Plan Now To Protect Pavers In Winter


Walkways, driveways, and patios will be covered in snow and ice before long – now’s the time to plan to care for and protect your pavers in winter. We all know it’s coming, right. Nowhere in Madison WI escapes the impact of winter in Wisconsin. Paver creations are all subject to the whims of the freeze/thaw cycle. And, layers of snow, slush, and ice have to be removed to keep family and friends safe.

Since we all know it’s coming, it makes sense to plan for it, doesn’t it? There are a few basic steps to keep in mind when dealing with winter’s whims, including:

  1. Shoveling – nothing replaces a snow shovel or snow thrower for cleaning walks, drives and patios To protect your paver hardscape always use a plastic shovel or one with a plastic or rubber leading edge. Metal edges scratch and chip pavers and stone, rubber and plastic don’t. Always shovel first, apply chemicals later.
  2. Use chemicals sparingly – ice-melting chemicals don’t replace shovels. The properties of these agents that help get rid of ice also threaten the surface of some paving stones. You can avoid unwanted side effects by using only the minimum you need to get the first layer of ice off. Always read the label on the product you choose before buying it. Apply as directed.
  3. Consider alternatives – sand is an alternative to using chemicals to treat ice and packed snow.
  4. Pretreat – street crews regularly pretreat roads when they know a storm is coming. Why not pretreat walks and driveways at home? Apply a deicer to surfaces you know become slippery. A thin layer ahead of the snow, freezing rain, or sleet means you’ll need less later to remove it.

These suggestions apply to paved surfaces as well as poured concrete.

Pavers In Winter | Marvins Brick Pavers | Madison WI
Snow shovels with plastic blades are the No. 1 choice to protect uneven paver surfaces while getting rid of snow.

Safeguarding Pavers In Winter – A Long-term Concern

Climate change or not, everyone in southern Wisconsin knows winter means repeated snow events, not just one or two. You’ll have to deal with snow and ice over and over. Faced with repeated challenges to keep walks and driveways safe, homeowners often get creative. Three techniques worth remembering are:

  • Mix sand and ice-melt chemicals – applying this mixture means you’re using less of each so it saves you money and materials.
  • Remove slush, ice chunks – when the chemicals, sand or mixture works shovel the remaining slush away. Getting it off the surface guards again refreezing. Caution – just pushing it all to the edge of the driveway or walkway isn’t a good idea since that means all the chemical residue is concentrated there, too.
  • Rinse when you can – as soon as weather permits, wash your paver and poured concrete patios, walks, and driveways. Flush away any leftover chemicals and road salt residue. Diluted with freshwater these elements are less likely to stain or damage the nearby landscapes.

Take care when choosing the chemical you apply to your hardscape surfaces. Common, old-school rock salt should never be used on natural stone, concrete, or cement pavers. It will literally eat into the surface.

Avoid ‘Old-school’ deicers

Homeowners may consider deicers to be magic potions for clearing dangers from walks, drives, porches, and patios. However, they don’t come without their inherent dangers. Salt has been the go-to for decades. Why now is it considered a bad choice?

As salt combines with melting snow the freezing point of water drops – salt water freezes at a point below the freezing point of plain water. It may not freeze until it drops to about 20 degrees. As temperatures fluctuate above and below 20°F the salt brine thaws and will refreeze. This solution seeps into cracks and the porous surfaces of concrete. When it does freeze it expands. Cracks get wider. The threat from the freeze/thaw cycle is real for poured concrete, natural stones, and all kinds of pavers.

Among the lasting effects of using old-fashioned salt are:

  • Corroded concrete– salt crystals actually “eat” into the surface of untreated concrete, and that includes pavers made from concrete. Have you seen this permanent damage in the form of “pock” marks on sidewalks, driveways, and garage floors?
  • Corroded mortar– mortar binding together pavers, stone, or bricks the walkway is weakened by salty water leading to loose pieces.
  • Bleaching and stains– salty water stains. Natural stones, dark pavers, and decorative concrete suffer permanent white stains from extended exposure to saltwater.
  • Danger to pets– rock salt irritates the tender skin between a cat’s or dog’s pads. In addition, it is harmful when they lick it off their feet.
  • Plant damage– a high level of salt in the soil is bad for most plants and salty water on leaves and branches can be toxic.
  • Damage inside the house – tracking salt-heavy slush into your house puts flooring at risk. It discolors floors of all kinds and can lead to permanent damage.
Pavers In Winter | Marvins Brick Pavers | Madison WI
Avoid clumping snow melting chemicals and whenever possible, rinse paver walks and patios with fresh water to remove excess residue.

Carefully Select Tools To Protect Pavers In Winter

When it comes to removing ice and snow you have modern alternatives to plain old salt. There are excellent choices that match to your paver or concrete surfaces. Many of the commercial ice-melting products have freezing points even lower than salt so they go through the freeze/thaw process less often. Many are certified as “pet safe.”

Consider these alternatives for removing ice to protect pavers in winter:

  • Calcium Magnesium Acetate(CMA) – CMA is the most widely tested and used acetate-based deicer. Chemically it’s like vinegar, a natural acid soluble in water. It is biodegradable and used in small amounts will not harm the environment. It is safer for pets, plants, and hardscapes in winter.
  • Calcium Chloride– For melting ice in the coldest temperatures this is the No. 1 choice. Calcium freezes at -25° so it will deal with almost any day in Madison. Engineered to reduce tracking it’s a deicer that stays where you put it down.
  • Magnesium Chloride– Another newer deicer it is ideal for pet owners. WARNING: It can be lethal if swallowed by pets with known kidney disease. With a freezing temperature of  -13°, it’s extremely effective in very cold weather. In addition, it is safe for plants, deposits very little residue, and doesn’t get tracked into the house.
  • Potassium Chloride– Potassium chloride is popular with pet owners. For most pets it is safe, but it, too, can be lethal if ingested by pets with kidney disease. Used in small amounts it is also safe for landscape plants. A slight drawback, potassium chloride’s freezing point is similar to rock salt.

The best advice from landscapers and paver and concrete professionals is to always read the label of any product you’re considering. It’s up to you to know what you’re putting down.

Pavers In Winter | Marvins Brick Pavers | Madison WI
It may look like a painting at first but snow and ice on your patio can be a threat to pavers and decorative concrete.

Trust Professionals To Protect Pavers In Winter

Marvin Martinez has decades of experience installing and maintaining paver and decorative poured concrete creations. He and his team at Marvin’s Brick Pavers know how best to evaluate what you need to keep your hardscape looking perfect all year round. Give him a call at 608-630-8855. Or contact him via email.

Marvin’s skilled professionals work daily to provide complete outdoor spaces, combining landscaping with concrete pavers, bricks, stones and decorative poured concrete. Give us a call when you have questions or concerns on how to best protect pavers in winter in Madison WI.

Snow Shoveling Safety Tips

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