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Why Should I Choose A Metal Roof In Snow Country? (Benefits & Challenges)
Lauren Risotto

By: Lauren Risotto on May 25th, 2020

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Why Should I Choose A Metal Roof In Snow Country? (Benefits & Challenges)

Metal | Roofing | roof



Do you need a new roof in an area that has snow most of the year? Are you wondering what kind of roof can sustain those harsh winter elements?

At Western States Metal Roofing, we have been manufacturing and distributing our metal roofing panels all across the United States, including many areas in snow country. We believe that the durability of metal roofing makes it an excellent choice for snow country.

However, metal roofs aren’t the perfect solution for homes that are located in snow country. In fact, a metal roof can be problematic in snow conditions without the proper design features. If you have a house in snow country the most important step that you can take is to have the roof designed and installed by professionals that are familiar with the design challenges of a snow country roof.

We want to inform homeowners of the precautions you should take in areas with heavy snow to ensure you get the full longevity out of your metal roof.


In this article, we will discuss:

  • Design Your Roof For The Snow
  • Why Install A Metal Roof In Snow Country?
  • Which Metal Panel Is Best For Snow Country?
  • The Challenges of A Metal Roof In Snow Country
  • The Importance Of Underlayment

Design Your Roof For Snow Country

If you get one takeaway from this article it should be this. Metal roofing in snow country presents a different set of challenges when compared to other parts of the country. Hire only professionals that have many years of experience designing and installing metal roofs in snow country.

You should always follow your local building and roof codes so that your roofing installation matches the local climate conditions. The building requirements for a roof in Flagstaff, Arizona will be significantly different than a roof in Vail, Colorado.

Take the time to find an experienced roofing contractor that can give you at least five metal roofing installation referrals. If you are hiring an engineer or an architect it’s also critical to verify they are familiar with the challenges of a snow country roof. The roof needs to be designed correctly to avoid design and safety problems in the future.


Benefits Of A Metal Roof In Snow Country?

  • Metal Prevents Snow Accumulation
  • Snow Is Less Likely To Buildup On Metal Roofing
  • Fire Protection
  • Metal Roofing Reduces Energy Costs

Metal roofs are one of the most popular types of roofing in snow country. There are some bonafide benefits to metal roofing in this environment.


Metal Prevents Snow Accumulation

The surface of a metal roof is slick and allows snow to slide off of it easier than other roofing materials. For example, snow will not slide off an asphalt shingle roof and would have to be shoveled off if a very heavy accumulation occurred to avoid damage to the roof.

Snow on a metal roof often slides off on its own, this is both a positive and a negative. You will have less snow to shovel off of your roof which results in less labor for the homeowner and less weight on the roof. However, it creates an enormous safety issue. Snow that slides off of a metal roof can injure people and damage property. It needs to be controlled with a snow retention system.


Snow Is Less Likely To Buildup On Metal Roofing

The surface of a metal roof is slicker than other materials such as asphalt shingles. This means it’s less likely for large amounts of snow to compile on top of your roof when it’s metal. A heavy amount of snow on your roof can result in a roof collapse.

You should check your building plans to verify how many pounds of snow load that your roof is designed for. If your roof is not strong enough to handle the amount of snow that has accumulated on it then you will have a serious problem. Designing for a worst case scenario ahead of time is the best solution.


Fire Protection

When you think of snow country the last thing that comes to mind is a fire. However, this is one of the greatest benefits of a metal roof. Forest fires are becoming a regular occurence and a metal roof will provide a great deal of protection to your residence during the summer months.

Quite often, you hear the story about all the houses in the neighborhood being destroyed except for one. A metal roof increases the likelihood that your home is the one that survives the fire.

When a metal roof is installed appropriately it’s non-combustible. Metal roofing will have a Class A fire rating. This is the highest fire-resistance rating for roofing as per ASTM E-108. This means that the roofing is capable of withstanding severe exposure to fire originating from sources outside the building.

There is no such thing as a fireproof house. Metal roofing panels have a Class A fire rating, but that’s a little misleading as the roof as a whole may have a different fire rating. You will need to design your roof with components that have the same Class A fire rating. It’s important to design a roof that has the correct roofing underlayment and the proper structure beneath the roof.


Metal Roofing Reduces Energy Costs

Metal provides extra insulation and prevents warm air from escaping. This typically results in cost-savings with a lower heating bill. This is dependent upon the design of your roof, but will apply quite often.

You will also save money in the summer months. A study conducted by the Green Building Alliance shows that energy savings will range from 7%-15% of total cooling costs.


Which Metal Panel Is Best For Snow Country?

While all metal roofing panels can be installed in snow country, we highly recommend standing seam. It has fewer panel ribs and more of a flat surface area compared to other panels, making it easier for the snow to slide off. Just remember, you need to control the rate at which the snow slides off of the roof. A properly designed snow retention system will accomplish this.

Standing seam roofs also have a concealed fastener system. This system keeps fasteners protected from snow and ice potentially penetrating through the fastener holes, causing leaks that can result in expensive repairs and damage to your home.


The Challenges Of A Metal Roof In Snow Country

  • Ice Dams
  • Ice Expansion
  • Roof Collapse
  • Snow Sliding Off Roof


Ice Dams

You have to be cautious of ice dams forming on a roof in snow country. Ice dams are caused by the heat from inside the structure reaching the top of the roof through the attic. The warm air causes any accumulated snow on the roof to melt. The melted snow turns into water that starts running down the roof surface and refreezes at the bottom of the roof, causing an ice dam.

An ice dam will trap the melting water that runs down from the top of the roof. The running water can then get underneath the metal roof panels and eventually leak into the structure.


The best solution is to design your roof accordingly. Use a high quality peel and stick underlayment. Always check your local building codes for the location of the underlayment at the warm building line.


Here are a few more tips:

  • Seal air leaks
  • Insulate the attic.
  • Use a snow rake to clean the snow off the roof and help prevent ice dams from forming.


Ice Expansion

Ice expansion can loosen the fasteners and flashing attachments. This is especially true with exposed fastener panels. If the screw becomes loosened there will be a gap between the screw and the washer. This will make the roof vulnerable to water penetrating the fastening holes and causing leaks within your home.


Inspect your roof regularly so that a small problem does not become a big problem. Tighten any fasteners that have become loosened.


Roof Collapse

A roof collapse is an extreme and very uncommon example of a challenge with a metal roof, as metal is a very strong and durable material. However, your metal roof is only as strong as the structure that is beneath it. Even the most well-constructed roof can only handle so much weight. An excessive amount of weight on a roof can cause denting, structural damage or even collapse.


Designing your roof to handle the worst case scenario snow loads is the best defense. You should also check your building plans to verify how much snow load that your house is designed for.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Pay attention to local weather reports and be aware of snow levels especially in heavy snow years.
  • Remove the snow as quickly as possible with a snow removal tool, such as a snow rake.
  • If you don’t reside at the residence then hire a company to monitor your roof and remove the snow.


Snow and Ice Sliding Off Roof (Avalanche)

We mentioned snow sliding off a metal roof before as a benefit. However, too much of a good thing can become dangerous. When a large amount of snow slides off a metal roof at a rapid pace, it can create an avalanche that results in dangerous conditions for any people, cars, or other objects that are beneath it.

If a building has gutters, falling snow off a roof at a rapid speed will rip them right off the structure. Snow slides can also cause damage to roofing eaves and valleys. An avalanche can also shear off roofing penetrations such as: plumbing vents, flue pipes, chimneys, etc.


Why Should I Choose A Metal Roof In Snow Country? (Benefits & Challenges)-1

Snow sliding off a roof can be a major liability if someone is injured. In addition to the threat of injury, falling snow can pile up on walkways or in front of doors and block entrances or exits.

Why Should I Choose A Metal Roof In Snow Country? (Benefits & Challenges)Snow falling off the roof.

Solution: Snow Retention Systems

A dangerous avalanche of snow sliding off a roof can be prevented by a snow retention system. Metal roof snow retention systems, sometimes also called snow guards or snow stops, are essential in snow country.

overview 1 snorail-300x215

Snow Guard Rails For Metal Roof

Snow retention systems are designed to retain the snowpack on the roof and evacuate it slowly and predictably through thaw and evaporation. You don’t want the snow to be released suddenly and unpredictably by an avalanche.

Why is a snow retention system is important:

  • Prevents avalanches.
  • Safety above the entry point of your home and hot tubs.
  • Protection of roofing eaves, valleys, gutters, flue pipes, plumbing vents, chimneys, etc.
  • Protection of the landscaping that would get crushed if snow slid off of the roof.

The SnoRail snow retention system is easy to install and is an attractive solution to preventing a snow avalanche that does not interfere with the clean lines of a standing seam metal roof. 


The Importance of Underlayment In Snow Country

High quality peel and stick roofing Underlayment is a critical component of any metal roofing system, but especially for one that is installed in snow country. It provides an extra layer of protection for the structure. We recommend Sharkskin Ultra SA.

Metal is constantly going through condensation. Water is not only on top, but can also get underneath the panel. Roofing underlayment blocks the moisture, preventing it from causing roofing damage.


Is A Metal Roof The Right Choice For Snow Country?

Metal roofing has a lot of great benefits that make it the perfect roofing for snow country, but we realize it’s not a great fit for everyone. Metal provides durability, longevity, fire resistance, and its surface that prevents snow accumulation. It’s an excellent roofing choice for the harsh winter elements that are experienced in snow country.

While a metal roof can experience some challenges in snow country, these factors will be an issue for any roofing system in such an extreme climate. Make sure you only work roofing contractors, architects, and engineers that have experience working in snow country and design the roof accordingly. As long as the proper precautions are taken, you will get the full longevity out of a metal roof in snow country.


Metal Roofing In Snow Country Is Right For Me If:

  • You want a roof that will last 40-60+ years.
  • You don’t mind more upfront costs, but want a cheaper long term roofing solution.
  • You want a roof that provides fire protection.
  • You like the look and color options that metal offers.

Metal Roofing In Snow Country Is Wrong For Me If:

  • You will not be living in your house long enough to recoup the long term savings of a metal roof.
  • You don’t want a roof that has higher initial costs.
  • You don’t want to install a snow retention system which will add to the cost of the roof.

At Western States Metal Roofing, we work with homeowners just like yourself every day and are happy to answer all of your questions. We understand the investment and research that goes into buying a metal roof.

While we've discussed the benefits of a metal roof in snow country in this article, there are additional advantages to using this type of roofing system in any climate.

Continue on to learn about the biggest advantages of a metal roof: 

Why Should I Buy A Metal Roof?: A Guide To The Benefits For Homeowners


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About Lauren Risotto

Lauren is the Content Manager at Western States Metal Roofing and provides insight on content creation and product promotions.