When a winter storm hits and the snow starts falling on your deck, what are you supposed to do? You might be worried that large amounts of snow and ice collecting on your deck could possibly cause moisture or structural damage.
However, improperly removing snow and ice from your deck can actually cause more harm than good. Needless or improper snow shoveling can leave your deck with costly scrapes or gauges. So when and how do you remove snow and ice from your deck or patio?
Do you really need to remove that snow and ice?
Don’t worry about moisture damage. While you may be worried that snow and ice can cause moisture damage, PVC and composite deck boards aren’t damaged by water. Cedar decks are also naturally resistant rotting and warping.
Don’t worry about your deck collapsing. Properly constructed decks are required to support more snow that most roofs, between 40 to 60 psf (pounds per square foot), and 3 feet of snow only weighs between 42 and 63 psf. Since most deck handrails are around 3 feet high, you don’t need to worry about snow weight unless you can no longer see your deck rails.
There are only two situations that require shoveling: When you need to create an exit route from your door, and when the snow gets higher than your deck rails.
Do's and Don’ts of Removing Snow and Ice:
DO put safety first. Don’t go out onto your deck if you might get hurt by needlessly overexerting yourself in the cold or slipping on an icy surface. When there is thin layer of snow or ice on your deck, the best thing to do is to wait until it melts through the gaps in your decking.
DO clear the snow to provide an exit path from your house. You should always have two separate exit paths from your house for safety, and if your second exit is a deck covered in deep snow, then you should clear a path. But all you need to clear is a path 3ft wide; no need to shovel the entire deck.
DON’T use a metal shovel. You might scratch your deck using a metal shovel, so instead, use a plastic or rubber blade shovel. If you have to use a metal shovel as your only option, leave a thin layer of snow on top rather than letting your metal shovel come in direct contact with the deck surface.
DO shovel parallel to your deck boards. Shoveling across (perpendicular) the boards increases the risk that your shovel will catch the edge of a board and damage the surface.
DO use a broom or leaf blower for light snow. If snow is fluffy and less than four inches deep, it’s easy to brush away with a simple broom rather than risking scratching your deck with a shovel. Or if you have one available, use a leaf blower.
DON’T shatter ice on your deck. Banging and chopping at ice on your deck can seriously hurt the deck boards with scratches and gouges, even if you’re using a plastic shovel.
DO use the right ice melting product for your deck type. Calcium chloride is considered safe for composite decks like Timbertech and Trex, but products using sodium chloride can cause damage, especially to wood decks and steps. Check what products are safe for your material; look for the phrases “safe for concrete” and “will not kill grass.” However, using any ice melting products on a deck that is above any landscaping may kill plant life.
DON’T put sand on a wood deck. Some people use sand as an alternative to chemical ice melts for preventing slippage, but sand is an abrasive substance and can scratch the decking surface.
DO remove icicles that hang over your deck. Large icicles that form on your roof may fall onto your deck--and because they are sharp, they may damage wood.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to keep safe and avoid damaging your deck during the winter seasons so you can enjoy it worry free for years to come!