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Everything You Need to Know About Heated Driveways

Everything You Need to Know About Heated Driveways

Everything You Need to Know About Heated Driveways

As winter approaches, at least in the more northerly portions of the U.S., many homeowners find themselves longing for a way to make snow and ice removal fast and easy, and heated driveway systems immediately come to mind.

Heated driveways are easiest to install when pouring a new concrete or asphalt driveway and often require you to replace your existing driveway. However, in some instances, the electric coil type can be retrofitted in, especially if you only intend to heat a limited portion of the pavement.

It is also typically best to install a heated driveway in the summertime, but as long as you are 30 days or more from winter, the newly poured pavement should have enough time to properly set.

The Two Types of Heated Driveways


There are two types of heated driveways, either of which can effectively melt snow and ice on your pavement, but each of which has its own specific advantages.

Hydronic systems employ PVC tubing, through which a heated water-antifreeze liquid circulates to heat the pavement above. A special boiler must be bought along with the tubing and the concrete work, which makes hydronic systems relatively expensive to install. However, they are cheaper to run than electric coil systems, despite having to be left on at all times in cold weather (regardless if snow is present) to prevent the tubes from freezing/cracking.

Radiant heat (electric coil) heated driveways operate by means of metal coils/panels that are installed in the concrete or asphalt pavement, wired, and plugged into a nearby outlet. The electric cables will be spaced at least two inches (5 cm) apart and buried a few inches below the pavement's surface. A special sensor will be installed to activate the cables through a control panel. You will have the ability to automate operation based on specified hours/days or based on a chosen temperature level. But you will still be able to manually override any programming when necessary.

Benefits of Heating Your Driveway


As compared to shoveling, using a snow blower, hiring a professional snowplow service, or using rock salt or another deicer, heated driveways offer the homeowner many important benefits, including these:

  • Virtually effortless operation. Everything can be run from a simple switch, and automation can make even flipping the switch unnecessary. There is also normally little to no maintenance needed, and you can enjoy the benefits for many years.

  • Improved safety. Whenever your heated driveway is turned on, snow melt-off will not refreeze on its surface. That means no more black ice. And, as you will not need to shovel snow anymore, the dangers of slipping and falling, getting frostbit, or being affected by hypothermia while doing so are eliminated.

  • Less pavement damage. Not having to use rock salt or other chemicals on your driveway will extend its lifespan by years and prevent repairs/resurfacing from being necessary as soon. This will save you money and keep your driveway in top shape for longer.

  • Save time and money. Besides preventing pavement damage, you will eliminate expenses such as maintaining a snowplow, paying for shoveling/plowing services, and buying bag after bag of (sometimes expensive) deicers. You also free up your time to do other things than shovel and sprinkle salt on your driveway.

  • Environmentally friendly. Deicers harm vegetation along your driveway's edge and can also get into local waterways and cause algae bloom. And animals, including cats, and dogs, can be negatively affected by consuming or walking on salt/salt-water slush. Heated driveways eliminate these concerns.

  • Increase your property value. Since heated driveways are so popular these days, they are a major selling point and a significant boost to the resale value of your home.

An Alternative Way to Heat Your Driveway


While heated driveways are extremely convenient and have many benefits, they are also quite expensive. If you have to tear up your existing driveway, it could easily cost $5,000 to $10,000 (approximately $6,720 to $13,440 CAD) to put one in. If you are already installing a new driveway anyway or if your old one is nearing its end, then it makes sense to put in a heated driveway, but few will want to tear up a newer driveway in perfectly good condition.

One solution would be to use driveway-grade snow-melting mats. Heating elements are sandwiched between two layers of slip-resistant rubber, and you plug the mats in to an ordinary outlet. You can automate them or turn them on/off manually, much like an electric coil heated driveway. The difference is the cost and the ability to simply put them into storage when winter is over.

Heated driveways, whether hydronic or electric coil, are an excellent way to keep the snow/ice off your driveway. For those averse to the high cost of heated driveways, however, snow-melting mats are a viable alternative.

Garage floor damaged by de-icers? Here's how to repair it

Garage floor damaged by de-icers? Here's how to repair it

Garage floor damaged by de-icers? Here's how to repair it

If you live in a snowy climate and routinely park your vehicle inside a garage, you know that winter weather impacts more than just your driveway and outdoor pavements. It also affects garage flooring by leaving salt stains and other marks on the concrete surface.

Below, we take a look at how de-icing agents get inside your garage and do damage to the concrete flooring, how to repair the damage already done, and how to prevent the damage from recurring.

How de-icers damage your garage floor

Calcium chloride, rock salt, and other municipal de-icers make it possible to drive on a highway in a matter of hours, instead of days, after a major winter storm. While a great convenience, these “road salts” also have their ill effects, however. As you drive, they attach themselves to the treads of your tires, splatter up and hit the “vulnerable underbelly” of your vehicle, and remain there until drying enough to fall back down.

Thus, you inadvertently bring in de-icing salts with you when your park your car inside your garage. These salts contact your garage floor and seep into (or get rubbed in by tires and feet) the porous surface of your concrete.

Once inside, salts draw extra moisture into the concrete and saturate it. When the temperature in your garage drops too low, this moisture freezes despite the presence of de-icers, creating upward and inward pressure as the freezing water expands and leading to flaking and even cracking of the garage floor. The more the temperature fluctuates during the winter, the more frequently this freeze-thaw cycle will take place.

In addition, when the moisture trapped inside your garage floor finally evaporates, it can leave unsightly salt stains behind.

How to repair your garage floor after de-icer damage

To remove any salt stains left behind (normally in the spring when the moisture has evaporated from the concrete), first, thoroughly clean the garage floor. This will expose all areas that need attention. Then, mix a cup of vinegar and a little dish soap into a gallon of water, and wet and scrub each stain with a tough-bristled brush. Afterward, take up the water puddle with a dry mop or a wet-vac. Finally, rinse away the soapy residue with a little water.

Be aware that if you rinse with water before using the wet-vac or mop, or if you power-wash, the de-icing salts may get pushed back into the pores of the concrete and continue to give you trouble later on.

You can also buy ready-made products to clean salt stains rather than using the home-made vinegar-water-soap solution. And for especially difficult stains, you may need to use a weak hydrochloric acid solution (1 unit acid per 20 units water).

Finally, you can repair flaking with a polymer-modified cement, which will create a stronger bond and a cleaner finish than can ordinary cement patch. For cracks, look for an epoxy, poly-urea, or poly-urethane-based crack filler to ensure it can be sanded down flush to the floor, painted, and will not shrink (water or latex based crack fillers cannot be sanded, cannot be painted, and will ultimately shrink and re-expose the crack).

How to prevent garage floor damage from recurring

There are a number of ways to help prevent de-icers from getting on and into your garage floor and damaging it. First, you can apply a "penetration sealer" that will keep any salts that get on your floor from seeping inside. A topical sealer across the whole garage floor and the use of ordinary floor mats can also help.

And, simple steps like cleaning your garage floor immediately after a storm or after driving out on a salty road, and rinsing off your tires using a water hose before entering the garage, will also help.

However, you could also use a driveway-grade snow-melt mat inside your garage and/or out on your driveway to keep snow/ice melted without resorting to the use of de-icing salts. It is a shame to think that a portion of the salt crystals damaging your floor came not from the highway but from your driveway (and that you put them there yourself to melt the snow and ice!) You might also eliminate use of snow-melting salts by installing a heated driveway, but that would be a more expensive route to go and could require you to tear up your existing pavement.

After de-icers have already damaged your concrete garage floor, you can learn how to make the necessary repairs and save the floor, but to prevent the damage from returning every winter, you need to give you floor extra protection and minimize use of de-icers at home in your driveway.

4 Tips for Clearing a Concrete Driveway Full of Snow

4 Tips for Clearing a Concrete Driveway Full of Snow

4 Tips for Clearing a Concrete Driveway Full of Snow

Got snow? Have a concrete driveway that needs to be cleared so you can back your car out and go to work (after all, we can't all hibernate)? We feel your pain.

One of the major challenge homeowners face over the winter is how to remove snow from their property, and most importantly, their driveways. Posing short-term and long-term problems for you, your car, and your driveway, snow can ensure that a walk of just a few steps becomes a treacherous journey and that attempts to navigate the obstacle feel like scaling Mount Everest.

Here are several tips on how to clear your snowy and icy concrete driveway:

Chemicals

The concept behind de-icing chemicals is simple: The agents work to both decrease the freezing temperature of the snow/ice, while also ensuring that the bond created between the snow/ice and the concrete driveway is broken. This ensures that the snow/ice is easily melted in its place, without any further human intervention.

Any number of chemicals can perform this job, such as sodium magnesium chloride, as well as rock salt and calcium chloride. Scientists are split as to the long-term effects of using chemicals in such a way, with some suggesting that the long-term effects to wildlife and vegetation of using such substances is significant, while others recording no such results. Nonetheless, manufacturers have invented several agents that can be used in conjunction with the chemicals mentioned above which have been proven to have less harmful effects.

One should also note that the chemicals will have a negative effect on the driveway itself, often attacking the surface of the driveway. Care should be taken as to ascertain which chemical is the most appropriate given the temperature and side-effects to your plant life and concrete surface (most agree that calcium magnesium acetate is best for concrete). You will also require spray equipment to ensure that the substance is applied correctly. (See this comprehensive guide [SGP1] for choosing the right chemicals based on outdoor temperatures and your driveway material.)

Heavy salts are not recommended for use on concrete driveways due to their corrosive nature. For adding traction and reducing slipperiness, consider using kitty litter, mulch, or table salt.

Shoveling

Chemicals aren't for everyone, and they're certainly not the most eco-friendly option. If you're one who doesn't mind spending loads of time with the cold winter air on your face, and if there's not TOO much snow, then shoveling may be a good snow removal solution for you.  

For optimal driveway health, be sure to use a plastic shovel, as those with a metal head could well end up damaging the driveway.

Snow Blower

Not only is this method effective and quicker than shoveling, but you also get to have exorbitant amounts of fun with your fancy new gadget. The drawback of this option is that you may still need to shovel some of the snow, as the parts close to the driveway may have already bonded with the concrete. Another drawback: snow blowers aren't cheap and they're certainly not small – you'll need to have a place to store your snow blower (and you may need to shovel your way to get there!), and you'll need to make sure you have fresh gasoline on-hand. Gas that's less than one month old is ideal.

Radiant Heat/Heated Driveways

Here's an incredibly effective option for those non-hardy people who don’t wish to face the snow head-on. Installing in ground radiant heat, your heated driveway will allow you to watch the snow disappear as it falls from the warmth and comfort of your living room. Simply flick a switch and watch the snow melt before your eyes, as your heated driveway gets into action.

This method is generally the most expensive, so would only be of use should your home be situated in an area likely to be affected on a regular basis by snow.

A Word About Heated Mats:

Unlike the heated driveway, which requires an expensive installation process, heated mats are a far cheaper option. Still utilizing electricity, you simply need to place the mats on your concrete driveway before the snow arrives.

The mats use water-tight connector cables, which can be interconnected to make a continuous walkway from your house to the street or to your driveway – all plugged into a power source with a single plug. For continuous coverage, you can use Residential Snow-Melting Walkway Mats with the Residential Snow-Melting Stair Mat with the Industrial Walkway Snow-Melting Mat (residential walkway and stair mats are for foot traffic only, while industrial walkway mats may be driven upon).

These mats cost a fraction of what in ground radiant heating cost, and require zero effort compared to the options above. Turn the mats on when a snowstorm begins, and then turn them off when the snowfall has stopped. There's also an option to use an energy efficient snow sensor or thermostat that will automatically turn on and off the mats, thereby conserving your electricity and further reducing your physical efforts You can roll up the mats and store them during non-snowy seasons. To learn more about the mats download our Ultimate Guide to Snow Melting Mats here.