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How to salt your driveway and sidewalks

Sidewalks and driveways that are covered in ice can become dangerous to anyone walking on them. Deicers and anti-icers are help to break up the ice or prevent it sticking to the surface below, making it easier to remove.

Remember that de-icers and anti-icers are chemicals that can damage your driveway and should be used as minimally as possible. They are also not good at melting larger amounts of ice. For huge amounts of ice you will still need to break out the snow shovel.

About Deicers

When you buy salt for your driveway you are buying from the ‘de-icer’ category.
These mineral salts have a lower melting point than water, allowing them to dissolve and work their way down underneath the ice which then allows the ice to be removed easily.

The most common de-icing chemicals are:

  • Sodium Chloride (Rock Salt)
  • Calcium Chloride
  • Potassium Chloride
  • Magnesium Chloride
  • Urea
  • Sand and Kitty Litter

Ice Removal Tips

Go Easy:
The salt you are applying is not meant to melt all the ice, it is intended to simply break the bond between the ice and the surface below making it easier to shovel away. Over-salting will only encourage damage to the surface below.

Apply Salt Early:
The earlier you can apply the salt the better. Applying before an accumulation of snow and ice will give the best results.

Check Effectiveness:
Salt will start to lose it’s effectiveness at around -12c. It is still effective at colder temperatures, just not as effective as it would be if it were warmer. You would normally see ice begin melting within half an hour but this time will be longer in lower temperatures.

Be Aware of Risks:
Many ice clearing products can be harmful to your pets and other animals if overused. They can also contribute to the degradation of driveways and pathways. Use salt and other de-cing products sparingly to reduce injury to animals and property.

Top things to look for when choosing a snow removal company

choosing a snow removal companyRegardless of which snow removal company you choose to work with, there are some industry standards that you should look for to ensure you have a smooth winter season.

  • Customer Service – Look for a company that is willing to frequently communicate through phone calls and email to keep you updated. Do they offer you any reporting? How will you know work has been completed and is being billed accurately?
  • Reliable equipment – Large winter storm events take a toll on equipment. A good snow removal company will have newer model, reliable equipment that is well maintained. Use caution when choosing a company with limited equipment as you might find they are not able to plow your parking lot if they have a break down.
  • References – With the heavy winters that we have been experiencing it is more important than ever to check for references. You want to pick a company that has experience managing winter storm events that span multiple days and is large enough to handle any winter weather.
  • WSIB certified – Ask companies to provide you with an eClearance certificate so you can ensure their WSIB account is in good standing.
  • Liability Insurance – Most companies ask for a minimum of $2,000,000 in liability insurance. Through your research you will find that most large snow removal companies will carry $5,000,000 in liability insurance. A good snow removal company will also be able to provide you with a certificate of insurance with your company name added to their insurance policy. Before signing a contract, make sure you have proof of liability insurance to protect yourself against potential slip & falls liabilities.

Are you comparing apples-to-apples with your snow removal quotes?

As an experienced snow removal company, we understand that it’s difficult to compare snow removal quotes when each company packages and sells their services with a slightly different approach. We wanted to provide you with practical tips to help you evaluate each companies quote and find the best fit for your business.

Does the company have adequate insurance to cover any liability issues that might arise from a slip and fall?
I put this as number one on the list because you need to choose a company that has $5,000,000 of liability and property insurance. If they have less than $5,000,000 of coverage, I would consider that a deal breaker and move on to other quotes.

Tip – ask for a certificate of insurance showing the coverage. A professional snow removal provider will be able to easily send you a certificate of insurance by email. Also, ask if they will add your property as an additional insured on their policy. After the contract has been signed you should be provided with a certificate of insurance showing your business as an additional insured. Make sure you have a copy of this for your records before the season starts.

Does the company have WSIB coverage?
This is important because you need to make sure that the employee who may be shoveling your front walkway is not going to be injured on the job and come after you.

Tip – ask for a WSIB eClearance certificate. This will show that the contractor is up-to-date on their WSIB filings and is in good standings. If you are choosing a small one-man snow plow contractor you may be ok to choose an individual without WSIB if they are the only person working on your property. Again, my recommendation would be that no WSIB coverage is a deal breaker.

How often will they plow the snow?
You need to know exactly how many centimeters or inches of snow needs to accumulate before they will plow the property.

Tip – we recommend choosing a snow plowing service that triggers snow plowing at 2.5 cm. Anything more than 4 cm and you are going to run into trouble with freezing snow packing into the pavement and ice.

When will they plow the snow?
Our recommendation is to be very specific about the needs of your property. This is one element in the quote process that you can control to easily compare service levels. Be specific. What time of day do you need the snow cleared by? Do you require snow removal service on weekends?

Tip – a good snow removal company will clear your property from snow every day of the week regardless of whether or not your business is open. The snow plow contractor is legally responsible and should ensure that the parking lot is safe at all times.

How will they invoice you?
You will most likely receive different types of quotes, the standard per-time fee, all-inclusive pricing, and a combination of both. While the all-inclusive pricing will initially appear a lot higher than the per-time fee it protects you from being billed for additional snow events based on the contractor’s discretion. To compare quotes apples-to-apples you really need to break it down and look at it based on a per event charge.

What equipment will be used?
When comparing the equipment that will be used you need to think about the quality of the end product. How will your parking lot look after the snow plow company has finished plowing? For example, if you have a lot of sidewalks and they are going only be hand shoveled or cleared with a snow blower, it will be very difficult for that snow plow company in a heavy snow fall. Your sidewalks may end up getting more and more narrow as the season goes on. If you are looking at two quotes and they are both plowing the parking lot with pick-up trucks, look at the type of snow plow blade that is being used. Will they be using a straight-blade, V-plow or hydraulic wing plow? An experienced operator with a hydraulic wing plow will be able to plow your parking lot quicker and do a better job than someone with the same experience using a straight blade. And, time is money.

How to best prepare your property for winter maintenance

As a property manager, winter maintenance can be a big scary term that means lots of headaches. Aside from choosing a dependable, professional snow removal contractor there are some basic winter maintenance tasks that you can perform yourself to prepare for a smooth winter season.

If you are managing a large commercial facility you likely have a snow removal contractor that will take care of all of your winter maintenance preparations for you. However, many landlords and property owners will also take care of these tasks on their own.

Here are a few quick tips that property managers and owners in the Kitchener-Waterloo area can use to prepare their property for snow plowing.

  • Do a fall clean-up of the gardens and lawn.
  • Remove any portable items such as planters inside or out of the way of snow removal equipment.
  • Wrap sensitive trees or shrubs in burlap to protect them from the winter elements.
  • Purchase wooden stakes (from Home Depot or a comparable store) and hammer them into the outer edge of your asphalt parking lot. Marking any obstacles with wooden stakes will prevent lawn damage from snow plows.
  • Purchase or arrange for your snow removal contractor to have a salt/sand storage box placed by important entrances and exists. Depending on your situation these bins can be used by custodial staff or residents as needed.
  • Arrange for your snow removal contractor to visit the site before the winter season starts. We always recommend having the snow removal contractor, and specifically the operator that will be plowing your property, walk the property before the first snow falls to reacquaint themselves with the facility.

Sidewalk plowing in the City of Waterloo

When we talk to property managers, one of their largest pain points is the sidewalk maintenance of both municipal and inner sidewalks. These areas see the largest amount of foot traffic and pose a significant danger for people if they are not properly maintained.

The City of Waterloo bylaw states that all commercial and residential sidewalks must be cleared within 24 hours from the end of a snow event. Failure to comply with this can result in a fine. If sidewalks are not cleared during or immediately after a snow storm, the snow and ice will start to become hard packed. Once this happens, it is nearly impossible for someone to clear the sidewalks with a shovel or snow blower.

As a property owner, it’s important to talk to your snow plow contractor about sidewalk maintenance. Sidewalks need to be plowed and salted promptly following a snow fall. And additional visits will be required for salt to be applied after a small snow fall (under 2 cm) or during freezing rain events.

At Snow Tech, we use a mix of small John Deere and Kubota sidewalk tractors to clear sidewalks. This allows us to easily plow snow that is deep or drifting. We can also quickly and efficiently plow a large quantity of sidewalks by using this equipment. Snow plows and shovels are used strictly for smaller, inner sidewalks that are more narrow. If you have a lot of municipal sidewalks at your property, it is recommended that you hire a company with sidewalk tractors or comparable equipment to handle the job.

A freak April snow storm in Waterloo and we’re having a baby

There was no better time to welcome our new baby girl than after a freak April snow storm in Waterloo.

Last winter brought unusually mild temperatures and less precipitation than we had seen in the previous winter where we battled the polar vortex. However, parking lot and sidewalk salts still averaged normal to above normal for most properties. The number of times that we plowed snow was also comparable to prior years. But, the winter of 2015/2016 saved the biggest snow storm of the year for the weekend of April 10th 2016. We received about 2 feet of snow within a 24-hour period. The winds were high and snow drifts reached 3 feet in some areas. All of our snow plowing equipment was running at full capacity and we were expecting a baby any day. Luckily our tractors were able to easily keep up with the work load and successfully clear their snow plowing routes on-time and without any stress. We were experiencing enough stress and excitement as it was with the birth of our first baby expected at any time. And she sure didn’t keep us waiting…

Kate Roslyn Calma was born on April 13, 2016 @ 6:10 am only two days after the largest snow plowing event of the Kitchener-Waterloo 2016 snow plowing season. Bringing Kate home was the perfect way to wrap up a great winter.

We transitioned perfectly from sleepless nights of snow plowing in Waterloo to sleepless nights with a baby and we couldn’t be happier.

Where is the Polar Vortex? El Nino is impacting our winter weather

Environment Canada is predicting a milder winter season this year.

Last winter we had the coldest winter in 68 years. Toronto had 100 days in a row where the ground was covered in snow fall. Last winter hasn’t been an easy one to forget for any of us!

The snow storm we experienced in mid-November made us all feel like we were in for another long winter but, it’s been quite the surprise. This year we experienced the warmest Christmas Eve in 50 years. Experts predict that January and February will be when winter really hits in Ontario and our crew is more than ready to drop the snow plows again soon.