Fighting the flakes
The ins and outs of residential snow removal
By: By Lucy Haines
| Posted: Saturday, Dec 21, 2013 06:00 am
For about 133 days, or a third of each year, the capital region has at least a centimetre of snow. In mid-winter, the snow pack averages 18 centimetres deep and, in fact, data shows that July is the only month that is pretty much guaranteed to be snow-free here. Any other month, all bets are off.
You don’t have to tell homeowners, who have to take care of the white stuff on driveways and front sidewalks, that snow is a going concern: it has made its presence known nearly every weekend since mid-November this year, sending folks out with shovels and snowblowers to clear yet another dump of fluff.
For some homeowners, particularly seniors or those with health issues, clearing snow can be a physical challenge. Others who regularly travel for business or spend months in warmer climes likewise face the task of keeping the walk and driveway clear. Whether we do it ourselves with shovels and/or snowblowers, or get help from neighbours, family or hired help, snow removal is an issue for every homeowner.
“My customers are already getting their money’s worth this year,” said Mark Eggleton, who runs a snow removal business in St. Albert and surrounding areas.
Offering same day service with his commercial-grade snowblower and shovels, Eggleton has some 100 clients who pay $160 per month for snow removal service from November to April.
“It’s peace of mind that the snow will be taken care of, no matter how little or how much it snows each year,” he said.
Monthly service is one way to go, but so is one-time service. Classified ads show entrepreneurs offering driveway clearing for about $20 to $30 a shot. Of course, getting to know a kindly neighbour or teenager who may be willing to help you shovel out or run their snowblower through your driveway can be cheaper still.
Members of the St. Albert 50+ Club can put their name on the popular snow buddy list, which matches willing volunteer members with those in need of snow removal around the home.
“We get a lot of requests for the service, and could always use more volunteers to help keep walks safe and clear for our senior members,” said the club’s executive director Val Niblock.
When city snowplows clear residential streets (after an average of 12 to 15 centimetres accumulates in driving lanes), skid-steer loaders remove the ridges left in driveways by snowplows. If that looks good to you, be advised that hiring such a service will cost about $100 an hour.
St. Albert resident Marlene Sedorus runs a mostly commercial snow removal service, and said the cost is usually prohibitive for homeowners.
“If a cul-de-sac got together and shared costs, it may be worthwhile, otherwise it’s better to use your snowblower,” she said.
Snow blowers cost up to $1,000, while shovels and snow pushers can be $20 or $30 at the hardware store. While there, pick up a bag of ice melt for the sidewalk, though that isn’t effective below minus 17 degrees, according to the City of St. Albert.
To ensure safe sidewalks and driveways, the city advises a mix of small rock chips and sand to improve traction. Free sand is available to residents at the recycling depot at 7 Chevigny St.