Winter brings a shimmering coat of snow to many areas of the United States. But those of us living in regions prone to heavy snowfall know that those enchanting winter wonderlands come with their challenges. One of the most important considerations for homeowners, builders, and property managers in such regions is how to protect their structures from the weight and whims of this wintry precipitation. According to the Insurance Information Institute, winter storms caused $6 billion in insured losses in 2022, including roof repairs due to snow and ice buildup. With the average roof repair costing $1,094 and replacement totaling between $6.600 and $17,000 depending on materials, you want to safeguard yours against harsh winter conditions.

Enter corrugated metal roofing, a reliable ally in the battle against Ol’ Man Winter. In this blog, we will dig into the unique advantages of corrugated metal roofing when withstanding heavy snow loads. We’ll uncover the science behind its strength, delve into the benefits it offers, and share essential tips for making the most of this roofing solution in snowy climates.

What is Snow Load?

Snow load, in the context of roofing, is a critical factor to consider. It refers to the weight of accumulated snow and ice on a roof’s surface and its supporting structure. Understanding and addressing snow load is essential for maintaining the structural integrity and safety of a building during the winter months. Failure to do so can be catastrophic!

Heavy snow accumulation can place immense pressure on a roof. If that pressure is not effectively managed, it can lead to structural damage, leaks, and even collapse. This risk underscores the importance of selecting the right roofing material and design that can withstand the specific snow load expected in the area.

In snowy climates, architects, and builders often need to adhere to local building codes and regulations that dictate minimum snow load requirements, ensuring that roofs can bear the weight of snow safely. These codes consider factors like historical snowfall data, regional climate, and other relevant variables to establish structural safety.

Several factors can affect a roof’s snow load, so it’s important to consider them when designing and constructing roofs in regions prone to heavy snowfall. These factors include:

  • Climate and Location: Areas with heavy snowfall, such as northern regions, mountainous areas, and high-altitude locations, are more likely to experience higher snow loads. Local climate data is essential for accurate calculations.
  • Wind Patterns: The direction and strength of prevailing winds can impact snow distribution on a roof. Windward sides of a building may experience less snow accumulation, while leeward sides may have heavier loads.
  • Local Topography: The proximity to natural features such as hills, valleys, and bodies of water can influence snowfall patterns and create localized variations in snow load.
  • Roof Pitch: The slope or pitch of a roof is a critical factor. Steeper roofs are less likely to accumulate as much snow, as snow tends to slide off more easily. The angle of the roof should be considered when determining the roof’s ability to shed snow.
  • Roof Shape: The architectural design of a roof, including its shape and complexity, can influence snow load. Flat roofs and those with irregular geometries are more prone to snow accumulation, while gabled or sloped roofs shed snow more effectively.
  • Roofing Material: The type of roofing material used plays a role in snow load. Materials with smooth surfaces, such as metal and standing-seam roofs, allow snow to slide off more easily. Materials like shingles or tiles may retain snow and create additional weight.
  • Roof Insulation: Adequate insulation in the attic or roof space can help regulate room temperature. Poor insulation can cause uneven melting and refreezing of snow, leading to ice dam formation and increased snow load.
  • Roof Maintenance: The accumulation of debris, such as leaves and branches, on the roof can increase the snow load in specific areas. Regular roof maintenance, including snow removal, when necessary, can help mitigate these localized accumulations.

Understanding these factors and conducting proper structural analysis and calculations is essential for designing roofs that can safely support the expected snow loads, thereby ensuring the structural integrity and safety of buildings in snowy climates.

Metal Is an Ideal Material Choice

Corrugated metal roofing stands out as an ideal choice for snow resistance due to its exceptional strength and durability. Here’s a closer look at how these qualities make corrugated metal roofing an excellent option for snowy climates:

Material Strength: Corrugated metal roofing is typically constructed from hardy materials such as steel, aluminum, or galvanized iron. These materials are known for their high tensile strength, meaning they can withstand significant external forces without deformation or failure. This inherent strength allows metal roofing to support the weight of accumulated snow and ice.

Rigidity and Structural Integrity: The corrugated design, characterized by ridges and grooves, enhances the roofing’s rigidity and structural integrity. The corrugations add stiffness to the metal panels, preventing them from sagging or becoming otherwise deformed under the pressure of snow.

Load Distribution: Corrugated metal roofing panels are designed to efficiently distribute the snow load across the roof’s surface. This distribution minimizes the concentration of weight in specific areas, reducing the risk of localized stress points or damage.

Snow Shedding: The smooth surface of corrugated metal roofing facilitates the shedding of snow. When the roof is appropriately sloped, snow tends to slide off the surface rather than accumulate; this reduces the risk of overloading. This self-shedding characteristic is especially valuable in regions with heavy and frequent snowfall.

Durability and Longevity: Corrugated metal roofing is renowned for its long-lasting durability. It can endure harsh weather conditions, including snow and ice, without deteriorating or requiring frequent maintenance. This longevity is essential for preserving the roof’s snow resistance over the years.

Resilience to Moisture: Metal roofing materials are naturally resistant to moisture, making them highly resilient against the formation of ice dams. Ice dams can damage roofs and create additional snow load concerns, but corrugated metal’s resistance to this issue helps maintain the roof’s strength.

Minimal Maintenance: Corrugated metal roofing is low-maintenance and requires little attention during the snowy season. This is an advantage for property owners in snowy climates, as it reduces the need for snow removal and maintenance efforts.

Start Strong

When you choose a metal roof in any climate, proper installation is key. There are even more factors to consider when using metal for a roof likely to be laden with snow. Proper installation involves reinforcement, insulation, and the use of snow guards are crucial aspects of ensuring the durability and safety of metal roofs in snowy regions. Here’s a brief look at each component:

  • Fastening and Attachment: Use high-quality fasteners and ensure they are properly spaced to securely attach the metal roofing panels. Proper attachment prevents wind uplift and helps distribute the snow load evenly.
  • Flashing and Sealants: Install flashing and sealant materials around roof penetrations, such as chimneys, vents, and skylights, to prevent leaks and the infiltration of snow and ice.
  • Underlayment: Use an appropriate underlayment material, such as self-adhering ice and water shields, to provide an additional barrier against water infiltration and ice dams. (An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms along the edge of a roof, typically at the eaves or in the gutters, in snowy or freezing conditions. Ice dams can create significant problems for roofs, causing damage to both the roof and the interior of a building.)
  • Reinforcement: In areas with heavy snowfall, it’s essential to ensure that the underlying roof structure, including rafters and trusses, is adequately reinforced. Additional purlins or battens can be added to support the metal panels and reduce the distance between fasteners. This extra support helps prevent sagging or bending under the weight of accumulated snow. Consult with a structural engineer to assess the load-bearing capacity and make necessary reinforcements if required.
  • Insulation and vapor barriers: Adequate insulation in the attic or roof space is essential. It helps maintain consistent temperatures, minimizing the risk of ice dams and reducing the potential for heat loss that could contribute to snow melting and refreezing. You’ll also want to install vapor barriers to prevent warm, moist air from escaping into the attic and condensing on the underside of the roof. Condensation can lead to structural issues and ice dams.
  • Snow Guards: Snow guards, also known as snow brakes or snow stops, are devices installed on the roof’s surface to prevent copious amounts of snow and ice from sliding off the roof all at once, which can be dangerous to people below and possibly damage landscaping and gutters. There are many types of snow guards, including pad-style guards, pipe-style guards, and fence-style guards. They are available in a variety of materials; choose one that complements your roof best but keep in mind the choice of snow guard depends on the roof’s design and the specific snow load considerations.Guards should be strategically placed in areas where snow sliding is most likely to occur, such as eaves, valleys, or above entrances. Proper placement prevents the formation of ice dams and controls the release of snow gradually. It is wise to consult with roofing professionals and structural engineers to tailor these measures to the specific requirements of your climate and building design.

Addressing the unique needs of roofs enduring heavy snow loads starts with the selection and installation of the material. If those steps are completed with careful consideration and foresight, you’re set for success. Then, it becomes a maintenance matter.

Maintaining Your Snow-laden Roof

Maintaining a metal roof in snowy regions preserves its longevity and enhances performance. Here are some maintenance tips for inspection, snow removal, ice dams, and repair:

  • Regular Inspection: Plan regular inspections of your metal roof, ideally at the beginning and end of the winter season, and after heavy snowfalls. Additional inspections during and after severe weather events may be necessary. Look for signs of damage, such as dents, scratches, or loose panels. Pay attention to seams, flashing, and fasteners, as these areas are more prone to wear and tear. Don’t forget the gutters and downspouts! Be sure they are clear of debris as obstructions can lead to ice dam formation and water backup, potentially causing damage to the roof.
  • Snow Removal: Remove excess snow from the roof if you must but do so safely. Using a roof rake with a long handle from the ground is the safest approach. Avoid using sharp tools or climbing on the roof. It’s not necessary to remove all the snow; in fact, leaving a thin layer can provide insulation and protect against rapid melting, which can lead to ice dams. If snowfall is substantial or safety is a concern, consider hiring professional snow removal services with experience in working on metal roofs.
  • Preventing Ice Dams: As mentioned earlier, appropriate insulation, ventilation, and snow guards help minimize the formation of ice dams. Ensure all those systems are intact and working effectively.
  • Repairs: Tend to any damage promptly to prevent it from worsening. This includes loose or damaged panels, damaged flashing, or leaks. You’ll also want to check and replace sealant or caulk as needed to maintain a watertight seal around penetrations and seams.
  • Safety Considerations: Prioritize safety when inspecting or performing maintenance on the roof. Use proper safety equipment and avoid walking on the roof in icy or snowy conditions.

You may want to use a commercial de-icer before venturing onto the surface of your roof but be sure it is safe for use on metal roofs and does not harm the roofing material. Be cautious not to introduce chemicals that could corrode the metal.

By following these maintenance tips, property owners can keep their metal roofs in snowy regions in good condition, minimize the risk of damage from snow and ice, and enjoy the long-lasting benefits of this resilient roofing material. Regular inspections and timely action are key to preserving the integrity of the roof and preventing costly repairs or replacements.

Final Thoughts

Corrugated metal roofing’s strength, rigidity, and load-distribution capabilities, combined with its durability and ability to shed snow effectively, make it an exceptional choice for areas prone to heavy snowfall. Its capacity to endure winter’s challenges while maintaining structural integrity and longevity is a testament to its snow resistance, offering peace of mind (and minimal maintenance fuss) to homeowners and builders in snowy climates.

By choosing the right roofing material and taking preventative measures, builders and property owners can ensure roofs remain intact under the burden of excessive snow. Have questions about the best option for your project, snowy or otherwise? We’d love to help you find the ideal materials. Get in touch with us today.