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Secrets to safe and environment-friendly ice removal from driveways and walkways



snc-logo-9618390-8060902It is cold outside, so cold that each morning the ice has covered everything we own, including your concrete sidewalks and driveway. After the first cup of coffee we often ponder; what’s the best and safest way to remove ice from concrete?

Local experts from the Sierra Nevada Concrete Association are offering several tips for homeowners to safely and effectively melt the winter from your hard surfaces.

“The old stand-by, salt, is very damaging to the concrete and the environment,” said Dan Gotta, Technical Chairman for the Sierra Nevada Concrete Association (www.sierranevadaconcrete.org) and Project Manager/Partner for Construction Materials Engineers (www.cme-corp.com)

“Many communities are banning the use of salt on roadways because of its environmental consequences,” Gotta said.

All the experts agree that a slow warming process is the best way to remove ice.

“If you live in an area with constant snow or ice, a radiant heat system under the concrete works without damaging the concrete or vegetation around the area,” he said.

The next option, and most common, is to chemically deal with the rink-like conditions.

“Bottom line, any chemical we use on concrete to melt the ice, can damage it. There are some products and strategies that can reduce that potential damage,” Gotta said. “Chemicals reduce the freezing point of water, this leads to more frequent freeze-thaw cycling of the melted snow and ice, which can cause spalling or surface scaling of concrete. One way to minimize chemical use is by removing the slush immediately and reducing the area treated with chemicals.”

So what works and what doesn’t?  Here is a list of chemicals you may want to choose from:

  • CMA or Calcium Magnesium Acetate. This ice removal product has low toxicity and is considered to be safe for concrete, metal and plants. It will work below zero degrees, but is slower than other products in melting and removing ice. It is also be one of the more expensive ice removal products.
  • Magnesium chloride. One of the better-known ice removal products, magnesium chloride melts ice quickly and is effective down to 25 degrees below zero. If used as directed, it will not harm vegetation nor cause damage to concrete and metal. It can leave an oily residue.
  • Potassium Chloride. The lowest temperature this ice removal product works is 12 degrees Fahrenheit. It is less damaging to plants and old concrete, but it is considered less effective in removing ice.
  • Calcium Chloride. This ice removal product is fast acting and effective down to 25 degrees below zero. It can also cause damage to vegetation, metal and concrete, especially newly poured concrete. In addition, it tends to leave an oily residue.
  • Rock salt; also known as Sodium Chloride. Rock salt is perhaps the most well known product for removing ice. It is inexpensive, readily available, and works down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it is harmful to plants and can damage metal and concrete, especially newly-poured concrete. Most cities have decreased or eliminated the use of rock salt on highways

One other note from the SNCA: Sand does not melt ice. It is only a method of increasing traction.

“Well-placed concrete from a licensed contractor is the best preventative medicine,” Gotta said.  “Make sure the placement is done properly with the right kind of concrete that is cured, sealed, and air-entrained.”

Your porch, patio, driveway and walkways should last for many years if you take care of them.  Your Sierra Nevada Concrete Association is well versed in the dos and don’ts of removing ice.  Call them at 775.852.6551 or visit the website at www.sierranevadaconcrete.org if you have any questions.

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