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How to Put Up a Snow Fence (With Photos and Video)

A snow fence acts as a barrier to slow the prevailing wind, causing drifting downwind of the fence – instead of in your driveway or walkway. It reduces your need for snow removal, and means less work for you during every snowstorm. You can also use the fence to collect snow to melt where you want it in spring, to fill a pond or watering hole.

how snow fence works
A snow fence slows wind down so snow drops just past the fence, protecting areas downwind of the drift zone.

When I was a little girl up in northwest Wisconsin, we had a lot of “Big Snow” winters. The snow started early and lasted all winter long. The country roads cut through massive snow banks that my friends and I would build tunnels through. (We always used the buddy system so someone was on the outside to watch for the plow or dig you out if needed.)  

Grandma's Snow Fence

Something else I remember from winters past was grandma's snow fence. Grandma had a fairly long, thin driveway, and without the snow fence, I'm sure it would have been blown shut more often than not. When my brother bought grandma's place, he planted a tree line where the snow-fence had been. This now protects the driveway (even better than the fence).

We planted windbreak trees as soon as we moved here, but they'll take a while to grow. Like grandma, we have a long, narrow driveway. Unlike my brother, Rich, we can't plant trees parallel to it along the whole length, because part of the land upwind from it belongs to our neighbor.

See “Windbreaks – You'll be Amazed at What They Can Do” for video comparing our tree line and snow fence performance.

After spending many days during the winter of 2013-2014 stuck at home because the driveway drifted shut almost as soon as it was plowed (see the driveway in the post, ‘The Long Winter), we decided to put up a snow fence. In this post I'll discuss why and how snow fence is used, so you can decide if you'd like to use it for your home.

What is a Snow Fence?

Anything that blocks the wind enough to cause the snow to pile away from the road or area you are trying to protect. This could be a slat wood snow fence, green plastic fence like the one in the photos, or a line of bushes or trees.

How Does a Snow Fence Work?

First off, remember that the goal of a snow fence is not to stop snow completely. Instead, it redirects where the snow drift forms.

A properly installed snow fence slows down the wind, causing a drift to pile up on the downwind side of the fence – instead of in your driveway or road. A snow fence can significantly reduce the need for plowing, and keep roadways safer by reducing blowing and drifting onto the road.

The snow blows with the wind. The fence creates a pressure differential that causes the air to drop the snow in the lower pressure just behind the fence. The exact spot where the snow will pile will vary with the height of the fence, how much air can get through the fence, the wind-speed and other factors.

You can see in the top photo of the post how a sizable drift had formed downwind of the fence last winter. The photo was taken in late winter after the snow had started to melt. Other areas had cleared, but the drift was still intact. In some areas, farmers purposely stack the drifts so they melt and flow into a water basin in spring.

snow fence closeup
The open weave of a snow fence slows down the snow and redirects drifting.

Snow Fence Placement

Snow Fence should be installed upwind of the area that you want to keep clear. For instance, our winds come mostly out of the west and north. Our driveway runs mostly north to south, with a bend that angles southwest. We put the snow fence parallel to the driveway to the west and northwest along the path of the driveway.

Snow fence placement is critical. Too far and the effect will be lost. Too close and the snow will pile where you don't want it.

We found some disagreement as to how far from the road the snow fence should be. The Iowa DOT says the snow fence should be placed 35 times the height of the fence away from the road, which would be 140 feet for a four foot tall fence.

The roll of snow fence we bought at the local home improvement store said 60 feet.  We went with the wider distance the first year, since we had the room.

2022 Update: This year we're shifting to the 60 foot distance, based on previous year's drifts. We changed the snow fence placement based on results. Putting the fence a little closer may also offer more protection to the driveway to our neighbor's hunting shack, which runs parallel to our driveway, downwind. We are skipping the low wet area.

snow fence illustration

Plan for a Gap Under the Fence

Ideally, there should be a gap underneath the fence of at least 5 inches. Native grasses or other ground cover require us to mount the fence higher. The fencing should be 5 inches above the matted grass.

The higher the fence is off the ground, the further away the drift will start. If the fence is directly on the ground, it may become buried in the drifts if snow load is heavy. This will reduce its effectiveness.

It's hard to see the gap in the top image because the grass is so tall, but you can see it better in the image below.

installing snow fence with gap under the fencing
Installing snow fence in fall. Note the gap under the fencing to accommodate snow accumulation.

How Do you Install a Snow Fence?

Remember, this fence is meant to be load bearing, so use enough posts. Set the posts well in the ground and make sure the fence is well-secured to the posts. Place the fencing on the windward side.

Our primary wind comes from the west, so the fence is all on the west side of the posts. We use t-posts, not metal u-posts, because they are stronger.

For areas with very heavy wind and snow loads, you can secure the ends of the fencing with additional support wires as detailed at the U.S. Netting website.

What you need from your local store:

  • Fencing: orange snow fence or the green plastic fencing. 50 ft sections may be more manageable, and 100 ft may be more practical in longer runs. Figure out your placing and dimensions before you buy. We don't suggest barrier fence or safety fence, as the function is not the same.
  • 7 foot t-posts we suggest a quantity of 7 to 11 (depending on spacing) for 50 feet of fencing. Taller is better so 7 ft posts are better than 5 ft.
  • post driver to pound in the T posts
  • 100 ft tape measure to mark post locations and lay out fence line
  • Enough Plastic Ties for 3 or 4 ties per post
  • Purchase a good pair of high dexterity work gloves

For a 4 foot tall fence with 6 foot t-posts:

  • Place fence posts no more than 8 feet apart, closer for stronger winds. We put posts every 5 feet because of wind load.
  • Drive posts in approximately 1.5 feet deep (if you are too shallow the will pull the post down in heavy winds).
  • Line up fence on posts (on the windward side), leaving a gap below the fence (at least 5 inches).
  • Tighten fence and secure with 10″ cable ties to post. In high wind areas, it is highly recommended that the fence be sandwiched between the flat side of the metal posts and a 1″x 2″ wood slat. (See below.)
How to Put Up Snow Fence - Install Snow Fence to Keep Your Driveway Clear this Winter. Learn the do's and don'ts of snow fence installation and location.

Because we have several hundred feet of snow fence to put up, we skip the slats and use extra cable ties. So far, so good. The fence has survived 5 years of use, and is still in good shape going into the fourth winter. There have been a few tears here and there.

We install our snow fence in late October/early November. Obviously, you need to get the fence in place before the ground freezes and the snow starts stacking up.

Taking Down the Snow Fence

The fence comes down each spring once the main risk of heavy snow is past. We use a wire clipper to remove the zip ties, and gather them up for disposal. Then we roll the fencing and store it for the summer. We remove the posts and knock the dirt off.

We don't leave the snow fence up all season, because the materials would degrade sooner due to sunlight and general weathering. Part of the fence goes through the neighbor's hay field, so he needs access during the growing season.

Snow Fence Alternatives

The best snow fences are about half solid and half open. The solid material blocks or at least slows the wind. The pressure changes because of the openings in the fence or treeline drop the snow as the wind blows through the fence.

You don't necessarily need to purchase fencing. Pallets will work, slat fencing will also, even planks staggered at roughly 50% air and board will work.

You can create a living snow fence with a line of staggered bushes or evergreen trees, is best at a good distance varying by height and density. A second line of staggered plastic or wooden fence or shrubs will reduce wind a second time and drop any remaining snow.

See “Windbreak Design” and “Best Windbreak Trees” for more information on living snow fences.

Make sure you know your prevailing winds, angles and distances. Use each years experience to improve your fence the following winter.

Closed in spaces like a city or subdivision will likely need some creativity. You will need to be creative with the spacing and work with neighbors to ensure the snow drops where you want it. We have seen people extending a wall with fence to create wind barriers and drive the snow through a series of fences between houses depending on the prevailing winds so the snow drops between buildings away from driveways and streets.

green snow fence surrounded by snow

Do Snow Fences Work?

Yes, snow fences work. In our case, we clearly see the drifting on the downwind side of the fence. The video below is from February 2019. (Please make sure adblockers are disabled so video displays correctly.)

Since we first did this, I've been seeing more snow fences around. I know at least one neighbor liked the fence, because he stopped in to ask where we bought it. They liked the green snow fence more than the orange fences they'd seen around.

Another interesting application for the fencing is to use it in combination with trenching. This catches the melting snow and directs it to specific areas. Since part of our fence goes through the neighbor's field and part is in a marshy area, this isn't a very practical option for us, but I could see where it might be useful. If you are in an arid region, consider this to feed into swales or ponds.

Have any questions? Have you used a snow fence? How did it work out for you? (ask question in the comments section below).

Related articles you may also find useful:

How to Put up a Snow Fence

P.S. – To the various fence company representatives who keep leaving comments with links back to your fence company websites, please see our advertising rates. Inappropriate comments are deleted and/or marked as spam.

Originally posted in 2015, last updated in 2023.

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  1. I’m looking for a snow fence or wall to keep my neighbors snow from his roof coming down into my yard. He’s above us we’re down below. His snow from his roof is like a Avalanche into my yard, I would like to hold it back somehow. Any ideas?

    1. Standard snow fences aren’t going to help with a situation like that.

      If you built some sort of heavy duty fence/barricade with a slope back towards his yard, that would shove the snow back towards him, but gravity is going to want to push it down towards you.

      Maybe you could talk to your neighbor and try to work out some sort of snow clearing agreement?

  2. Hello Laurie:
    We put up our snow fence last fall and it has worked very well up to now. It just recently became buried in snow and is no longer doing such a good job. We drove the 6 foot T-posts in 2 feet and used 4 foot vinyl snow fence. As a result we did exactly what you said not to do !!!
    As our fence crosses the TransCanada Pipe Line, we have to have their employees come and mark the area so we do not have issues with damaging the Pipe Line. Because of this we plan on leaving the wind fence up year round until the line of spruce trees gets big enough to take over. I know spruce trees work very well because we have another area similar area further along the road that is protected by a line of trees that was put in 30 or 40 years ago and we never have problems with that section of roadway (same road and wind direction).
    What I want to know is do you think I could just lift the T-rails up 6 inches leaving the fence attached and thus creating a 6 inch gap under a 4 foot high snow fence. The T-rails are standing in clay. Do you think they would slip back down or become floppy?
    I would welcome any suggestions you may have.
    Sincerely, Esther

    1. How bad are your winds? If you leave the fence up year round, it’s going to take a lot of extra wear and tear. We generally notice some degree of sagging by end of snow season, so I’m sure it would get worse if left up year round. Sunlight breaks down plastic over time, so it would shorten the lifespan of your fence, too.

      I’ll vouch for the effectiveness of evergreen trees where you can plant them. Now that our treeline has grown up, we skip the fence in that area. The open field still needs the fence.

      What I would suggest is leaving the posts in place but taking the plastic fencing down in the off season. That’s what we do in our stretch that goes between the farm field and the treeline that’s through a swampy area. That way you don’t need to remark the fence each year (or pound all those posts in), but your fencing will last a lot longer to give your trees time to grow.

  3. Thanks for posting this. It was helpful. We have some gaps in the caragana trees that allow for drifting. The trees are on the outside of the fence. The drifting has grown up the fence and now our Pyrenees dogs have found freedom haha.
    There’s an old fence on the outside perimeter which is outside the windward side of the property where I was thinking of putting a snow fence. I don’t think I can use the neighbour’s field, so I was thinking of using that old fence. I wonder if it would still work? It’s pretty close to the caragana row and against them in some spots


    1. A fence will slow down the wind, fi the angles are right. If you put up a temporary fence, you can see if you like the results. Then, if it’s acceptable, you can restore the permanent fence if you prefer.

      1. Good call. I’ll try that this season, then make it more robust and permanent in the summer if it works over the winter.


  4. After reading your post here from a few years ago, I decided to try a strip of snow fence this winter to prevent the annual big drift at the end of my drive way. I have to say I’m impressed after our first snow and very strong winds this past week in central Saskatchewan. I too went with the 60 foot distance with the snow fence running parallel to my lane. I put up a 50 foot length , 6 foot posts and 4 inches off the ground. Worked like a charm. Now I’m thinking how I can put up more fence line around my property to redirect snow in other trouble spots.

  5. Hello, I have been following your comments for months and they are excellent. I have a much different problem. I cannot (and I have tried) to put a snow fence up anywhere from 20 to 35H away from my road in the mountains of CO. I have installed had to take my existing 10 ft high Wyoming snow fences and make them into barrier fences. So, I need your help?
    What angle should I put up the fences? They are currently 10-15 degrees? I have taken the porosity from 50% to solid 7 feet high with 3 feet remaining at top. Do I need to make solid all the way up? And lastly how much distance should I have from the ground to the where the fence starts?
    They are now 6 feet from my road.
    Thanks, Tony

    1. Hi Tony.

      A snow fence 6 feet from your road is going to want to stack the snow right on your road.

      I’m not sure what you mean by the angle for the fence. We put ours straight up and down (vertical, 90 degrees from horizontal), parallel to the road, perpendicular to the prevailing winds.

      Your description doesn’t say where your winds are coming from in relation to your driveway, or what your terrain is like, but snow fences don’t work in every location.

      I don’t recommend solid snow fences, for the reasons explained in the post. The gap between the fence and the ground should be high enough to accommodate expected drifting and still keep most of the fence above the drifts.

  6. Laurie you have been fantastic at answering all these questions! I wnt through them all hoping mine would be answered but didn’t see it.

    How far from the main road does the fence need to ‘end’ (for snow plows going by on the road). I have a long N/S driveway and due to an open field on the west side, the end of my driveway drifted constantly last year! I’d like to get the most bang for my buck without ending up with snow plow driver issues.

    Would I benefit from making a ‘U’ shape where I do end it? To catch snow blowing/drifting around at the end?

    Again, thank you so much for this!

    1. Hi Bonnie.

      Rules for required distance from road vary by state. If your area has ditches, I’d keep the fence on the house side of the ditch. Practically speaking, the area the snow plow needs is going to vary based on the terrain and amount of snowfall. We’ve had some winters where they had to break out the double decker blades that shove back the tops of the drifts above and beyond where the base of the drift is pushed back from the road.

      Another option, if you happen to be friends with the neighbor across the road, would be to place a fence to the north of the road across the road – but that may be of limited help because it needs to be set back far enough that it doesn’t drift onto the road.

      An extra loop of snow fence might help. It all depends on which direction those winds come from and if you can get that loop upwind of your problem spot. The only way to know for sure is to try it, and results may vary from year to year as wind patterns and snow fall shifts.

      1. Thanks Laurie,

        I’m also in Wisconsin and in the country. So, no ditch. I actually have cornfields on 3 sides of my house and just one house that’s nextdoor on east side. My house is on North side of my property so it stops drifting there. I get it terrible at the south end of my driveway though which is right by the road. It is a country road so plows come through maybe 6 times a year only so I doubt drivers will complain too loudly if my fence is too close!


        1. We have sizable ditches – it varies from area to area.

          There’s still likely a minimal setback requirement for visibility. You don’t want anything obstructing your view seeing out of the end of the driveway, or preventing others on the road from seeing you pulling out. If there are utility poles, you shouldn’t go out past the utility poles.

  7. My driveway 20ftx30ft runs west of garage. The wind in the winter is dominant out of the north. Will a snow fence be ok 35 to 40 ft. north of drive way??

  8. Hi Laurie
    So far your article has been the clearest addressing the problem of drifting snow but I still can’t figure out how to address my situation. I live in central Minnesota in the middle of farm country. My house sits on just over an acre on a corner. My house and driveway face west. My driveway is about 60 (?) feet long with a slight incline. There are fields all around me. The snow drifts terribly on the apron in front of the garage. Wind direction is from the west/north in the winter. There are small trees and bushes on the northwest corner of the property. Where should I put a snow fence?
    Thanks for your help!

    1. Unfortunately, if I’m understanding your layout correctly, your driveway and home are not well positioned to be helped by a snowfence. If the slope is towards the house, and that garage door faces west – where much of the wind comes from – the snow is naturally going to be driven right down the driveway to pile up in front of the garage. You may see some improvement by putting a fence (or more plantings) to the north of the driveway, but if the wind comes from the west and the driveway comes from the west, you can’t block one without blocking the other.

  9. My husband and I are spending our first winter in our new house, and have already come across the problem of our driveway drifting shut. We got a snow blower, which made a vast improvement, but the wind drifted it all back over again during the night. At this point, is it too late to put up fencing for this season? I was hoping we wouldn’t have too many problems, because the high-wind side is already supported by a property-line fence. Unfortunately, the wind whips around it instead, since that isn’t the purpose of the fence. I could probably figure out the best placements for the fencing using this page as a guideline (as well as some trial and error), but not sure if I’m getting it too late for this year. We’ve spent most of the weekend under blizzard-like conditions (and it’s Monday now, with a blizzard warning in effect until Tuesday at noon), so definitely could use a snow fence.

    1. Can you physically put the fence up? Around here, our ground is frozen, so it would be extremely tough to put a fence up at this time of year. If you can put the fence up, it’s not too late. Plenty of winter left.

      1. We have some pretty tall drifting, and our ground is likely frozen. We’re in southeastern Notth Dakota, so it may be too late for this year to get anything up at this point.

  10. What a great article and follow up comments. I am considering this solution to prevent snow drifts from blocking off heater and hot water ventilation pipes, which then shut down my systems. The only thing is the drifts occur between my neighbor and my house where We only have roughly a 30 foot corridor. The wind is coming from east and I was thinking of placing fence angled past the back of my house running it north/south, or would it be better closer to these ventilation pipes. The drifts get so bad that I have to go out in the middle of the night during a storm to clear out the area. I am 70 years old now and cannot see myself doing that much longer. Is there a particular mesh design that is better than others? Thank you for your insight.

    1. Without a site diagram it’s a little tough to tell exactly what’s going on, but with the tight conditions, you might want to try putting the fence directly on the ground so that the snow starts to pile up as close to the fence as possible – not near your vent pipes.

      Remember, the goal of the fence is to slow down the wind and drop the snow near the fence instead of in the area you’re trying to keep clear. So – east wind + north south fence = makes sense. Farther away from pipes – check. If snow gets so deep it is likely to bury fence on ground, mount fence with gap underneath. If snow gets less deep, ground mount will probably get the job done, and be a little easier to get done.

      From what I’ve seen, snow fence comes in standard mesh size, just a couple different colors. There’s also the wooden fence, but that’s a little heavier and bulkier. If you can draft some young muscle into helping put up the fence, so much the better. The shorter rolls are lighter, of course, so get only as much as you need. You can usually find it in 25′, 50′ and 100′ lengths.

    1. Possibly. You’d need supports at least every 8 feet, and a way to attach to your fence posts. If you’re already using t-posts an the fence is not electrified, it should be fairly straightforward to add on a snow fence seasonally. The location for one fence might not be the optimal location for the other, but if you have a situation where it is, so much the better.