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Walk the walk

  • SIMA
- Posted: April 18, 2018
By Pam Buckley

Contractors who have built successful liquid programs will tell you that sidewalks pose some of the biggest challenges in winter maintenance: high labor and high risk. Taking a preventive approach to sidewalk maintenance provides solutions for both concerns and allows companies interested in adding liquids to their operations to start out on a smaller scale. 

The objective of anti-icing is to inhibit accumulation from forming an ice bond with the pavement. Brine can be used to prevent that bond before, during and after a storm.

The preferred protocol is to apply brine directly to the surface by direct liquid application (DLA). This practice and the way in which it is executed offer a variety of benefits. When getting started, limit the service areas until you become comfortable with how these materials and practices perform.

When applied prior to the storm, the brine waits in the pores of the sidewalk and goes to work as soon as the first snow falls to insulate the surface and to maintain optimum levels of surface friction until the sidewalk can be cleared. Depending on conditions, an effective pretreatment application will melt the first ¼- to ½-inch of snow after which it maintains a protective slush barrier on the bottom. Used appropriately as a post-treatment, brine produces immediate results and can recover desired surface conditions faster than dry salt since it doesn’t have to wait to form brine. 

Ideal for sidewalks
Liquids apply with precision and dry on the sidewalk; they aren’t shoveled, blown or broadcast off the surface to damage adjacent landscape. A pretreatment application can last days on a sidewalk, and because it leaves no excess salt, there is no labor required to clean it up afterward. This results in substantially less tracking and interior damage for the customer. 

Shifting sidewalk resources to prevention utilizes up to 75% less salt and substantially less labor than required to achieve similar results by deicing. This can significantly mitigate the damaging impacts of salting on the environment, reduce crew fatigue and decrease overhead costs. Contractors have seen a reduction in the use of bagged product as well as rock salt, thanks to their transition to anti-icing for sidewalks. The advent of liquids is transforming how the industry tackles winter sidewalk maintenance, producing safer outcomes for customers, pedestrians, work crews and the environment while increasing the contractor’s bottom line. 

Liquid Equipment on Sidewalks

Nozzles: Pencil nozzles 3 to 4 inches apart, 12 inches off the ground recommended. Fan nozzles with defined streams are OK, but fine spray can blow off the surface. 

UTV/Sidewalk Machines

  • Pros: Speed of application, material control, labor savings (plow and deice in one pass). 
  • Cons: Cost, weight to transport/house on-site, too wide for some walks

Hose Reel/Spray Gun Attachments: Ideal for stairs, curbs, cart corrals.

Push Sprayers 

  • Pros: Cost, portability, use on residential walks, driveways, hard-to-reach areas 
  • Cons: Rate control, battery life, and heavy to lift when filled with brine. Requires on-site filling

Additional Equipment: Need brine on site to gravity fill application equipment and a few gallons of enhanced product (e.g., calcium or magnesium chloride) and bagged ice melt for high-risk areas. 

Tear & Teach Pullout
The April Tear & Teach offers tips on operational practices related to sidewalk applications. This resource, along with other Tear & Teach pullouts, is availabe for download and printing here.

Pam Buckley is sustainability manager for Douglas Dynamics. Email Learn more at

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