January 2006 Edition
Storm Warning

Canadian winters mean taking care of snow


Depending on your location in Canada, winter weather may conjure up images of wind, slush or rain. But for most Canadians, the image will be a white one, with an average of anywhere from 47 cm of snow per year in Victoria, to an average of 422 cm in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, according to Natural Resources Canada.


Whether you get a few small snowfalls per year, or you have a snowman family in residence from November through March, whatever snow falls in your parking lot, on your sidewalks and walkways, or on your roof needs your attention. Sweep, shovel, blow, plow, salt or sand – but clear that snow and ice.


Getting snow out of the way isn’t just an issue of appearance or convenience. Yes, a well-kept sidewalk, entranceway and parking lot are far more inviting to customers than trudging through ice, snow or slush. But removing snow and ice is also a municipal requirement in most areas. Under some of those bylaws, restaurants can be fined for not clearing snow and ice from public sidewalks in front of their businesses. If someone slips on the ice and is injured on your property, it could even result in a lawsuit.


If your parking lot is small, and your location gets little snow, you may be able to take care of snow removal in-house. But if you’ve got a lot of space to clear, or get a lot of deep snow, you will require the services of a commercial snow remover.


A parking lot with spaces for more that six cars is probably too time-consuming for a business to maintain on its own, says Leo Gingras, operations manager for Citywide Lawn and Snow Ltd., an Edmonton-based company that does renovations, lawn care and snow removal in Edmonton and Calgary.


Rates for parking lots start at about $290 per month, with a four-centimetre trigger, meaning that your lot will automatically be cleared every time it snows four centimetres or more. Snow is plowed and piled, or, if there is no room to pile the snow, it can be hauled away.


In very cold weather, using sand for traction is better than salting or using other ice melters, Gingras says. Edmonton is generally too cold for salt, quickly re-freezing any salt-melted snow. “Plus the salt will damage the concrete and everything because down in the pores it will freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw. And that’s when the cracks expand and where the heaving and everything come from.”


Gingras usually uses five-millimetre or seven-millimetre rock chip that embeds in the surface of ice or snow to provide traction.


Sidewalk maintenance can require a much higher level of service, generally requiring three to five times the number of service calls as a parking lot. Clearing and sanding of sidewalks, which may be done with plows, shovels or brooms depending on the snowfall, starts at about $165 per month, with a two-centimetre trigger. One-centimetre service as well as trace-trigger service is also available.


Snow doesn’t just accumulate under your feet. It also lands on your roof. A very heavy snowfall can put a lot of weight on a roof, and, depending on the pitch of the roof and the depth of the snow, it may have to be removed from the roof.


Ice damming can also cause problems on roofs. Ice damming occurs when warm air in an improperly ventilated attic causes snow on the roof to melt. This melted snow runs down to the eaves trough, where it is unable to drain because the eaves trough is filled ice and snow. If it can’t drain, the water will back up into the shingles and under the shingles.


“You can get moisture under your shingles,” Gingras says. “It can break shingles, but it can also get heavy enough that it knocks the eaves trough right off.”


Proper attic ventilation should prevent the problem, because ice damming is a result of heat loss rather than the amount of snow accumulation. Installing turbine or whirlybird vents that let the hot air escape helps ensure that the attic doesn’t get warm enough to melt snow on the roof, Gingras says.


Snow and ice may seem like a lot of work, but a good winter maintenance program can prevent mishaps ranging from customers’ cars getting stuck in your parking lot, to a damaged roof. Taking care of snow is one task that alleviates many worries.