Residential clients will sometimes ask for the snow management professional to not only take care of the driveway and sidewalks, but also clear their deck during a storm. Wood and composite decking will react differently to deicing than the property’s concrete or stone sidewalks. These PlowSite members discuss their experiences with deicing wood decks.
flakesmeangreen: What’s the safest ice control to use on wooden decks? I know rock salt isn’t good for it, but I don’t know what is.
Mike Nelson: We have been doing 350 condo units all with wooden steps for years. We tried sand/salt, but the sand made a mess (tracking in the units). So, we went to straight salt. We also found out that the wooden steps would freeze before the roadways or our concrete walks. You could use treated salt (Iceban or Magic) or maybe try liquid applications (Iceban, Magic, Clearlane, etc.)
G.Williams: We use calcium chloride, it really melts well. It’s a little costly but works like a charm. Plus, it will melt to -20 below zero.
Taconic: The only problem with using calcium on wooden steps or decks is that it will take all the moisture out of the wood and can promote cracking on the deck because the wood shrinks and expands more than usual.
Mower For Less: I have a customer with a new wood deck, just built this summer, and has not stained or sealed it yet. It was built with regular pressure treated lumber. My question/problem is that the customer wants me to use an ice melter on it, but I don’t want to damage the deck. I have told them my fears and the reasons for them. I told them I will do it if they want, but they have to realize the damage it can cause to the deck. What I want to ask is, do you think calcium chloride on a new untreated deck will be OK? Would magnesium chloride be better? Would you think a stained/sealed deck would have better resistance to the damaging effects of the ice melter?
h_riderca: I usually shovel the snow off the deck and then let nature do the rest. After I shovel the snow off my cedar deck, the sun will melt what is left on the deck boards.
Mick: I put down Magic Salt before it snows. It’ll melt snow as it falls and keep it from bonding to the deck. Then just peel off anything it doesn’t melt. A few years ago, one application melted the first three snowfalls because it only snowed an inch or two at a time.
Mower For Less: Does this have any adverse effects on the deck? This customer is a year-round customer who I also do lawn, hedges and cleanups for. So I really want to be careful about the possibility of damaging their new deck.
Andy N.: Just tell them the adverse effects of it, have them sign off on it and do it. If they want it done that bad, just do it.
Grn Mtn: Andy is right, have them sign a letter that says “I, the customer, understand that using ice control products on my new, untreated deck will most definitely ruin it, but I don’t care because I like wasting money, and using sand is just too messy.” Then take their money with a smile and get into the decking business on the side.
Mower For Less: You suggest I word the letter just like that, do you? LOL. I went to salt last week, and I noticed they had applied their own salt to the deck, so I am just going to run with that, and they can ruin it on their own. I would much rather sell new deck board, having them think it was their fault, than sell a deck repair thinking it was my fault.
butler L&S: I do a townhouse complex that has wooden steps and a deck leading to the front doors and I use calcium chloride. Over time, the nails have started to pop up (major pain when shoveling). Other than that, the wood has held up well. Last year they started replacing and rebuilding many of these decks and I made sure they used screws. If the wood is treated regularly you should be OK using calcium chloride in my opinion.
Stumper1620: Just get a pressure washer to sell a deck wash in the spring, get the white salt lines out of the wood, pound the nails down or tighten the screws whatever it has holding it and go for it. Won’t hurt the wood, just stains it. Wash, wait a day and convince them to seal it.
Longae29: Is Magic Salt still the way to go, or has there been a new product introduced that would be more effective? According to their website, the closest dealer to me is about 40 miles away, if there is another product anyone could recommend it would be awesome. The customer calls the wood area a boardwalk. I’m not going to be able to use a ATV with a plow, but a small Toro snow blower should be OK.
Luther: Come on … what’s wrong with a plastic snow shovel?
Longae29: I’m pretty sure most of our sidewalk guys have no idea what a shovel looks like. I’m not that worried about the clearing of it, it’s only a 150-foot stretch. I’m more concerned about what to use to make it not slippery.
Luther: No matter what you go with, the concern would be how it affects the metal framing around the windows and railing (and the wood). Maybe you can also sell them on a product that you can apply to the framing to protect it for any corrosion before winter sets in.
Grn Mtn: Using a Toro or similar paddle-bladed snow blower is an excellent choice. They (the paddles) don’t harm the deck, yet clean it to the wood, making the chance of slipping reduced greatly. Using a liquid deicer sprayed from a pump sprayer will certainly help with any remaining ice, but as you already know this will cause the wood fibers to degrade more rapidly. How about talking with the property management and set up a signage program alerting users of the boardwalk that deicing will only be done in extreme cases and to walk with care?
Longae29: That’s what I figured about the paddle-bladed type. We haven’t dabbled that much in liquids, I did a bit more research, and from what I found I think magnesium chloride is my best bet, which is good because we have five or six pallets of it left from last year, so that’s what I used in my bid.