Tom Kaufman

Tom Kaufman

Richard B. Arnold Real Estate

The Right Way to Shovel Snow, Plus Other Winter Maintenance Tips

Contractor and Masonry expert Ralph D'Alessandro provides some expert tips on maintaining your porch, driveaway, and outdoors during the harsh winter months.

Don’t Use Salt on Your Masonry Work - Ever!

Never use salt to melt snow on your pavers – the same goes for concrete. The chemical process that melts the snow quickly eats away at the integrity of your bricks & pavers, creating cracks that will be filled with water that expands when it freezes.  While salt will not negatively impact the blacktop itself, salt placed on blacktop inevitably makes its way to brick, concrete, & wood as people walk through your property and because of heavy wind, rain & snow. Likewise, Ralph D’Alessandro warns that “snow-melting products claiming to be safe for your masonry work are not recommended either.  If it’s melting the snow, it will also eat away at your pavers & your brick.” Instead, Ralph recommends being diligent with your snow removal by shoveling a little bit at a time as soon as the snow starts. This increases the sun’s ability to melt the remaining snow. If you have any troublesome areas with ice, place some sand or cat litter on the ground for traction to help avoid dangerous falls.

Use a Plastic Snow Shovel on Your Masonry Work

Your pavers & masonry work are investments in your home.  This financial investment contributes to the dollar value of your home.  It also establishes the mood for your home’s functional outdoor living spaces.  That said, you should only use strong, plastic shovels when clearing snow & ice from your masonry work.  Metal shovels can cause subtle chips in the masonry work and compromise the integrity of any concrete on the property.  Water always finds its way into the small cracks. Once the water freezes & expands, that microscopic crack will be visible once the warmer months arrive and you’re outside using your patio. 

 Ralph D’Alessandro also cautions against using metal tools to chip away at the ice. While these tools are good at breaking ice, they are equally good at breaking your masonry.

Repoint Your Brick or Bluestone Front Porch

Well-made masonry structures are built to last.  However, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure that your beautiful & functional front porch remains in great shape. In fact, regular maintenance of your brick or bluestone front porch is safer and more economical than waiting for something to “break”.   Your front porch gets a lot of foot traffic and also gets a lot of wear & tear from shoveling. Before the extreme cold starts, check your front porch and walkway for cracks in the masonry work. Focus specifically on the concrete grout; these are particularly troublesome areas where water seeps in and does major damage when it freezes & expands.  Ralph suggests that you repoint your brick & bluestone before the extreme cold sets in. This minor maintenance expense, Ralph explains, can save you hundreds of dollars – if not thousands of dollars – by prolonging the life-span of your masonry work. This maintenance also ensures the aesthetic appeal of your home.

Maintain The Integrity of Your Chimney

Ralph D’Alessandro stresses the importance of chimney maintenance.  At the very top of your chimney is a concrete “crown” which must be maintained for your chimney to function properly.  Your entire roofline receives a beating from the weather: extreme heat in the summer, rain & wind in the fall, ice & snow in the winter, and who-knows-what we get in the spring anymore!  In short, the roof is your home’s first line of defense against the elements we experience here on the North Shore of Long Island. Much like the masonry work on your front porch and walkway, your chimney’s brick & concrete needs to be maintained & repointed to stay functional.  Water will certainly become an issue in your home if you don’t maintain your chimney’s integrity. However, beyond water damage is something that can actually be deadly. Without a properly functioning chimney as an exhaust for your fireplace & for your home’s mechanicals, you run the risk of carbon-monoxide poisoning – a silent killer.  Ralph suggests customers contact a specialist before they use their fireplace in the winter, so the masonry work can be inspected & repaired before it becomes a bigger and more expensive issue.

Install a Dry Well to Alleviate Drainage Issues​

With so many hills on the North Shore of Long Island, drainage is always a concern for North Shore homeowners.  Even if you properly maintain your gutters to ensure they are free of debris, you still have to consider where the water goes after it exits your gutters.  One solution to alleviate drainage concerns is to install a small dry well on your property. You can connect gutter downspouts into the dry well with underground PVC piping.  A strategic and predictable exit for your drainage ensures the water doesn’t pool in areas near your home and potentially create leaks inside your house. It also helps to eliminate large areas of ice that develop when water cannot properly drain.  Installation of a dry well is usually a one-day job and can be completed before the extreme winter cold arrives. Right after Thanksgiving is a perfect time to contact Ralph D’Alessandro to see if a dry well is a good solution for your drainage concerns.

Bonus Tip: Save Upwards of 15% on Construction in The Winter

Once you decide to invest in new masonry work – whether it’s a front porch, a driveway, or an outdoor living area in your backyard – schedule the construction for the winter.  Materials and labor are less expensive in the winter. Expect to save anywhere from 5%-15% on the overall cost of construction in the winter versus construction in the spring, summer, & fall months.

Tom Kaufman

Tom Kaufman

As a life-long resident of Long Island, Tom appreciates the unique personalities of Long Island's diverse communities. Tom’s insight into Long Island’s North & South Shores uniquely positions him to find the best home for you and your family.

Ralph D’Alessandro

Ralph D’Alessandro

Ralph D’Alessandro is one of Long Island’s premier masonry contractors. Ralph D’Alessandro Contracting, Inc. has been serving Nassau & Suffolk Counties for over 35 years. Ralph has a wealth of common-sense tips that he loves sharing with his neighbors and friends on the North Shore of Long Island. Click on Ralph's picture to see his website and to learn more about the services he offers.

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