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DayCreek Journal

August 1 , 2010

Are We There, Yeti?

Sears Garden Tractor

One of the top ten things that I would change if I were to build the house over again would have been to install snow brakes on our standing seam metal roof before the first snow flake was to even think about landing on it.

If I were the roofing company who installed our metal roof, I would have had me sign a release form releasing them from any liability associated with gutter damage and/or loss of life caused by the Abominable Snowman sliding off of the roof. (Why they did not signify the importance of this and make some more money selling this option is beyond me.)

Over time the winters have taken their toll on the gutters. Fortunately the gutters we had installed were oversized and much more durable than the gutters found on most homes, otherwise they probably would have been torn off by now. Nonetheless, the majority of the braces that hold the gutters firmly in place have been pulled out of their track by heavy snows calving off of the roof.

So why am I writing about snow during one of the hottest summers on record? I guess I'm doing my best to keep my mind off of the heat and humidity. Twice we have had dew points in the 80's (F). As a matter of fact, the La Crosse area has set a record for the highest average dew point on record from June 1st to July 31st! (In case you are wondering, the dew point is the condensation point—the temperature at which water vapor condenses into water. This is a very good measure of just how uncomfortable or dangerous the heat and humidity can be. When dew points are in the 70's (F), it is very uncomfortable because your body can't sweat enough to cool you down. When dew points are in the 80's (F), it is darn right dangerous.)

As people who live in the deep south (U.S.) can testify, this really saps your strength. It is very hard to get much outdoor work done when dew points are so high that just a leisure walk leaves a slime trail of sweat behind you that would make a garden slug envious.

Back to the subject at hand.

This summer has become the year of fixing stuff, so I decided to tackle fixing the gutters and installing snow brakes on the roof. Doing research on the Internet, I found that there are two types of snow brakes commonly available for standing seam roofs: surface mount and rail. Surface mount brakes are glued directly to the metal roof while snow rails are perpendicularly mounted across the standing seams of the roof. In either case, the cost to do our entire roof using one of these fancy-pants methods would cost thousands of dollars!

So much for doing the fancy-pants method. Instead I decided to take a few trips to the local surplus store to see what I could find in the way of cheap hardware that might keep the snow from flying off the roof while keeping dollars from flying out of my wallet.

Now I have no idea if this will actually work, but I feel fairly confident that this will do the trick. My idea is to run a piece of electrical conduit pipe across the length of the standing seam roof—making sure the pipe is adequately secured to each standing seam. Just one pipe across the roof should be enough to keep the snow from sliding. (Similar rail systems can be found for sale on the Internet that do just this.)

Of course, the integrity of the metal roof should not be breached...meaning that you do not want to drill into the roof and/or seams. I needed to find some form of a clamp that would clamp over the seam and then secure the pipe to the clamp.

For the first six sections of the sixteen sided roof, I was fortunate to find aluminum blocks (at the local surplus store) that clamped down on the seams using two set screws. I then drilled a hole in each of the blocks and attached the pipe to the clamp. This worked out great but in order to do the entire roof, I needed a total of 96 clamps and I could only find 36 of these gems.

snow brake rail

So after I installed the first six sides, I went to plan B. Plan B uses tiny "C" clamps, readily available at most home improvement/hardware stores. The original screws are removed and replaced with bolts that can be tightened securely to the seams using a socket wrench. Each clamp also needs a hole to be drilled through it in order to bolt it to the pipe.

standing seam clamp

As a side note, I have also run 8" timber screws through the gutter, braces and into the facia board of the roof to resecure the gutters (see second image above). The timber screws do an excellent job of securing the gutters to the house and in my opinion are better than the braces that were originally used to hold gutters in place. The downside to this is that the screws require a hole to be drilled in the outside lip of the gutter and a small nub is visible from below. However, a little bit of paint on the screw head makes them virtually invisible.

I have no idea as to how well these modifications will work, but I will be sure to update the journal next spring once the Abominable Snowman melts off of the roof.

—Alan Stankevitz

Timber Rattlesnake
Yes... SE Minnesota does have Timber Rattlesnakes. I don't mind having them around since they eat their share of field mice.