Winter is a beautiful season, but there are challenges to preparing your home for all the potential hazards, especially in Minnesota, known for its harsh weather this time of year.
As you decide what to prioritize, make sure that a snow fence is at the top of your list. If you don’t know much about them or haven’t considered using one for your property, read on so that we can explain!
What is a Snow Fence?
Chances are you’ve seen snow fences, particularly if you’ve traveled through rural areas, where they are especially common. Still, you may not know exactly what they are by name alone. That’s where we need to begin!
Simply put, a snow fence is a barrier designed to force snow to collect in a specific place of your choosing. It’s patterned with holes that interrupt the speed and aerodynamic flow of the wind as it hits the surface, causing the snowflakes to accumulate on the leeward side of the fence.
Depending on your purposes or expectations, you can find snow fences made from a combination of plastic, lightweight wood, metal, and/or hardwood. Sometimes, they are painted orange or a similarly bright color so that they stand out in any weather. Either way, wood or metal are the most common materials used for the posts.
Benefits of a Snow Fence
Once you’re comfortable with the process, you’ll find that snow fences are simple to install. Nevertheless, it may seem like a daunting project at first, particularly if you have a lot of land. We assure you that it will be worth your time and effort for several reasons.
Reduces Traffic Accidents
Thanks to the snow and ice, people tend to drive extra carefully during the winter. Still, snow fences can further decrease the likelihood of accidents.
By directing snow into a pile rather than allowing it to blow onto the road, these fences improve overall visibility and minimize ice formation. Everyone is safer that way.
Even if drivers go the whole winter season without getting into any road accidents, no one could deny the inconvenience of traveling through blizzards or on icy roads. It takes longer to get to your destination, and there’s always the possibility that you’ll get stuck in a snowbank. Relying on a public snow plow could cause further delays; who knows when it will get to your neighborhood?
Snow fences make the roads clearer, making travel faster and easier. You also have more control over when you come and go.
You might be thinking that a snow plow already helps keep the roads clean, so why bother with a snow fence? The answer is that the fence is less expensive than the plow.
If you don’t live on a public road, you probably have to pay for a private snow plower, and the average cost for that is higher than fence installation. Plus, the fence could last for more than one season, so you save money each year.
Maximizes Water Supply
With springtime comes renewed opportunities for gardening and farming. Some gardeners and farmers position their snow fences to direct snowfall into a basin.
When the snow melts in the spring, you’ve already got plenty of natural water to use, sparing you some of the effort and financial burden inherent in supplying local water.
Better for the Environment
Snow plows require gas, and the vehicles are so heavy that they can accidentally cause damage to their surroundings. Every time a snow plow is used in the winter, the potential for environmental pollution and disturbance increases.
Snow fences don’t need fuel, nor do they move around. They stay in one place and simply direct the snow elsewhere. It’s a far more eco-friendly way to deal with snowfall. Plus, when your fence has reached the end of its life, you can recycle its materials.
Makes Winter More Fun!
As if all these other benefits weren’t enough, consider the entertainment value! Imagine–the snow fence could build hills of snow high enough to go sledding or build igloos right on your own property. It can be difficult to get out and enjoy yourself during the winter months, so having something to fill your time at home may be the perfect way to make the most of the season.
How to Set Up a Snow Fence
If you’re convinced that your property needs a snow fence, the next step is to figure out how to install one. Not to worry–we’ve got you covered with some basic instructions!
The height of your snow fence could affect every other step you take, so figure this out first. Using data from local weather stations, research the average amount of snowfall your region gets each winter, along with typical wind directions and speeds. The permanent bending of trees and other plants could also tell you how the wind usually blows.
A good rule of thumb is that about 90% of snowfall creates piles less than four feet high when the wind speed is less than 20 miles per hour. That percentage falls gradually the faster the wind blows.
In other words, if you expect strong winds and heavy snowfall, your fence should probably stand anywhere from four to six feet tall. Make sure the posts are a foot or two taller than the fence itself so that there’s plenty of room to anchor it deep into the soil without letting the fence sag or drape on the ground.
Select the Right Spot
Choosing where to put your snow fence is both crucial and tricky. First, ask yourself what area you want to keep clear from snow and how tall your fence will be. After that, find a spot at a distance roughly 35 times the height of the fence; that’s how far snow drift can spread. For example, if you want your fence to be four feet tall, then plan to set it up about 140 feet away from the area you’re aiming to protect.
To keep your snow fence sturdy, there should be about eight feet of separation between each post. You also need to ensure that the bottom of the fence hovers five or six inches above the ground. This way, the airflow will drive the snow where you want it to go rather than letting it build up against the fence, which could affect its structural integrity and/or bury it.
Stabilize the Posts
Your snow fence must be able to withstand high winds and possibly even impact from flying objects. The surest way to stabilize the fence is by inserting the posts at least a foot and a half into the ground and attaching each post to the fence with cable ties or rope. Also, put support wires on the end posts to keep the fence taut.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should your snow fence include?
Not all snow fences are created equal! For best results, the fence you install should have the following tools and characteristics:
It’s not enough for the snow fence to merely have holes on its surface. The holes must be made in a way that optimizes the aerodynamic disruption necessary to guide the snow.
Your best bet is to find a fence with 40% to 50% porosity, meaning that around half the fence should be open air. This is especially important if your area gets heavy snowfall; anything less than half porosity is unlikely to have the impact you want.
If you can, get T-posts rather than the common U-post. The shape of the T-post has a superior grip on the soil, so the posts are more durable and capable of standing up against high winds.
You need something with which to fasten the posts and fence together so that it doesn’t droop or fall. Rope or wood strips would be sufficient as well, but cable ties are often tougher and easier to use since you don’t have to master knots.
As mentioned previously, support wires are handy for keeping your snow fence strong and rigid. Basically, the wires bolster the end posts in the same way that the rope or cable ties hold up all the middle posts.
What maintenance does a snow fence need?
Your snow fence needs regular attention to ensure that it’s working properly throughout the season. Every week or two, look over the fence in case there are any wires, ties, ropes, or other missing parts that need to be replaced. If the posts have risen, push them back down into the soil.
Plastic snow fences are more prone than metal to rips due to severe weather, animal interference, or simple wear. Duct tape or glue could work as a temporary fix, but ultimately, you may need to replace that section of the fence entirely.
How long do snow fences last?
The lifespan you can expect from a snow fence largely depends on its materials. A plastic one should remain usable for five to ten years. Quality wood and metal may give you one or two decades.
No matter the material, every fence lasts longer with proper maintenance. You may even consider taking it down at the end of winter and storing it away for protection when not in use. Although it would be a lot of effort, it will certainly increase the fence’s longevity.
What is the most eco-friendly snow fence?
Although snow fences are already a more eco-friendly option than plows for snow management, you may want to support the environment even more with the greenest fence you can find. In that case, look for fences made from composite materials, like recycled plastic, recycled metal, or reclaimed wood.
Alternatively, simply research the companies from which you’re thinking of buying to see if they source ethically and champion sustainable practices.
You’ll Love Having a Snow Fence!
Although it takes some work up front, snow fences are game changers for Minnesotan residents. Once you have one, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it!
There are even more ways that you can increase your love and appreciation for this wondrous time of year. We’ve got even more advice on what to expect and what to do in Minnesotan winters!