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How to 'Keep up with the Joneses' This Winter

How to 'Keep up with the Joneses' This Winter

How to 'Keep up with the Joneses' This Winter

When your neighbors find ways to manage winter weather that you might not have thought of, it could be more than a case of envy or curiosity that makes you take note. “Keeping up with the Joneses” when it comes to improvements that make your home safer in winter not only can protect your family from slip-and-fall accidents, they also have the added benefits of increasing wintertime curb appeal and saving you money.

Below are five ways you can make your home's winter-weather strategy something even the Joneses will envy:

1. Install a heated driveway

Snow and ice accumulation on your driveway may be an eyesore, but it is certainly dangerous.  An underground hydronic system that circulates antifreeze and water through sub-pavement PVC piping will keep all or strategic parts of your driveway snow/ice free without the need to shovel. However, the downside is the price: heated driveways are expensive to install.

2. Lay down snow melting mats

If you like the idea of a heated driveway but aren’t into the price, then you can get the same results for much less money by putting down driveway-grade snow-melt mats. There are also snow-melting mats designed for sidewalks, walkways, entry areas, and outdoor staircases. You can even put these slip-resistant, rubber mats down on decks and patios to create a warm, safe, and clear path to your hot tub!

3. Install an outdoor hot tub

Speaking of hot tubs, is there anything better than hot-tubbing in winter? The mix of cold, crisp air and hot, bubbling water (and maybe even some falling snow) makes for a magical experience. The secret to enjoying your hot tub in winter is to keep the perimeter of the tub — and a path to and from your house — clear of snow and ice. This is where the snow-melting mats are helpful.  They not only keep the area clear, but they also prevent the formation of black ice.   

4. Get your roof 100% ready for the winter

Winter is the hardest time of year for your roof. To prevent leaks and blow-offs, in autumn make sure your roof is in tip-top shape. Is there flashing that needs to be nailed down?  Are there any cracks in the tar around the chimney or in the caulk around roof vents?  Have any shingles fallen off or become loose?  If the shingles are old and will soon need replacing, why wait?  It makes sense to do it before winter hits. 

5. Prepare landscaping for winter

Come spring, your home's curb appeal will be greatly enhanced if you prepare your landscaping for the winter. Here are some tips:

  • Never plant new grass late in the fall since it may not acclimate well when cold weather arrives
  • Never use rock salt at the edges of pavement where flowers and plants are located since it can cause them to defoliate and even die
  • Put plenty of mulch around the base of trees and shrubs to help insulate their roots
  • Be sure your yard drains well so that snow melt-off won’t freeze over your sod and lead to "winter kill"

Safety is the point of these suggestions. However, a good winter strategy may not only reduce the risk of accidents and even save you money, but you just might give those Joneses an idea or two they hadn’t thought of.


Should You Put Ice Melt Down Before Snow?

Should You Put Ice Melt Down Before Snow?

Should You Put Ice Melt Down Before Snow?Most of us want to be as preventive as possible when it comes to managing snow and ice in order that we can maintain the safety of our homes and enjoy the winter months with little hassle. Ice melt is a popular choice for managing snow and ice and, if used properly, has its benefits. However, using it properly is key.

While there are a lot of products out there on the market, misconceptions abound about how to use ice melt optimally. Understanding what it is and how it works will help clarify how to use ice melt effectively for melting snow and preventing ice buildup.

What is Ice Melt and How Does It Work?

It’s commonly assumed that the term “ice melt” refers to anything that melts snow and ice, including rock salt. In actuality, ice melt refers to its own classification of compounds, separate from rock salt.

Rock salt has long been one of the more commonly used materials for melting snow and ice. It works by forming a brine that has a lower freezing point than water, causing ice to melt and remaining effective down to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. However, there are some definite drawbacks to its use, such as damage to concrete and plants, as well as risks to pets.

Ice melt, on the other hand, comes in a variety of compositions mainly consisting of combinations of calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, and sodium chloride, although urea is also commonly used.

While each of these compounds behaves a bit differently, in general, ice melt also works by lowering the freezing temperature of water. The process of attracting water and forming a brine produces heat that in turn melts snow. As it melts, the concentration of the ice melt and water solution is lowered and the freezing point of water begins to increase again until more ice melt is applied.

Depending on the product used, ice melt typically works faster and at lower temperatures, even down to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit as in the case of calcium chloride. It’s also advertised as being safer to use around pets, plants and water sources although it can still have a corrosive effect on underlying surfaces.

Should You Put Ice Melt Down Before Snow?

Back to our original question: Should ice melt be applied before snow? The answer is yes, and it should also be applied during storms to maintain its snow- melting efficiency. Applying ice melt prior to a storm will cause brine to form when snowfall starts and will prevent ice from bonding to surfaces. While it may not completely melt all the snow that falls, applying ice melt prior to snowfall will simplify ice and snow removal.

Dispersing ice melt during snowfall will prevent snow from becoming hard-packed and resulting in dangerous icy layers. In general, after about an inch of snow has fallen it should be shoveled and ice melt should be reapplied.

Tips for Using Ice Melt Effectively

In order to use ice melt optimally, consider the following tips:
  1. Follow the product directions regarding the amount of ice melt to disperse. Using too little won’t be effective, but there is also definitely such a thing as “too much.” Keep in mind that a small amount of these products usually goes a long way.
  2. Use a “push” type or hand-held spreader for dispersing ice melt evenly and consistently. Avoid letting it pile up.
  3. Shovel away slush and water and apply more ice melt to icy areas as needed.
  4. Combine your ice melt with sand for extra traction. Some products already contain some form of grit or sand so this may not be necessary, but it is helpful for preventing slip-and-fall accidents. It also prevents ice melt from coming in contact with underlying surfaces, thus cutting down on corrosiveness.
  5. Scoop up and remove ice melt to prevent harm from runoff to landscaping and plants, even if it claims to be “environmentally safe.” Brine can be harmful to plants.  

When it comes to considering when and how to use ice melt, it’s a good idea to think about your goal. If it is to prevent ice, and you can stay ahead of the weather, don’t mind dispersing ice melt both before and during a storm, and can manage the potential damage to surfaces and plants, then ice melt may be a viable option for you.

If your goal is to keep any snow from accumulating and to avoid as much time and effort as possible setting up and maintaining your snow-management program, you’ll want to consider a much easier, more efficient option such as heated snow melting mats. With this option, you can also eliminate any concern of damage to your driveway, walkways, and stairs; risk to your pets or landscaping; and post-storm cleanup.