McHENRY, Ill. — As Sno Gem Inc. celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2014, it is an opportunity to reflect on its journey from start-up to the forefront of the snow retention industry.

Like many businesses, Sno Gem was born out of necessity. The Smeja family had founded Metalmaster Sheet Metal Inc. in 1977. The family came to realize there were few snow guard manufacturers to meet the increasing demand for snow retention products and for integration into the roofs they were consistently installing. “The roofing business was growing and they were doing a large portion of the work in the Chicagoland area,” said James T. Carpenter, vice president of operations at Sno Gem. “The business was consistently buying snow guards for their projects and at one point, the Smeja family made the decision to design their own snow guard.”

The Sno Gem “Original” Polycarbonate design was the initial snow guard product developed by the company. With the Smeja family incurring decades of combined architectural sheet metal experience, it was essential to create this snow guard to have a large base for securement and attachment. That’s when the 25-square-inch base was created, which was more than any other snow guard found within the industry. This meant additional surface area to bond to the roof panel with, creating increased attachment strength per unit. Another similar product offering was the Sno Gem Junior Polycarbonate design. This is a snow guard with a 12.5-square-inch bonding surface and a narrower base. The design of the Junior model was ideal for metal panel systems, with intermediate ribs, and/or corrugated metal panels which are more common with pre-engineered metal buildings and post-frame building systems and designs.

“The Smejas are an innovative and business-minded family,” Carpenter said. “Early profits were directly invested back into the company, and they consistently increased their marketing budgets by advertising in more trade publications and attending industry trade shows. These efforts increased market awareness of all of the Sno Gem products for consumers, architects and contractors.”

Sno Gem has consistently been quick to react to the latest in consumer demands and industry trends, and has developed snow retention systems for slate, shingle and membrane roofing since their inception. The Sno Barricade® was Sno Gem’s first bar snow retention system for standing seam metal roofing applications and is now one of the company’s most popular systems. The Sno Barricade can be finished in either a powder coating application, or with a Kynar finish to match any roof panel finish and color.

More recent innovations include the iClad and Sno Blockade snow retention systems, which both are bar/fence systems made of aircraft-grade aluminum extrusions. These designs are compatible with most standing seam metal roofing systems currently on the market. These innovative products draw their strength from Sno Gem’s unique attachment design of the patent-pending WaveLockTechnology. WaveLock Technology features three or five points of attachment and is designed to maximize the system’s strength, without piercing, marring or penetrating the roof panel or its finish. Sno Gem also recently introduced the PV Cube, a clamp-to-seam solar panel racking and mounting system attachment product, which also employs the same patent-pending WaveLock Technology.

“We’re proud of the innovations that Sno Gem has introduced into the industry over the past 20 years, and we’re looking forward to working with our customers to meet their needs in the future,” said Rock Smeja, third-generation family business member and vice president of marketing. “We remain very hands on within the day-to-day operations of Sno Gem to ensure that we are always on the cutting edge of not only snow retention, but the overall industry as well.”

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