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Snow guard: Safe protection from roof avalanches

The dreamy scenery of snow-covered roofs can quickly turn into a nightmare: If the snow slides off the roof or ice comes loose, it becomes dangerous for passers-by and parked cars – and homeowners can be held responsible for the damage. But don’t worry: With snow guard systems, you can effectively secure your home against roof avalanches.

Is a snow guard mandatory?

A snow guard system on the roof is not generally mandatory in UK. However, the building codes of individual municipalities may contain corresponding regulations – especially if a lot of snow is expected in the region. In the case of houses that border on publicly accessible areas such as streets and whose roof has a certain angle of inclination, a snow guard system is then often mandatory.

But in all other cases, too, the following applies: As a homeowner, you may be liable for personal injury and property damage caused by roof avalanches or falling ice if you cannot prove that you have taken adequate protective measures. So you should take appropriate safety precautions.

One option is to always clear the roof of fresh snow immediately. In practice, however, this is not feasible for very few homeowners. Barriers and signs alerting passers-by to the danger can only be considered as a temporary emergency solution. The installation of snow guard systems is therefore advisable in most cases and can also be carried out afterwards without any problems. There are several options to choose from.

Snow guard grids

Snow guard grids
Snow guard grids

Snow guards are the most common protective device against roof avalanches. The small fences are attached to the lower edge of the roof. Accumulating snow accumulates there and is prevented from falling. In addition, snow guards protect the gutters from clogging, overflowing or even falling down. The load capacity of the grids is in the medium range. To better distribute the weight of larger amounts of snow, additional grids can be installed across the roof.

Snow guards are available in a variety of materials: if you are looking for a particularly high-quality and durable solution, it is best to opt for copper. But they are also available in aluminum or steel – and in all typical roof colors. Their classic and elegant appearance makes them a popular choice for old urban buildings, for example, but they are also used on many other roofs.

One disadvantage of snow guards: the risk of icicles forming on them and falling down is relatively high compared to other systems.

Snow guard beams

Snow guard beams
Snow guard beams

Snow guard beams are round timbers that are attached to the roof in hooks that are open at the top. They have a high load-bearing capacity and are therefore particularly suitable for very snowy areas. Like snow guards, they are usually mounted just above the edge of the roof and are often reinforced by additional beams further up the roof.

The logs (usually made of spruce or beech) go particularly well with houses that have a natural look, but can also provide an interesting contrast on tin roofs, for example. Important: In order not to lose stability over the years, the logs must be maintained at regular intervals.

Tubular Snow guards

Tubular Snow guards
Tubular Snow guards

Snow guard tubes are also extremely robust and reliably hold back larger masses of snow. They usually consist of two thin metal pipes – the so-called double-pipe snow guard. Like snow guard grids and snow guard beams, they are usually attached to the edge of the roof and, if necessary, additionally to several points on the roof.

Due to their clean look, snow guards are perfectly suited for sheet metal and metal roofs or set modern accents on rustic roofs.

Snow stopper

Snow stopper
Snow stopper

Snow stoppers are also known as snow hooks or snow noses. Unlike snow guards, snow bars and snow pipes, they do not accumulate snow at a specific point on the roof, such as the roof edge. Instead, the small, inconspicuous hooks are distributed all over the roof, intercepting the snow at specific points and thus ensuring an even distribution of the snow load. As a rule, they are installed in addition to snow guards, snow guard pipes or snow guard beams to relieve the latter, especially during heavy snowfall.

Snow guards for roofs with photovoltaic systems

If you have a photovoltaic system installed on your roof, special care must be taken to avoid roof avalanches. This is because the smooth surface of the solar system makes it easier for snow to slide down.

The problem: If you own a photovoltaic system, you usually want to use it in winter as well. By a snow guard, however, the snow is accumulated on the roof and covers the modules. Solution: Install the modules as high up on the roof as possible so that the snow can collect at the bottom on a snow guard without hindering electricity production. Another option is to elevate the modules so the snow slides off them better. It is also possible to heat the modules to free them from snow.

In this way, you can use your photovoltaic system even in winter and still not have to do without a snow guard. However, keep in mind that the snow will be elevated on the roof due to the modules. Snow guard systems for roofs with photovoltaic systems should therefore be somewhat higher. Various manufacturers offer corresponding models.

How do I find a roofing contractor for the installation?

As a rule, you should place the installation of a snow guard in the hands of a roofer. On the one hand, he can competently advise you on your individual situation and choose a suitable system. For another, professional installation guarantees reliable protection against roof avalanches. And last but not least: Climbing around on a roof is dangerous – better leave it to the professionals!

William C Arpin

I like to test products and recommend the best ones, write reviews, travel and spend time with my family.

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