Snow removal is a common chore that we Connecticutians have come to accept as part of our winter routine. And while we have had an early few inches, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for the main event come January.
Shoveling and plowing are pretty straightforward activities, but one question that I get asked time and time again is about salting and how to choose the right product to make snow removal a little easier on the back and the wallet. Snow melting agents generally come in two forms - traditional rock salt, also known as sodium chloride, and calcium chloride. While they sound similar, the two are actually quite different and each has its advantages and drawbacks.
Sodium chloride, or rock salt, is a dry material that’s mined and applied to pavement using a walk behind residential spreaders or commercial spreaders that are mounted on trucks. Sodium chloride is activated by moisture and will begin to melt the snow when it gets wet. The problem with sodium chloride is that because it’s activated by water, it doesn’t work well if the temperature is below 15 degrees. However, if temperatures are above 15 degrees, sodium chloride can be a good, inexpensive choice that will take longer to melt but will keep your walkways dry. If you have vegetation or animals, make note that sodium chloride will be harmful to plants and can hurt animals if ingested.
When temperatures dip below 15 degrees, calcium chloride is going to be your best bet. This liquid agent is sprayed onto payment and works instantly to melt snow and ice. In fact, calcium chloride can melt snow up to eight times faster than traditional rock salt alone. Of course, there are a few downsides to consider. Calcium chloride gets hot fast, so while its effective short term, it might not be able to do the full job in a huge storm. It’s also more expensive than traditional rock salt and stays wet which can lead to slippery surfaces. On the plus side, it’s non-corrosive and won’t harm vegetation, although you’ll still want to keep your pets away from it.
So, when choosing whether to use sodium chloride or calcium chloride, stick to the basics to help you decide which product is best to handle your snowy mess. If in doubt, look for a calcium chloride pre-mixed with salt or abrasives to melt snow quickly while reducing the risk of creating a slippery surface.
Bob O'Donnell is the owner of O'Donnell Bros, Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ask the Pro”. All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O'Donnell Bros, Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only