A fresh snowfall can be a beautiful sight, but for a business owner, it requires immediate action. When a storm hits, sidewalks and parking lots must be made safe for employees, customers and suppliers as soon as possible. By promptly removing snow and ice, you are not only reducing the risk of slips and injuries — for which you could be held liable — it also shows that you are still open for business.
For these reasons, it’s a good idea to plan ahead so that your business can continue to operate safely in the event of a snowfall. Winter weather can affect many regions of the United States, and if you wait until the storms are forecast, you may not have enough time to make all the necessary arrangements.
Before the storm hits, we recommend taking the following steps:
- Inspect the roof: Ensure that your roof drains and gutters are clear and in good condition. Waterspouts should also be intact and drain away from areas with foot traffic.
- Trim the branches: Trim tree branches that could fall on the building after a heavy snowfall or ice accumulation.
- Check the heating: Make sure you have enough fuel for your heating system in the case of an emergency. A backup heater is also recommended.
- Regulate the temperature of unoccupied areas: Even if some regions of your building are not currently occupied, keep them at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent pipes from freezing.
- Put tall stakes around walkways and driveways: You may think you can find pathways after a snowfall, but if the accumulation is significant, stakes will make locating the paths much easier.
Snow Removal Tips
Below are some useful snow and ice removal techniques and suggestions:
- Don’t get snowed in: In case you need to leave quickly, make sure you have a clear path to the car.
- Keep snow away from the foundation: Whether you’re removing snow from a roof or a sidewalk, avoid piling it near the side of the building. This could lead to frozen pipes and even cracks in the building foundation.
- Roof-rake sloped roofs: If your roof is sloped, you may be able to remove snow and ice with a roof rake, which is a tool designed for this purpose.
Snow Plowing Tips
Plowing is one of the most effective methods to clear driveways and parking lots. If you decide to plow your property yourself, keep these suggestions in mind:
- Plow right after the snow falls: On days when snow is falling heavily, periodically make passes so that not too much snow accumulates. Waiting too long may cause the snow to turn icy and harden, and warm conditions may cause it to turn into a slushy mess. By doing it sooner, you’ll make things easier for you, your truck and your plow.
- Read the owner’s manual: Make sure to read the owner’s manuals for both the snow plow and the vehicle it’ll be attached to. Snow plows are large and can be dangerous.
- Get snow tires: Buying snow tires or all-season tires will make the plowing process much easier, as it is difficult for vehicles with snow plows to grip the road surface when it’s snowing heavily. If your tires don’t have traction, you can’t push snow.
- Be systematic: When clearing a small lot, start on the end opposite of where you’ll be piling snow. Push the snow toward the pile until your path is cleared. If snow is especially heavy, this process may have to be repeated. If the lot is large, starting in the middle and working your way out in both directions may be a better idea. In any case, it’s best to work purchasing to save time and fuel.
Snow Shoveling Tips
To remove snow from sidewalks and other walkways, shoveling is a popular option. Here are some pointers for shoveling wisely:
- Buy a quality shovel: Shoveling snow is an arduous task, so don’t make it any harder by using an inferior shovel. Spend a little extra for a heavy plastic or aluminum blade shovel. Also keep in mind that bigger shovels aren’t always better, as they can cause back pain. C-shaped shovels are more suitable for lighter snowfalls, and S-shaped blades work better for heavier accumulation. You can usually buy a good-quality shovel for $30 to $50.
- Shovel frequently: While it’s snowing, it’s best to shovel often. If you put off shoveling, this will just make it more difficult later on. If you go an entire day without shoveling, the snow will begin to stick to the ground and may freeze. An icy surface will make your job ten times more difficult.
- Shovel flat roofs: While you can’t shovel most roofs, you can shovel flat roofs. That is, of course, if you feel you can do so safely and without damaging the roof covering.
Shovel With Care
Keep in mind that there are over 11,000 injuries related to snow shoveling every year. To lower the risk of an injury and wearing out your body, develop the following habits:
- From time to time, alternate your grip between overhand and underhand.
- When lifting the snow, keep the blade close.
- Lift with your legs and bend your knees.
- To keep from overworking one side of your body, periodically alternate between shoveling right-handed and left-handed.
- If the snow is deep, don’t try to remove the entire depth at once. Do half at a time.
Ice Removal Tips
While you can remove snow with a plow or shovel, ice requires a different approach. Here are tips for removing ice from various locations:
- Get rid of the water on your roof: Because ice is much more difficult to remove on roofs — especially if your building is more than one story — it is recommended to instead take care of the water from melting ice. To do this, you can put calcium chloride in nylon stockings and then position them vertically on your roof so that they intersect the ice dam. This will open up the channels in the ice dam and allow water to flow.
- Remove the icicles: Remove the icicles by knocking them down with a long broom or extension pole. Make sure not to knock the icicles onto yourself or someone else. Also be careful when removing icicles from gutters — if the gutters are full of ice, they could come down with the icicles. Avoid removing any icicles near an electrical line.
- Clear the ice from sidewalks: Although you may be tempted to apply salt to an icy sidewalk, the ice you melt will freeze again overnight, and the ice may be even more hazardous the next day. If you do choose to melt the ice, spread some gravel or kitty litter as well to provide some grip.
Types of Ice Melt Products
There are a variety of active ingredients found in ice melts. The following are the most common:
- Sodium Chloride: Also known as “rock salt,” this is the most common type of ice melt and is typically used for de-icing roads. Although it’s affordable and widely available, it doesn’t work particularly fast and is only effective down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. It also leaves behind a whitish sodium residue, and excessive runoff from the substance can harm plants.
- Calcium Chloride: This ice melt is one of the most effective and can melt ice and snow as low as negative 25 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a pricier option, but you do not have to use a large amount for the ice melt to be effective. It comes in several forms, including flaked, powdered, pelleted and liquid. Like sodium chloride, calcium chloride can also harm plants.
- Potassium Chloride and Urea: Potassium chloride and urea are two options considered safe to use around plants, and are effective down to 12 degrees and 15 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. Although a refined form of this compound is occasionally used as a substitute for salt in cooking, never eat road-quality potassium chloride.
- Magnesium Chloride: Magnesium chloride ice melt is a flaky white material that melts ice in temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a less corrosive alternative to calcium chloride and sodium chloride and is slightly less harmful to plants.
- Sodium Acetate: This is a powdery compound that is often used to de-ice runways. It works down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and, as it is exothermic, it releases heat as it dissolves the ice.
- Calcium Magnesium Acetate: This environmentally friendly ice melt is less damaging to roads and is used by many U.S. state road systems to preserve older highways. Unlike many other ice melts, this compound is spread over roads before ice even forms, and it prevents the ice from forming.
- Ethylene Glycol: Effective down to temperatures of negative 58 degrees Fahrenheit, this ice melt is commonly used as an airplane de-icer. Because it is toxic to humans and animals, however, its use limited to airplane exteriors.
- Propylene Glycol: In the past few years, this ice melt has mostly replaced ethylene glycol because it is effective to nearly negative 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also nontoxic plants to and animals and is commonly found in food flavorings.
Ice Removal Application Tips
When applying your ice melt, keep the following in mind:
- Don’t wait until the storm hits: Apply ice melt to your surfaces before the ice arrives. This prevents ice from sticking to the surface, which means you won’t have to use as much of the product later on.
- Don’t buy a cheap ice melt product: If you try to save money by buying a lower-quality ice melt, you will probably end up having to use more of the product, so you won’t be saving money in the long run. Generally speaking, you should only have to use between two and four ounces of the product per square yard. Make sure you are using the right ice melt for your purposes.
- Protect your eyes and skin: We recommend you wear protective eyewear and gloves while applying ice melts, especially when using magnesium chloride and calcium chloride.
- Use the recommended amount: Using more ice melt than you need won’t only cost you more, but it could also harm building materials and plants. By using spreaders with guards, you can apply ice melt more carefully and avoid areas that can be damaged.
- Use a three-mat system to prevent tracking in ice melt: When customers track ice melt and other winter soils into your building, it can damage your floor’s finish and create a slipping hazard. Because cleaning floors with these damaging materials can be costly and time-consuming, it’s best to avoid this situation by installing three mats at your entrance. Place a scraper mat outside to capture larger particles. Place a wiper or scraper mat directly inside the entrance to stop any soil missed by the first mat. Finally, place an interior mat beyond the second mat to remove any remaining particles.
Dangers of Postponing Snow and Ice Removal
Putting off your snow removal can lead to the following negative events:
- Safety and liability: If your parking lots and walkways are covered in snow or ice, this can create a slipping hazard. If you or a loved one slips on the ice, they may get seriously injured, and if one of your customers falls, it may mean a lawsuit. By promptly removing the snow and ice from your property, you will avoid the freeze/thaw cycle and the impenetrable sheet of ice that it creates, making it safer for all who set foot on your property.
- Grueling work: If you’re expecting several inches of snow, it’s best to start shoveling while it’s still snowing. Removing two inches of snow at a time is much easier than six or eight, even if you have to do it several times.
- Lost customers: If your property is covered in snow, your customers may not be able to enter. The longer you put off your snow removal, the more business you may lose.
- Roof collapse: If you put off your snow removal, the freeze/thaw cycle could turn the snow into ice, which is heavier and could cause the roof to fall.
Damage Caused to Parking Lots and Sidewalks
When winter temperatures regularly go above freezing during the day, surfaces are subject to repeated thawing and freezing, which can damage pavement over time. When snow on the road melts, water goes into the cracks of the asphalt, then freezes, expands and causes the cracks to widen. By staying on top of your snow removal, you will extend the life of your parking lot and sidewalks.
Benefits of Professional Snow Removal From Strategic Grounds Management
Keeping your parking lot, sidewalks and roof clear during winter weather is essential for winter workplace safety. But doing it yourself can be a time-consuming and risky endeavor. If you don’t have the time or energy to dedicate to this task, leave it to our experienced snow and ice removal experts at SGM.
Our company offers snow and ice removal plans so that you can rest assured that, when a snowstorm hits, your property will be cleared in an efficient and timely fashion. Contact our friendly staff to learn more about our services and custom maintenance plans.