Those of you with wooden decks or wooden steps will already be aware of just how slippery wooden surfaces are covered in ice. In most cases, a frozen wooden deck is even more dangerous than an icy concrete driveway or walkway.
Therefore, with winter in full swing, it's only natural that you will be looking to stock up on those crucial supplies of ice melt. But traditional ice melt for wood decks doesn't stand up to scrutiny when compared to more-effective solutions on the ice melt market.
This article will run through what you need to aware of when keeping your wood deck and steps free of ice this winter, as well as walking you through how to keep it that way. We'll also delve into the reasons why calcium chloride ice melt presents the best solution for protecting your wooden surfaces, preventing you from slips and falls, and ensuring your pets don't suffer injuries.
Why You Need to Protect Your Wood Deck
For residents of Canada and most Northern states of America, winter will exposure your wooden deck to plenty of moisture in the form of rain, snow, and ice. Water and moisture have a damaging effect on wood, and even the best water sealants can only offer so much protection.
As a deck construction material, wood is much more naturally porous than similar counterparts, such as plastic composites or concrete. This means that as water infiltrates the wood during the day, it expands once temperatures plummet overnight, causing it to crack, splinter, and buckle.
With each freeze-thaw cycle, the damage is compounded as the wood becomes even more porous, and any sealant you've applied becomes worthless. Therefore, it's vital to keep your deck free of ice throughout the winter to best protect your investment. But there are other pertinent reasons for clearing snow and ice from your wood deck and steps too.
Even just one winter storm can dump enough snow to present a serious threat to the load-bearing capacity of elevated decks. A poorly-maintained deck left untouched during the winter could quite easily collapse if under the pressure of sufficient snow and ice.
The other reason you'll want to keep your wood deck free of ice and snow is, of course, for access purposes. Wood is perhaps the most slippery surface when covered in ice and can lead to nasty injuries sustained in falls. Wooden steps descending from elevated decks to the ground level present the most significant slip risk. Thus, you'll want to use an ice melt for wood steps as well as your deck.
Suppose you are unsure as to what state your wood deck is in heading into this winter. In that case, you assess its fitness against the criteria set out in the North American Deck and Railing Association's Deck Safety Checklist. Or, should you wish to, you could call a professional to perform a pre-winter inspection.
So now you've understood the importance of protecting your wood deck this winter, let's take you through what you need to be doing to protect it.
How to Protect Your Wood Deck and Steps from Ice
Before you even get to the point of utilizing an ice melt safe for wood decks, there are several best practices you need to follow to both protect your wooden surfaces and to make the job of the de-icer much easier.
Step #1: Clear Snow with a Shovel
In the aftermath of a snowstorm event, your first step should be to shovel snow from the deck area to expose the ice for an ice melt product to work. However, many homeowners make several mistakes at this stage. So let's run through some of the common errors to avoid.
First and foremost, do not use a metal shovel. While it may be tempting to use a sturdy metal shovel to make your way through the snow and ice settled on the deck's surface, the edges of a metal shovel are notoriously sharp. Therefore, it's highly likely that you'll end up scratching and denting the deck in the process of removing the upper layers of snow. Instead, use a plastic, composite, or rubber snow shovel for your snow-clearing endeavors.
Next, make sure to note which way the planks of your deck face before the first winter storm arrives. Ideally, you need to run your shovel in a direction that is parallel to the deck boards. Shoveling across them is bound to see you accidentally catching the sides of the deck boards, ruining the surface. The damage you inflict may be much worse with a metal shovel, but make no mistake, even rubber versions can leave unwanted marks by going against the direction of the boards.
The other mistake some homeowners make is that they try to chip away at the ice on the surface of their wood decks with their shovel. Again, no matter the shovel material, this is a bad idea that is likely to leave unsightly indentations on your deck. You should leave the melting of ice up to the ice melt product you buy. At the end of your shoveling activities, you want to aim for a thin layer of snow that can be swept off with a firm brush to expose the ice.
Step #2: Research and Purchase Ice Melt Safe for Wood Decks
The next mistake many homeowners make when aiming to protect their wood deck is purchasing an ice melt that ends up doing more harm than good. One such example is sand. For some reason, sand is a popular choice as a wood deck de-icer. However, there are several issues with using such a product as an ice melt for wood decks.
Firstly, sand is an abrasive material. What that means in practical terms is that every time you walk across a sand-covered deck, you will leave a trail of scratches behind. You won't notice the problem until spring arrives when it will suddenly appear as though you've spent all winter scrubbing your deck with a steel wool pad.
The second issue with sand is that it tracks everywhere, exacerbating the problem outline above and potentially causing issues with trailing sand into your car, home, or even the office. Finally, for sand to have any effect, you need stock up on literal tons of it to continuously spread throughout the winter, rending it both expensive and ineffective.
The most popular choice for de-icing wood decks is rock salt, but again, there are numerous issues with this product. For a start, wooden decks are almost always secured with metal bolts and supports. Therefore, adding a salt-based de-icer is going to cause issues with rust and corrosion of those parts. In the case of elevated decks, this could be a real cause for concern, as rusted out supports could lead to a catastrophic collapse.
But rock salt's negative qualities are not merely limited to the metal infrastructure supporting your deck. It also damages the wood itself. Rock salt dries out wood, affecting the natural expansion and contraction process of wood and causing the deck to corrode. Due to salt's effect on timber, it's never recommended as a safe ice melt for wood decks.
Last but by no means least, the shape of rock salt crystals should be a cause for concern for homeowners. Firstly, if you think that sand is abrasive, just wait until to track rock salt all over your deck. The sharp jagged edges of the rock salt substance can leave deep, nasty scratches on the wood's surface that could be cause for anger and frustration when barbeque season rolls around.
Secondly, rock salt is the silent enemy of our four-legged friends. The sharp and jagged edges of rock salt we just mentioned can cause lacerations and abrasions to cats and dogs' feet. These small chunks of rock salt often become lodged between toes or caught up in the fur surrounding the footpads, which prolongs contact with their skin causing irritation and pain for our beloved pets.
Thus, you need to buy a safe de-icer for both your wood deck and your pets. That comes in the form of a calcium chloride de-icer.
Step #3: Purchase Calcium Chloride Ice Melt and Apply to Wood Deck and Steps
Calcium chloride provides the answer for homeowners looking to clear their wood decks of ice and snow while avoiding the fate of inflicting any unnecessary damage. As it's a calcium-based ice melt, it doesn't have any of the issues associated with sodium-based alternatives such as rock salt (sodium chloride).
Unlike sand and rock salt, calcium chloride products such as Eco Garden's Snow and Ice Melt are made up of tear-shaped prills that disintegrate immediately upon contact with water-based substances such as ice and snow. Thus, the advantages are two-fold. First, this ice melt for wood decks isn't abrasive, meaning it won't leave any marks on your wood. When spring rolls around, it will be scratch-free, provided you follow the advice laid out above.
Secondly, since calcium chloride almost immediately dissolves into a liquid brine, there's nothing left behind that could potentially get stuck in between fur or toes. Even if your dog or cat were to step out immediately after you applied calcium chloride ice melt, the smooth, rounded edges wouldn't pose any issues for your beloved pets, and they would soon dissolve regardless.
Lastly, when compared to rock salt or sand, you don't need to apply anywhere near as much product to your wood deck to keep it clear of ice this winter. Just a few pounds of calcium chloride ice melt can have your wood deck de-iced in minutes. This is thanks mainly to its exothermic properties (meaning it naturally attracts moisture and generates its own heat).
Therefore, once you've taken care of the initial snow shoveling, all you have to do is spread a few pounds of our wood-safe ice melt and let the prills get to work. You can return a few minutes later to witness the powerful effects of calcium chloride and walk on your deck without slipping. You also better protect your wood, as we'll now explain.
Why Calcium Chloride is the Best Ice Melt for Wood Decks and Steps
As mentioned, as a homeowner, your thoughts shouldn't merely be preoccupied with clearing high-traffic areas of your deck so you can make safe passage across it during winter. It would help if you also thought about protecting the wood itself to ensure your deck investment doesn't go to waste.
That's where calcium chloride-based de-icer holds a considerable advantage over traditional solutions such as rock salt. As explained, the issue for wood is that it's naturally porous. During the winter, water will penetrate your wood deck. However, when it freezes, it expands, creating upward pressure on the boards, potentially causing cracking, buckling, and splintering. If left untouched, frozen wood may stay in that state for months, which isn't good, but at least it isn't continually contracting and expanding.
However, by adding rock salt, you increase the number of freeze-thaw cycles dramatically. While it may thaw ice on your deck, rock salt only continues to work as a de-icer up until the temperature reaches 20°F (-6.67°C). After that temperature is breached, it begins to freeze. Given how cold it can get in winter, this tends to occur regularly, exacerbating the problems freeze-thaw cycles present to your wood deck and steps.
By contrast, calcium chloride pellets can work right down to a temperature of -25°F (-31.67°C). As a result, not only will you benefit from the fact that the product continues to melt ice at such low temperatures, but it will also maintain your wood in a continual state of thaw in all but the most extreme winter locations in North America.
The question on your lips now might be where can you get hold of such an effective ice melt that's deemed safe for wood decks? Fortunately, we have the answer.
Keep Your Wood Deck and Steps Safe with Eco Garden Calcium Chloride Snow and Ice Melt
With cold winter temperatures already with us, now is the best time for you to stock up on your ice melting supplies for your wood deck. But you must invest in a product that is both much more effective at melting ice and is deemed safe for wooden surfaces. Therefore, it's time you made the switch to the more effective, wood-safe calcium chloride.
With industry-leading practical working temperatures going down to as low as -25°F, our Eco Garden Calcium Chloride Snow and Ice Melt allows you to protect yourself from suffering any slips or falls without inflicting any of the unnecessary damage to your wood associated with sand or rock salt. Better yet, you can relax in the knowledge that your wood deck isn't undergoing regular freeze-thaw cycles and that your metal infrastructure is safe from corrosion.
So what are you waiting for? We now offer free shipping available on orders over $35 for a limited time only, so make sure to stock up on your supplies of calcium chloride ice melt before they sell out!