Snow and ice removal
SNOW AND ICE REMOVAL SOME ELEMENTS TO CONSIDER
Winter means clearing snow from common areas, maintenance, shovelling balconies, spreading salt and abrasives and … potential hazards and injuries. Sometimes all it takes to have a safe winter is to be well prepared, plan for maintenance, and use the right materials.
Whose responsibility is it to remove snow and ice? How do you choose the right snow removal professional? What types of abrasives should be used?
If the co-owner no longer feels the need to hire snow removal services for his or her driveway or to cover steps and walkways with de-icing products - although in general he or she is required to maintain the balcony and remove snow (mainly for the safety of the occupants in case of fire) - it is quite different for the directors who are responsible for removing snow and ice from the common areas. This task is normally provided for in the declaration of co-ownership. The quality of life of the co-owners and the safety of the residents and their visitors are, of course, among the concerns and priorities during the snowy, icy, and cold months … and all year long.
In winter, snow can be a real nuisance for co-owned buildings. Unlike individual residential properties, these buildings have more surface area to clear, including parking lots, walkways and sidewalks. With more exterior surface area to clean, it can turn into a tedious chore to manage.
Here are a few tips and pointers to ensure that the cold season does not mean headaches for co-ownership.
ENSURE THAT SNOW REMOVAL IS DONE PROPERLY AND IN A TIMELY MANNER
Being prepared for snow removal can be a daunting task and is part of the responsibilities of the directors or manager in some cases. Co-ownerships typically have large parking lots and multiple driveways, so having adequate and timely snow removal services is essential. And don’t wait until the first snowfall to prepare, get out the shovels or buy salt or sand.
When it comes to deciding how snow and ice will be managed, directors generally have three options: use the same snow removal service from year to year; go to tender and have companies bid on the work (usually a minimum of three suppliers); or choose to do it all in-house. A word of caution is in order with the last option. Delegating responsibilities to co-owners or directors could result in civil or financial liability in the event of injury or accident.
The most practical solution is to outsource the bulk of the work to a professional snow removal service, but it is also the most expensive. Look for a company, ideally local, that has excellent references and enough staff and equipment to get there on time during heavy snowfalls to do the job.
Before selecting a company or contractor, priorities should be established, such as which areas need to be cleared, how often and at what time of day the service should be provided, or, in the case of continuous snowfall, how often the snow will be cleared during the day. It is also recommended to verify what type of equipment is used and if it is appropriate for the particular co-ownership in order to avoid, for example, causing damage to the siding. Beware of hidden fees (often in the fine print of the contract): services such as off-site snow hauling or de-icing could result in additional charges.
It is important not to hesitate to call several companies and get several quotes to compare prices and services and find the one that will meet the particular needs at the desired price. However, by hiring a professional snow removal service, directors can be sure that the work will be done safely and in a timely manner.
SAND, GRAVEL, SALT: WHICH ABRASIVE TO CHOOSE?
Beyond the snow removal service, it is important to keep outdoor surfaces safe and free of snow accumulation - and not slippery! Slipping or losing one’s footing, even if the sidewalk or driveway is cleared of snow, can be unexpected and can result in injury to both homeowners and visitors. But between rain, snow, ice and rapidly changing weather, what are the options? To be well prepared, and depending on the use and the surface, it is important to choose the right abrasive or de-icing product (de-icer) and, ideally, the one that will be the least harmful to the environment … and the co-ownership.
THERE ARE FOUR MAIN DE-ICING SALTS, TO BE USED AS INDICATED
- SODIUM CHLORIDE (ice salt) is the most common de-icing salt. It releases the largest amount of chloride when it dissolves. Chloride can damage concrete and metal. It can also pollute the environment, so it is recommended to avoid it if possible. Effective at temperatures as low as -10 °C.
- CALCIUM CHLORIDE comes in the form of white, rounded pellets. It should be handled with care as it can cause skin irritation if hands are wet when handled. Calcium chloride concentrations may also chemically attack concrete. Effective at temperatures as low as -30 °C.
- POTASSIUM CHLORIDE is not a skin irritant and does not harm vegetation. It will only melt ice when the air temperature is above -10 °C, but if combined with other chemicals, it can melt ice at lower temperatures. It is a good choice.
- MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE continues to melt snow and ice until the temperature reaches -25 °C. The salt releases less chloride into the environment than ice salt or calcium chloride.
Ultimately, careful planning will make winter safer for residents and visitors who will be able to enjoy the holiday spirit … and for directors to avoid a lot of trouble and have a peaceful winter.
TO KEEP BOTH FEET FIRMLY GROUNDED
More environmentally friendly choices, sand, gravel and anti-skid mixes (without salt or chemicals) provide traction on icy sidewalks and driveways or on the way to the parking lot. Non-corrosive and gentle on trees and lawns, traction sand and fine gravel provide increased traction on slippery surfaces, will not deteriorate concrete, asphalt nor pavement, will not strip paint or add contaminants to the ground. However, they will not melt ice.
NO MORE ICE
The best known and most widely used de-icing product is de-icing salt, which is sometimes required to clear away ice. However, there are some drawbacks to its use: it can be corrosive to concrete and paint applied to metal components, and can have a significant impact on vegetation. As the de-icer dissolves, it seeps down to form a liquid layer underneath the ice that allows it to be easily removed. Essentially, salt, or sodium chloride, lowers the freezing point of water. Note that it is generally less effective when the temperature drops below -10 °C. Ideally, it is best to cover as much of the surface as possible with as little product as possible.
Other de-icing chemicals work in the same way as salt, but they have a wider temperature range (as low as -25 °C and more), and can last longer on wet surfaces to prevent ice from reforming. So, it’s important to choose the right product for the right purpose and to use it sparingly.
Condoliaison Vol.22 No4
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