When the weather gets cold and it starts snowing, sidewalks and stairs will inevitably become more and more slippery. If the daytime temperature rises to above zero, the frost at night makes the situation especially bad. None of us want to slip on the stairs in the morning or have to use ski poles to reach their car safely. Slippery ground and ice are a very topical issue every winter, thus, I would like to tell you more about gritting the ground in your yard.
The first very good trick is regular removal of snow, followed by cleaning your driveway and sidewalk with a snow brush. This helps to reduce the amount of compacted snow on the ground which is one of the main factors what makes the ground slippery. If the snow melts and then freezes again, neither a snow shovel nor a snow brush are of any help.
The most common and traditional way for gritting the ground is spreading on the ground a material which helps to make the surface of the road rougher or melt the layer of ice formed. What are we talking about and where to get this material from? Let us take a look at the most-used materials to spread which are very easy to obtain for a regular person.
Salt has been known as an anti-slip substance for many years and is also used to improve the conditions on highways. Salt melts snow and ice. Surely you have noticed that seas freeze considerably less compared to lakes. The reason is salt – the higher the salt concentration, the slower the freezing process of the water. While water usually freezes at the temperature of 0 °C, a 10% saline solution requires –6 °C for freezing and a 20% saline solution a temperature as low as –16 °C. When spread on a road, salt turns the snow and ice on the surface of the road into a saline solution. The more salt you use, the more ice you can melt.
Be careful with pavement stones and other more delicate surfaces as they may get damaged by salt. We therefore advise you to check before using salt whether it is a good idea to use salt on the specific surface.
The downside of using salt is that it also leaves its mark on footwear. If you wear fancy shoes on a road wet with salt water and then leave the footwear to dry, you will probably soon notice white salt lines on your shoes.
Sand is another very efficient anti-slip material. It can be found in many places and is cheaper than salt. Spreading sand on the ground helps to create a mechanical anti-slip effect. This means that the sand grains between your footwear and ice cause heavier grinding and the road no longer appears slippery. Sand cannot be used to melt ice but it is a very good measure for making the road non-slippery. Some smart people mix salt with sand, this mixture melts the ice on the surface of the road as well leaves the road covered with grains of sand.
The downside is, that in the spring, when the snow melts, the roads, which have been gritted with sand will be dusty and sandy and will require extra cleaning. It is also not a good idea to use too much sand, as the sand grains will get stuck to your footwear, you will have to work harder to keep your home clean – if you bring home sand with your shoes every time you come home.
In the last few years, people have also started to use granite gravel as an anti-slip material. The advantage of this material compared to sand is that its gains are larger and do not get thrown about in the wind. The gravel work is based on the same principle as sand – the grains between your footwear and a slippery surface increase the friction and the surface no longer appears slippery. Gravel may be used on asphalt, pavement stones, or stairs.
The downside is the same as in the case of sand – when the snow melts in spring, the sides of the roads and stairs will be covered with gravel and you may have the need to take care of it.
This is a special ‘salt’ which contains magnesium instead of sodium (salt – NaCl, defroster – MgCl2). This material is used to melt ice and snow. When the defroster comes in contact with ice, an exothermal reaction occurs between the substance and ice, which means that the defroster emits heat. The defroster is efficient at the temperatures of up to –32 °C.
The downside is that this substance is quite strong and should not be spread everywhere. The packaging usually specifies that it is not advisable to use the substance on porous brick, cement joints, or limestone. You should also be careful in the case of concrete surfaces and pavement stones.
There are also other anti-slip substances. You can spread any type of sand, gravel, or stone mixture with sufficiently small granules on the ground, provided that the material does not hinder walking, but creates an anti-slip layer on the ground. In the case of using a defroster or salt, you should also keep in mind that those materials only work on a relatively thin layer of ice. If the thickness of the ice layer is 5 cm or more, the material spread will be diluted so much that the ice will not be defrosted up to the surface of the ground. In this case, you may also use sand or small-grain gravel.
If the ice layer is thicker, you may also use mechanical force and remove it with the help of an ice crusher, which is of course not a reasonable option in the case of more extensive surfaces. Keeping stairs free of ice, however, should be a task easy enough for anyone.