Winter Weather Preparedness
Westlake Ace Hardware’s Experts Equip You to Get Through Winter
Snow may be pretty, but winter’s variety of frozen and slushy precipitation can lead to a lot of work and problems around the house.
But if you keep the right tools on hand, winter does not have to be cause for stress or worry. With the proper preparation, you can get through the snow and ice without too much strenuous work, and prevent any damage to your home. Get a jump on winter with the preparedness tools and tips below.
In frigid winter temperatures, precipitation quickly turns to ice. Keep your sidewalk and driveway safe with ice melt. Ice melt breaks down ice so that you can easily shovel it aside.
Westlake’s winter weather experts emphasize that you don’t need to use a large amount to get the job done. In fact, if you layer ice melt too thickly, it will puddle and leak into your yard, with the potential to damage your lawn. Be sure to read the directions for your ice melt before applying it, and use the recommended amount. Wait the designated amount of time, and then come back and push the broken down ice away with a shovel.
There are two kinds of ice melt, classified by their ingredients: sodium chloride, calcium chloride and magnesium chloride. Calcium chloride will melt at lower temperatures, -5 degrees F and lower. Magnesium chloride is a little more expensive, but a much higher quality product, so less of it will be needed to get the job done. And magnesium chloride is all natural, so it is better for your lawn and the environment.
If your concrete is less than two years old, there are ice melt alternatives you can use. Applying a light layer of sand on top of the ice will give you traction control. Another option, if you don’t mind some damage to your lawn, is rock salt. Sodium chloride (rock salt) is a good option for temperatures down to about -9 degrees F.
Once you have your melting agent selected, you need the right tool to get it on the ground. Uneven distribution can cause areas with too much ice melt, which can lead to puddling and leaks into your yard. We recommend a broadcast spreader.
Broadcast spreaders cover a wide area, so you’re out in the cold for less time. The ice melt loads into the top and is funneled through a sprayer in the bottom. There’s no better way to get a fast, even spread on your driveway.
But for sidewalks and other narrower spaces, we recommend a hand-held spreader, which has a smaller broadcast radius and more direction control.
A snow shovel may be an obvious winter weather tool, but to get the most from yours, make sure you pick the right kind.
For areas with lighter snow, two to three inches at a time, a pusher will suffice. Pushers are shovels designed to handle two to three inches of snow at a time by placing the shovel to the ground and pushing it off to the side of your driveway. This makes them perfect for areas with lighter snow, or those who don’t mind taking their time with heavier snowfalls. These are often made of plastic, making them light and easy to wield.
But for those individuals in areas with heavy snowfall who want to get the job done fast, a scoop shovel is the tool for the job. These shovels are designed for lifting and throwing larger amounts of snow into a pile. Due to the heavier loads they carry, they are most often made of steel, making them heavier and more durable.
Pusher/scoop combo shovels also exist. If you need a durable scoop and a lighter shovel, look for shovels made with aluminum. And keep a shovel in your car in case you need to dig yourself out somewhere. Smaller, compact designs and fold-up shovels exist for easy portability. Ergonomic designs also exist.
Snow blowers are another way to quickly remove snow from your driveway and sidewalks. There are a wide variety of types and sizes. The key considerations are the size of the space to clear and the depth of the snow.
Single-stage snow blowers have one propeller that breaks up the snow, draws it in and discharges it. They work best in dry snow and are lighter, easier to maneuver and less expensive than two-stage snow blowers.
Two-stage snow blowers mean two propellers, which breaks up the tasks it performs. The first propeller draws the snow in, and the second throws it. These snow blowers are larger, self-propelled and can handle up to 24 inches of snow depth, making them great for heavy snow and blizzards. They are fueled with a mixture of oil and gas—shake it well before using and read the directions for the appropriate combination. Add a stabilizer to keep the oil from deteriorating over time.
However, if you prefer not to make your own fuel mix, four-cycle snow blowers have separate containers for gas and oil. Four-cycles also offer the most power, and can clear 14 to 32 inches of snow depth. While the two-stage snow blower requires you to mix the oil and gas together for the fuel before pouring it in, four-cycles allow you to pour in the oil and gas separately, cutting down on the chance of an inappropriate mix. Snow blowers usually come with a recommendation on what type of oil to use.
Before gearing up your snow blower at the beginning of the season, check the spark plug, replace the air filter, and go over all of the nuts and bolts, tightening them as needed. It’s also important to drain any gas leftover from last year. Gas evaporates, and the thickened leftover liquid could clog your filter.
Protect Your Gutters
Once the freezing weather starts up, ice can easily dam your gutters. So before the winter season starts is the time to clean them out. Then, take action to protect your roof and gutters before the first snow hits.
One option to keep your gutters from clogging is gutter tablets. Place these in your gutters at the beginning of the winter months and they will prevent ice from damming in them all season. Low voltage fence systems designed to be set up on your roof to prevent damming are also common.
On-Hand Winter Preparedness Supplies
Always have flashlights and extra batteries on hand (check them periodically to make sure they haven’t expired). If a blizzard is headed your way, check your ice melt and snow blower fuel supplies to make sure you have enough to outlast the storm. Always keep extra blankets, hats and gloves in your car in case you get stranded, as well as radiator fluid.
Consider a pair of ice cleats. Though many people are not familiar with this item, they can be very useful and increase your safety while performing outdoor maintenance in the winter. Ice cleats attach to shoes or boot and offer extra traction in slick icy weather.