Since the removal of snow and ice from your home, driveway, paths and sidewalks can be so bothersome, here we'll clue you in to some of the newest products, tools and services available. We'll go over some pointers on finding the best contractor or handyman, as well as take a realistic look at which snow removal jobs are DIY projects and which require professional assistance.
If you live in an area which experiences snowfall each year, chances are good that you've looked into several different methods of snow removal. Depending on how cold and snowy your climate is, your approach to snow removal will differ. If you're in an area which receives a significant amount, snow removal is probably something you dread each year!
Plowing, Brushing and Blowing
If you have a large expanse of cement or blacktop and live in an area which routinely experiences heavy snowfalls, chances are good that heavy-duty snowplows, brushing machines and snow-blowers are a part of your life. Whether you operate these machines yourself or leave it to the professionals is another matter.
Parking lots, large driveways and long expanses of pathway or sidewalk demand thorough snow removal and ice control. If snow is not removed and ice is not melted, several things can happen. Since mobility is compromised, you run the risk of becoming stuck in your driveway. If you live in an area which requires snow removal on common areas such as sidewalks, you could be fined or even face legal trouble if you fail to remove snow and somebody is hurt. In addition, you have to deal with the inconvenience of walking through deep snow every day on your way to work.
Plows, brushes and snow-blowers deal with snow in different ways. Plows push and scoop snow out of the way, depositing it along the edges of streets or driveways to leave a clear pathway. Brushes literally sweep the snow out of the way. While this manner of snow removal can be efficient, it loses efficacy as snow gets deeper. One good blizzard can make a snow brush very ineffective. Snow-blowers use a motor, a rotary blade and a directional chute to pick up snow and throw it elsewhere. The best snow-blowers have adjustable nozzles and chutes, ensuring that you don t' anger your neighbor by blowing your snow onto his driveway.
When it comes to plows and brushes, professional snow removal services are almost always involved. The most common exception is a rural home with a long driveway. These areas are the last to be reached by city- and county-operated snow removal services, and so many rural homeowners simply affix a simple plow to the front of their vehicle for easy winter use.
If you live in a suburban or urban area, you most likely use a snow-blower. Unless you're working on a very large piece of property, snow-blowing can usually be done by yourself in a reasonable amount of time.
While the process of shoveling snow is a simple concept, deciding when to do it can be tricky. Many homeowners initially think they can handle their property's snow load with a simple shovel, only to discover that they are literally exhausted after only a small patch has been cleared. Shoveling snow is hard work, and it can be dangerous if you're not in proper physical condition. In most cases, it's best to leave shoveling for smaller areas, or very light snowfalls. To make the experience a bit easier, invest in a specially designed shovel which takes the pressure off your back; many snow-shoveling injuries involve severe back strain.
In most garages, there's at least one bag of rock salt for melting stubborn, compacted snow and ice. While the process of spreading salt (or other ice-melting compounds) can be tedious, it's a vital step in keeping your home safe during winter. Slipping on icy surfaces accounts for many serious injuries during winter months. It's well worth the extra effort to sprinkle on ice melting products.
Gravel or sand is often used on top of ice melting products, in order to provide extra traction. This is especially helpful if the surface will be used immediately after shoveling and applying ice melting products, since the ice doesn't disappear immediately.
In recent years, many companies have recognized the fact that many ice melting products are potentially toxic to children and pets. To address this concern, a new crop of environmentally friendly ice melters have become available. These new green ice melters allow children and pets to play in the snow without worry, and they're also gentle on the environment. Even if you only need a small amount of ice melted, using these green products is a significant way to reduce your impact on the environment and make your home healthier.
It should always be remembered that ice melting is crucial on common areas such as city sidewalks. A slip and fall which results in injury could lead to legal action. Protect your neighbors and yourself by melting ice and applying sand or gravel as needed.
For many residents of cold areas, one of the most welcome trends in recent years has been the use of heated driveways and paths. While this was considered a luxury for only the extremely wealthy just a decade ago, in-ground heating systems are now surprisingly affordable.
There are two major types of in-ground heating; cables and mats. Cables are just that...lengths of cable which are embedded in asphalt, concrete, under pavers, stones or tiles. Cables have the advantage of being more versatile, since a single length of cable can provide heat to oddly-shaped or very small areas. In-ground mats are essentially several cables lashed together by strong tape or vinyl. These mats are generally easier to install, but are better suited to uniformly-shaped areas. Often, a combination of cable and mats is required to fully equip a property.
In-ground heating must be professionally installed. A licensed electrician must connect the power. An electrician with experience in radiant heat is ideal, but many homeowners simply hire an electrician and a radiant heat expert to work together.
The convenience of a radiant heat snow melting system can't be beaten. These systems literally eliminate the need for shoveling, using ice melting products or spreading gravel and sand. As soon as the built-in sensors detect snow or ice buildup, heat is sent upward through the driveway, path, or other surface to quickly melt it away! You can also manually activate your radiant heat via simple controls. Nearly any surface can be heated, from large driveways to narrow paths...even staircases can be made safe and easy to walk on through the use of radiant heat.
While the initial expense of a full-scale radiant heat installation may seem intimidating, it's important to factor in all the saved expenses. Plowing or shoveling services become a thing of the past, as do heavy bags of salt, ice melter, sand and gravel. You won't have to worry about anybody becoming injured due to your slippery surfaces, and those days of back-breaking DIY snow removal will become a distant memory. In saved money, saved effort and saved worry, a quality radiant heat installation will quickly pay for itself.
Choosing a Professional
Whether you're seeking out a professional to help with radiant heat installation, or simply need your walkway shoveled, finding the right person can be intimidating. The phone book has pages of listings, but they don t' tell you anything about the ethics or reputation of the workers. Asking friends and family can be helpful, but you still need to check up on things like licensing and insurance.
Websites which connect professionals with consumers can make this process extremely simple. These sites allow you to view many different workers in your area, from highly experienced electricians to handymen. Regardless of the skill level your snow removal project requires, you can find the right individual.
Once you've narrowed down your choices, it's a good idea to call each potential hire and ask for a quote. This is especially true in the case of a big job such as radiant heat installation. Remember that outdoor work is subject to the elements and so quotes can quickly change. Time estimates are also dependent on weather conditions. However, asking for a quote does give you an idea as to how efficient an individual might be. Beware of quotes and estimates that seem incredibly inexpensive or fast. These are usually false, and are used by disreputable contractors. This is another reason to use home-improvement websites; these sites will guide you toward reliable workers.
In the case of snow removal, you may be asked to pay a flat fee per season, or to pay per snowfall. Each individual and company has different rates and methods of payment, so don t' be afraid to look around for one which suits you. As a general rule, individual handymen are usually much more flexible about payment schedules than larger companies. Be sure to check the insurance of any individual you hire, whether they work for a snow-removal company or not.
Installing radiant heat is a big job, and it requires a great deal of skill. Find out if potential hires have installed radiant heat in the past, and contact those former clients if possible. Due to the intricate level of electrical work involved, radiant heat should be installed by those with the highest possible level of experience and expertise.Posted by: Diane Sheppard