The Slopes of Metal Roofing

As Winter comes into full swing, many are headed out to outdoor activities. Some will retreat to the warmer climates in the South, while others will embrace the cold and take part in ice fishing, snow skiing or many other activities enjoyed by the classic chionophile. It never fails to amaze me with the wonder and splendor of majestic ski slopes extending skyward presenting angles and slopes that would rival any A-frame roofline.

Anytime I am snow skiing and find myself on a chairlift, I can’t help but notice that the pitch and slopes of the roof of the lodge compliment the lines and slopes of the mountains behind it. Towering peaks of the roofline mirroring the mountains with sustainable materials, that not only combat the elements of the cold, but offers options in its accessories, like chairlift towers, ski patrol shacks, and behemoth trees; the snow guards, solar panels, and drainage system complement its purpose and enjoyment while providing  the appropriate shed and retention for the snow and ice.

We all know that metal roof installation is not for the faint of heart. If you are new to metal roofing, you should stick with the “bunny hill” until you are more confident in your training and experience. Finding a mentor or hiring an industry veteran to help you through your first couple of years is vital to not only your understanding and education but the customer’s enjoyment and impression of your work. No matter the cost, this is a wise investment to not only secure your reputation as a good installer but to earn repeat business and referrals.

If you are a seasoned veteran and comfortable on the “black diamonds” of the metal roofing world, you possess a key set of skills that should be celebrated. At the same time, you also have an obligation to impart that knowledge to the next generation. It is well known that one of the most widespread problems currently facing the construction world is skilled labor; or rather, the lack of skilled labor. The information that you have has served you well, but for the workmanship and craft to continue, that knowledge must be passed on. Taking a younger person under your wing or mentor someone that has a true passion to learn, is a fantastic way to ensure that metal roofing continues successfully into the future.

A question that I hear quite a bit is, “what pitch roof is right for my new construction?” The answer, inevitably, is “it depends…”  And it truly does. Pitch, just like material, design, and finish all depends on many factors; there is not a one-size-fits-all for this question.

One variable is the geographical location of the construction. This would be best answered by an architect or engineer. You temperature ranges, snow load, wind zones and annual rainfall will all play a role in the design of your roof. If any of these aspects are neglected, it can lead to eventual catastrophic results for your roof and the structure.

Specifically, given that we are now in the throes of Winter, snow loads present a unique opportunity to learn more about how snow collects, loads and melts from a roof assembly. Many considerations have to be taken into account such as snow retention versus snow shed. In addition, the melting of the snow and how it is affected by the heat-loss thaw, solar thaw, and ambient thaw.  A Technical Bulletin published by the Metal Construction Association gives fantastic insight into the phenomenon and how accessories such as “snow guards” interact with the moving snow and ice from the roof. To read more, click here to download the full document entitled Metal Roof Design for Cold Climates from the Metal Roofs section of the MCA’s Technical Resources library.

Another, and very important, variable is YOU and what suits your personal tastes. A low-slope roof can offer a great way to enjoy a nearby green space. At the same time, a steep-pitch can show off your new metal roof and give you bragging rights for years to come. We all agree that metal offers superior aesthetic appeal and sustainability, but the degree of detail, color, and even the finished seam profile would need to be considered when deciding on the slope of your roof.

In short, as you enjoy the winter wonderland that is upon us, take time to appreciate the symmetry that nature offers to us. Enjoy the snow and relish the satisfaction that the work that we do not only make the world a better place but allows those that enjoy the season the most, to have a warm and dry place to come home to. No matter if you are skiing in driving snow or installing flashing to prevent leaks, sharpen your edges, hone and wax the bases, strap in, and enjoy the ride.


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