Snow Removal Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Snow removal seems like a pretty simple procedure, and in reality, it is. However, mistakes can still be made. In some cases, these mistakes can cost you a great deal of money and damage valuable property. In this article, we'll explore the most common mistakes made by homeowners when removing snow, and let you know how to avoid these errors. We'll also include some tips to make this tedious chore as easy as possible.

Doing it Right

Before we explore common mistakes, let's review some basics for removing snow properly. Many of the most annoying snow removal issues come from ignoring these basics.

If you're shoveling snow by hand, remember that it's hard physical work. Stretch before you begin, dress appropriately (layers) and keep water handy to prevent dehydration. If you have any type of heart condition, strongly consider hiring somebody to remove snow, whether it's a kid from down the street or a professional service. A few inches of white powder is not worth risking your health.

Choose a snow removal method which is appropriate for your area. Use your climate as a guide when purchasing snow removal equipment. Cold areas which frequently receive heavy snowfalls usually call for a snow blower; it's simply too much work to shovel out several feet of snow on a regular basis. Climates with light to moderate snowfall usually mean that snow can be handled with a lighter, smaller snow blower or a shovel.

Common Mistakes

Hiring Too Much Help

Nobody likes to shovel snow. If you have a health condition which makes strenuous physical work in cold weather dangerous for you, then by all means hire somebody else to remove snow from your property. However, it's important to avoid the mistake of hiring outside workers simply because you don't want to shovel.

In today's economy, homeowners are cutting corners wherever possible. Unless you have a very large expanse which needs to be cleared quickly, removing snow yourself is actually a smarter choice. Yes, it's tedious work, but once you're back inside and warmed up, you'll be much happier to have one less bill to pay.

Ignoring the Job

Far too many homeowners make the mistake of not keeping on top of snow removal. Not only does this create annoying situations, but it can create downright dangerous ones.

Failure to remove snow from your driveway is often the result of laziness, or a secret hope that the weather will warm up and melt it all away. While this is completely understandable, resist the urge to stay inside and get the job done. If you leave your driveway covered in snow, you won't be able to leave the house until the job is done. This puts you at a disadvantage, as well as any other members of your household who need to get out of the driveway. Be sure to pay attention to the end of the driveway as well, since many city plows create mountains of snow barriers as they clear the streets.

Allowing Too Much Snow to Pile Up

If you know that a big storm is coming, get ready. While it takes more time, it's actually easier and more efficient to deal with it in increments than to tackle several feet at once. Get outside and get rid of snow several times during a storm to make the job easier on yourself, particularly if you're not used to physical labor. This can also help you deal with larger amounts of snow if you don't have the proper equipment.

This mistake is also commonly made in little-used areas such as a back door or gate. It's common practice to shovel the driveway and perhaps the front walk, then leaves the rest of the property for later. Unfortunately, later often simply doesn't come. The next time somebody needs to use that doorway, they find themselves literally unable to open it, thanks to several feet of packed and potentially iced snow. Take the few extra minutes it takes to clear these areas. In the long run, you'll be glad you did.

Not Using or Misusing Salt and Grit

These staples of basic snow removal can be found in many cold-climate garages. However, even something as simple as spreading grit on the ground can be made more difficult by easy-to-avoid errors.

Many homeowners store a barrel of grit outside in order to keep it close at hand. This seems like a good idea, and it is - if you have a good storage container. Look for something which seals completely to keep water out. Even a small amount of water in a barrel of grit or sand can quickly turn the entire barrel in a solid block. Even worse, you won't be able to use the sand or grit until the weather turns warmer, which could be well after you need it.

Using a mixture of sand and salt (or other ice-melting pellets) is a common practice. Be sure you use the right kind of ice melter to avoid some damaging and potentially tragic results. Regular salt is usually the cheapest option, but be aware that it can cause corrosion and rust on vehicles. You should also keep in mind that many ice melting products are extremely toxic to pets. If your household has pets, be certain that the brand of ice melt you purchase says on the package that it's safe for use around pets.

Setting Snow Blower Blades Too Low

If you're buying a snow blower, look for one which has an adjustable blade. These allow you to raise or lower the blades in order to accommodate different types of snow and different types of ground cover. Read the instructions thoroughly.

If your driveway and path are made of concrete, asphalt, pavers or some other type of relatively smooth surface, this is still important but less of an issue. However, if your driveway is made of gravel, it's essential. Setting the blade of your snow blower too low when clearing a gravel driveway will turn your snow blower into a small grenade launcher. Many people are injured each winter by pieces of flying debris...and a gravel driveway is a large expanse of small pieces of debris. When sucked up and thrown by a snow machine, a tiny piece of gravel can cause a lot of damage. Play it safe and avoid this dangerous error by ensuring that your blade is high enough to clear all gravel.

Poor Machine Choice and Maintenance

Choosing a snow blower can seem intimidating, especially if you haven't purchased one in a while. Things have changed in recent years, and there are far more options available than ever before.

Your choice should depend on your level of physical ability and, of course, your snow removal needs. If you live in an area with infrequent, light snowfalls, you'll probably never need a very powerful or heavy-duty machine. On the other hand, if you routinely deal with snowfalls of several feet, a strong can capable snow blower will make your life much easier.

Talk with a knowledgeable salesperson to see just how easy your potential new snow machine will be to maintain. Some basic components, such as spark plugs, shear pins and drive belts, should always be kept in the garage or shed for last-minute repairs. However, accessing these parts is easier on some machines than others. You want something which can be opened up quickly and easily, since you'll most likely be performing these repairs in the cold with your fingers hampered by gloves.

At the store, you'll have your choice between a gas powered or electric snow blower. While gas powered machines were the only option for many years, and considered the best option for years after the first electric machines came out, this is no longer the case. A great deal of homeowners still mistakenly believes that a gas powered machine is the only way to go for power and efficiency, but this isn't true anymore.

Like all other environmentally friendly options, electric snow machines have come a long way. They now offer just as much power as gas versions, with the obvious added benefit of being easy on the environment. Even better, they're usually much lighter and easier to maneuver. You'll have to get used to dealing with an electrical cord, but most homeowners find that this is actually a very easy switch to make. Just be sure to buy extension cords which will allow you to clear your entire property, and purchase those made specifically for use in very cold weather. A traditional cord can easily crack in frigid temperatures.

The Basics

While nobody likes the job of removing snow, it simply has to be done. Thankfully, you can avoid the most common errors very easily, thereby saving yourself time, money and eliminating the risk of injuring yourself or others. Remember basic safety procedures such as dressing properly and paying attention to your health...if you feel too strained, stop immediately and get inside. Far too many people suffer heart attacks every year while clearing their driveways, simply because they ignore warning signs. Don't make this fatal mistake.

Posted by: Diane
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