Designing a Home in Snow Country

Bring on the fluffy white stuff. You're not worried, especially with these 10 tips for designing your log home in snow country.

Designing a Home in Snow Country

It’s a winter wonderland out there, but is your log home designed for all this snow? Heavy snow makes demands upon any structure. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re designing a log home in areas where the white stuff is a constant winter partner.

Hire a structural engineer.

The structural integrity of your home is the crucial factor in handling snow. The snow load, or weight of snow, can be more than 130 pounds per square foot in some mountainous regions and even up to 360 pounds in extreme conditions. But, says Dennis Kelvie, design manager at Caribou Creek Log Homes, “It’s important that the engineer understands the special requirements of log homes."

Choose a snow-friendly roof style.

“With a simple roof form, you avoid the potential for costly leaks,” says architect Dave Argo, AIA, of No Name Architects near No Name, Colorado. “Typically we use gables, dormers, shed roofs and overhangs.” If snow shed is unavoidable, he suggests installing a snow guard—an 8- to 12-inch fence set back from the edge of the roof that prevents the snow from falling in lethal chunks.

Set your site on sunlight.

The warmth of the sun helps with heating, but light also provides a psychological lift in winter. Dave recommends facing your largest windows to the south, if possible.

Dig your foundation below the frost-penetration point.

To prevent your foundation from shifting as the ground freezes, foundation footings must be deeper than the level at which the ground will freeze.

Maximize thermal energy efficiency.

In addition to cutting utility bills, quality insulation will prevent ice damming, a buildup of snow and ice on the roof created by the freeze/thaw cycles of night and day.

Plan for melting snow.

Snow accumulates, but it also melts. “Your design team and builder should slope walkways and driveways away from the house so water doesn’t pool at your foundation,” Dennis says.

Design driveways for snow removal.

Whether you shovel or plow, keep in mind that driveway snow has to go somewhere.

Cover decks and patios.

Shed roofs above decks eliminate direct snowfall, reduce maintenance and prevent snow buildup directly against the house.

Attach your garage.

Slogging through 4 feet of snow between the garage and the back door isn’t a lot of fun with an armful of groceries.

Increase the size of overhangs.

Most overhangs above porches and log walls are about 3 feet wide. But for log homes in snow-heavy areas, Dennis says he’d go even wider. “They’ll help keep snow buildup away from your walls,” he explains.
Read the full story in the January 2007 issue of Log Home Living.