Homeowner: Snow

If, like us, you live somewhere that it snows a lot, you'll have social, legal and practical responsibilities that will take some of your time. I don't want to write much about snow, but there are some things that are useful to know.

  1. There may be legal requirements that you shovel the pavement (side-walk) where people walk, along the road. At the very least you'll need to keep a clear path so that people can safely and easily get to your door to deliver parcels.
  2. You need to make sure that snow and icicles do not build up in a way that could endanger other people or animals. You might also need to remove snow from the roof of your house or out-buildings, because the weight can sometimes cause roofs to collapse.
  3. You'll need to make sure that your car or truck has appropriate tyres (US: tires). Here in Ontario, studded snow tyres aren't allowed, but on our Jeep we have light truck tyres which have a good tread. Also be warned that ABS systems should be disabled when driving in icy conditions, because otherwise you'll lose control and spin if you start to slide!

When it comes to clearing snow, there are three main things you can do:

  1. shovel it
  2. put down salt or grit
  3. use a snow-blower or a snow-plough (US: snow-plow)

If you choose to shovel the snow (and you'll probably have to, at least a little), by far the easiest method is to use a shovel with a second handle that pivots just above the blade. The SNO-Easy one is the best we have found. Your back will really thank you, as it's several times less work than with a regular shovel!

If you use salt to reduce the problems with ice, remember that salt will kill plants, and although there might not be too many plants around when it's -20C, there will be in the Spring, and the residual salt can then be a problem. Look for environmentally-friendly snow melting salt substitutes, e.g. at Canadian Tyre.

If you walk on snow, you'll compress it into packed ice which can be really hard to clear away, so it helps to have an old-fashioned straw broom by the back door that you can use to clear a path from light snow.

Also make sure you have suitably warm clothing (including gloves and hats) and comfortable boots and warm socks. You can get "wigwam" socks that are rated at -40, and those are padded and comfortable. We bought some at a chain called Mark's Work Wearhouse (I think I spelt it right). Our nearby town, Belleville, allowed its town centre (US: downtown) to be gutted and destroyed by encouraging large chains to build their box stores all round it, so there isn't really any point shopping there any more. People just drive out of the town to the mall, and find the big American chains.

In November 2008 we gave up and got a snow blower. They take quite a bit of getting used to, and you do have to do a bit of upkeep on them, but it is definitely very empowering: now if there is havy snow, we can almost certainly get out of the driveway. We got ours from Sears. Look for one that's not too big, because they are hard to manœuvre, especially in narrow spaces. You can get power steering, and we intended to, but they sent one without and we are living with it as it is. The chute that expels the snow should be adjustable easily, and it's probably a good idea to get one with a secondary starter, e.g. an electric starter, for really cold days. Get several spare belts and shear bolts, as well as oil and other supplies.

Our snowblower came with lots of warnings in the manual, as pretty much everything does today, but the single most important is probably this: use the right shear bolts and never use a regular bolt instead; the shear bolts are designed to break if you run into something, including yourself or a child or an animal, but also inluding large rocks or tree roots that could otherwise throw the snowblower on top of you or something.

[these pages are in preparation and not yet public]