In the three-month period from December 21, 2016 to March 21, 2017, there were nearly 9,000 hospitalizations due to falls on ice in Canada, making it the number one cause of winter injuries, according to the latest statistics from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Data reveals that the average length of a hospital stay after a fall was 14.3 days, compared to 7.5 days for other medical reasons.
In an effort to reduce these numbers, most Canadian municipalities require homeowners or their tenants to remove ice and snow from sidewalks and walkways for everyone’s safety including that of postal workers and people who rely on scooters, walkers and wheelchairs.
The best way to remove snow from sidewalks and walkways is with an ergonomically designed snow shovel, which reduces back strain. Snow blowers are expensive, loud and only work well for light snow, as opposed to wet snow. Another common short cut is salt, but it has significant downsides:
- Mike Holmes, one of Canada’s most trusted home renovation specialists, explains the benefits and drawbacks of salting in a 2013 National Post article titled Removing snow, ice is everyone’s responsibility. Holmes points out that calcium chloride quickly melts ice but destroys grass roots. Potassium chloride is safe for grass but damages concrete. Urea is safe for grass but is not very effective.
- Sodium chloride (a.k.a. inexpensive rock salt) can damage asphalt, concrete, brick, stone, metal, grass, plants and wood decks and can be lethal when ingested by pets, according to Consumer Reports magazine.
In addition to all those drawbacks, salt melts ice when temperatures are relatively mild (as low as -6 Celsius) but is ineffective at lower temperatures. When melted ice freezes again, it is often more smooth and slippery than the original surface. Generally, salt can also be very painful on the paws of pets as well as wildlife. A sure sign of pain is when your dog or cat frantically licks and bites at their paws.
For walkways that are safe for your pets, lawn and home, clear off the snow, then spread sand, kitty litter and/or fine gravel to add traction. The only downside to these options is their weight; they can be cumbersome to lug around. Consider using kitty litter produced from corncobs. It is lightweight and nearly dust-free, while providing good traction on ice. In the spring, the corncob-based product will disintegrate into the soil and grass surrounding the walkways.
As pretty as it may look to see a house nestled in a thick blanket of snow, the outcome for your foundation is ugly. When snow melts next to the house, moisture can seep into the microscopic pores of the concrete foundation. If temperatures drop again, that moisture freezes into ice crystals that expand within the concrete. As the cycle repeats winter after winter, the foundation becomes more and more porous and prone to leaks. In some cases, water will leak through countless small fissures and in other cases, it will flood in through new cracks. Piles of snow around the house can also damage brick mortar in much the same way.
It is wise to shovel snow away from the house after a heavy snowfall. If you are looking for a good place to pile all that snow, consider creating snow walls around trees that are at least five metres away from the house. The snow will protect the trees by blocking harsh winter winds. When the weather warms, the extensive root systems of the trees will help absorb the moisture.
Be sure to also remove snow from decks and porches as well as gas meters, dryer vents and fire hydrants.
Heavy snow can add hundreds of kilograms of weight to a rooftop potentially damaging the roof supports, shingles and gutters. Every winter, homeowners are injured when they climb ladders and even venture onto slippery roofs to remove snow. A safer option is to use a roof snow shovel, which is designed to reach the roof from the ground. Warning: when used incorrectly, these innovative shovels can scrape the gutters and shingles, or even send a pile of snow falling on top of you. The safest option by far is to hire professionals to remove rooftop snow.
Fresh snow and icicles glittering in the sun are winter’s beautiful gifts, yet every year, they also contribute to expensive insurance claims, injuries and loss of life. This winter, a few simple steps can keep your home, walkways and sidewalks clear and safe, so that you can enjoy the winter wonderland.
*blog repost from Sutton.com