Your Step-by-Step Guide to Shoveling or Plowing Snow That Accumulates on Your Property This Season

It may be beautiful, but snow can be a pain to remove from your driveway and sidewalk if you don’t plan ahead.

Snow is often an unavoidable part of winter, and that's especially true for those living in areas where temperatures regularly drop below 32 degrees. Whether you have a winding driveway or a small sidewalk, knowing how to properly shovel or plow the snow that accumulates on your property is crucial to your family's winter safety. Although it may seem daunting when you awake to inches or even feet of the powdery material in your front yard, there are several steps you can take to make the removal process easy and efficient.

shoveling snow blue shovel
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Plan ahead.

As soon as you see snow in the weather forecast, you should begin formulating your removal plan. Daniel Miller, founder of Shovler Inc.—an app that connects people in need of snow removal with local services—recommends salting your driveway and sidewalk before the powder comes down. Doing so creates a layer between the snow and the ground, so it won't immediately freeze over. In addition to salting surfaces, Miller also suggests coming up with a removal plan prior to accumulation. "You definitely want to be prepared so you have a way to exit your home if needed," he says. Your plan may be as simple as moving your car to a different location, such as near the apron of your driveway (this way, you won't need to shovel as much snow to get it out).

You should also be cognizant of where municipal plows push snow, notes Katie Roell, marketing manager of BOSS Snowplow, which ensures that you don't leave your car in an area that will be near impossible to dig out. What's more, think about where you should put the snow that you will ultimately remove. While you'll want to take steps to avoid blocking your own access to the driveway, garage, or front door, you also don't want to obstruct views or paths your mail carrier or to nearby fire hydrants.

Have the necessary equipment on hand.

Part of planning ahead is making sure you have the right equipment to successfully remove snow from your driveway and sidewalk. "For most people, a shovel will really be the best tool," Miller notes. However, he says it ultimately comes down to personal preference and the size of your space: "If you have a larger property or suffer from back pain, you may want to invest in a snow blower." Alternatively, you can purchase a plow that attaches to the front of your vehicle and attack snow that way. Santhosh Thomas, DO, MBA, staff physician with the Center for Spine Health at Cleveland Clinic, says those who go the shovel route should opt for one with a curved shaft. This design offers ergonomic benefits without compromising sturdiness. In addition to a good-quality shovel, come equipped with layers of clothing, a hat, and gloves, notes Dr. Thomas.

Use the proper techniques.

Removing snow is a labor-intensive activity, so it's important to take the necessary steps to protect your body during the process. "Shoveling can be intense and can lead to many issues, including overuse injuries and cardiac or respiratory events," Dr. Thomas says. To avoid accidents, experts recommend stretching before you begin shoveling. Additionally, you should make sure to take several breaks to reduce your risk of heart attack. When scooping the snow onto your shovel, Dr. Thomas says to push the material away from you rather than lifting it and throwing it across the body. "Keep your back straight, bend your knees, and lift with your leg muscles," he says.

Cut a line down the middle of your driveway.

Miller recommends shoveling the snow immediately after it falls. "This will allow you to remove the snow before it turns to ice," he explains. Unless, that is, you experience a large storm, which our experts define as over two feet of accumulation. In that case, Miller advises waiting for the snowfall to stop and then begin shoveling, rather than taking several passes. Once the storm has passed, start at the top of your driveway and use a shovel to make a line down the center; then go down the pathway you've cleared and push the snow to the right and left. This technique will prevent injuries often acquired by scooping and throwing the snow in different directions. After the driveway is cleared, start on the sidewalk. Miller recommends beginning with the most important walkways first, such as the one leading to your mailbox. "If you get tired or injured, you want to make sure you completed the most important areas," he explains. If there are icy patches that are hard to scoop, a sidewalk scraper with a heavy metal blade will chip through them.

Stake your driveway.

Not only does staking your driveway help municipal plows easily spot the borders of your property, but doing so will also protect your lawn if you're planning to plow your driveway yourself. "When the driveway is covered in snow, it can be difficult to see where the driveway ends and the lawn begins," Roell says. "Plow stakes will help prevent you from digging up your lawn while cleaning up." Any identifiable object that sticks above the snow-line can be considered a stake, but you'll want something tall, durable, and uniform. Where you place the markers depends on the shape and size of your area, but it's best to line them up on the lawn bordering your property.

Consider investing in a plow.

If you have a large property, you may want to purchase a snowplow rather than shovel the entire area or hire someone every time snow falls. Roell says it's important to invest in a quality plow and to establish a good relationship with your local dealer. "The relationship between you and your snowplow dealer is vital throughout the entire time you own your plow, and it all begins with the first purchase," she explains. "Your dealer is going to be there to help you with the installation and initial setup," but, according to Roell, the partnership doesn't end there—they'll also assist you with maintenance questions, spare parts, and repairs for the duration of the time you own it. Before purchasing the tool, it's also important to know what kind of vehicle you intend to use it on. "All vehicles have a specific FGAWR, or Front Gross Axle Weight Rating, which is the available capacity of weight on the front," Roell explains. "You cannot exceed this amount when adding a plow to your truck. The bigger the plow, the heavier it is." Once you've purchased and installed this accessory, you can use it to remove snow from your property. When approaching garage doors and other structures, Roell says to use the back drag method. "Drive the vehicle as close to the structure as possible," she explains. "Drop the plow straight down and put the vehicle in reverse, pulling the snow away from the structure."

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