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Got Gravel? Removing Snow from a Gravel Driveway

Got Gravel? Removing Snow from a Gravel Driveway

Got Gravel? Removing Snow from a Gravel Driveway

Snow removal can take over your winter – it is time-consuming, and can be back-breaking work, depending on the storm. And when your driveway is made of gravel, you must take extra care to make sure that your shoveling doesn’t destroy your driveway – driveway repair can be costly!

The Challenge

The problem is that you want your driveway clear of snow, but you don’t want to clear away your gravel in the process of removing the snow. So the question is: is there a way to get rid of the snow without harming your driveway? In fact, there are several ways.

The Usual Solutions

You can remove snow from gravel driveways in a variety of ways that go far beyond your trusty shovel. Consider the following approaches:

1. A leaf blower or snow blower. A regular leaf blower enables you to remove light, dry snow very easily, which means that there will be storms where a leaf blower is the only tool you’ll need to clear your driveway. For heavier storms, you'll need to get out your snow blower, though this isn't an option for most people who rule these out due to their size, price, and need for fresh gasoline.

2. A regular shovel. When it comes to wet snow, you can’t just blow it away, but with a regular (not snow) shovel, you’ll be able to remove the snow in layers. Stop when you have about an inch of snow left, so that bottom layer of gravel remains where it belongs, on the ground.

3. A rake. A sturdy garden rake can do more than you realize when it comes to driveway snow removal. When the head of a rake is heavy and the tines of a rake are about an inch apart, the rake is an effective tool for breaking up dense, compacted snow. You might take a little gravel with you, but nearly all of it should remain in place on the driveway.

4. Salt. The idea of using salt is to melt as much of the snow that other methods haven’t removed, preventing the formation of ice, and leaving all gravel intact.

Melting Away the Snow for Gravel Driveways

As we said, there are the usual snow removal methods…and then there’s the new, innovative idea of melting the snow before it has a chance to accumulate.

1. Radiant flooring. One way to eliminate the need for snow removal is inground radiant heating, or heated driveways, where the snow basically meets a warm floor and melts. The downside? The cost! Even though the one-time installation is both logical and efficient, underground heating remains a luxury at $14 - $24 per square foot (approximately $201.50 - $345.43 CAD per square meter), at least for the time being. But it holds widespread appeal, especially for those who have not yet laid their gravel driveways (or, more popularly, their concrete driveways).

2. Snow-melting mats. There is also a more affordable option of melting snow before it accumulates, and that's with the help of heated mats. Industrial mats can be laid directly on your gravel driveway for safe and snow- and ice-free driving (the residential mats are meant only for walkways – not for driving on).

How Do Snow-Melting Mats Work?

These mats are made of customized thermoplastic material and generate enough heat to melt snow at a rate of 2 inches (5 cm) per hour (in a substantial snowstorm, it is not uncommon to see snow fall at a rate of 1 - 2 inches/hour (2.54 - 5 cm/hour); when snowfall reaches 3 - 5 inches/hour (7.62 - 12.7 cm/hour), the storm is unusually strong or fast). Because you leave the mats outside all day, every day of the winter, your walkways remain clear throughout the winter.

The mats use water-tight connector cables, which means that they can be interconnected to make a continuous walkway around your house and use only one plug.

The driveway mats cost a fraction of the cost of inground radiant heating and entail even less exertion when compared to shoveling or any of the other methods above. Turn the mats on when a storm begins, and turn it off when snowfall has stopped. Alternatively, an energy efficient thermostat or snow sensor conserves both your electricity and your physical efforts by turning on the mats automatically. Roll up the mats and store them during non-snowy seasons.

Shoveling snow can truly become a thing of the past. Look into the possibilities of Snow-Melting Mats for your driveway today.

What are Alternatives to Rock Salt for Melting Ice on Driveways?

What are Alternatives to Rock Salt for Melting Ice on Driveways?

What are Alternatives to Rock Salt for Melting Ice on Driveways?

Rock salt's destructive tendencies on driveway pavements, especially on concrete but on asphalt as well, are well known. It is not surprising, then, that many homeowners are now seeking alternatives to rock salt when it comes to deicing their driveways and outdoor foot-traffic pavements.

Below, we offer 6 chemical deicers that can take the place of rock salt and 4 non-chemical deicing solutions to consider. These options are not all mutually exclusive, so feel free to mix and match and find the approach that works best for you.

Chemical Deicing Alternatives to Rock Salt

Other chemical deicing agents have become more and more common at local home improvement stores and other suppliers, and there are a wide range of products to choose from. These deicers are generally superior to rock salt, but not necessarily in every respect, and they will cost more (whether a little more or a lot).

Here are six of the more commonly available "alternative" deicers on the market:

  • Calcium chloride: This popular deicer will melt ice down to -26º F (-32.22° C) instead of the 15º F (-9.44° C) to 20º F (-6.67° C) range in which rock salt is effective. As it absorbs water quite easily, it must be stored plastic/metal containers sealed with lids. It will not hurt plant life like rock salt can, but it may leave a bit of a residue on your driveway after melting the ice. Because it releases a lot of heat when it contacts ice, calcium chloride will also melt ice faster than rock salt.

  • Magnesium chloride: Whether in liquid or granule form, magnesium chloride is much like calcium chloride but only effective down to 1º F (-17.22° C) and not quite as fast at melting ice. It is still superior to rock salt, however.

  • Potassium chloride: Potassium chloride only works down to 25º F (-3.89° C) but is considered very "environmentally friendly," not hurting plants nor local water supplies. It can be used effectively when outdoor temperatures are not extreme.

  • Urea: Urea, like potassium chloride, only works down to 25º F (-3.89° C). It is one of the most plant-friendly deicers available, but it can cause algae bloom in ponds if run-off water reaches them.

  • Liquid potassium-acetate: This product is not best for melting ice but is effective at preventing ice formation to begin with when applied to your driveway just before a storm strikes. It is biodegradable and environmentally safe.

  • Calcium-magnesium acetate: Like the anti-icing agent just above, calcium-magnesium acetate is good at preventing ice formation. It has very small granules, making it able to cover larger areas with smaller quantities and still work effectively.

Note that alternative deicers will generally accelerate freeze-thaw cycle damage to pavements just like rock salt, though not usually to as high a degree.

Non-chemical Deicing Alternatives to Rock Salt

While it may not always be practical to completely eliminate chemical deicers, you can at least minimize their use and thus the damage they cause. Here are 4 non-chemical deicing methods to help save your pavements and landscaping:

  • Mechanical methods: Removing snow early in the morning and soon after it first falls by shovel, snow blower, or snow plow is best practice. If you have heart or other medical conditions, it is safer to hire out the work, but mechanical removal is 100% safe for your pavement as long as you are careful not to scrape or ding it with any sharp edges.

  • Traction-boosting agents: Another strategy is to lay down sand or sawdust to boost traction on your driveway. This will not melt any ice, but you can mix in "just enough" deicer if necessary. Do not use ashes or kitty litter, however, or your driveway will get rather messy.

  • Heated driveways: Hydronic and electric-coil heated driveway systems are very expensive to install, but once in place, they are extremely convenient and melt away snow/ice effortlessly. This option will likely involve tearing up your existing driveway, however.

  • Snow melting mats: Not only are there effective snow-melt mats for walkways and entryways, but you can also use heated snow melting mats that are specifically designed for driveways. The result is much like having a "portable" heated driveway for a much lower cost.

Rock salt is often resorted to because it seems like the only viable way to melt ice and snow from home driveways, but this is simply not the case. There are many other chemical and non-chemical deicing methods that work well and are cost-efficient. Each homeowner, however, will need to weigh the benefits, drawbacks, and cost of each method to form an overall ice-melting strategy that works best for him or her.

6 Surprising Ways Snow-Shoveling Can Damage Your Property

6 Surprising Ways Snow-Shoveling Can Damage Your Property

6 Surprising Ways Snow-Shoveling Can Damage Your Property

Is snow accumulating on your property? If so, it’s time to get out there and start shoveling.

Allowing snow to pile up on or around your home can cause an array of problems. These might include a deck warping and splintering due to melting snow, potential roof damage due to water leaking under shingles or, worse, a collapsed roof. And, of course, there are slip-and-fall safety concerns associated with ice buildup under accumulating snow drifts.

Breaking out the snow shovel may seem like the natural solution to these types of problems. However, shoveling can cause damage to your property. Here are six things to consider before you get too far into the next snow-shoveling session.

Six areas of your property that can be damaged by snow-shoveling

 The Deck

Winter can wreak havoc on a deck and, as a homeowner, you may be concerned with issues such as popped nails, graying due to lack of proper sealant, or rotting boards. However, getting out the shovel may not be the best solution for preventing these.

Shoveling snow may actually damage your deck by leaving gouges or scrapes that, come spring, end up costing money to repair. Wood is also particularly vulnerable to damage from shoveling when it’s been softened by melting snow.

The Driveway

Driveways are the most common priority for shoveling when the snow begins to fall. But shoveling your driveway with any kind of force and a metal shovel (the type most commonly used) can scratch the surface of an asphalt or concrete driveway. With each additional snowfall and shoveling session, your driveway surface can potentially become more and more damaged, both in integrity and appearance.

The Roof

According to the City of Boston, one cubic foot of dry snow weighs about seven pounds while wet snow can weigh anywhere between 12 and 18 pounds. The majority of roofs are made to withstand this added weight, however, the risk of structural damage still remains, particularly with large, flat roofs.

While it may seem like a good idea to avoid the massive headache a collapsed roof could cause, getting up there and shoveling could cause serious damage to shingles or other roofing materials. A better alternative is to “shave” the snow down to a couple of inches and then use a snow rake to remove snow and ice from the eaves and as far up the roof as you can reach with the rake.

Landscape

Snow accumulation on the lawn is inevitable during the snow season. But, letting it pile up can stress the grass hidden beneath and could result in a fungal infection. Keeping your landscape free from excessive snow piles will give it a better chance of flourishing once spring returns.

However as with shoveling the driveway, shoveling snow around your property can become a “brute force” activity. It’s easy to accidentally remove chunks of sod or damage plants while you’re focused on the task of keeping snow drifts under control.

Walkways

When it comes to safe and easy access to your home during the winter months, walkways must remain clear of snow and ice. However, like driveways, walkways can become cracked, scraped or gouged as a result of shoveling—even those made of brick, pavers or decorative stamped concrete.

Irrigation and Wiring

Lastly, many homeowners make their spring and summer watering easier by using drip irrigation, which places drip pipes on or below the surface of the soil. Likewise, wiring for lighting around decks, patios, and yards is buried but over time can move closer to the ground surface. When your property is blanketed in snow it’s often difficult to remember exactly where everything is.

It doesn’t take much force with the blade of a snow shovel to sever irrigation lines or wiring. In a few short seconds, an entirely new spring project can be created by a misplaced shovel blade or by accidentally shoveling too deeply.

Alternatives to Shoveling

There are alternatives to shoveling snow, thus avoiding potential damage to your home and property. Some of these include:

Whether it’s shoveling or one of the alternative approaches to snow and ice removal, it’s important to choose the method that’s right for you. Your home, property, and wallet will thank you.