Snow Fence 101 Snow Fence 101

Growing up in the south, I never saw much snow like there is here in Michigan, where I live now. Something else I never saw much of either were fence-like structures alongside roadways and major highways. I have even seen these structures on various private properties and around homes and businesses. I'm talking, of course, about snow fences. In this article, we'll explain what a snow fence is, how it's installed, and how it can help you combat snow drifts in and around your home or property.

Snow fences work as a barrier that forces snow to build up in desired locations, rather than allowing snow drifts to build up in unwanted areas such as around homes or buildings and in roadways. They have been known to save lives and bring down the cost of maintenance.

Snow fences are particularly popular on ranches and farms, where they're used to form water basins in the spring. They're also used at ski resorts to help prevent avalanche control, as well as to have deeper snowfall in designated areas.

How Do Snow Fences Work With the Weather?

Plastic orange snow fencing.

With a snow fence in place, turbulent winds are created so that most of the snowfall will gather on the lee side of the fence—that is to say, the side of the fence where the wind blows the least. So, a snow fence does not prevent snow drifts. The fence causes snow drifts to fall in desired locations. For the most efficacy, snow fences should extend past the problem area so that drifting snow will be trapped from 30 degrees on either side.

Snow Fence Installation

To make a good snow fence, you do not have to buy fencing. You can use wood pallets or slat fencing, and even plank boards. Even a line of trees or shrubs can work to reduce winds and create snow drifts where wanted.

When installing a snow fence, you want to keep in mind which way the wind blows and where you normally have snow accumulating. Install the fence upwind of the area where snow drifts occur. The strength of winds in your area will determine how far apart your posts should be. The posts should not be more than eight feet apart, however, you can place posts closer together in areas known for strong winds. Snow fences are meant to be load-bearing, which means you want to make sure you use enough posts and that those posts are set solid and deep in the ground. The posts need to be buried at least a foot and a half deep. When lining up your fence, leave a gap below the fence, which will help cause the wind turbulence needed to cause the snow drifts. Then, secure the fence to the posts with 10" cable ties.

If you live in an area that is prone to high winds and heavy snow loads, you may want to fasten the ends of the fence with more support wires. Also, use t-posts and not u-posts. Leave a gap at the bottom of the fence so snow can't build up under the fence and cause it to become ineffective.

Safety Concerns

A snow fence surrounded by snow with trees in the background.

  • If you live in a city environment or have close neighbors, you may want to discuss your snow fence installation ideas with those who live next to you so that the snow falls where both parties are in agreement.

  • After the snow fence is installed, you should check it periodically for any damaged or missing parts, and ensure posts remain anchored properly.

  • Whatever type of snow fence you install, do not use poor installation techniques for portable fences, or temporarily set up snow fences to solve short-term issues. Other tips to keep in mind are to install a single, tall fence and not multiple rows of shorter fences. Be sure there are no gaps or holes between fence panels.

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