Snow Removal Tips for Your Driveway

A snow-covered backyard and deck.
  • 2-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 20-25

Snow removal is a reality for anyone living in colder climates, and for some, it can be a daunting task. A light dusting of flurries isn’t hard to deal with, but when a major snowstorm hits, clearing snow becomes a serious matter. Here are some ways to get on top of it this winter season.

1. Use a Shovel

Someone shoveling snow in a front yard.

A shovel is the most economical solution to get rid of snowfall for small or medium-sized properties. Not all shovels are made the same, however, so feel free to test out different types in the store. 24” shovels will be good at lifting larger amounts of snow while an 18” model will be better at pushing snow and easier on your back with lighter, individual loads. Some will have ergonomic handles or other add-ons for easy lifting. A steel shovel may last longer than plastic, however, they can be jarring if they catch on ice or pavement. Most importantly, your own physical ability will dictate how much you can remove at a time. Consider removing snow in smaller amounts as it falls rather than waiting to clear everything after a big storm.

2. Use De-Icing Products

When temperatures rise and fall, any melted snowfall will create icy conditions that are extremely dangerous for cars and people using roads and sidewalks. Sand or gravel work well to prevent the freezing of snow and will give grip to surfaces—just remember that they will leave behind a bit of a mess once the snow melts. Salt products, however, melt snow and ice and tend to be absorbed by any moisture. Not all de-icers are made the same, however, and you usually get what you pay for. Sodium chloride or “rock salt” is the least expensive, but is the worst product for the environment, masonry, and animal safety, and will only work at temperatures down to 15° F. Calcium chloride is very similar in constitution, but much stronger, working at temperatures as low as -25 F. Magnesium chloride is a newer product that melts in temperatures as low as -13° F and is much safer for the environment, animals, and concrete. Never rely solely on de-icing products, and use them only once areas have been cleared as best as possible.

3. Use a Snow Blower

A snow blower being used in the snow.

Using a snow blower is a popular choice since it does the work for you. Some people may feel intimidated by this machine, but most models are very user-friendly. There are different types to consider, so be mindful about how much of an area you need to clear. The most popular kinds are gas-powered and come in either one, two, or three-stage designs. Single-stage is the least powerful but will break up moderate amounts of snow with an auger and toss it away from your driveway. A two-stage does the same but has an impeller that will blow the snow further and in greater amounts. Three-stage blowers will chop through packed ice and snow, allowing for the most difficult snowfall to be removed at the quickest rate. Of course, the capability is reflected in the price, so your budget plays a factor in this purchase. Electric and cordless models are economical choices for smaller areas and usually weigh less than their gas-powered counterparts, but may not be self-propelling.

4. Use an Ice Chopper/ Scraper

An ice chopper is one of the most capable and overlooked tools in any snow remover’s infantry. It’s a fairly inexpensive item found at most hardware stores that has a strong metal blade at the end of a handle to help you break up troublesome areas where ice and snow have been packed down. Be careful to use it properly and apply pressure away from yourself, vehicles, your home, or anyone else in the area, as the blades could cause serious injury if they were to strike something other than the ice.

5. Install a Heating Grid

Radiant heating plumbing with PEX pipes.

If you experience heavy snowfalls, long winters, and/ or find it difficult to remove snow yourself, consider installing a heating grid underneath the driveway. This system will melt the snow with radiant heat technology, similar to flooring systems that are installed indoors. You can activate the grid when it first starts snowing so that the snow melts as it falls. This is no small investment, however, especially since the majority of applications will include removing the old driveway. This will ensure the tubing is laid properly and allow for a warranty on any work. Some driveways may allow for tubes to be laid without removal, but this depends on many factors and may not allow for any warranty on parts and labor. Most companies will provide a free estimate, and remember that technology like this could increase the value of your home.

6. Use a Plow Service

If none of the above tips work for your particular needs, you can opt for a plow service. Most companies will be able to work out a schedule that fits your budget, for instance, only coming in very heavy snowstorms, or at certain times of the week. Be sure to call before the winter season comes around as most businesses are booked well ahead. Also make sure to discuss exactly what the service includes and if you need sidewalks, porches, and steps cleared as well as your driveway.

When deciding on the best way to remove snow, consider the size of your property, the budget you're working with, and your own physical ability. As always, if you are heading outside make sure to dress properly in a warm jacket, gloves, and boots. Cover your eyes and any exposed skin if temperatures drop below a certain temperature and frostbite is a concern. Winter snowfall can be overwhelming, but not if you are prepared before it appears.