the roof and heaters at the eave for icicle control.

The end results are spectacular.  “This is the coolest looking stuff. The definition and the depth that the Majestic Slate is showing is more than we expected.  The installation and appearance of the slate with the copper snow retention brackets is great.  I am getting questioned everyday if we will use the material for all of our projects,” smiled Boden.

The bonus is that it is a green roof. “There is no downside. It is quality product that I made of recycled materials and is recyclable.  You are not giving up anything,” said Boden, “You’re using raw materials which would normally go into a landfill and making a product to use in the building trades.  This is just a win-win for everybody. It works and looks great. We have to use these sustainable products or our landfills will completely filled with old roofing.”

“Even though we are environmentalist we can’t push green building products unless they function, are aesthetic, and cost effective.  That is the future; products must be good for the environment and good for business. Majestic Slate is one product which does both,” concluded Boden.

Download (PDF, 721KB)

Concrete Tile Excels in Snow Country; Europe Shows How

By: Terry Anderson

Published: Interface | February 1997

Oslo, concrete tile roofs

Ruined penetration pipes, torn off gutters, broken tiles, damage to property below roofs and various other snow- and ice-related problems on concrete tile roofs are just a few of the complaints I have repeatedly received since I began roof consulting in the western United States.   After researching the problems in the U.S. and discovering that there were few effective solutions, I determined to look beyond our borders.  The solutions to all of these problems were found across the Atlantic Ocean in Europe, where concrete tile is both popular and performs well in snow and ice areas.

Monier Inc., the largest U.S. manufacturer of concrete roof tile, referred me to their parent company, Redland PLC, headquartered in England, I studied tile roofs in various parts of Europe, including England, Germany and Norway.  In the vicinity of Oslo, Norway, where winters are long and severe, tile roofs and were inspected in the heaviest snow areas.

In Norway, tile manufacturers from Zanda arranged a meeting for me with the head of the information division of the Norwegian Building Research Institute (the equivalent of ICBO or BOCA) where they were queried regarding the overwhelming choice for concrete roof tile in their country.  They opined that Norwegians are more concerned about life cycle cost, energy efficiency and fire ratings than Americans appear to be.  Concrete roof tile has fit their stringent requirements best.  Asphalt shingles were used to a small degree after World War II because of their low cost, but were replaced by tile again when the population could afford a longer lasting product.

Research in Germany indicated that most pitched roofs utilize concrete tile.  The pitches ranged from 10:12 in the lower land of Frankfurt but changed to 5:12 in the Austrian Alps, a practice opposite what I generally see in the U.S.

The standard practice in America is to increase pitch as you travel upward in elevation, as evidenced by A-frame cabins and steeper pitched roofs.  Why do pitches of roof drop from 10:12 in low snow areas to 5:12 in high snow areas in Europe?  It was discovered that the Germans and Norwegians actually want a “snow blanket” on their roofs.

I was familiar with the idea of using snow as an insulator.  Years ago, as a Scoutmaster, I would take my troop to the Klondike Derby (a winter campout held in February).  Some of the scouts would build snow eaves to sleep in.  Others brought tents.  The ones who slept in the eaves were warm.  The boys in tents often slept little because of how cold they were.  Obviously, the snow and ice of the eaves acted as an insulator and the temperature was therefore much warmer than that in the tents.  The effort to use the insulative properties of snow on roofs in rural areas of Norway and Germany was astounding.  I saw centuries-old stone and slate buildings with low pitched roofs that actually had boulders placed on the roof to help hold the snow in place!

Snow and ice damage is almost non-existent in Norway and Germany.  Designers and roofers use a double-vented cold roof system to keep the temperature just below the tile at 32 degrees.  This creates compacted snow and stops icicles and ice dams caused by heat loss from the building which melts the snow.  Working like a fireplace flue, cold roof systems draw cold air from outside through the roof soffit.  This air mixes with warm air in the attic and is vented out through a continuous ridge vent.  This mixed air in the attic is about 50 degrees on average during the winter.

To get the air under the tile close to 32 degrees, it is again vented under the roof tiles using 2×2 vertical battens.  This draws air from eave to ridge, venting it out.  When spans from eave to ridge are very long, vents are also placed midpoint.  Metal snow brackets are slipped over the tiles, interlocking between courses.  Some tile manufacturers from snow stops into the tiles themselves.  These hold the snow in place, prevent it from sliding and thereby avoiding damage to the tile, penetrations, property and people.

snow retention, Oslo

Underlayments used in Germany were limited generally to one layer of 20-pound felt over the roof sheathing and 2 x 2 vertical battens below.  Many roof in Norway had underlayment unfamiliar to me.  The decks were a tempered hardboard with an asphalt shingle coating applied, acting as decking and underlayment.  Neither of the two roofing systems included a bitumen or ice-and-water shield product.

These tiles have affixed concrete snow stops. Note the vented system between deck and tile, at right.

While studying in Germany I discovered that Braas (which is part of the Redland Braas Building Group) provides roofers with hardbound roof application books which include details like how many snow brackets to use and provide layout charts based on snow load and degrees of pitch.  Because of this support and the demand for tile, the majority of cold climate roofers in Europe are well educated about tile and know how to install it.

Today in these areas, architects specify concrete tile made with built-in snow stops or requiring metal snow brackets placed throughout the roof from ridge to eave.  In some cases, snow fences are also used.  The purpose of these fences is to prevent avalanching that sometimes occurs with layered snow.  I also found that because of the double vented cold roof system, ice was greatly reduced.  Copper gutters were widely used without any concern for them being torn off.  I found no evidence of bent penetration pipes or broken tile in valley, nor of any damage from snow and ice slippage.  All of these conditions have been pervasive on tile roofs in the mountains of the western United

Much of this “old world knowledge” was brought back to Utah and has been used successfully for the past two winters.  Europeans obviously worked through their snow and ice concerns centuries ago and have developed a tile roof system that will perform for centuries more.  Since their combination of low slope roofs, cold, vented attics and engineered place of snow brackets performs so effectively, the construction industry in the United States should take careful note.

snow retention

Download (PDF, 522KB)

Colorado Snows

Colorado snows, ski resort roof damage

By Terry Anderson, Anderson Associates Consulting

Published: Western Roofing – November/December 1997

(Editor’s Note: Terry Anderson has been involved in the roofing industry for 20 years and is the owner of Anderson Associates consulting in Highland, Utah.  He is a member of RCI and NRCA. Anderson also serves on the committee for tile roof applications in snow and ice areas for the Nation Tile Manufacturers association.  Anderson may be contact at (801) 756-9811.)

The Beaver Creek Ski Resort and Community is one of the premier ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains.  Built in the early 1980’s, this Colorado resort sports European design and feeling with tile roofs, stucco and stone exterior walls.  The feeling is one of entering a village in the Austrian Alps.

Colorado snows, ski resort roof damageEach year East West Resorts, which manages 16 property owner’s association within Beaver Creek, spent tens of thousands of dollars on the associations’ money to repair roof damage caused by sliding snow and ice.  Peter Dan, the vice president and general manager said, “Managing 16 associations is difficult enough without having large recurring expenses that are as unpredictable as snow and ice damage.”  Tired of spending so much money on the same problem each year, property owners gave him the task of finding a solution.

Most of the roofs were designed with a cold roof system because of altitude, temperature differential and snow loads ranging from 140-200 psf.  Roofs in the “core” area of Beaver Creek are a special blue-green Westile concrete tile.  Snow fences had been installed in isolated locations.  But each spring, after the snowmelt, East West resorts had the daunting task of supervising repairs in the same area of roofs throughout Beaver Creek.  Of all the standard upkeep and repair which was anticipated and budged for, replacing broken tile was one of the homeowners’ greatest expenses each spring.  From 1992 to 1995, Dan explored new ideas and suggestions given to him by roofing contractors, roofing consultants and snow retention device manufacturers with each assuring him they had the answer.

After years of this, the manager felt frustrated.  He realized what the problems were, but couldn’t find a solution.  These were his observations:

  • The ridge line designs are different heights which cause snow and ice from high ridges to slide into valleys on the lower ridges sides.  The field tiles are crushes as the snow and ice slides downward.
  • The greater the distance ridge and eaves, the greater the damage.
  • Snow fences weren’t working.  The snow load was not distributed evenly and weight of slipping snow and ice would come down on the snow fence, tearing them off in many cases.  Field tile would also break above and below the snow fence.  Dan determined that he needed a system that didn’t allow this slippage to begin at all.  He also noted fences were being destroyed where they stopped at the valleys and didn’t go to the other side of the valley.  This situation was causing unequal forces from each side.  Snow and ice from the roof area without snow fences slipped into the valley areas which did have snow fences.  This force would be too great and would break the tile.
  • Snow and ice would slide off the roof slow at first, extending over the overhang and eave one to two feet.  Then this compacted snow and ice would break lose.  As it fell, it would cantilever over the eaves course of tile, breaking the first course of tile and the damaging roofs and structures below.  Danger to people was great.
  • When there is a long run between eaves and ridge, more than just one row of snow fences was needed.  It would be better to follow the European way of installing fences, about ten feet apart up the roof, providing more equal loads on the roof and stopping tile from breaking high up on the roof.


In an effort to resolve this dilemma, East West Resorts searched again for a system or product that met these requirements: The system should be easily installed into the current tile roof system; would keep the snow and ice on the roof; be engineered based on the roof’s pitch and amount of snow and ice on the roof; and have minimal penetrations through the roof underlayment which would minimize the risk of leaks.Colorado snows, ski resort roof damage

Dan checked the loads his structures could hold and found that they were sufficient to hold the snow weight on the roof.  He was then free to keep the snow and ice on the roof and allow it to melt there.

In his quest, Dan found a product specifically designed for concrete roof tiles, Snow Brackets by Tile Roof Accessories, Inc. (TRA).  These brackets did exactly what he needed done: distribute the weight of the snow evenly all over the roof, prevent it from sliding, and allow the large amount of weight to be concentrated over the head lap of each tile and battens.  It could be easily installed by a unique attachment system to the tile and batten without putting any holes in the underlayment.  This was an idea he liked over snow fences.

But most of all, he liked the engineering which has been done by the Engineering Department of Brigham Young University.  There, technicians using specialized laboratory equipment had tested the brackets to a fail point in a laboratory and in the field.  After analyzing the data, they formulated charts showing how many brackets should be installed based on pitch and snow load.  (TRA uses a basis of 2:1 failure with no friction)

TRA gave East West Resorts a specifically designed layout for the Beaver Creek buildings, showing how to place brackets based on the pitch and snowload.  Tim Simon of Premiere Maintenance Company was contacted about installed the brackets.  Brackets were ordered and custom powder-coated to a blue green color.

East West Resorts’ plan was to hem them installed on a few of the most troublesome buildings and see how they fared during the winter of 1996 and spring of 1997.  Dan chose four different roofs and four different exposures.  If the brackets worked during the winter of 1996, he would try some more the next year.

To Peter Dan’s surprise, the Snow Brackets worked just like he had hoped and during one of the heaviest snow years in Colorado’s recent history.  Dan said, “The TRA Brackets performed very well this past winter.  Out test areas were set up at several different exposures and roof configurations.  We used them on roofs with valleys, dormers and upper/lower roof designs and they performed superior to anything we have tried.  We are phasing Snow Brackets in each year on all our concrete tile roofs.”

Tim Simon, the roofing contractor who installed the snow bracket made this comment, “The installation of these snow brackets is very simple.  As the installer, we just had to figure the roof slope and the maximum snowload to come up with the calculation of how many snow brackets to install per square of roof.  One this and the installation pattern are figured, they are placed very easily and quickly.”  TRA figured the layout pattern for Simon based on his snowload and pitch information.

Because of the great success this year preventing broken roof tile, East West Resorts is planning to try other snow brackets on some copper roofs in Beaver Creek.

Download (PDF, 533KB)