2 Quick Tips to Clear Ice and Snow from Sidewalks, Driveways and Front Steps

When snow starts to come down—or the dreaded “wintery mix” starts to fall—you’re faced with that difficult decision: What’s the best way to clear my driveway and make my sidewalk or front steps safe and passable?

While snow blowers are best in open areas and the most efficient, other tools like shovels can help in smaller spaces where snow can’t be thrown.

1. Don’t wait for the snow to stop

If you’ve got a cold, dry snow accumulating, you can actually reach for the broom or leaf blower and sweep off that inch or two of powder quickly and easily.

If you’re experiencing a heavier, wet snowfall, you’ll need to clear in stages. Snow blowers work best in open areas and are the most efficient, other tools like shovels can help in smaller spaces where snow can’t be thrown.

Even if you have a snow blower ready for action, allowing a pileup means you risk the lower layer will melt and refreeze before you get to it. It’s also harder on both you and your machine. Check out my previous post on “5 Ways to Avoid Snow Blowing and Shoveling Injuries” for advice on safely clearing snow.

2. Removing and Melting Ice

Once the snow is out of the way, you’ll need to deal with ice. Even if you haven’t found a layer of ice after clearing, it’s always possible a melt-and-refreeze event will occur in the near future.

Taking a pick or shovel to the ice is one way to clear ice. However, there’s a risk of damage to concrete or asphalt and the amount of work can be back-breaking. Plus, you’ll still need to spread sand or salt to prevent refreeze.

Sand or sawdust will provide traction if layered over ice, but won’t actually get rid of the ice. Both sand and sawdust can become part of refrozen melt. That potentially can clog drains when spring comes. More experts lean towards some type of melting agent.

Angie’s List has a great breakdown of melt options like:

  • Calcium Chloride –Works at temperatures below zero degrees. Expensive, but you use less. This often is considered the best choice of all the melt options.
  • Calcium Magnesium Acetate – Even more expensive, but salt-free, biodegradable, and less corrosive to concrete.

However you decide to clear your walkways, just be sure to actually do it. Putting off snow and ice removal will only make your job more difficult down the road. Have some consideration for your friends and neighbors—not to mention your postal worker. Make a plan, watch the weather and get out there while the snow is falling. For more hints on clearing your sidewalks, take a look at This Old House’s expert advice.

Snow Removal

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