Driveway ice? Here’s how to prevent it.

DSCN9718Freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw. Snow comes down, it melts, then it freezes. Repeat. That is the weather around these parts this time of the year. It can make for treacherous driving on the roads, and also for treacherous driveways. If your driveway ends up covered in a sheet of ice like mine does, that is a good sign you might have problems with water run-off. When it is too miserable outside to do much of anything else, this is a good time to inspect the water problems on your driveway and plan how you will fix the run-off issue so that you aren’t slipping on your driveway next year.

The following are three general categories of causes for icy driveways at your country home, and tips on how to fix them.

PGR0040Degraded driveway.

If you have an old gravel or dirt driveway that has suffered with water issues for many years a main contributor to your current problems may be a water path worn into the driveway. When I was growing up years of run-off had made the equivalent of a dry creek bed in one side of the driveway at my parents house. It was quite impressive to see the water rushing down the driveway after a storm, but all the water directed into this channel then made it worse. The problem became a worsening problem by self-perpetuation. If your dirt or gravel driveway is badly deteriorated by run-off a first step in rehabilitation is to re-grade the driveway. A power grader can make re-grading a fairly simple procedure, and this may resolve most of your issues. After you have graded your driveway back to a flat surface watch for any fresh water issues.

Hill run-off.

If you live in a location where there is a hill behind your driveway then your icy driveway problem is likely caused by water running off that hill. Depending on how much run-off you get from the hill, a ditch or berm above your driveway diverting the water away is often enough. However, if you have a large hill behind your driveway, or poor soil composition that sheds a lot of water, you may need to implement a more extensive solution. Growing up, there was no drainage in the clay soil of the hill behind my parents’ house, and as a kid I remember a sheet of ice more than an inch thick would develop over the drive in the course of the winter. We had a serious problem, and to redirect the water coming off the hill we had to do more than dig a simple ditch above the driveway. The run-off from the hill required redirection further up on the hillside through a series of ditches. If you have a significant water problems like that, a backhoe makes the project a lot easier.

DSCN9715Road run-off.

I am currently facing problems with water run-off from the road. The driveway of my current residence is below the road grade so melting snow and run-off from the road runs down the driveway. This isn’t as large a volume of water as might drain from an entire hillside, but it can’t be easily resolved by digging a trench at the top of the driveway. That would be a problem for cars exiting the driveway. Instead, in this case the driveway needs to be graded at a slope to one side so that water running off the road is quickly shed from the driveway to one side instead of running all the way down and freezing into a massive sheet during the winter. If you are dealing with this type of run-off you need to survey the situation and determine which direction is the best angle to grade your driveway for optimal run-off.

If you have problems with ice on your driveway, now is the perfect time to take a look around and determine the source of your water problem. Define the problem, plan your solution, and at the first opportunity implement it. If you put off making plans until good weather comes, you’ll then forget about it and won’t remember until next winter when your car is futility trying to make its way up a driveway that is sheet of ice. Then you’ll kick yourself for not remembering to do something about it earlier.

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