Busting Ice Before it Busts You

With Michigan firmly clutched in winter’s icy grip, it’s a good time to look at some tips on how to help keep your walkways, driveway, eaves, and roof as ice-free as possible.

For driveways and walkways, rock salt has long been the go-to product for many. It is great for melting ice, but scientific studies have linked it to environmental damage, and it can be harmful to both animals and vegetation. Rock salt has been shown to cause detrimental effects to lakes and rivers and to kill fish and amphibians, damaging the well-balanced ecosystem that we here in Michigan so greatly treasure. So what to do?

Start by keeping your paved surfaces as snow-free as possible. Snow compressed by driving or walking on it will almost immediately become ice, so shovel, plow, or snow blow frequently.  Once you have a clean surface, a thinly spread layer of sand is very effective at providing traction for both tires and boots. It is environmentally friendly and cleans up fairly easily in the spring.

Another alternative for providing traction is to keep a supply of gravel on hand to be thrown on walkways and driveways after they are shoveled. This can also be mixed with sand if desired. On the days when other methods aren’t enough, you can use a de-icing product made from calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, or potassium chloride. These aren’t as effective at sub-zero temperatures, and they are a bit more expensive than salt, but they are safer for both the environment and pets.

It is equally important to keep your roof and gutters ice-free. The weight of ice buildup has caused countless roof collapses over the years. It also acts as a dam, forcing water to find another way to escape, usually through your roof and then ceiling.

There are a couple of options to deal with snow and ice buildup on your roof.  You can purchase a long-handled roof rake for starters, and use it frequently to keep snow from accumulating. Though a bit awkward, roof rakes are still easy to use and effectively deter ice formation.

If you get ice buildup in your gutters, a non-chloride-based ice melting solution such as calcium magnesium acetate works well and can also be used without fear of damaging your shingles. An even better option is to install heating cables specifically made for roof and gutter applications. They do not add much to your electric bill and are guaranteed to keep the water flowing through your gutters, preventing ice dams from ever forming. They are fairly easy to install, but a roofing specialist is recommended.

The best way to deal with problematic ice is to take these few simple steps to prevent it from forming in the first place.