Weighing the Costs of Residential Snow Removal
Homeowners, renters, and landlords alike must deal each winter with the costs and inconveniences associated with snow and ice removal. Safety and health concerns, labor requirements, maintenance needs, and immediate expenses must all be weighed and balanced to find the optimal solutions. Here’s a brief look at some of the options for residential snow removal, and factors that can help you decide which is right for you.
For most homeowners, it is not worthwhile to purchase a snow plow attachment for their pickup or SUV. After all, these tools can cost from $500 to $1,000 (approximately $670 - $1,340 CAD) or more, and driving with a plow attached all winter long or constantly changing it on and off is more hassle than many can bear. Using a plow to clear off your driveway also requires some expertise- you have to know how many inches to take off at a time, how to properly stack snow, and how to scrape close without damaging the pavement.
For some with long, country driveways, or for those who possess the requisite skills, plow purchase may be the answer, but the rest of us would need to consider hiring a professional plower. The average price per driveway is about $40 (approximately $53.62 CAD), which can become a significant expense in a heavy-snow winter. Finally, there is also the possibility of having to wait snowed-in while busy snow plow operators work on other customers' driveways.
Snow blowers are a more practical option for many, but they still generally cost between $200 and $600 (approximately $268 - $804 CAD). Operating costs must also be considered since blowers will be gas-powered, electric and corded, or run on a battery that must be recharged. Parts and maintenance will be an annual consumer of time and money, and those with health conditions should be wary of venturing outside when hypothermia is a major risk.
The most powerful snow blowers can remove up to 10 inches (25.4 cm) of snow, and these labor-saving devices will reduce heart stress as compared to shoveling. Only at the edges of a driveway, however, will they be able to throw the snow far enough that you won't have to move the same snow multiple times. If you hire a professional to snow blow your driveway and sidewalk for you, the average cost is about $50 (approximately $67 CAD).
Shoveling and Salting
The most traditional, and most arduous, solution is to shovel and lay down rock salt. While these methods are cheapest in dollars and cents, it can have far more severe costs long term. Thousands of people are hospitalized, seriously injured, or even become fatalities every year because of snow-shoveling, so you will want to exercise great caution. Dress warm in layers, take frequent breaks, warm up before heading outside, and don't use an excessively large shovel that will make your heart work hard.
Not melting ice and removing snow will create a slipping hazard, but using rock salt will lead to extra cracks in your pavement due to melting and refreezing. As water seeps into porous concrete or asphalt surfaces and freezes, it expands and chips off small fragments of your valuable property. Calcium chloride is less harsh on pavements than rock salt, but that too will cause deterioration.
For most homeowners who’d have to demolish an existing driveway to install a heating system, the cost will be around $14-$24 per square foot (approximately $202 - $346 CAD per square meter) . So a 20 x 50 ft. (6 x 15 m) driveway can end up costing over $15,000 (approximately $20,110 CAD) for a mechanism that is only helpful in the winter. However, it will also be very convenient and extend the life of your pavement by eliminating the need for salt.
If you want an automated solution that won’t break the bank, you can opt for snow-melting mats that keep footpaths consistently clear and dry, and are considerably more affordable than an underground system; mats only cost approximately $0.60 to $0.90 (approximately $0.80 - $1.21 CAD) per snow day to operate.
These high-tech options can greatly improve safety and save on long-term maintenance.
Weighing the financial and other costs of various winter snow removal options is sometimes complex. Each homeowner must carefully determine which methods will work best for their home’s needs and their family’s budget.