How To Safely Remove Snow From Your Deck (And Other Walkways)

15 Feb 22

Having a deck not only improves your home’s curb appeal but also offers an escape from the day. From spring to fall, you probably enjoy your deck by hosting guests, grilling food, or just hanging out in the fresh air. 

But Midwest winters can wreak havoc on your deck. You likely already have an established routine for clearing your driveway and main walkway — don’t forget to clear your deck and other walkways around your home, too. Here’s what you need to know about snow removal from your deck. 

Why You Should Remove Snow from Your Deck

If a storm drops more than a few inches of snow, the weight of it can add up. Carrying this extra weight can weaken your deck, potentially making it unsafe once the snow has melted. Depending on the snow’s water content, 3 ½ feet of snow can weigh between 42 and 63 pounds per square foot. 

Most decks are only made to hold around 40 to 60 pounds per square foot, with a safety factor of 2.5 to 1. This means that a deck built to hold 40 pounds per square foot shouldn’t fail until the weight reaches 100 pounds per square foot. 

Your deck might be able to safely handle three feet of snow, but its weight becomes more dangerous with each additional foot. This is because heavy snow exposes existing weaknesses in your deck — if it’s old and weathered, the wood might be weaker than when you first installed it. Weak nails and shoddy carpentry can add to this risk. 

Heavy snow can also block access to exit points in your house. If snow is piled high against your back door and side windows, you might not be able to open them to get out in an emergency. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Deck Snow Removal

Now that you know how important it is to keep your deck clear of snow, you might be wondering about the best way to remove it. Here are some tips for getting started.

1. Prepare

Don’t wait until the first ice storm to prep your deck for winter. Sweep your deck before it gets cold to clear off any dirt and debris. Find a convenient place near your back door to place your broom and shovel so you don’t have to go all the way into the garage when you need them. 

If you have room, store your patio furniture indoors in your garage. Plastic furniture won’t absorb moisture, but it can crack in subzero temperatures. Metal furniture might rust if left outside all winter. Your outdoor furniture also adds unneeded weight to your deck and can be difficult to shovel around when it comes time to clear snow.

2. Sweep the Deck

For lighter storms with less accumulation, sweep your deck instead of shoveling. A corn broom or a synthetic broom is less likely to scratch your deck than a shovel. Shoveling can also dislodge nails and other fasteners. 

There are plenty of outdoor brooms on the market with firm bristles that will withstand snow removal. Once you’ve swept your deck, tap off the excess snow and water to keep it from freezing. You can also remove light snow with a leaf blower as a no-contact solution. 

3. Shovel if You Need To

When the snow is really coming down, you may need to shovel several times to keep it from accumulating past a safe level. But using the wrong type of shovel or shoveling too aggressively can damage your deck. Use a wide model with a plastic or rubber blade. If you can, avoid shoveling all the way down to the wood. 

Shovel the majority of snow on your deck and then switch to the broom when you get down to a few inches (if it’s not too packed down). If you need to use a shovel the whole time, be gentle once you get to the boards and try to avoid scratching or digging into the wood. 

4. Remove Ice

Ice can also damage your deck. Winter’s freeze-thaw cycle expands and contracts the wood, which weakens it over time and — at worst — causes cracks in the boards mid-winter. You might be tempted to break up ice patches with a shovel to remove them, but this can damage your deck. Salt and other harsh chemicals can harm the wood and hardware as well. 

Instead, use a low-corrosion de-icer, such as calcium chloride or a non-chloride ice melt like calcium magnesium acetate (CMA).  You can also melt ice patches by pouring hot water over them. Once the ice starts to bubble, you can gently remove it with a shovel. 

Remember to clear overhanging icicles around your deck and walkways, too. These pose a risk to both your deck and any people or animals who walk underneath them.

5. Focus on Other Walkways

Because you use your main walkway every day, you’re probably most likely to shovel that area. But don’t forget to tend to other walkways in your yard. Shovel pathways to make routine chores easier, like putting out the trash. 

You should also clear an emergency pathway at various exits in your home in case of emergencies. If something happens and you need to leave in a hurry, the last thing you need is a mountain of snow blocking your exit. Keeping pathways clear also helps give visitors and delivery drivers safer access to your home. 

Let Voss Land & Tree Help

Another way to deal with a deck full of snow is to leave it to the professionals. Voss Land & Tree offers snow removal in Columbia, MO. We know all about Midwest winters, and we’re ready to help you clear your deck.

We can safely remove snow from your deck without damaging its finish, helping it last longer. We can also clear safe pathways for you and your family. We have the right equipment for the job, with shovels and ice-melting chemicals that won’t harm your deck. 

Our technicians are fast and experienced — let us save you time and effort. Contact us today for a free estimate.