History Repeats Itself

History Repeats Itself

Maybe this could have been appropriately titled “Roofing Groundhog Day”. Yes, history repeats itself and unfortunately, for many of you who follow this blog, so do I.

For the large group of you who have been following along; you have read about roofing and snow retention devices back in the late 1800’s / early 1900’s. You may recall my banter about slate, tile, cedar and copper being the primary steep slope roofing materials of choice in that era. You may also recall the ongoing quest to find the least expensive, easiest to install, roofing materials that compete with the traditional favorites.






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; after all, that was the look they were trying to replicate. Asphalt shingle became successful and still today they are the most widely used steep slope roofing product. Although, today the descriptive name has evolved to composition shingle.







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 retention devices diminished in use on these roofs.

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 looked like slate, but are less expensive to install and would last longer than composition shingles. A few of these manufacturers have been successful (not that there weren’t some serious growing pains) and produce enough volume to compete with other traditional roofing shingles, such as cedar. This is where some trouble began.







As I have mentioned in previous blogs, cedar tends to absorb water and swell. As this 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 composition shingles. ( LINK TO “Importance of snow guards” VIDEO BELOW)


The new generation of synthetic shingles are produced using plastics that include poly olefins.  (https://5k0.732.myftpupload.com/increased-demand-for-snow-guards-on-synthetic-shingle-roofs/) This is great for cost, quantity, and longevity. However, the shingle surfaces are very slippery from the polyolefins creating a wax like coating.

For the 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 retention devices.







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” problems that has evolved. Yet, here we are, 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; “asphalt shingle”.







If you are considering one of these new synthetic products, while you’re adding up the great qualities of some of these newer products, do yourselves a favor and add in snow guards. Yes, you can add snow guards after the fact; there are retrofit options, but they are more costly than just doing it right to begin with.







The fact is, you will need them. It’s really not an option for points of egress at a minimum. Why not add them while the shingles are being installed so that they can be properly secured in a watertight manner.

Without question the best product on the market to meet this need, at least for residential applications, are the Alpine Fusion Guard and Snow Bird. (https://5k0.732.myftpupload.com/why-fusion-guard-is-the-ultimate-hybrid-snow-management-system/)

There are other pipe style snow guard options as well that are perfect for barricading large amounts of snow over the point of egress.

Please visit www.alpinesnowguard.com for the most complete line of snow retention 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.