Winter is coming…and so are ice hazards! Icy roads and walkways lead to more than 100,000 slips and 150,000 car crashes every winter. As a place where both cars and pedestrians travel, parking lots are especially high-risk. Commercial property owners must take precautions to prevent ice buildup on their lots. Read on to learn why deicing is important and how to achieve it.
Benefits of deicing your business parking lot
Because ice is clear, it’s difficult to see. Most non-commercial vehicles can’t get sufficient traction on slick surfaces. In parking lots, where drivers are making lots of turns and quick stops, that lack of traction can be quite dangerous.
And of course, pedestrians move through parking lots as well. Slipping on ice can lead to painful falls and injuries. If you haven’t properly treated your property for ice removal, you could be found liable.
Deicing your parking lot not only prevents these costly accidents but also helps your customers and employees feel safe. Even the most winter-savvy folks would rather not encounter ice at all — especially on hard pavement!
So, how can you prevent ice from sticking to your lot or remove it once it forms?
How do you deice a parking lot?
Salt — in particular, rock salt — is a tried-and-true ingredient in deicing. Composed of sodium chloride, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride, rock salt essentially turns freshwater into brine. Saltwater has a lower freezing point, so the ice melts. The salt brine then sinks, breaking the ice free from the pavement.
However, this technique only works for existing snow and ice. While it’s highly effective, people can still get injured as long as the parking lot is icy. That’s why it’s important to be proactive in your deicing strategy.
To prevent ice from taking hold to begin with, you use ice melt salt. It’s chemically similar to rock salt, except that it has sodium acetate instead of sodium chloride (aka table salt). This formula has a much lower freezing point, so the resulting brine doesn’t freeze at all. Ice melt salt is also less corrosive, causing less damage to your parking lot — and your customers’ vehicles! It’s more environmentally friendly as well.
When should you salt a parking lot?
Because rock salt only works on existing ice and snow, avoid using it as a pre-treatment. It’s quite corrosive, which means you could be causing damage to your lot, vehicles’ tires, and surrounding plant life and waterways with little preventative benefit. Apply rock salt only if your parking lot is icy and the temperature is expected to rise above 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The ice must start to melt in order for the salt to mingle with the water and break down the ice.
Brine is a better preventative solution. It doesn’t freeze until the temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if it’s already in place before the temperature drops, ice won’t stick to your pavement. Aim to apply ice melt salt when the temperature is between 20 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit and when there’s no rain in the forecast.
How much salt do I need for my parking lot?
Whether you’re applying rock salt or ice melt salt, it’s important to put down enough to treat your lot — but not too much that the salt washes away before it has a chance to work. (That can also destroy your landscaping.) Plus, salt is expensive, especially ice melt salt.
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer for how much salt you need to deice. The colder it is, the more salt you need. The thicker the layer of snow or ice, the more you need. And of course, you’ll need to use the right type of salt depending on weather conditions.
As a general guideline, aim to use 2.3 pounds per 1,000 square feet if the pavement is 28-32 degrees Fahrenheit (.e. just below freezing). Add 2.2 pounds per 1,000 feet for every 5-degree decline.
- At 28 degrees, you’ll need 2.3 pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet.
- At 23 degrees, you’ll need 4.5 pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet.
- At 18 degrees, you’ll need 6.7 pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet.
Below 15 degrees, you can only use ice melt salt, i.e. magnesium chloride and/or calcium chloride. You can cut these amounts in half if you wet the salt or pre-treat with brine.
If you pretreat with brine, you can reduce your rock salt needs. Remember that rock salt is only effective down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that, you need a formula with calcium chloride, potassium acetate, or magnesium chloride.
In sum, deicing a parking lot requires lots of calculations, proactive methods, and constant attention to the weather forecast. Countless business owners waste money by putting down rock salt in freezing temperatures or using the wrong type of salt.
Save yourself a headache and keep both your employees and customers safe with expert deicing, snow removal, and ice presentation by hiring Puget Construction and Landscape.