Though we can all agree that snow looks beautiful, shoveling it off your sidewalks and driveway is something very few people—if any—look forward to. "Shoveling snow can be very stressful," says Daniel Miller, founder of Shovler, an app that connects you with professional snow shovelers for hire in your area, "but it can also be a very enjoyable experience." So, what to do when you wake up and discover your home's walkway is covered in a blanket of freshly fallen snow? "The best way to effectively shovel snow is to hire a professional," says Denise Francis, chief operating officer of the property maintenance firm Foot Soldiers. "People who shovel snow are built for that work. Homeowners who are not used to bending, twisting, and tossing snow can hurt themselves."
Can't afford to hire a professional? No problem. We asked our experts for advice on how to effectively shovel snow on our own, and they had plenty to say. From how to lay down salt to the tools you need, here's what you need to know in order to shovel your driveway and sidewalks like a pro.
Use an Anti-Icing Agent Ahead of Time
As soon as you get wind that snow is coming, Francis suggests pre-treating your walkways with a quality anti-icing agent, such as calcium chloride pellets. "When people walk through snow it compacts and turns to ice," Francis says. "To limit or avoid this, properties should always be pre-treated with a safe anti-icing product to reduce (not eliminate) icing. Never pre-treat properties with salt! It's cheap and corrosive, owners will pay for it in new sidewalks and steps. Instead, use calcium chloride (our preferred product) or magnesium chloride. Always pre-treat your property at the threat of snow."
When it comes to shoveling snow, Miller says it's a race against time and, more specifically, ice. "We recommend shoveling snow as soon as possible to prevent it from turning to ice," he says. "Ice is significantly harder to remove and also increases the risk of falling. Be a good neighbor and remove snow once it falls, especially on sidewalks that people use frequently. If you don't shovel your sidewalk, you also risk receiving a hefty fine. People are sometimes surprised when they receive a fine for not shoveling snow, but more and more towns have boosted their enforcement efforts in recent years and have increased the amount of the fines. Some places charge as high as $1,000!"
Have the Right Shovel Handy
While there are a number of flashy shovels available on the market, our experts say to stick with plastic ones with steel or aluminum tips. "Metal shovels will damage stair cases, but if there is ice, a plastic shovel won't work" Francis says. "To use plastic shovels homeowners should pretreat their property then shovel within eight hours after the snow is complete. If there is ice, use calcium chloride and wait 15 minutes. Using ice choppers are also helpful and should be in your arsenal."
Lift From Your Legs, Not Your Back
Like it or not, trying to shovel snow too quickly can lead to serious health issues, including heart attacks and back problems. "Instead of trying to fit all the snow on one shovel, do multiple swings with less snow," Miller says. "Push the snow to the side rather than throw it. And when you do throw snow, make sure to lift from your legs and not from your back."
Have a Shoveling Plan in Place Ahead of Time
While we can't control the weather, we can take measures to be prepared for a snowstorm. "The best way to handle snow is with a plan," Francis says. "Buy what you need now. If you try to get the calcium chloride when snow is in the forecast, good luck. It might be sold out. Same with shovels. Have a spare metal shovel in your trunk (if you drive). Your safest bet is to plan ahead."