Thursday April 17, 2014





Let it snow: Products and tips on how to deal with the white stuff

Keith Anderson

Home Hardware Building Centre yard supervisor Doug Gartrell holds a jug of windshield washer antifreeze and a sand bag.

The calendar has once again rolled around to November, the plants have been put to bed and the hoses packed away for winter. Time to start thinking about snow.

But when is the best time to prepare for that first dusting of snow? Most people don’t start breaking out the shovels until that first flake hits the driveway, which managers at local home centres advise against.

“You need to get ready in October,” said Andrew Piper, assistant manager of Rona.

Piper pointed out that Kamloops can see its first snowfall in early November, as was the case last week, or not at all. Just like mounting snow tires on a vehicle, the earlier one is ready the better, he said.

He recommends having a shovel and ice chipper handy and a bag of rock salt or sand at the ready. The question most customers ask is what kind of shovel to buy and what sort of salt is best.

When it comes to shovels, Piper said it all depends on personal preference and finding the right tool for the job. To clear driveways and sidewalks, he recommends a push shovel with a large head. This allows the person shovelling to move more snow per push.

Rona carries a variety of shovels, ranging in make from plastic to aluminum.

“When you go into the metal they become more expensive,” he said, adding shovels range from $10 to $35 depending on size and construction. “The metal shovels are more than the plastic ones. The bigger the head, the more expensive.”

Once the driveway has been cleared and snow piled, a shovel with a scoop head is best used to clear it away. Piper said the scoop is also effective on smaller surfaces like steps, decks and front walks.

What kind of shovel would Piper recommend? He said it depends on personal preference.

“Traditionally, the plastic shovels are good for people who don't want a heavy shovel. The downfall of a plastic shovel is they are going to wear out quicker,” he said.

A plastic head will warp with use, said Piper. Aluminum shovels outlast everything but they will turn on the user if the blade catches on a crack in a surface.

“You'll stab yourself in the gut with the shovel,” Piper said.

Once the snow is cleared, people prefer to do away with the ice underneath. There are a variety of products that do that but some are better for the environment than others, said Giselle Tremblay, floor manager at Home Hardware.

She said people can go with Home Ice Melter, which breaks down ice and compact snow and creates a clear path. The problem is too much of the material will burn grass and scar concrete.

“Use it sporadically and follow the instructors. Don't use too much. It's better to re-apply,” she said.

A five-kilogram bag costs $4,99 or customers can pay $7.99 for a larger bag. Jugs can be purchased for $9.99. Tremblay suggests looking for products with an Earth Care label. She said they are natural and better for the environment.

“But, like everything, overuse can cause the concrete to burn,” she said.

To protect surfaces from damage, Tremblay suggests resealing decks every five years. She said this is a good idea anyway given the region’s hot summers and cold winter.

Piper said products using salt can damage decks and lawns and is harmful to pets. There are products that use safety salt, which are more environmentally sound but still not 100 per cent safe.

Sand is still one of the best bets for safe traction over ice, he said. And Piper recommends clearing a path and applying the sand or salt as soon as the snow stops falling.

If that's not possible, he suggests doing so at night before going to bed or first thing in the morning. That way you've acted before peak freezing, he said.

Residents can also use an ice chipper, which Tremblay describes as an ice pick for clearing pathways. She said the device is used like a shovel to chip away the ice and costs $15 or more depending on size.


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