Protecting Pavers From Wisconsin Winter Threats


Protecting pavers in walkways, driveways and patios from harsh winters is a basic requirement of living in and around Madison WI. Paving stones provide unique, durable accents to your home. They are strong and rugged. With a little care they withstand the stress of snow and ice.

The type of stone you’ve chosen for your hardscape dictates, in part, the best form of protection. Some are more susceptible to damage from snow removal equipment. Some do not mix with harsh de-icing products.

Protecting your paver installations falls into two categories: before winter weather hits and battling snow and ice.

For many kinds of pavers, the before phase means proper sealing. For others, a good heavy-duty cleaning is all you need. 

Exterminator companies, we’re actually licensed. In the state of New York, it is absolutely pertinent for an extermination company to be licensed. If a company isn’t licensed, there is a pretty good chance that the company is hiding something. They may have gotten into legal trouble in the past or they may not follow the appropriate laws and regulations. 

Our company has been licensed by New York for the entire duration of our tenure. Our license has never been put in jeopardy.  

Sealing Pavers – Choices, Options

Applying a protective layer to paving stones is an easy way to provide at least limited winter protection. The protective layer keeps moisture out of the pavers. Ice and snow accompanied by freezing temperatures cause shifting in the ground – especially when the base layer beneath pavers isn’t as strong as it should be. Water seeps between paving stones – and actually penetrates some stones. When it freezes the overall surface moves and stones crack. Sealing the entire surface protects it from water damage during the freeze/thaw events. 

There are two common types of sealer:

  • Topical – covers the surface and is mostly cosmetic
  • Penetrating – is absorbed into the pavers and provides the most, long-lasting protection

There are also sealants that include a grit in them. When applied they provide a non-slip surface that can be a benefit where ice is a problem.

Different stones are treated differently. For some, one coat lasts a long time. For others repeated applications are necessary. Consulting with a hardscape professional that I trust for  driveway pavers Madison WI is the best option to insure you get a sealer designed for the type of pavers you have. Or, to learn if you need a sealant at all.

Protecting Pavers During Snow Removal

Protecting Pavers | Marvin's Brick Pavers | Madison WI
Standard snow removal tools are not a threat to paver creations when used properly. Professionals recommend using shovels and snowthowers with plastic or rubber blades for protecting pavers from scrapes and scuffs.

Once temperatures drop and snow flies the emphasis shifts to protecting patios, walks and driveways from homeowners.  The snow shovels, scrapers and snowblowers come out and go to work. Most Wisconsin residents don’t give it a second thought. However, when you’ve invested in a paver walk, driveway or patio asking how best to remove snow makes sense. Homeowners regularly ask:

  • Can I use my old snow shovel on pavers? A traditional snow shovel works just fine on paving stones. However, it’s a good idea to use a plastic shovel or one with a plastic scrapper blade so you don’t scratch or scuff stones.
  • Will my snowthrower work on the uneven surface of pavers? Again, the answer is yes with the same recommendation for a plastic or rubber-edged blade. Metal augers are more likely to chip and scratch pavers of all kinds.
  • Can I plow my brick paver driveway? It’s good to avoid heavy-duty plows with a lot of downward pressure, but small plows work fine on paver and brick driveways. As with other options, avoiding rough, hard edges in contact with pavers is the most important warning.

Threats of damage from snow removal tools increases on older, uneven installations where the surface has shifted. Before the first snow check all paver areas. If you find the surface has shifted replace or repair stones out of alignment. Anything sticking up, even a little bit can catch on shovels and plows. Contact with any tool can loosen the stones. Loose stones are potential problems all year around.

Never use sharp implements to chip at ice on any kind of paver stones!

Salt – Enemy No. 1

Ice and snow melting chemicals are popular easy fixes for light snow or an overnight refreeze. They are handy but harmful. While all deicing chemicals remove ice, some remove vital elements in pavers. The brine and salt residue left on pavers and allowed to seep into or around stones, causes cracking. Salt is corrosive and will damage and discolor stone. Salt is also bad for plants, soil and nearby waterways.

How bad is it? Consider:

  • Salt is corrosive and its crystals will penetrate and “eat” away the surface of concrete and concrete pavers. It will also damage the mortared joints of any surface it contacts.
  • Salt causes flaking to stones and masonry. Known as salt fretting it causes masonry to scale, flake and chip away.
  • It discolors surfaces with stains and a bleaching process. Especially common with many natural stone products.
  • Salt harms plants. Most plants cannot live in soil with a high salt content. The salty runoff from melting ice and snow builds up in the soil where it damages plants roots. While some plants like junipers tolerate salt, most don’t.
  • Salt is tracked into your house. Foot traffic on treated walks brings salt into your home where it damages floors and floor coverings.
  • Salt threaten pets. Salt on their paws and between their toes is an irritant to dogs and cats. When they lick it off it becomes an additional internal threat.

Alternative De-Icers

There are options to using old-fashioned rock salt to treat walks and patios. Many are more environmentally friendly. Chemists have provided alternatives to sodium chloride (rock salt) that are not only less corrosive, but work better on ice and snow.

Among the popular alternatives are:

  • Potassium Chloride– potassium chloride’s freezing point of 15° – 20° is similar to rock salt. It is one of the least damaging de-icers for plants and one of the safest around pets. However, it can be lethal if ingested by pets with kidney disease.
  • Magnesium Chloride– with a freezing temperature of -13° it is effective in the coldest weather. It releases 40% less chloride into the environment and is safe for plants. Additionally, it leaves very little residue and is excellent around pets. However it too can be lethal if swallowed by pets suffering from kidney disease.
  • Calcium Chloride– With a freezing temperature of -25° it melts ice quickly even in extremely cold climates. Many calcium chloride products are engineered to reduce tracking so the de-icer stays on patios and walkways instead of transferring to people’s shoes.
  • Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA)– A relatively new product, it is the most widely tested and used acetate-based de-icer. CMA is a natural acid, soluble in water – similar to vinegar. It is biodegradable, safer around pets and the environment. Major drawback: price. Usually more expensive than salts – but environmental benefits may outweigh the cost difference.

Consult Paver Maintenance Professionals

You have a significant investment in your paver patio, walks or driveway. Working with a professional to protect it from harsh use and natural stress makes sense. Skilled, experience paver installation pros know how to keep hardscape creations safe and looking sharp. Contact Marvin Martinez at Martin’s Brick Pavers, 608-630-8855 or email us. Protecting pavers in your Madison WI home is a wise investment.

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