*DE -ICERS CHAPTER
"The Snowplowing Handbook" ©1999 - 2003 Charles D. Smith
There are a few elements and compounds used to melt ice.
I will talk about the most popular ones. Of course rock salt is the most common.
Probably the most cost effective
too. Remember that de-icers,
are for just that, de-icing.
Don't try to use them to melt
snow. It's a waste of material.
Spread your de-icer after clearing the areas of
snow. Apply after the threat of more snow is
gone. Only if the property is in
use, would I recommend
de-icer application before the threat of more snow
passes. Liability being the factor
here. In the eyes of the
law, the snowfall is an act of God.
Once you start your clearing
process, you can be held
liable, for anyone
slipping. You were contracted to remove snow (and/or ice).
Protect yourself, do a good
job, and try not to leave any slippery
areas. Keep your de-icing materials dry at all
times. Large chunks may damage your
spreader, and dry material spreads
farther, with smaller spreaders. Most tailgate spreaders are designed to use #1 rock
salt. This is sold in bags. The slide in
salters, can use larger size
chunks, since their conveyors and augers break up the chunks better.
Some of the large slide in spreaders, even wet the salt with a brine
solution. This helps the salt work better.
Rock salt-Sometimes sold mixed with fine gravel, or
cinders, even sand when sold in bulk. This helps provide increased traction,
until the salt can melt ice. Salt is harmful to concrete surfaces, more harmful on lower grades of
concrete. It is also damaging to plants, flowers, and shrubs. It is corrosive to
metals, except stainless steel. It's relative cost is low. Temperature greatly affects how well it
melts. The colder it is, the less it melts. Coarse salt alone weighs about 50 pounds per cubic
foot. That's about 1350 pounds to a cubic yard. In bulk, it is commonly sold by the
ton. So a ton would be about 1.48 cubic yards. I'm sure with the grit mixture,
the weights are higher.
Calcium Chloride-These small pellets, resemble little balls. It is much more costly than rock
salt. It only damages concrete slightly. Has a minor effect on plants, but is very corrosive to
metals. It will melt ice at up to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. It is available in
bags, not bulk. I've seen it in bulk, mixed with sand. I know it turns into an oily
liquid, at higher temperatures. I used to use it on baseball diamonds, to help keep the dust
down, when I used to work for a parks department years ago. Calcium Chloride weighs about 75
pounds, per cubic foot, or about 2025 lbs to a cubic yard.
Potassium Chloride-Much like Calcium Chloride. About the same cost. The difference
is, it's only slightly damaging to concrete, or not at all. Also nearly harmless to plants and
metals. Not as widely used as rock salt or calcium Chloride, at least around here. Potassium
Chloride, weighs about 125 pounds, per cubic foot. That's 3375 pounds, to a cubic
yard. Sold in bags only.
Urea-This is more of a fertilizer. It is 47% nitrogen by weight, and is very soluble in
water. Many landscapers use it for fertilizing. It is used at airports for de-icing
a lot, because it is not corrosive to metals. Greater amounts of urea are required to melt as much and as fast as Calcium and Salt
do. Sold in bags only. A friend tried some on his lawn this past Spring, since he had it left over from the
winter. He didn't realize how high the nitrogen level was. He burned his whole lawn. In
2 weeks, he had a dirt patch where grass used to be. lot of watering to leach the soil was necessary after this.
Ammonium Nitrate-This is a fertilizer also used for de-icing. I don't know anyone that uses it
though. It damages concrete severely, cost about as much as Calcium, and Potassium. It
only has a slight affect on plants, and is slightly corrosive to metals.
Calcium Magnesium Acetate-(CMA) This compound costs around $600 per ton !!!
As opposed to $20 or $30 for rock salt.
It was identified by the Federal Highway Administration in the 1970's,as the only de-icer to meet a standard of low
environmental damage, and low corrosiveness to metals. It's no more corrosive than tap
water. It's finding a market, where corrosion cannot be tolerated. It is completely harmless to
plants, metals, and concrete, but who could afford it?
Cinders-This is a traction material. It is used for the running surface, of some high school
tracks. Possibly available at mason yards, and quarries. Provides a great improvement in
traction. This is the grit, in many salt/grit mixtures. I'm talking about the type that was used to make cinder blocks years
ago. There are a few other types of cinders. Coal ash cinders, and furnace cinders. Coal
cinders weigh about 40 pounds per cubic foot. About 1080 pounds per cubic yard. Furnace
cinders on the other hand, weigh about 57 pounds per cubic foot, about 1539 pounds, per
cubic yard. As far as I know, they are only sold in bulk. Utility companies around here use a sand/grit to backfill around power and gas
lines. A coarse dark gray sand. It's most likely dust created by a rock crushing
machine. All the rocks crushed are sold in different grades, and combinations. Remember, when
you apply a salt/grit mix, that when everything melts, it will have to be cleaned
up. If you do the grounds maintenance too, you are in effect, creating work for yourself.
Sand-Gives some improvement in traction. A downfall is it gets tracked all over the
buildings, if it's applied on sidewalks. Working at a high school doing maintenance, I
got to see how well it worked outside, and how it destroyed the shine on the hallway floors.
Sometimes it's the lesser of the evils, as far as concrete stairs, and walks go. The
building occupants will have to wipe their feet. De icers will dull the shine on a tile floor fast
too. This is a common complaint from customers, and building superintendents.
A small drawback, when a slip and fall lawsuit is a possibility, if nothing is done to improve traction on
walkways, steps, and parking areas. Remember that when everything melts, it will have to be cleaned
up. If you do the grounds maintenance too, you are in effect, creating work for yourself come Spring.
Calcianated Clay- Also called "Turf-Face
Builder" This is clay that has been baked, then crushed into granules. Has a texture like kitty
litter. Provides a great increase in traction. It is extremely absorbent. It is used to improve compacted
soil. It is also used on some baseball diamonds, to help them dry out faster after a
rain. It can be used to dry areas that had puddles, after the water is broomed
off. It builds up in the clay, and helps it dry much faster. It is often used when planting to break up compacted
soil, and help hold moisture in the root zone. A bonus when using this is it can be swept or blown onto grass areas in the
Spring, and it will help improve the soil. Any that you have left in the Spring, can
be spread on lawns. Aerating first will help it get into the soil. Don't leave it in
piles. Spread it out evenly. It will help the soil breathe better, absorb moisture better
too. If it's on the surface, it will wick moisture away. Better if raked into the
surface, like after running a thatcher over a lawn.
This should provide you with a good overall view of the different materials that are commonly used for
de-icing, and traction. Use what works best for your accounts, based on the accounts requirements.
*Taken from "The Snow Plowing Handbook © 1998 - 2003 Charles D. Smith All rights
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