When a snow storm is forecasted, our first inclination is to run to our garages to check if our shovels and snow melt products are close by so that cleanup can get started once the snow stops falling. If we don’t have what we need, we run to the nearest hardware store to get supplies. Afterall, we are always concerned about someone slipping on our property and suing. It’s a litigious world out there.

What most people don’t always realize is that there are specific products that could and should be used on your walkway and driveway surfaces. Concrete, asphalt and pavers should not be handled the same, unless you are using a relatively safe sodium chloride alternative.

It is important to know the chemistry behind snow melt products as this may sway your decision on what to buy:

Sodium Chloride (Rock Salt) – Although sodium chloride is inexpensive, it’s use on concrete or pavers is questionable. While some say it’s safe, it’s important to know that sodium chloride is safest for pavers when used in temperatures at or above 15 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because this is the temperature at which rock salt begins to be ineffective. Once rock salt melts, brine solution it creates can enter into porous pavers and if it re-freezes, it could cause the surface to flack and crack.

Over time this material can be corrosive and will slowly break down concrete and natural stone. It also may cause damage to vegetation and shrubs when in direct contact. Be very aware of projected temperatures before using.

Calcium Chloride – People with pavers tend to favor calcium chloride ice melting products. Many of these deicers are specially engineered to minimize tracking which is good for two reasons. First, the ice melt will remain on your pavers instead of coming indoors with foot traffic. Secondly, when ice melt doesn’t cling to feet, it’s less likely to be spread around and be displaced into the gaps between pavers, which can be unsightly and frustrating to remove. In addition to this, calcium chloride is effective in temperatures as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit, significantly reducing the risk of spalling – especially in the extreme conditions that we experience here in the northeast.

Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) – Another great solution for pavers is a calcium chloride rock salt that has been coated with calcium magnesium acetate. On top of working well in extremely low temperatures, the deicer is safer for children, pets and the environment. CMA is the most widely tested and used deicer of the acetate-based deicers. It’s commonly used at airports because it works so well and is much more environmentally friendly than salt-based deicers. CMA is a natural acid, soluble in water. It shares chemical properties with vinegar. It’s about as corrosive to your walkways as tap water.

Alternative Products – In addition to these conventional products, the market offers safe and natural alternatives to harsh sodium chloride.

The Safe Step Sure Paws is pet friendly, all natural, and fast-acting. Best of all it doesn’t irritate pets’ paws or skin, and clears driveways and walkways quickly and efficiently.

Ecotraction ice grip is a green colored, all-natural volcanic mineral. It is non-toxic, safe to the touch and allows for children, pets and wildlife that comes into contact with it to not be in harms-way. This product contains no salt, chlorides, chemicals, or dyes, and grips to ice and snow. Rather than melting the ice, it creates a sandpaper effect and will not corrode uncured concrete or pavers less than 1 year old. This product also tracks less than sand and will not stain like salt. It can also be swept into the lawn in the spring for improved soil aeration, as well as water and nutrient retention. This product is excellent for new concrete or concrete pavers less than 1 year old.

Ecotraction ice grip slowly releases minerals back in the soil, keeping plants healthier and lawns greener. The most incredible characteristic of this product is that it works down to -58o F and provides more coverage than ice melt.

Being proactive and having your pavers sealed after installation is one of the best things that you can do to protect them during the harsh winter temperatures. This helps to minimize the amount of brine that is able to be absorbed into the stones, lowering the risk of physical damage to the pavers.

Some ice melting products can also leave a residue behind. Although this can be washed off after the snow and ice melt, it can still be a chore. Sealing the stones will reduce the amount of residue and make it easier to remove.

There might not be a magical solution for every property, but there are plenty of ice melting options available to home and business owners. Ask a professional which product is right for your property.

Stuart Garber, President – Garber’s Do It Best Hardware & Garber Building Supplies
(718) 948-9495 www.garbershardware.com