How Do Snow Guards Work? (Part 2: Pipe-Style)

Last time, in part one of this two-part blog series, we talked about snow guards and customer expectations, specifically in reference to the installation and use of pad-style snow guards.

This time let’s shift the focus to pipe-style snow guards.

Pipe-style snow guards act as a barricade system, preventing large chunks of snow and ice from sliding off a roof in the form of a roof avalanche. Originally used on commercial project applications, there are now many homeowners who are actively choosing pipe-style snow guards when making a conscious decision to protect the area immediately surrounding their home from falling snow and ice.

There are numerous custom forms that pipe-style snow guards can take on – from elaborate, decorative wrought iron fences that are common all across Europe, to logs (yes, logs), to Victorian-era rooftop “Yankee Gutters”, which are basically on-roof, site-built gutter systems that utilize a board fastened to the roof slope to form a gutter. Yankee gutters (examples below) were simpler to install in that all that needed to be done was to set a board at right angles to the roof slope, and support it with the use of brackets. While these gutter systems were intended to manage rain water, they also, unintentionally, functioned as snow retention systems.

Less common are unintended fences and barriers – things like electrical conduit mounted on rooftops, gas and plumbing lines, support cables for antennas, the upslope-edge of solar panels, skylight frames, rooftop ductwork, mechanicals, etc.

Any rooftop obstruction that can retain snow and ice will retain snow and ice. Be sure to either engineer a proper support or design the snow retention solution to protect these rooftop obstructions from being damaged.

Several years ago, I worked on a military project at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, MA. Here, there were World War II era airplane hangars that looked like enormous Quonset huts. The owners decided to expand the buildings by building additions on either side of the barrel roof construction.

These additions had flat roofs that snow and ice would accumulate on as it slid off of the adjacent barrel roof. The flat roof sections had parapet walls around them (check out our Alpine LedgeGuard, a new product family we added to our line this year – an ideal solution for parapet walls, ledges, cornices, etc.)

Snow and ice that had crept off the barrel roof piled up against the parapet (roof obstruction) and had actually started to push the wall off the building addition! Below is a photo of that very project, where you can see the flat-roof building additions I‘m referring to. The installation of several rows of our PP115 pipe-style system for membrane roofing  (visible in photo) alleviated this issue. **Stay tuned – the PP115 system will be the focus of a blog in the very near future.

Needless to say, the placement of pipe-style snow guards is extremely important.

Strategic Placement of Pipe-Style Snow Guards

First row along the eave, above the line of the exterior supporting wall, as seen below.

Overhangs may not be constructed to properly hold additional weight, and heated overhangs may have ice damming issues (the installation of snow guards will not cause or reduce the presence of ice damming, as ice damming is a direct result of a problem with insulation / circulation).

Additional rows spaced along the bottom third to two thirds of the roof, as shown below.

Multiple rows of snow guards. The below graphic helps explain why multiple rows are sometimes warranted.

Generally speaking, pipe-style snow guards should always be the first choice for rooftop snow management. There are several reasons for this, all of which we will explore in a future blog.

Until then, feel free to post any questions in the comments section or reach out to me directly at Like the rest of my staff, I’m always happy to help.

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 facilities in Morrisville, VT. We work closely with leading roofing contractors, engineering firms, developers, 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.

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