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Living in a snowy climate comes with unique challenges, especially when it comes to finding the right roofing materials that can withstand heavy snow loads. Snow accumulation on rooftops can cause significant damage if the roof is not designed to handle it, leading to leaks, collapses, and other costly safety hazards.

So, what is the best type of roof for snow? In this article, we’ll explore the different types of roofs that are effective in snowy climates and provide you with useful information on the factors to consider when choosing a snow-resistant roof. Whether you’re looking to build a new roof or replace an old one in a snowy region, this guide will help you make an informed decision.

Factors to Consider for Snow-Resistant Roofs

Living in a snowy climate means that your roof must be able to withstand heavy snow loads. When choosing a snow-resistant roof, there are several factors to consider:

Roof Slope

The angle or slope of your roof is an essential factor in determining its snow-load capacity. A steeper roof with a pitch of 4:12 (18.43 degrees) or more can effectively shed snow and prevent it from accumulating on the roof’s surface. By contrast, a flat roof is more prone to snow accumulation, which can lead to weight stress and potential roof collapse.

Roofing Materials

The roofing material you choose for your home can have a significant impact on your roof’s snow-load capacity. Some materials are more durable and better at withstanding heavy snow loads than others. For example, metal roofs and asphalt shingle roofs are both popular options for snowy climates due to their durability and resistance to snow accumulation. On the other hand, slate and tile roofs are quite heavy and may not be suitable for all homes, especially those with inadequate structural support.


The insulation in your attic or roof plays a crucial role in preventing ice dams and heat loss. Adequate insulation helps maintain a consistent temperature on your roof’s surface, preventing snow from melting and refreezing, which can cause ice dams. Proper insulation also reduces heat loss from your home, which can limit the amount of snow melt on your roof.

When choosing a snow-resistant roof, consider these factors carefully to ensure that your roof is up to the task of safeguarding your home from snow-related damage.

Asphalt Shingle Roofs for Snow

Asphalt shingle roofs are a popular choice for homeowners in snowy climates due to their durability, affordability, and good insulation properties.

These roofs are made of asphalt-impregnated fiberglass or organic felt, covered with ceramic granules that protect against UV rays and provide a textured appearance.

Pros Cons
Affordability Lower lifespan than some other roofing materials
Good insulation Prone to cracking and splitting in extreme temperatures
Wide range of colors and styles available Not as effective at shedding snow as some other materials

Asphalt shingle roofs are suitable for moderate to steep roof slopes, which help prevent snow accumulation and reduce the risk of roof damage.

However, it is important to note that these roofs should be properly installed and maintained to ensure their long-term performance in snowy climates. Regular inspections and prompt repairs are necessary to prevent leaks, ice dams, and other issues that can compromise the roof’s integrity.

Metal Roofs for Snow

Metal roofs have become increasingly popular in snowy areas due to their durability and ability to resist heavy snow loads. They are also known for their longevity, typically lasting 50 years or more with proper maintenance.

One of the key benefits of metal roofs in snowy climates is their ability to shed snow quickly. Their smooth surface and steep slope make it difficult for snow to accumulate, reducing the risk of structural damage and roof collapses. However, it is important to note that metal roofs should still be properly designed and reinforced to withstand the weight of heavy snow loads.

Metal roofs are also highly resistant to water damage, as they are not susceptible to rot, mold, or mildew. They are also fire-resistant, providing an added level of protection in areas with a high risk of wildfires or lightning strikes.

Another advantage of metal roofs is their versatility in terms of design and color options. They can be customized to resemble other roofing materials such as slate, tile, or wood, allowing homeowners to achieve the desired aesthetic without compromising on durability.

Metal Roof Snow Load Capacity

The snow load capacity of a metal roof depends on several factors, including the thickness and type of metal used, the slope of the roof, and the local climate. The International Building Code (IBC) provides guidelines for designing metal roofs to withstand snow loads based on location and roof pitch.

Roof Pitch Ground Snow Load (psf)* Roof Snow Load (psf)
Less than 4:12 30 18
4:12 to less than 7:12 40 25
7:12 to less than 9:12 50 30
9:12 and steeper 70 40

*PSF stands for pounds per square foot.

It is important to consult with a professional roofer or engineer to determine the appropriate snow load capacity for a specific metal roof design and location.

Slate and Tile Roofs for Snow

Slate and tile roofs are popular choices for snow-resistant roofs due to their durability and ability to shed snow. However, their weight can be a concern, especially for older homes. Here are some factors to consider when looking at slate and tile roofs for snowy climates:

1. Weight

The weight of slate and tile roofs is a significant consideration when installing in areas with heavy snowfall. The average weight of slate tiles is 800-1,500 pounds per square, while clay or concrete tiles are around 900-1,200 pounds per square. If your home has an older structure, you may need to reinforce the roof before installation.

2. Durability

Slate and tile roofs are incredibly durable and long-lasting, which makes them an excellent option for snowy climates. Slate is resistant to cracks and chips, while clay and concrete tiles can withstand extreme temperature fluctuations and high winds. Both materials are also resistant to fire, pests, and rot.

3. Snow Shedding

The smooth surface of slate and tile roofs enables them to shed snow effectively. This reduces the likelihood of ice dams or excessive weight buildup. However, it’s essential to ensure that there’s proper insulation and ventilation to prevent melting snow from refreezing and causing ice dams.

4. Cost

Slate and tile roofs are among the most expensive roofing materials available. However, they offer exceptional durability, longevity, and aesthetic appeal, making them a worthwhile investment for homeowners in snowy climates.

Flat Roofs for Snow

Flat roofs can be challenging to maintain in snowy areas due to their design, which can result in snow accumulation and the formation of ice dams. However, with proper insulation, drainage systems, and snow removal techniques, flat roofs can be a viable option for snow-resistant roofing.

Challenges of Flat Roofs in Snowy Climates

Flat roofs pose unique challenges in snowy climates because they are designed with a minimal slope, which allows snow to accumulate and potentially cause damage to the roof structure. Additionally, without proper insulation, flat roofs can suffer from heat loss, which causes snow to melt and leads to the formation of ice dams.

Snow Removal Techniques for Flat Roofs

To prevent snow accumulation, it’s essential to remove snow from flat roofs promptly. However, it’s crucial to use safe techniques that won’t damage the roof or cause injury. One method is to use a roof rake, which allows you to remove snow from the roof from the ground level. Snow blowers or shovels can also be effective but should be used with caution to prevent damage to the roof membrane.

Proper Insulation and Drainage Systems

Proper insulation is critical for flat roofs in snowy areas. It helps prevent heat loss, reduces the risk of ice dams, and improves energy efficiency. Additionally, it’s essential to ensure that the drainage system is functioning correctly to prevent water from accumulating on the roof. A professional inspection can identify any potential issues and provide recommendations for improving insulation and drainage.

Pros Cons
Flat roofs are relatively inexpensive to install and maintain. Flat roofs require more maintenance than other roof types in snowy climates.
Flat roofs can provide additional outdoor space, such as a rooftop garden or patio. Flat roofs are not as durable as other roof types and may have a shorter lifespan.

Green Roofs and Snow

Green roofs have become increasingly popular in urban areas, providing many benefits such as reducing air pollution and improving insulation. However, in snowy climates, these types of roofs require additional consideration.

Insulation Properties

Green roofs can provide excellent insulation and reduce energy consumption during winter months. The soil and vegetation act as a natural insulator, reducing heat loss through the roof. This can be especially beneficial in snowy regions where proper insulation is crucial for preventing snow accumulation and ice dams.

Snow Accumulation

One of the main concerns with green roofs in snowy climates is snow accumulation. The weight of the snow can potentially damage the roof structure and vegetation. Green roofs with shallow soil depths or non-native vegetation may be more susceptible to damage.

However, green roofs with proper soil depths and vegetation types can actually help reduce snow accumulation. The plants absorb some of the snow, and the soil acts as a natural filter, allowing the snow to melt at a slower rate.

Maintenance Requirements

Maintaining a green roof in snowy climates can be challenging. Regular snow removal is necessary to prevent excess weight on the roof. However, it’s important to use caution when removing snow from a green roof, as vegetation can be easily damaged.

Proper irrigation is also essential for green roofs in snowy regions. During winter months, the soil can become dry and compacted, making it difficult for water to penetrate. Proper irrigation systems can help prevent this issue and ensure the vegetative cover remains healthy.

Pros Cons
Excellent insulation properties May require additional maintenance in snowy climates
Reduces stormwater runoff Susceptible to snow accumulation
Improves air quality Potential for vegetation damage during snow removal

Snow Guards and Snow Retention Systems

In snowy climates, snow guards and snow retention systems are crucial in preventing roof avalanches and ensuring safety for both people and property. These systems help keep snow on the roof, allowing it to melt and drain off slowly rather than causing sudden and dangerous roof slides.

What are Snow Guards?

Snow guards are small devices installed on the roof to prevent large amounts of snow from sliding off. They come in various forms, such as pad-style, fence-style, and pipe-style, and can be made of metal, plastic, or rubber. Snow guards are typically installed in a pattern on the lower half of the roof in areas with high snow buildup.

Pros Cons
Inexpensive compared to other snow retention systems. May not be as effective on steep roofs or for heavy snow loads.
Easy to install and remove. Appearance may not be aesthetically pleasing.

What are Snow Retention Systems?

Snow retention systems are larger and more complex than snow guards and are designed to hold snow on the roof until it melts or is removed safely. These systems can be made of materials such as metal, wood, or plastic and come in different shapes and sizes depending on the roof’s design and the amount of snowfall in the area. Snow retention systems are often installed in a grid-like pattern across the roof surface.

Pros Cons
More effective than snow guards at retaining snow. Can be more expensive and time-consuming to install.
Durable and long-lasting. May require periodic maintenance or repair.


Snow retention systems and snow guards are essential in preventing roof avalanches and ensuring the safety of people and property in snowy climates. The choice between these two systems depends on factors such as roof slope, snow load, and aesthetics. It is crucial to consult with a professional roofer to determine the most appropriate snow retention system for a specific roof.

Insulation for Snow-Resistant Roofs

When it comes to snow-resistant roofs, proper insulation is essential. An inadequately insulated roof can lead to heat loss, ice dams, and snow melting, which can cause water damage and pose a risk to the structure of the building. Insulation also plays a significant role in reducing energy costs and improving the overall thermal comfort of the building.

The level of insulation needed for a snow-resistant roof depends on various factors, such as the roof slope, the climate zone, and the type of roofing material. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that attics in snowy climates have a minimum of R-49 insulation. It is also essential to ensure that the insulation is correctly installed and free of gaps or compression, which can reduce its effectiveness.

Types of Insulation

There are different types of insulation materials that can be used for snow-resistant roofs. Common options include:

Type of Insulation Description
Batt and Roll Insulation Flexible insulation made of fiberglass, mineral wool, or cotton. It comes in pre-cut rolls and is installed between studs, joists, and rafters.
Spray Foam Insulation A two-part mixture that is sprayed onto the roof deck, creating an airtight and seamless layer of insulation. It is more expensive than other types of insulation but provides superior performance.
Blow-In Insulation Loose-fill insulation made of cellulose, fiberglass, or mineral wool. It is blown into attics and walls using special equipment, filling gaps and crevices.

Consult with a professional roofing contractor to determine the most suitable insulation material for your snow-resistant roof. They can provide expert advice on insulation R-value, installation techniques, and energy efficiency.

Ventilation and Ice Dams

Proper roof ventilation is crucial in preventing ice dams, which are a common problem in snowy climates. Ice dams occur when warm air from the attic melts the snow on the roof, causing it to run down to the colder edges and refreeze, forming a barrier that blocks water drainage.

One way to prevent ice dams is to ensure that your roof has adequate ventilation. This can be achieved through the installation of soffit and ridge vents or other ventilation systems that allow for proper airflow. Ventilation helps regulate the temperature of the roof, preventing snow melting and ice dam formation.

How Does Ventilation Prevent Ice Dams?

Proper ventilation allows cool air to enter the attic through the soffit vents and warm air to escape through the ridge vents or other exhaust systems. This keeps the temperature of the roof deck consistent, preventing snow from melting and refreezing at the edge of the roof.

It’s important to note that adding more insulation to your attic can help reduce heat loss and prevent ice dams, but it should not be relied upon as the sole solution. Proper ventilation is crucial for maintaining a consistent temperature throughout the roof.

The Importance of Removing Snow

While proper ventilation can help prevent ice dam formation, it’s still essential to remove snow from your roof regularly. Heavy snow loads can put a significant strain on your roof, causing damage and potential collapse.

When removing snow from your roof, it’s crucial to use safe techniques and tools to avoid further damage. Consider hiring a professional to clear your roof if you are unsure of the proper methods.

Maintenance and Snow Removal Tips

Regular maintenance and snow removal are essential for ensuring the longevity and performance of snow-resistant roofs. Here are some tips to help you properly maintain your roof during the winter months:

  • Inspect your roof regularly to identify any signs of damage or wear and tear. Look for cracks, leaks, missing shingles or tiles, and other issues that may cause water to seep in.
  • Trim any overhanging branches or trees near your roof that may break under the weight of snow and ice and damage your roof.
  • Remove any snow buildup on your roof as soon as possible after a snowstorm to prevent ice dam formation. Use a snow rake or hire a professional for safe and effective snow removal.
  • Never use a sharp tool or shovel on your roof as this may damage your roof’s surface and void your warranty.
  • Ensure that your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris and properly functioning to allow for proper drainage of melting snow and ice.
  • Consider investing in a roof heating system to prevent ice dam formation and ensure proper drainage.
  • Consult a professional roofing contractor for regular inspections and maintenance to prevent any potential issues from developing into bigger and more costly problems.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about Snow-Resistant Roofs

Here are some common questions about snow-resistant roofs:

Q: What is the best roofing material for snowy climates?

A: There is no single “best” material for snowy climates, as each has its own strengths and weaknesses. However, some materials that are known for their durability and ability to resist snow accumulation include asphalt shingles, metal, slate, and tile. When choosing a roofing material, it’s important to consider factors such as roof slope, insulation, and weight.

Q: Can a flat roof work in snowy areas?

A: Yes, flat roofs can work in snowy areas, but they require extra consideration in terms of proper insulation, drainage systems, and snow removal techniques. It’s important to have a plan in place for removing accumulated snow from a flat roof to prevent damage from excessive weight.

Q: What are snow guards and do I need them?

A: Snow guards are small devices that are installed on a roof to prevent snow from sliding off in large chunks, also known as roof avalanches. They can be especially useful in areas with foot traffic below the roof or where roof damage from falling snow is a concern. However, not all roofs require snow guards, so it’s best to consult with a roofing professional to determine if they are necessary for your particular situation.

Q: How do I maintain a snow-resistant roof?

A: Regular inspections and maintenance are key to maximizing the longevity and performance of a snow-resistant roof. This includes clearing snow and debris from the roof and gutters, checking for leaks, and ensuring proper insulation and ventilation. It’s also important to hire a professional for any repairs or maintenance to ensure that the job is done safely and correctly.

Q: Can I install a snow-resistant roof myself?

A: While it may be tempting to save money by installing a snow-resistant roof yourself, it’s important to keep in mind that roofing can be a dangerous and complex job. Improper installation can result in costly damage and repairs down the line, so it’s generally best to hire a professional roofer with experience in snowy climates.

Q: How much does a snow-resistant roof cost?

A: The cost of a snow-resistant roof depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of material, the size and complexity of the roof, and the location. It’s important to get multiple quotes from reputable roofing contractors to ensure that you are getting a fair price for your particular project.

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