Landscape repairs from salt and winter damage

It’s Spring! Time to check for winter damage from salt! Over time, some potent, fast-acting ice-melting products can get into the pores of man-made step and wall blocks and cause staining, cracking and crumbling. You may even notice salt stains on house brick where salt has been spread on doorsteps and porches. It is important to sweep, wash or vacuum excess salt from these areas. Man-made stone products used for steps and retaining walls have varying degrees of durability depending on compression factors and concrete mix ratios used in the manufacturing process. Some ice-melting products are not recommended for concrete with exposed aggregate. Typically, I recommend using a mixture of sand with a small amount of regular safety salt to provide traction and melting. Alternatively, look for an environmentally friendly product at a building supply dealer, landscape centre or big box store. Two winters ago I found a Canadian-made product sold in 40LB pails at a local hardware store. It is fertilizer-based granular ice-melter that performed well!

There is good news!

  • Firstly, there are natural ice-melting products on the market that use nitrogen/fertilizer-based materials while others are made from volcanic minerals. These natural products have effective ice-melting and traction factors, and are much safer for use on concrete and brick, and near vegetation. They are also safer for use where pets are present!
  • Secondly, repairs, replacements and other solutions are available! Matching the color and style of existing landscape materials is usually not a problem. Landscape design ought to include drainage considerations so water and ice buildup is eliminated. Sunken areas which allow for water to pool around walkways, steps and driveways, should be repaired to make them safer during winter and prevent damage from frost.

The first picture shows damage from use (or overuse!?) of melting products. The second picture looked much like the first one before it was repaired with new steps caps on upper steps, and the lower step changed to a natural stone step.