If previous years serve as any indication, it won't be long before we're fielding phone calls from commercial property managers who are eager to know what the impact of over-salting is on their commercial property. Especially with some of the frigid weather we've been having lately, keeping properties safe is always at the forefront of owners' minds.
We like to begin the conversation with a point that many managers may or may not know: knowing when to salt is not as straightforward as knowing when to plow. If you delay salting, you run the risk of someone on foot falling and getting injured or someone in a vehicle getting into an accident. But if you salt when it's not really needed, you waste time and money.
Expertise underscores the “four Rs”
As the mid-Atlantic region's premier landscaping design and installation and snow removal expert, E-Landscape Specialty Solutions follows what we call the “four Rs” of snow and ice removal:
Using the right material, which depends on the temperature. In extremely cold temperatures, a sand-salt mixture might be best
Applying the right amount of material, which depends on whether the pavement is dry or wet, the temperature of the pavement and the amount of expected precipitation.
Applying the material at the right time, based on the temperature, to maximize the material's effectiveness and to minimize waste
Applying the material in precisely the right place to minimize the effects to the surroundings
How potholes form on your commercial property
Despite these conscientious efforts, an abundance of salt cannot – and should not – be avoided during a rough winter in which a good deal of snow and ice threatens public safety. The most commonly used salt is sodium chloride. Road de-icers often consist of a mixture of salt and sand, with the salt comprising the lion's share of the mix.
As a commercial property manager, you might see an outbreak of potholes on your property after repeated applications of salt, and here's why:
Potholes begin to form when moisture seeps into pavement and causes it to crack. As temperatures fall, water in the crack expands, creating a weak area and also triggering a precarious cycle: the crack becomes larger and, as it grows, creates more room for moisture to collect during a thaw.
Most winters consist of cold periods and “warm” periods, when snow and ice melt. But accumulating moisture under the surface is a potentially dangerous thing: when this moisture freezes, it expands and further weakens the pavement.
Salt can exacerbate this condition because it keeps water in liquid form at a lower temperature. With salt mixed in, water does not freeze until about 15 degrees. So now you have a weakened pavement that is subjected to even more physical pressure from the weight of cars and plows. As they drive over the surface, potholes can break out on your commercial property. And if your roads or parking lot were already in a state of disrepair, the outbreak could be even worse.
Potential damage to landscaping on your commercial property
As you might guess, you're more likely to see salt damage on plants, shrubs and trees that face the road or sidewalk, or where the salt was applied. Likewise, any damage will subside as you move away from the “spray zone.” Most commonly, leaf buds facing the road might be killed or could be slow to bud in the spring. Flower buds facing the road might fail, but the unaffected side of the tree or shrub should flower normally. And repeated salt damage over several winters could produce what is known as a “witch’s broom effect,” which is a tufted and stunted appearance on foliage.