What Are Snow Guards & Do I Need Them For My Roof?

Commercial | January 14, 2022  | By: John Esh

Living in southeastern PA, we get snow. We don’t get mountains of it, but we can expect at least a couple snow storms every winter. 

Sun and higher temperatures help the snow melt. In some cases, you may have noticed large amounts of snow sliding off your roof all at once in a sheet. This heavy snow falling from the roof will likely damage your gutters and fascia!

Harford Green color standing seam roof with snow birds installed by joyland roofingFor shingled roofs with mild pitches, this isn’t a problem. The snow is more likely to stick to the roof and melt before it becomes a problem sliding off.

The problem where snow sliding off in a quick force is on metal roofs and slate roofs. Metal and slate materials have a smoother surface than shingles. Because of this, snow is more likely to slide off of these roofs in large chunks. Once the snow starts melting, it binds together and starts building up the weight to slide off the roof.

What can prevent this from happening? Snow guards.


What are snow guards?

definition of a snowguard overtop a picture of a white corrugated metal roof with snowbirds installed by joyland roofing

A snow guard is a device installed to hold snow on the roof where it can gradually melt. This keeps snow and ice from sliding off of the roof and damaging gutters and even causing harm to people. Snow guards are also known as snow birds, snow stops, and snow cleats. They hold the ice and snow in place to help prevent roof snow slides!

What types of snow guards are there?

Two main types exist: Snow birds and snow rails. Both types are known as snow retention systems.

What are snow birds?

Snow birds are the smaller seashell-like metal devices. They are typically about 2-3” tall, but the best size is determined by the expected snow load in your area. They’re installed differently depending on the type of roof material. For Standing Seam metal, they fasten to the rib, or upright portion of each seam. blue corrugated metal roof installed by joyland roofing with snowbirds

On other types of metal panel roofs, the snow guards come with a rubber foot. This foot is fastened through the metal panel and into the roof deck with screws. The rubber pad seals the screws and provides a water-tight seal.
For other roof materials such as slate, the snow guards come with a long flange which is fastened to the roof deck, and is hidden by the overlapping row of slate above it.
Snow guards are installed at varying distances from the eave and in varying quantities depending on the anticipated snow load and the type of roofing material used. They come in a wide variety of styles and colors. 

metal roof with snow rails installed

What are snow rails?

Snow rails are installed on roofs where heavier snow loads are expected. The continuous rails hold more snow on the roof. Snow rails are more common on commercial metal roofs. Because commercial buildings typically have larger roof surfaces, the snow rail is installed to accommodate the extra snow load. 

Do I need snow guards?

Snow Guards for a Metal Roof

Yes. If you live in an area that gets snowfall every winter and you have or want to install a metal roof, we highly recommend snow guards. The snow guards help protect your gutter system from detaching from the house with high weight snow loads falling. A large amount of snow and ice falling from a roof can cause serious damage to cars and other objects directly below the gutters. Snow guards are especially important where foot traffic is expected below. 

Both snow birds and snow rails can be used for standing seam and corrugated metal roofs.

Snow Guards for a Shingle Roof

Not necessary – in most cases. Shingled roofs, even in snowy areas, don’t usually require snow guards. However, It’s not unusual for roofers to recommend the installation of a few snow guards if you’ve experienced a roof avalanche from a high pitched roof. Shingled roofs steeper than 6/12 pitch located in an area with potential for heavy snow loads should be considered as candidates for a snow retention system.


Get a Quote from Metal Roofing Experts

Whether you already have a metal roof and didn’t get snow guards installed initially, or if you want to install an entirely new metal roofing system, we can help.

At Joyland Roofing, we can provide a free quote for metal roofing and snow guards. By filling out the form below, we’ll contact you shortly so we can get you connected with a sales consultant! We’re looking forward to it.



        Pennsylvania Home Improvement Contractor License (HIC) # PA124258