Suppose you’re a property manager or own a rental property. In that case, one of your priorities is to keep your tenants happy and safe and to protect yourself from lawsuits, generally in that order. While slip and fall scenes may be wildly funny in TV shows or movies, these common winter hazards are deadly serious in real life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control statistics, in 2019, unintentional falls were the leading cause of non-fatal injuries and the second-leading cause of unintentional fatalities, equating to just over 39,000 deaths.
That’s no laughing matter.
It makes sense, then, to do everything in your power to keep winter hazards away from your property and clear of your tenants. Here are five simple ways to do just that:
1. Clean Rain Gutters/Use Heat Cable
Rain gutters can quickly become clogged with leaves, pine needles, and other debris, blocking the water runoff and allowing it to pool in the channel and overflow. Add to that frigid temperatures, and you suddenly have excess water falling onto your walking paths and driveways, then freezing into large patches of dangerous ice.
Clogged gutters are also a recipe for the formation of dangerous ice dams atop your roof eaves. Ice dams can potentially damage your roof, causing leaks and costly clean-ups. They also tend to produce large icicles that may drop on unsuspecting folks below.
Keeping the gutters clear allows the snowmelt to run off the roof and away from your building. If you don’t feel like getting up on the roof every few months to do clean-up, it might be wise to consider installing a gutter guard to keep the debris out. Additionally, using heat trace cable and other ice dam prevention products on your roof and gutters will keep them clear of ice and snow.
2. Remove Ice and Snow Right Away
There’s nothing worse than trying to pick away at multiple layers of packed snow and ice that have built up over several days. Your best option is to break out the snow shovel or the blower right after the most recent snowfall and get to work. In many cities and municipalities, it’s not only good business to keep common areas, pathways, sidewalks, driveways, and stairs clear of snow and ice; it’s the law.
An excellent option if you have a vast property or multiple properties is to use a snow removal service. Note, you will still be liable for any injuries caused by snow and ice on your property, so it’s wise to do your homework and pick a reputable company that will do the job right and on time.
Specify, in contract, exactly when they need to show up and how quickly the job needs to be done. A good snow removal company will also provide you with proof that their employees and equipment are insured, so you’re not liable for any mishaps that might occur on the job.
3. Stock Up on the Ice Melt
You’ll find that ice melt is in short supply a few days in advance of a storm and shortly after that. Ice melt works exceptionally well to melt the bottom to prevent ice from forming on concrete, stone, asphalt, and other surfaces.
Rock salt is often seen as an interchangeable option with ice melt, but the two have significant differences. For starters, sodium chloride, or common rock salt, is only effective to five degrees Fahrenheit. Continued exposure has also been known to irritate the paws of your pets. Ice melt is a mixture of sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, and calcium chloride. It can melt ice at -15 degrees Fahrenheit, making it considerably more effective than rock salt in lower temperatures. Ice melt also comes in non-toxic, pet-safe formulations.
Considering how important this stuff is when pre-treating surfaces before a storm and melting away any ice left on the ground after shoveling, it’s a good idea to keep plenty on hand during the winter months.
4. Use Sand
Unlike rock salt or ice melt, sand does not directly melt icy surfaces. Instead, it creates friction on the ground’s surface to add traction and prevent slipping. The abrasive nature of sand also keeps water moving and prevents ice from forming in near-freezing temperatures. The great thing about this natural material is that it remains effective at any temperature.
An important thing to remember about sand is that it can collect in drainage areas and cause issues come spring if not swept up soon after the storm. Sand only provides traction if it remains on the surface of the ice, so it needs to be reapplied if it gets buried under the snow. The best sand for snow and ice is standard sandbox sand, available at most home improvement stores. Mason’s sand is too fine to work adequately. And if there’s a shortage of sand, you can always use kitty litter, sawdust, or wood ashes.
5. Invest in Some All-Weather Floor Mats or Rugs
If your property has a large foyer or other indoor high-traffic areas with hard surfaces, an excellent way to help tenants avoid slipping and falling is to put down all-weather mats or rugs. While a shiny marble or hardwood entryway or shared space is inviting and stylish, it becomes as dangerous as a skating rink when mixed with melting ice and snow.
Indoor and outdoor water-absorbent mats and rugs come in all shapes and sizes and are reasonably priced, especially when shopping at industrial providers like ULINE and Grainger Industries. And be sure to secure the mat to the floor with some adhesive backing (many of these rugs come with that feature) so it doesn’t slide out from under the person walking on it. Spending a couple of hundred dollars on mats and “Wet Floor” signs is infinitely better than paying thousands in hospital bills and injury lawsuits.
For more winter preventative measures and maintenance tips, take a look at our How To section. We at HeatCable.com think you should spend your winter having fun, not worrying about what snow and ice can do to your property.