Snow Fence 101

A snow fence surrounded by snow with a house in the background.

When winter hits hard and snowfall bears down, we can feel like we have no power against Mother Nature. While we can’t control the weather, we can manipulate where snow accumulates by putting up a snow fence. It may not seem like much, but with proper placement and installation, a snow fence can help property owners take control of drifting and blowing snow and utilize it to their advantage.

Why Build a Snow Fence?

A snow fence with snow on the ground.

Properties that are located in remote areas or places that don’t have regular plowing of roads and driveways can benefit greatly from a well-built snow fence that will ensure the safe passage of vehicles. Many times, homeowners have been stuck because of heavy snowfall on roads or have experienced dangerous driving conditions and accidents. Farmlands and ranches can profit from the snowmelt when warmer spring weather starts by corralling snowdrift into a specific area of land or hilltop, using the water to nourish fields. Winter parklands and ski-slopes must utilize the science of snow fences to help contain snow to particular areas in order to keep recreational spots safe for users and the area easier to maintain.

Calculate Snowfall

A snow fence near a farm.

Before you build a snow fence, you will have to determine how much snow you will expect to get on average every year. Knowing what the snow fence capacity needs to be is the number one thing people underestimate. No sense putting up a fence and not having it be strong enough — it could even make the situation worse. Next, assess which way the wind blows and think about where and how snowdrift accumulates. For the best results, install the fence upwind so that the majority of the snow drift can be caught as the wind forces it through wide open areas. Understanding the science of how wind turbulence works against a snow fence will help you decide on the strength, size, and length required.

How to Install

A close-up of snow on a fence.

The most common type of snow fence is a combination of strong pre-made safety/snow fence and metal posts. You can buy both products at a hardware store. This kind of fence is made of strong plastic mesh (usually in orange) and comes in rolls of varying length. They are typically 4 to 5 feet tall and come in 50 feet lengths for around $40. You can also use wood slats or pallets, but keep in mind that there needs to be a 50/50 ratio of air and material to allow for snow to drift towards the fence without overtaking it. A 6-inch gap at the bottom of the fence is essential for it to work properly no matter what material you use. This will allow for a little give and take as snow piles up, while still keeping minimal amounts from blowing across.

Use strong wire or cable ties to attach the mesh to a metal post driven firmly into the ground. It’s recommended to use t-posts with the fence since they are stronger than u-posts. Make sure they are established into the ground at least 1.5 feet deep and set around 6 to 8 feet apart. This is the standard for snow fences, but you may find that you require a taller or stronger fence in which case you could double up on the fence height, place your posts closer together, or perhaps even use two parallel fences set apart from each other so that one can catch any overflow. You may want to make changes to the fence after seeing how the snow drifts after the first year. Some people extend the length of their fence to keep snow from hitting long driveways and roads or change the location and direction of the fence to utilize snowmelt for farmlands. Consider planting a line of trees to help stop snowdrift in high winds.

Safety Concerns

A snow fence.

As always, check with local and municipal laws regarding restrictions and recommendations for snow fences. It’s also a good idea to keep neighbors in mind and perhaps even inquire with them about whether or not the snow fence will affect their property. Working together to find solutions for the area will benefit everyone. Work within environmental constrictions as well. Trenches can be useful for capturing some of the heavy snowfall before it blows towards your property, but make sure there won’t be any dangerous erosion or flooding when warmer weather hits. Check that your fence is working properly on a regular basis and make any necessary fixes after each season has passed.

By installing a snow fence homeowners can be one step ahead of problematic snowdrifts and heavy snowfall. A snow fence will protect your property, giving you peace of mind that no matter what winter brings, you’ll be safe and ready for what may come.