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Wednesday, February 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho Voices

Snow spurs invention

Contractor creates protection for roof vents, pipes

Bryan Marlow, of Coeur d’Alene, created the Snow Terminator, which he designed to protect element-exposed vents and plumbing on rooftops from snow. He talked about his business at his home  Nov. 19. (Kathy Plonka)
Bryan Marlow, of Coeur d’Alene, created the Snow Terminator, which he designed to protect element-exposed vents and plumbing on rooftops from snow. He talked about his business at his home Nov. 19. (Kathy Plonka)
By Jacob Livingston

With the snow starting to fall, the perils of winter are renewed. And for the past two years across the Inland Northwest, those wintry-weather perils have been ample and, occasionally, costly.

As an insurance claims adjuster during last winter’s record snowfall, Bryan Marlow routinely encountered stories of weather-induced heartache, from sagging sheetrock to collapsed roofs to torn-off vents and pipes. Spurred on by those accounts, Marlow has created a device to help home and business owners make it through the most severe winters with roofs intact – no matter what Mother Nature hurls their way.

Marlow, a contractor- turned-entrepreneur in Coeur d’Alene, has developed a metal hut dubbed the Snow Terminator, which covers roof-exposed plumbing and chimney stove pipes and other vents from the elements. Designed to skirt snow and ice around the fixtures in climates with heavy snowfall, or as a shield for overhead electrical conduit service entrances, the triangle-shaped, reinforced structure comes in several sizes, color options and materials for a variety of roof types including metal, tile and cedar.

“I’ve been in construction for 24 years and I’ve never seen snow make as big of an impact as it did last year,” Marlow said, while showing off the smaller, black Snow Terminator model, which features welded-on interior trusses and reroutes the building’s ventilation out of the structure’s top. “I thought, I’m going to make something to help solve this problem, and I wanted it to be guaranteed for life – a top-of-the-line product.”

The Oregon native came up with the idea earlier this year after encountering North Idaho homeowners who had light to severe roof damage from deep snowpack. Estimates from the previous winter’s damage to buildings across the region are in the millions of dollars, with 95 roof failures reported to area structural engineering firms in Spokane and Kootenai counties, and 68 of those listed as “primary” structures, such as homes, businesses or warehouses.

As for fixture and pipe damage, Marlow said one of the most common culprits comes from metal-topped homes, which have a tendency to shed accumulated snow in massive sheets that tear through anything in the packed snow’s path.

While the insurance companies wanted to fix the problem by rebuilding the roofs exactly as before, Marlow thought why not add a sturdy structure over exposed objects to prevent similar problems in the future. Even though there are comparable items already on the market, he didn’t feel they were as well-built as what he had in mind.

The solution was relatively simple, he said, but took on several iterations in the manufacturing process. Using his home garage as a workspace, Marlow set about constructing several prototype snow wedges that were easy to install on any pitch roof and could securely fit in place year-round. Meanwhile, he shopped the idea around to local stove stores and lumber yards.

Once he had the final design down, Marlow found a receptive audience to the project’s idea. The end result is either a stainless steel, copper or aluminum waterproof structure that can withstand several thousand times more pressure than building codes in the area require (which specify roofs support at least 40 pounds per square foot in Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County and at least 30 pounds in Spokane and Spokane County, though higher-elevation locations in both counties have stricter requirements) and is guaranteed for life. The Snow Terminator Web site has received hits from across the country and the Spokane-manufactured product is on store shelves at several local businesses. On the Web site, pricing begins at $148 for the smaller models. “Bryan hasn’t invented anything, he just seriously made it better,” said Jason Freeman, a manager at Kuma Stove and Iron Works in Hayden, which carries the device. “It’s a product that’s clearly needed anywhere where there’s metal roofs and heavy snow.”

In Post Falls, the owner of Quality Stoves said customers have reacted favorably to Marlow’s creation.

“People were pretty excited about the product, especially the customers that have lost pipes or have had roof damage,” offered owner Jeff Barnhart, adding that whenever they install a stove they encourage customers to install some roof protection. “It’s good for safety and prevention.”

While this winter’s forecast remains largely unclear, the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service is predicting in its most recent monthly report warmer temperatures than last year, with precipitation below normal in the Pacific Northwest through December, January and February.

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