As temperatures start to drop, it becomes more and more evident that the cold of winter is right around the corner. In many areas, this means it’s time to start prepping for low temps and all the ice and snow that often accompany them. There’s one thing that people often forget to prepare for, though: the deluge of road salt that often comes with the winter.
Road salt is obviously used to help keep the roads safe by melting snow and ice before it can become dangerous. Many homeowners use salt and salt alternatives around the house as well, keeping walkways and steps ice-free during harsh weather. If you aren’t careful, though, having too much salt can cause a lot of problems with your landscaping and even some home fixtures. If you want to stay on top of potential salt-related problems, here are some things to keep in mind while preparing for winter.
The Problem With Road Salt
Road salt has been around for a long time; it was first used in the 1930s to help keep ice off of the roads, and though there have been some refinements since then, the basic premise remains the same. Salt lowers the freezing temperature of water, making it take lower temperatures to freeze and thus preventing some of the ice buildup that can make roads hazardous. Once temperatures drop past a certain point this water can still freeze, but between traffic and the angle of the road surface there may be less of the slower-freezing water on the road by that point.
Unfortunately, road salt can also cause problems over the course of the winter. Salt sprayed from the tires of passing cars and leached off as runoff from melting snow can get into your yard, damaging or killing grass or plants near the road. That same salt can cause corrosion on your vehicles if you live in an area where the roads are frequently salted, leading to both rust and paint damage as the salty water evaporates and white salt powder builds up on your car. Salt tracked in on your tires and shoes can also cause damage to concrete in your garage and on your steps, especially if it’s left there for extended periods. Even the salt products that you use around the house yourself can lead to some of these problems if you use too much and don’t clean up after.
Road Salt Protection
There are a few ways to protect your home and lawn from the effects of salt during the winter. If you use a lot of plants or decorative grasses in your yard, keep sensitive plants away from roads and driveways and plant hardier grasses in the areas that will get the most salt exposure. When temperatures rise above freezing, water the areas where salt was splashed onto your yard thoroughly to help dilute the salt, and add lime or gypsum as well to help neutralize the salt’s effects. You should also keep an eye on grass and plants that seem to develop salt damage so that they can be replaced in the spring.
To protect your garage floor and other parts of your home, be sure to rinse them thoroughly with clean water to remove possible salt buildup. To add a layer of protection to the concrete, consider applying an epoxy-based sealant to the garage floor as well before temperatures drop too much. Wash your car when possible if you notice salt buildup to remove it before it can cause damage. If you’re using sidewalk salt to keep your steps clear, choose a concrete-safe salt alternative or ice melt mix to help prevent damage.
Are You Ready for Winter?
Preparing for a potential deluge of road salt is just one step in getting your home ready for winter. It’s important to prep other parts of your home for the weather to come as well.