When the Snow has to Go

When the weather outside is frightful –– and the fire is so delightful! –– it may be tempting to stay indoors and let it snow. Unfortunately, that accumulating snow is not going to shovel itself. In many cities, snow removal from sidewalks isn’t just a suggestion. It is a law that can be punishable with hefty fines if the job is left undone.

There are many products to make this winter task a little easier, from snow blowers to shovels to chemical deicers. Each job may require a unique tool to clear the sidewalks, paths, driveways and decks. 

Power Up

Snow blowers can make fast work of clearing a snowy driveway. Today, buyers have many options: gas-powered and electric, single stage and two stage, steel augers or throwers. A homeowner will have to assess their needs before choosing a product. Do they have a sloped driveway? A self-propelled snow blower may help to get up that hill. Is the driveway long? A gas-powered option may be the answer. Will they be clearing the drive late at night or early in the morning? A quiet electric blower will remove the snow without waking the neighborhood.

“Electric snow blowers are becoming increasingly popular for a number of reasons, primarily because many of our customers are trying to make environmentally beneficial decisions,” Stephen Junga of Junga Ace Hardware in Saline, says. “Another reason is that many homeowners are tired of paying for gas and having to worry about everything that could go wrong with the engine of a gas unit. The benefit of a battery-powered unit is that all you need to worry about is keeping the battery charged. Homeowners also appreciate the features offered with a battery unit of less noise pollution, LED headlights and, to be honest, they just look slick.”

During heavy snowfalls, Junga recommends making several passes rather than waiting and trying to remove deep snow all at once.

“If a prolonged, aggressive snowfall occurs, we advise customers to remove snow while the depth is manageable,” Junga says.

All Hands on Deck

Clearing a deck of snow should be handled with care. Ideally, a deck can be cleared of an inch or less of snow with a broom. However, if more than an inch has accumulated, it may take more effort. Light snow can be removed easily with a leaf blower. Heavier snow may need to be removed with a shovel, taking care not to scrape into the wood surface.

City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks

Sidewalks can easily become icy, making for treacherous walking conditions in the winter. While  homeowners may be tempted to apply a thick layer of salt to act as a deicer, there are many disadvantages to this method. Salt can wreak havoc on concrete, damage lawns and landscaping and harm the environment and waterways. Salt can also be harmful to dogs, damaging the paws of canine friends who may travel on sidewalks during their daily walks.

Here are a few alternatives:

• Organic or salt-free deicers: Pet supply stores and hardware stores sell products like “Safe Step” or “Safe Paws” that are marketed to dog owners. This product typically contains magnesium chloride or formulated glycols that will effectively melt the ice without damaging plants and hurting paws.

• Organic sugar beet: This organic, plant-based option is effective in melting ice and will not harm pets or landscaping.

• Sand or kitty litter: This will provide traction, but it will not melt the ice. Sand and kitty litter can also be messy if it is tracked indoors from winter boots. It also needs to be swept up frequently.

• CMA, or calcium magnesium acetate: This biodegradable product does not harm plants or pets. 

Enlist the Pros

For those homeowners who need reliable, predictable snow removal done in a timely fashion, it is probably wise to enlist help from the pros. Start the search for a snow removal contractor early in the season by asking neighbors for references. Lawn care providers may also handle snow plowing in the winter months. 

Before signing a contract, get several quotes and ask plenty of questions.

• Will they remove only snow, or snow and ice as well?

• Will they plow only driveways, or will they also include sidewalks?

• Do they carry liability insurance?

• How is the pricing calculated?

• Will the company come to clear snow on their own, or does the homeowner need to call and schedule service? 

• Will the company come only once, or will they make multiple passes during a heavy snowstorm?

Whether homeowners choose to hire help or tackle the job as DIYers, the right plan can make this winter task a lot less frightful.