This time of the year in Chicago, when faced with slick, icy concrete drives and walks, chemical de-icers and salt treatments start to look very appealing. De-icing products such as rock salt and fertilizers, while effective at making your stairs, walks and drives less slippery can be comprised of ingredients that can be harmful to your concrete. Not only will de-icing agents damage your concrete, they can cause problems with landscaping, metal supplementary parts, pets, children, yourself and the environment.
Many of the most popular deicing products contain calcium chloride, ammonium sulfates, magnesium chloride, sodium chloride and Urea. If these sound like chemicals you do not want around your home and family, it is because they aren’t. These products are made of harsh chemicals that can be harmful to respiratory tracts and can cause skin reactions if handled improperly. Outdoor pets such as cats and dogs can have adverse reactions to these chemicals. The de-icing chemicals can be picked up on paws or licked off the ground, and when exposed to moister, the chemicals cause an exothermic reaction that can reach up to 175° and that commonly ends with burned paws, pads, mouths, and can cause ulcers in digestive tracts. Aside from the health dangers posed by such products to your family and pets, they can also be damaging to your brick, asphalt, concrete projects, as well as the surrounding areas.
In the case of chloride based snow and ice melting products, such as calcium chloride and sodium chloride, the main components have been known to deteriorate concrete and brick by flaking and pitting. Magnesium chloride and calcium chloride are not only harmful to concrete but pose a further problem with attracting moisture and making a slippery surface even more slippery as these products will not work at very low temperatures. Any snow or ice that has already melted will freeze up when the temperature drops to between 20° and 5° Fahrenheit. Some of the fertilizer based products are corrosive to metal and can damage vegetation. So if you notice rusty metal gates, posts and stair rails along with yellowed landscaping after a winter of using salt and snow melting products, you will know who the culprit is.
But who wants to spend the winter slipping on icy sidewalks and stairs? What line of action does Chicagoland Concrete, Inc. recommend for the harsh Midwest winter? We think the most environmentally sound, economical, and safe way of dealing with icy walks and stairs is using a two part plan of attack. We suggest shoveling any snow accumulation before it starts to melt and freezes again, leaving a slippery layer of ice. Then cover the area with sand. While sand does not melt ice or snow, a heavy layer of it should provide a good measure of traction.
We hope that this article has helped inform you of the hazards of snow and ice melting products and helped you formulate a game plan for the upcoming winter months. If you have any further in depth questions, please feel free to contact the professionals at Chicagoland Concrete, Inc. in the office or via the website through the “Contact Us” tab. As always, please feel free to leave your comments on this post.