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Snow Removal Tips for Your Home

snow on a cedar deckThe Pacific Northwest is expecting a particularly harsh winter this year, and many areas may see more snowfall than usual. As a result, Northwest homeowners may end up doing a lot more snow removal than they’re used to.

After a storm, many homeowners simply shovel a path up to the front door and call it done. However, to truly protect your yard from winter storm damage – and visitors to your home from nasty spills – you may need to take your snow removal efforts to the next level. Getting rid of snow from driveways and walkways can be an unpleasant chore, but it’s better to keep up with the snowfall than to let the snow and ice build up.

When the snowstorms hit this winter, keep the following snow removal guidelines in mind.

Pathways and Driveways

When things get icy, safety becomes a key issue. To allow family and visitors to safely come and go, you should clear off the sidewalk in front of your house as well as a path leading up to the front door. While it might be tempting to do only the minimum work required to get from one point to another, it is highly recommended that you clear pathways as wide as you can – or, in general, consolidate the snow in your yard as much as possible.

Things to remember:

  • Sidewalks. If you have a sidewalk in front of your house, professionals recommend clearing this area entirely for the benefit and safety of all of your neighbors. Should icy conditions become an issue, throw down sand to provide extra traction.
  • Extra pathways. Keep in mind that people with wheelchairs and other mobility devices will need a wider path than those on foot; a good walkway should be at least 42 inches wide. You will also want to clear a path any areas of your yard that need to be accessible during a snowstorm, such as the garbage can.

Decks and Patios

Whether or not you use your deck in the winter, you should keep it clear of snow as much as possible. Snow buildup can quickly become heavy and start to impact the structural integrity of your decking material. If you have a cedar deck, prolonged exposure to moisture (such as continually melting snow and ice) can promote mold and mildew growth and cause the decking material to rot. Snow that is allowed to languish on a cedar deck or composite decking material can shorten your deck’s lifespan.

You can always check with your decking material manufacturer for recommended snow removal methods, but general dos and don’ts for removing snow from your deck include:

  • Sweeping. A stiff-bristled broom is the recommended method for removing snow from a composite or cedar deck, as it causes the least damage to your decking material.
  • Shoveling. Never use a metal shovel, as this can gouge, scrape or otherwise cause damage the decking material on both cedar and composite decks. Use a plastic shovel, and always shovel along the length of the deck boards – never across. Avoid chipping away at ice with you shovel, as this can also damage the decking material. If your deck has stairs, you can purchase smaller or narrower plastic shovels to help get into tighter areas and still move with the grain of the decking.
  • Ice removal. If you have ice buildup on your deck, you can use rock salt on composite decking material as long as you rinse off the residue it leaves behind, but you should never use salts or de-icers on a cedar deck because of the corrosive nature of the salt. Rock salt can erode any waterproof stain or finish on your cedar deck and can even stain the wood itself. As an alternative, carefully pour hot water over the iciest areas of the deck and use your outdoor broom to remove the ice and excess water. Scatter some kitty litter over your cedar deck to help prevent more ice from building up.

Additional Snow Removal Tips

What to do with the snow: During a prolonged or high-volume snowstorm, one problem with snow removal that often comes up is what to do with the excess snow. It’s a good idea to take stock of your yard layout now and determine the safest and most convenient area for dumping snow. One important point to remember is to make sure you don’t create a big snow pile on top of your favorite spring plants or flowers. Since the piled-up snow will take longer to melt, the extra cold could end up hurting your plants.

Using a snow blower: If you have or can borrow a snow blower, it can make the chore of clearing your yard much easier. A snow blower works best when there are at least several inches of snow on the ground. It can clear your pathways, sidewalks and driveways in a fraction of the time it would take to shovel the same areas. Give your snow blower a tune up after every snowstorm to increase its longevity.

Snow removal can be a difficult, time-consuming chore, especially if you live in an area that receives a lot of snow. By planning your strategy in advance and preventing the snow from building up too much, you can keep your yard – and those who use it – safe throughout the winter.

[photo: Tatiana12]

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