Snow Removal Methods – Shovel or Salt?

Some people may love a fresh layer of new snow, with its serene covering of winter’s dormant lawns, coating everything in a beautiful and fluffy white blanket. But to others, the freshly fallen snow means another chore that needs to be done, the removal of the snow from driveways and sidewalks. When snow and ice removal is not done quickly or properly, it can lead to a hazardous slip-and-fall situation, especially if grandma comes to visit. The snow itself, along with its associated removal, can potentially damage asphalt, concrete, pavers, and other hard surfaces.

The old-fashioned method of hand shoveling is sometimes the fastest and most efficient. It’s easiest when there is less than 3 inches of freshly fallen, non-compacted snow. Show that is hard compacted, really thick, or heavy can make hand shoveling a strenuous chore. Check weather forecasts and plan accordingly. Larger storms may require several trips outside to shovel during the course of the storm. A snow blower makes this task much easier, but when improperly adjusted, may damage asphalt and concrete.

A single stage snow blower uses a rubber paddle that throws the snow. This is easy on hard asphalt and concrete surfaces, but may be hazardous if used on gravel, because it will grab and throw rocks with, and further than, the snow. A two-stage blower has one auger that chops up the snow and a second one that throws the snow out the chute. This can chew through thicker and wetter snow, making the task much easier. Typically, there are height adjustments that make this very gentle to asphalt and concrete and also allow it to be used on gravel, if done with caution.

Large areas will need to be plowed with a blade on a truck or tractor, generally through a contracted company. If done carefully, this is an easy and safe method. However, if it is done improperly or haphazardly, it can be damaging to your property, especially the asphalt. Ensure the company you hire is experienced and competent, and never allow the use of tire chains on asphalt driveways.

Chemical snow treatments are popular, but are typically not effective if the snow is not removed first, since they will melt through the snow and go to work on the underlying ice, leaving a layer of snow on top of melted ice. Sodium chloride, or rock salt, is the cheapest and most common deicer used. While this is completely safe for asphalt, it does lead to deteriorated concrete. Not only do the salts break down the concrete, they seep into the concrete, corroding the rebar and other reinforcements. The salts may also runoff onto the soil in the adjacent areas, potentially causing damage to plants. When pets walk on the salted surfaces, it sticks to their paws and may cause irritation and digestion problems when licked off. Non-chloride deicers may be less hazardous to pets and safer on the concrete and metal.

The alternative to removing snow is to simply leave it in place. To overcome the slippery hazards, sprinkling biodegradable cat litter or sand on the surface of the snow or ice can increase traction. Spread out in the right amounts, it can make even the slipperiest snow easier to walk on. If you opt for this method, keep in mind that your concrete and asphalt may be damaged by water pooling from the melting snow.