Everything You Need to Know About Snow Breaks and Metal Roofs

In Montana, we often face massive bouts of snowfall, sometimes as much as two feet in a single day! Snow can accumulate on your roof very quickly, and, in the case of some metal roofs, the snow can fall off the roof unexpectedly. These “roof avalanches” happen because metal roofs—unlike shingle roofs—are very smooth, so they do not provide any resistance to keep snow from sliding off abruptly.

In the case of a roof avalanche, the heavy and rapid snowfall can cause damage to property and hurt people. If you have a metal roof in a wintery landscape like Montana, having snow breaks can save you a lot of hassle and money later on. We’ve been in the metal roofing industry for several decades, so we’ve seen the value snow breaks can add to your property. Below we’ll lay out the ins-and-outs of snow breaks, their benefits, and common questions people have about snow breaks so you can feel confident in deciding whether snow breaks are right for your metal roofing project.

What is a Snow Break?

A snow break (sometimes called a snow stop or a snow guard) is a device installed on a roof to help snow and ice melt off slowly and in an organized way. They are often attached in a pattern, usually to the flat part of a metal roof panel, or clamped to the seam.

Snow breaks increase friction between the metal roof and the snow, which helps them retain snowpack. This way, the snow will evacuate in a predictable manner, not a sudden, sometimes deadly, roof avalanche.

Types of Snow Breaks

A roof snow break comes in two different categories: small profile (which is less than four square inches) and large profile (which is more than 4 square inches). Within these two categories, there are different styles of snow breaks you can choose from, including bar, fence, pad, and rail styles. Depending on how you want the snow breaks attached to your roof or the aesthetic you want, you may select either kind of profile or style for your home. If you need a hand choosing the best profile and style for your home/business’s metal roof, you can always reach out to one of our professionals for expert advice.

Top Benefits of Snow Breaks

Protection for Building Occupants and Pedestrians

Snow breaks can help protect your home/business’s occupants and the surrounding people who walk below your roof. Roof avalanches can be deadly, so it’s best to put safety first and install snow breaks. Protect the “danger zones” around your home/business, such as the entrance/exit doors or areas where pedestrians walk or vehicles load.

Protection for Surrounding Property

After steady accumulation, snow falling off the roof can be so heavy that it damages the surrounding property. Whether it’s a vehicle, patio furniture, or equipment, a roof avalanche can destroy whatever it lands on. Snow breaks can help you avoid this damage by diverting the snowfall from your property and breaking it up into manageable, lighter pieces of snowfall.

Reduce Roof Maintenance Costs

Did you know snow breaks can actually help you save money? Heavy snowfall can sometimes cause needless wear and tear on a metal roof or damage they were never designed to handle. This can lead to unplanned roof maintenance and unplanned bills. A properly installed snow guard system can help reduce your future maintenance costs.

Common Questions about Snow Breaks

Do snow breaks impact the overall look of a metal roof?

The impact of snow breaks on the overall look of a metal roof depends on the design and aesthetics of the snow breaks themselves, as well as the overall architectural style of the building. Snow breaks come in different shapes, sizes, and materials, and some are designed to be more discreet or visually appealing than others. When chosen and installed thoughtfully, snow breaks can blend seamlessly with the roof. In fact, some snow breaks are designed to complement the architecture, adding a decorative element. However, if the snow breaks are not carefully selected or if their installation is not well-executed, they could potentially affect the roof’s appearance. It’s advisable to consult with our professionals or consider aesthetically pleasing snow break options to ensure they enhance rather than detract from the overall look of the metal roof.

How much do snow breaks cost?

There isn’t a set price for snow breaks, as several factors impact the overall cost. Prices vary based on the style and material of the snow break you choose. For example, snow breaks often come in plastic, metal, and rubber varieties. They also come in a spectrum of styles, like bar, clamp, bracket, or rib to name a few. Additionally, some snow breaks are mechanically fixed onto the roof while others are fixed using adhesive strips. These factors all lend to the price tag on a set of snow breaks. Installation time may impact the overall cost, as well. With these factors in mind, snow breaks can cost between five dollars and several hundred dollars.

Should I get snow breaks for my property if I live in Montana?

Snow breaks are excellent for climates like Montana’s. In the Northwestern United States, we often face heavy snowfall from as early as September to as late as June. To avoid unexpected snow avalanches or damage to people and property, consider adding snow breaks to your property’s metal roof.

Can homeowners install snow breaks themselves, or should they be professionally installed?

We recommend having snow breaks professionally installed rather than a homeowner installing them on their own due to their expertise, experience, and commitment to safety regulations. They possess the necessary knowledge to properly assess roof designs, slopes, and local building codes, ensuring optimal placement of snow guards. Additionally, professionals understand material compatibility, recommending and installing guards suitable for metal roofs without compromising structural integrity. Compliance with building codes is a priority, and their work may preserve the roof warranty. Beyond efficiency and time savings, professionals prioritize safety at heights and have the appropriate tools for a successful installation. While homeowners may attempt installation, the complexities involved make professional assistance advisable for a safe, effective, and code-compliant outcome.

How to Install Snow Breaks on Metal Roof Panels?

A snow break is attached to a metal roof’s surface through adhering with a liquid adhesive, tape, mechanically with screws, or with clamps. Depending on the style of snow break you get, you will want to refer to the instructions and installation guides provided by the manufacturer.

When installing snow breaks, remember to position them on the lower half of the roof. You will typically place them in a single line or multiple rows, depending on the type of snow break you get. One thing to keep in mind when installing snow breaks is ensuring the overall spacing of snow breaks on the roof is done properly. If the breaks are not spaced equally or in a pattern to equally distribute the snow, the ice and snow may shift suddenly and create a snow avalanche.

When Should Snow Breaks be Installed?

It’s a good idea to get snow breaks for metal roofs installed before the snowy season hits. Many people either manually install or schedule installations in the late spring or summer so they can be prepared for the fall and winter seasons.

Looking to Install Metal Roof Snow Stops on Your Home?

It can be tricky knowing how to precisely install snow breaks or decide which kind is the best for your home or business’s needs. For an expert opinion on metal roof snow guards, reach out to our professionals at Great Northern Metal Company today. We take the time to know your home and business’s needs and will lay out all of the options so you can make an informed and confident decision for your metal roof. For more information, give us a call at (406) 624-0435 or fill out a contact form. We’re happy to help!

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