Snow Guards vs. Snow Rails: Which Should I Use?

When deciding on a snow retention system, often one’s first thought is whether they should use snow guards or snow rails. Each has situations where they work best, and there are a wide variety of products that can help create those systems. 

Snow Guards

Discontinuous snow retention systems are in short what most would call “snow guards.” These are individual guards that are places in a staggered pattern along the eave of the metal roof. There are standing seam snow guards that are a single unit (meaning that no additional parts are needed), and there are standing seam snow guards that require additional clamps in order to be attached. 


Snow guards work in conjunction with each other to form a snow retention system, helping to create long-lasting protection against melting snow by breaking up the size and frequency of falling snow. 


Levi’s Building Components offers quality snow guards in our industry-leading Snow Defender® line. With a variety of options, we provide several solutions to your snow retention budget and requirements.

Exposed Fastener Panel Snow Guards

The Snow Defender 1500 and Snow Defender 4500 are designed for uses with exposed fastener panels. The patented 1500 is designed for narrow purlins in the upright or flat position or steel building Z’s, while the 4500 is recommended for use with wood furring strips under metal in the flat position. Both are made from 304 stainless steel and have an EPDM rubber seal, making for an effortless install – you only need the snow guards and screws, no extra caulk required. The screw pattern allows for fastening into a purlin on edge. Additionally, both have a 15 year warranty and are available in over 40 powder-coated colors so you are able to match any metal roof color that you are in need of. 

Standing Seam Roof Snow Guards

In addition to the exposed fastener options, Levi’s also offers the Snow Defender 6500, Snow Defender 7500 DECO™, and Snow Defender 85RF DECO™ for use with standing seam roofs. All are made with 304 stainless steel, come with a 15 year warranty and are available in 40 plus powder-coated colors to match with popular standing seam roof colors.

The patented Snow Defender 6500 is designed for standing seam roofs and is the snow guard of choice for many roofers. It fits standing seams up to 3/8″ width and most 1′ through 1-3/4″ seam heights without penetrating the roof. Based on the design of the popular Snow Defender 6500, the Snow Defender 7500 DECO has the more traditional, historic looks of a cast snow guard with decorative cutouts embossed for increased strength. This color-matched, 304 stainless steel model will last for the life of your roof. If you have ever tried to install a standing seam snow guard and become frustrated with alignment, this product will solve the problem. Designed to be part of a two-part installation system with any of the most popular S-5!® clamps, Levi’s 85RF Snow Defender aligns correctly on the seam connection every time. The 85RF is designed to combine the versatility of the S-5!® clamp systems with the beauty and durability of the Snow Defender series. It adapts quickly to the clamps using one bolt that is easily accessed from the top and aligns squarely every time. 

Snow Rails

Continuous snow retention systems are also called rail or fence systems. These aluminum rails are often attached using a clamp to metal to metal roofing seams or fastened through metal into a purlin and are continuous for the length of the roof. The rails for these systems are attached using specialized clamps or brackets. There are a large variety of clamps made to fir the differing standing seam profiles which are often specific to the panel manufacturer. Clamp manufacturer like S-5! have online tools for searching for the right clamp to fit any given metal panel profile in their system. Finding the right clamp is important. Not only does the clamp need to be the right fit, but since different clamp profiles can vary in cost, having the right clamp for the right profile can save on a metal roofing project. 

S-5! Colorgard

Levi’s is a proud supplier of the S-5! Colorgard, a snow rail designed to reduce the possibility of damage to gutters, adjacent roofs, landscape, vehicles, or people below. This system also features a versatile bar-type for snow retention which utilizes a strip of the actual roof material as an insert to provide a perfect color-match for the life of the roof. 


Your decision on whether to use snow guards or snow rails can be based on a variety of things. Cost, look, size of your roof. These all play a factor when you’re deciding which would be better for your project. 


If you have a larger roof and cost is not too much of a concern, a continuous snow retention system might be a better option for you. Some people however are not too fond of the way these systems look when installed, or see the appeal of using lower-costing snow guards. With the proper number of clamps, these systems could prove stronger than their snow guard counterparts. 


Typically on residential and small roofs, snow guards are the preferred choice. They are easy to install and have several different designs that fit most roofs. Their staggered pattern installation helps with breaking up snow and letting it fall in smaller chunks at a slower rate compare to using a snow rail system that does a good job letting the snow melt, but doesn’t break it up as much. Plus, if your building has trees nearby it, snow guards will allow debris like tree branched or leaves to fall off the roof as opposed to snow rails that will catch that debris and require regular maintenance to clear it. 


Whether you decide to go with snow guards or snow rails as your snow retention option, either can provide the desired result you are looking for – slowing down falling snow to protect those underneath. As previously mentioned, the main things people generally consider when making the choice between the two are cost, appearance, and the size of the roof. 


If you find yourself still questioning which would be the right option for you, our team at Levi’s Building Components is here to help answer those questions! Call us today at (877)-897-7020 or send us a message via our contact page and our experts will help guide you towards the right decision for your snow retention project!

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Alexa Hamm

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