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To Salt or Not to Salt – That is the Question

IMG_0251The forecast has remained fairly mild all winter. However, it’s better to be informed before you’re staring at the shelves in a home improvement store debating your purchases. If you are thinking of putting salt on your icy walkway, you should read this first.

When the snow comes there may be the temptation to use “rock salt” to clear your concrete driveways, walkways and stairs. While it melts the snow and ice, it does so at a cost. Too much can cause damage that comes in several forms called; chips, flaking, spalling, pitting and cracking. To use any kind of salt your concrete should be at least 6 months old.

With all products, you always want to read to manufactures instruction for use. You will also want to check the ingredients. If they contain ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate they should never be used. The four primary deicing salts are:

  • Sodium Chloride which is known as rock salt is the most common deicing salt. It releases the highest amount of chloride when it dissolves and can really damage concrete and metal while polluting the waterways with it’s runoff. It should be avoided.
  • Calcium Chloride comes in the form of round white pellets that can cause skin irritation if your hands come in contact with it. In high enough concentrations, it can chemically attack concrete.
  • Potassium Chloride is not a skin irritant and does not harm vegetation. If the air temperature is above 15 F it’s a good choice to use.
  • Magnesium Chloride is the newer to the market and melts snow and ice until the temperature reach -13 F (hopefully, that temperature range is not in our future any time soon). It’s less damaging to concrete and plants. It’s the best choice out of these four.

This caution to “look before you spread” will save you from the disappointment of concrete work that just doesn’t look nice when the Spring thaw returns. It will also help with making the right first impression when the time comes to sell your home.

This product review was gleamed from an article published by The New York Landmarks Conservancy.