In locations with potent winters, there’s always a lot of talk about snow guards, and what a great, important solution they are for any home with a significantly sloped roof. Well, there are definitely calls for them, it’s not always necessary. There also seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about what these can do, and how they work.
Today, we’re going to learn what snow guards do, how they work, and the things they actually prevent. We’ll also look at a case where they can be legitimately hazardous as well because given these are meant to hold snow in place, the buildup of snow itself can pose a lot of threats we’ll discuss here.
What Snow Guards Do
Snow guards are actually intended to prevent avalanches of snow off of slanted roofs. Snow can build up to a point when it has a lot of weight, and then slide down in heavy, potentially damaging or even hazardous sheets.
These avalanches can cause a lot of problems. For one, if they fall on a person, they could injure or in extreme cases, even kill someone (especially the elderly or small children). They can also damage decks, block doors, devastate cars, and ruin landscaping.
In many cases, Christmas decorations can be casualties to these avalanches, which is less of a serious issue, but still something that can be intensely frustrating, and cost you time and money. Avalanches like this can also sometimes take shingles with them, if they’re icy drifts, or even take gutters down if it’s bad enough.
If you have a really slanted roof, and you’re prone to heavy snowfalls, these can save you a lot of dangers and frustrations in the long run. However, there are downsides to them as well, which we’ll get to presently.
How They Work
They’re built as rises, sometimes with rails, across your roof parallel to the edge and peak. They’re usually a few inches or upward of a foot in height, depending. They act the same way rock formations do on mountains, to keep snow in place, making avalanches and cascades less likely to happen.
However, significant enough snowfall is only mitigated by this, not prevented, and avalanches can still happen.
Downsides of Snow Guards
So, let’s talk about the downsides to these, because nothing is perfect. Snow guards, first of all, cause roofs to be more labor intensive to repair and replace and add to the cost. They have to be removed and reinstalled or replaced.
They can also trap debris such as limbs, wind-blown detritus, leaves, and other materials, which you don’t want piling up on your roof. They also are a trip hazard.
Finally, holding snow in a place like this can lead to a lot of weight on your roof, which is hard on your shingles and your structure. They can promote ice dams to form as the sun periodically melts part of it, and the night refreezes it into icy sheets. They can become like glaciers, eating into your shingles the way glaciers do to the landscape itself.
When Not to Use Them
Absolutely don’t put snow guards on roofs with little to no slant, such as asphalt roofs, shed roofs, or low-slope house roofs, as they’re not necessary, and you’re taking on the downsides with no positives to gain.
Don’t use them in places where hail and sleet are common, as they’ll trap snow and falling ice, and make those glaciers we mentioned more rapidly.
When to Use Them
Definitely go with snow guards if you have things that can be damaged by avalanches, or if they’re a common occurrence. Pets, small children, the elderly and the like are cases where these avalanches can even be deadly.
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