If you’ve added new hardscaping elements like stone walls, pavers, pathways, or concrete slabs to your landscape this summer, you’ll want to protect them through the winter to keep them looking their best. Alberta winters are brutal on even the toughest of materials, as you’ve probably noticed when a new crop of car-eating potholes appears on the roads every spring.
Your hardscaping won’t get as much traffic as the Whitemud but the weather can still cause issues. While concrete slabs are pretty tough, there’s still the possibility of water getting underneath the slabs on those early warm days where everything starts to melt and then turns into a skating rink overnight.
When water under the slab freezes, it expands and can cause cracking, especially if it thaws and freezes in the same place several times. Pavers and stone walls are generally more resilient, but they can also lift or sink during spring freeze and thaw cycles. Lifting or sinking can create trip hazards. There’s also that inevitable ‘snow-shovel handle to the midsection’ injury that everyone would prefer to avoid.
While road and sidewalk salt help prevent slips, falls, and car accidents, they are pretty tough on your hardscaping. Salt speeds up the melting and thawing processes, so it causes even more stress on concrete or pavers. Salty water is a pretty caustic substance, accelerating the corrosion process, eating away at the outer finish of paving, concrete, manufactured stone, and wooden or synthetic decking materials.
Whether in landscaping beds, walkways, or the driveway, gravel hardscaping is less susceptible to salt damage or cracking, but frost heaving is possible in the spring. Luckily, frost heaves usually subside by the time the ground is fully thawed.
Hardscaping Winter Protection Solutions
So, how can you take care of your beautiful hardscaping through the winter?
As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Correctly installed hardscapes should easily withstand the ravages of winter. It’s always worth getting hardscaping done by a reputable landscaping team. Salisbury Landscaping has a 1-year guarantee on all landscape installations, so you know they’ll survive an Edmonton winter.
Once your hardscaping is complete, here’s what you should do to ensure your investment lasts as long as possible:
Keep concrete slabs, sidewalks, and paving stones clear of snow
The more you can keep snow off your pavers or concrete slabs, the better. Yes, there’s a lot of snow in Edmonton in the winter. At the very least, move the snow away from the top and sides of paved areas, so when it melts, it’s less likely to seep underneath. This is especially important towards the end of winter when the freeze-thaw cycles start.
You don’t necessarily need to shovel off all your hardscaping every time it snows. But, in the spring, it’s a good idea to shovel any big drifts off or away from the tops and sides of retaining walls or stone walls, so there’s less water seeping in between bricks and stones.
Choose a salt-free de-icer.
It’s almost impossible to live in Alberta and not use de-icer, especially in late winter when it seems like the whole city is a skating rink. Options like calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, and calcium magnesium acetate are less aggressive than salt. These options may be a bit pricier, but you can cut them with sand or gravel to make them go further.
Clean up leftover de-icer.
When you do have to use a de-icing product, keep an eye on it. Once it has accomplished its job of melting the ice down to the paving level, scrape away any leftover excess. It’s when those chemicals sit on damp paving or concrete for days on end that they do the most damage. When you scrape that de-icer away, don’t shovel it onto snow piles on your lawn or shrub beds, it’s even harder on your plants and grass than it is on cement.
Inspect your landscape in the spring for any problems
Always do a thorough inspection of your yard once the snow melts. Check for any problem areas so that you can fix the damage as soon as possible.
If you need more detailed advice on how to protect your hardscaping, you can always get in touch with the team at Salisbury Landscaping. They’ll be able to tell you how to best protect the different types of materials used on your property.