We are in the dead of winter, and many properties are using ice melt products. Here are some thoughts that will hopefully help select the best ice melt product for your property.
Ice melt products do two things, provide traction, and melt ice. Any product will provide traction just by being spread on the surface. Coarse products tend to provide the most traction.
Sand can be an inexpensive and safe alternative to chemicals and should be considered for new concrete
The temperature ratings on ice melt products indicate the temperature at which they will continue to interact
with any moisture and will help with melting. Once the temperature is below the rating, the ice melt will only provide traction and reduced melting.
Products that contain calcium chloride generally have the lowest temperature rating. Calcium Chloride when in contact with moisture is exothermic, meaning it creates heat when in contact with moisture. Calcium chloride as an additive to ice melt can help other chemicals be more effective by causing melting and allowing the other chemicals to interact with the moisture. Calcium Chloride based products can be very effective in reducing ice in problem areas. Calcium chloride tends to be the most expensive chemical in ice melt and does provide melting power. There are ice melt products that contain a colored dye (typically green, blue, or orange) to help with application and safety.
Pet and landscape friendly are important considerations for ice melt products. Many of the ice melt products contain chemicals that are “safe” when applied per the instructions. Problems
with pets and landscape tend to escalate when products are overapplied, or when snow removal concentrates applied product into banks or piles. Remove excess ice melt from surfaces to avoid overexposure and tracking. It may sound odd, but many ice melt chemicals
are present as food additives in small quantities.
Does Ice melt damage concrete or railings? The quick answer is maybe. The technical term for concrete damage that people attribute to ice melt is spalling. One major cause of spalling is poorly laid concrete. Ice melt can escalate freezing/thawing cycles, which can accelerate spalling. Ice melt can also cause metals to oxidize. Ice melts are reactive and will react with ferrous metals. Many handrails, stair supports, and pool fences are ferrous metal. The best way to reduce any problems is to be sure the rails are well painted and to not allow ice melt to come in contact with the metal. Easier said than done—right?
Generally, the best advice with ice melt is to apply the product following the application guidelines on the container. Don’t over apply the product (more may be a short-term remedy but can lead to other problems), watch where piles and banks of snow are placed so they don’t allow accumulation of ice melt products on landscaping or near metal (watch where the runoff accumulates), and clean up excess product after each storm.
Ice Melt is a necessity for property maintenance and safety in markets that experience freezing weather and good management of the product can help reduce any risk with using the products.