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  1. #1
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    Keeping deck stairs ice free through the winter.

    Bit of an odd one this, but last year my dog, Maggie slipped on the stairs outside and hurt her back.

    This year, exactly the same damn thing happened 3 days ago and she's only now getting over it. She still seem to be a little paranoid about stepping up (From both outside to get back in, and also indoors from the sunroom to the living room).

    If this keeps up she's going to break her neck out there...

    The stairs are pressure treated from the looks of them and number about 8 or 9.
    Any good methods to keep the ice away to stop this from happening?

    I told my wife I'll just salt it and to hell with the wood, but that didn't meet with a very warm welcome :D
    Quite honestly though, I really don't want her getting hurt out there so aparently something needs to be done here.

    Any suggestions appreciated!

    Rob.

  2. #2
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    RE: Keeping deck stairs ice free through the winter.

    As I see it, B&D, you have a short list of choices:
    1. Prevent the water from getting on the steps in the first place.
    2. Remove it before it freezes.
    3. Prevent it from freezing when it gets there.
    4. Remove it once it's frozen.

    So - addressing #1, is there any practical way of keeping the precips from landing on those steps? Roofing?

    #2 - BOY, we're talking about hustling! An less exhausting alternative would be to replace the PT steps with gratings. Not a bad choice, if you can stand the extra cost.

    #3 - OK, now we're talking either applied heat (electric, forced heated fluid, that sort of thing) or some sorta' antifreeze... for which salt DOES work well. It can do funny things to the grass, though, and the well (if you're on well water. Certain types of alcohol work great, too. Yet another alternative here is good ol' sunlight, if you have southern exposure to the steps. Someplace out there is available black-colored ground asphalt or sand - I know 'cause I've seen it used. It absorbs sunlight like crazy, and melts ice away from walkways & steps just as crazily.

    #4 probably entails your energy again, in manually removing any ice buildup once it's frozen down. That or retroactively using that black stuff mentioned in #3.

    -- Tim --



    A novice has many options,
    An expert, only a few.


  3. #3

    RE: Keeping deck stairs ice free through the winter.

    Rob,

    Prevention is the best medicine.

    As soon as the snow is done, DO NOT step on the snow. That packs it down and it freezes as fast as it can. You can get a ice scraper at the HD or Lowes. Long shovel hendle with a scraper on the end. It helps to scrape up the ice. I usually clear the steps as much as possible without steppping on them. Clear the snow COMPLETELY off the steps and from the deck in the walking area. Clearing the snow completely is the key. Don't leave even a little bit ion the stairs on walking areas. Dont make just a narrow path, clear at least 4-5 feet wide, from the steps to the door. The spaces between the deck boards should allow the water to drain away as the snow melts.

    I have PT decks and I use salt. I have used salt for the past 3-4 years. So far I have not experienced and damage to the wood that I can see. Make a little mess though. To me it's better than the broken bones and things like that. I would rather be safe than sorry. Acidents don't need to be helped along.

    Tim, offers up some fine, surefire examples of how to definately get rid of the ice menace.



  4. #4
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    RE: Keeping deck stairs ice free through the winter.

    Thanks to you both...
    It's the ice daming only in STEP FORM along with the same problems I have keeping that at bay too.
    Theory tells us that removing every crap of snow is the way to go, but it's not always possible, not only due to nature, and the sheer damn amount of snow but the fact that I'm watching my two kids from 6am onwards and the dog has to go out when she has to go out...

    Now I recall, I think it was the same time last year that her other fall happened.
    This same time when the ice is melting during the day follower by a rapid freeze at night (or throughout the day depending on sunlight contact).

    The stairs do lead straight down onto the grass, so salt might not be a great use where it's going to drain straight onto the ground there...Might be okay to use on the deck in front of the stairs though where theres only crawl space for it to drain to.
    Hrm, I also wonder if salt might hurt her paws or cause sickness if she's licking it off afterwards? Any idea?

    You're right. Prevention is the key here. I need to keep it in mind and stay on top of it.
    I wonder if I can get temporary rubber grating that could maybe removed in the spring for winterizing the stairs slightly, though again, won't be much use under 6 inches of compacted snow and ice.

    Ah this snow is enough to drive a man insane.

    Rob.

  5. #5
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    RE: Keeping deck stairs ice free through the winter.

    Rob,
    Here's a nutty idea I had for doing the same thing on my front steps just before having a new landing poured and built. Never did it though 'cause the idea came to me way too late to get started.

    But here it is. If you ran a domestic hot water loop right under the stairs with cut off's for the summer when you wouldn't need it, then I think? the hot water would leach through that loop all the time it was "on."

    I know that when a zone valve isn't working and you need heat in that zone, just manually open the zone valve and even if no zones are calling for heat and the pump isn't running, the hot water still flows through that zone. Hot water will rise and replace the cooler water in that zone.

    Yes, it would have to be "on" all winter so it wouldn't freeze and break the line and yes it would kill your hot water bill a bit.

    But I dunno.. it might work.

    You know, just a thought from an insane mind... but you did ask.

    Howard

  6. #6
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    Horsham, PA.
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    RE: Keeping deck stairs ice free through the winter.

    Rob -

    I grow roses, and I found a solution for concerns of salt near plants. Get some "green" salt. A brand name I know is "Enviro-melt." Some garden centers have this magnesium/manganese based "salt" that has green crystals. This product is recommended for use near plantings that are salt sensative.

    I use it on my 15 year old wood deck and pre-formed concrete walkway pavers which have rose borders. I can't say it causes much damage to the wood - heck, it is 15 years old! I've noticed some spalling on those concrete pavers, also 15 years old. Can't say it is the fault of this product, which I have been using for only 4-5 years.

  7. #7
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    RE: Keeping deck stairs ice free through the winter.

    Totaly perfect, George.

    Thank you!

    Rob.

  8. #8
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    Denver, CO, USA.
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    RE: Keeping deck stairs ice free through the winter.

    Why not make some runners? Go buy some cheap doormats at HD and glue or nail or screw beads of cedar or whatever else, that will provide some traction once the heavy stuff starts to melt. Hot glue or even clamp them to the existing stairs. You could even create a greater angle for the moisture to drain.

    I did that with a few hemp mats on the little 2 stairs I built for my dog to reach the dog door. They work great!

    FWIW

    "Better to ask than remain stupid."
    -Sonny Edmonds-

  9. #9
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    RE: Keeping deck stairs ice free through the winter.

    Rob-

    Returned home and checked the package that material comes in. The brand name is "EvironMelt". It does not list the chemical analysis, but says "with CMA".

    It is more expensive than rock salt or calcium chloride.

  10. #10
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    RE: Keeping deck stairs ice free through the winter.

    The only problem I can forsee with semi permanent fixtures to increase traction is that the snow is often very very heavy here in buffalo.
    Lake effect snow fun so it is :D and I simply can't always ensure that I can clear it away.
    It's the unfortunate same problem with the roof and the reason ice daming is so particularly bad here.

    Either way, I can imagine that would make the thorough clearing of the steps next to impossible with anything at all on it, and it wouldn't be long before it's compacted and solid and possibly worse for it.
    It's not like the thaws happen regularly for a few months to clear themselves, and until they do, and if you don't get to the snow before it compacts, you're just screwed and have to deal with it...or get a hammer and chisel out. As I said I just can't get to it every time, and she HAS to go out when she has to go out. It's tricky.

    I'll give the salt and grit a go next year (though it was pretty icey this morning out there...and off she ran at her usual 100mph speed to check for squirrels, not a care in the world *slip* *slam*
    Little bit worried about her paws with all that salt, but I'll see if I can find something out online about that.

    Rob.

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