Best Snow Guards for the New Generation of Synthetic Roofing Shingles

The best snow guards on the market to manage snow on synthetic roofing shingles, at least for residential applications, are Alpine SnowGuards’ Fusion-Guard and Alpine SnowGuards’ Snow Bird. There are other pipe-style snow guard options that are perfect for barricading large amounts of snow over the point of egress. To see more options, search snow guards by roof type on our website. Meanwhile, this blog reviews the exciting development of new roofing materials, demonstrates the need for snow management, and provides installation tips.

Innovative Asphalt Shingles Diminish Use of Snow Management Devices

One of the most innovative synthetic roofing shingles of the early 1900’s was the asphalt shingle. The original asphalt shingles used ground up slate as their granular surface to replicate the natural look. Asphalt shingle became successful and still today they are the most widely used steep slope roofing product.

As asphalt shingles became more widely used it quickly became apparent that snow and ice did not slide off from the granule surface in avalanche-like fashion. Instead, friction from the surface tends to hold snow and ice in place and allow water to drain out from underneath the accumulated mass. The result is that snow management devices diminished in use on these roofs.

Rising Costs Lead to Development of Synthetic Roofing Shingles

Yet, as history tends to repeat, starting in the late 1970’s, petroleum-based products skyrocketed in price and continue to rise to this day. Manufacturers are still pursuing options to develop synthetic roofing materials that look like slate, but are less expensive to install and would last longer than asphalt shingles. A few of these manufacturers have been successful and produce enough volume to compete with other traditional roofing shingles, such as cedar. Cedar tends to absorb water and swell. As swelling occurs, the roof shingles tighten up, sealing out water infiltration. The water absorption properties of cedar tend to slow the movement of snow and ice avalanche events. Running water tends to weep out from under a snow mass on a cedar roof, similar to the way it does on asphalt shingles.

Synthetic Roofing Surfaces are More Slippery

The new generation of synthetic roofing shingles are produced using plastics that include polyolefins. This is great for cost, quantity, and longevity. However, the shingle surfaces are very slippery from the wax-like coating of the polyolefins.

For products that replicate slate, many customers understand that neighboring “natural slate” roofs have snow guards installed in them. In fact, some customers have sought out snow guards for these roofs in an attempt to make them look more authentic. The customers and roofers who install slate and synthetic slate in snow country expect to use snow management devices.

Avalanching Snow

However, with synthetic cedar, it’s a completely different story. Customers who are installing a new synthetic cedar roof often have no idea that these roofing materials are slippery. I think it’s safe to say that roofing contractors, distributors, and even these product manufacturers, haven’t anticipated the “avalanching snow” issue. Synthetic shingles are evolving quickly; their shape, color and contours look so authentic that they are noteworthy. Top it all off with excellent durability and the roofing industry just may be seeing a game changer like the original synthetic: the asphalt shingle.

Video: The Importance of Snow Guards to Address Avalanching Snow

This video shows how snow guards prevent the sudden release of snow and ice from a roof, which is known as a roof avalanche. A roof avalanche can cause damage to people, pets, cars, landscaping, gutters, plumbing vents, lower roof areas, skylights and anything else that might be in the immediate area below your roof. Snow guards have been around for hundreds of years and have historically been used on slate, tile and metal roofs.

Less Costly to Install Snow Guards During Shingle Installation

If you are considering one of these new synthetic roofing materials, you can add snow guards at the time of installation or after the fact with retrofit options. The fact is, you will need them at a minimum for points of egress. Adding them while the roof shingles are being installed will help properly secure them in a watertight manner.

Please visit for the most complete line of snow management products on the market.

Until next time,

Brian Stearns

President & Founder, Alpine SnowGuards

We keep snow in its place


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Alpine SnowGuards designs, engineers, and manufactures snow management systems from our facility in Morrisville, VT. We work closely with leading roofing contractors, engineering firms, developers, solar installers and roofing manufacturers to ensure we deliver quality products that do what we say they’ll do. Alpine SnowGuards can help a building qualify for LEED® credits.