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NewGuy's first post...Age-old question for a steep driveway

Discussion in 'Residential Snow Removal' started by DSquared, Jun 19, 2006.

  1. DSquared

    DSquared Junior Member
    Messages: 5

    I'm a newguy to this site and I'd appreciate any advice that you could offer: just built our house in Pittsburgh, PA. Our street dead-ends to our driveway, which is ~200 ft long with max 15% grade down to house... steep driveways are typical around here. My wife is terrified that she will skid down the driveway and keep going into the trees below with our 3yr old and new baby (due August). So, I need a solid strategy for snow removal and pavement anti-icing. She drives a 4WD Honda Pilot and I have a 4WD Cherokee.

    I have these options (ruling out contracted removal):
    --Plow with 2000 Cherokee-I'm not confident in my skills to upgrade suspension, etc for $2K when I'm not planning to keep the Jeep forever.
    --Use my new Ariens 624-24" snowblower--likely too small... upgrade?
    --Buy a garden tractor? This is what I really want (maybe Kubota or equal with front loader and 4WD...BX1500 maybe) But I cannot justify $10-12K.
    --Buy a lawn tractor with blade for ~2-3K? I could also use it to mow and drag stuff around, which would be cool, but they are limited.

    So my question is... how is my $3K best spent? New lawn tractor (but what kind)? USED garden tractor? Upgraded snowblower? Lots of CaCl?

    Thanks for any advice offered.
  2. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    Welcome to Plowsite. To answer your question, I'd advise first pretreating with a treated salt, such as Magic Salt. This will firsts - melt some of the snow and - second, but maybe more importantly - prevent snow and ice from bonding to the surface. Then put a "home-owner special" plow on that Cherokee with the understanding that you are only doing your own 200' driveway. Any more than that is too much for that plow. Finally, if needed, put down treated salt again (generally not needed, though, you'll learn as you go along).
  3. DSquared

    DSquared Junior Member
    Messages: 5

    Thanks, but how about this

    Thanks for the response Mick. I like the idea of pre and post treating. I also got a tip from our local public works engineer. He said to seal the crap out of the concrete (he recommended "EnviroSeal" and said they used it for bridge surfaces) to help prevent the snow/ice from adhering to the surface.

    I am still concerned with the Cherokee plow. I can barely turn around now and have a feeling that having to plow up (or pack it down to get up the driveway, turn around, then push it down) with the Cherokee would be too much. I think that blowing the snow into the woods beside the driveway is the way to go.

    I'm thinking about the Deere 125/145 lawn tractor with a blower attachment... Bigger blower than a walk behind... moderately sized lawn tractor that will cut my grass... could attach a blade for cleanup? Anyone have any experiences with the Deere snow blower?
  4. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    Here's a trick I use often with steep driveways where I'm starting at the bottom. Especially useful with one driveway I had with a sharp curve about half way up:

    With the plow up, start out driving forward for the length of the truck or so. Drop the plow and backdrag to clear a spot at the bottom. Turn around and back up partway up the hill - as much as you want or just before the truck won't go any further. Plow forward angled to one side or the other. Repeat until you've reached the top. This solves a lot of potential problems that you can get yourself into by plowing UP an hill. With 4wd, you shouldn't have any problem. This doesn't work well with 2wd because you're taking a lot of weight (ballast) off the back wheels.
  5. cet

    cet PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,192

    One tip that I have always used is to put the car or truck in neutral when going down the driveway. This way you have none of your tires being driven and the car stops much quicker and almost never goes sideways. I still do this when coming up to intersections when it is real slippery out.

    I would think a garden tractor with a plow would work well and I would put the snow bank to the side where you might slide off. This will act as a curb and keep you on the driveway. With a blower it will get the snow farther from the driveway but will leave no curb.
  6. DSquared

    DSquared Junior Member
    Messages: 5

    Worth a thousand words...

    I tried to attach a pic of the driveway (hope it works).

    Anyone out there who's had a good experience with the tractor-mounted snow-blowers? I've read lots who've had belt problems etc. Any recommendations if I go that route?

  7. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    Well, now that I see it, I'd recommend the pretreatment more than ever. But I'd use either a snowblower or a power brush mounted like a plow. If I owned that and you used a plow on it, you'd owe me more than you made plowing.
  8. Young Pup

    Young Pup PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,475

    If I got a call to bid on that drive, I would say thanks but no thanks on using a plow. I would use a snowblower in a heartbeat that is for sure. Oh yeah like Mick said pretreat the crap out of it.
  9. Tommy10plows

    Tommy10plows Senior Member
    Messages: 345

    Steep drive safety

    This is one of my old posts for you:

    "I did the steepest hillside drives in my town. Rule # 1 is SNOWCHAINS, and on all 4 wheels. Don't take a chance without them as there may be ice under the snow. If you only have two chains, put them on the front wheels, for these driveways. also, make sure you carry a shovel, logging chain at least 20' long and a come along to pull you straight if you need it. you can get turned sideways very easy in a downhill steep drive plow run. you chain around a stout tree and use the come along to straighten you out.

    For the down hill plow, angle your plow toward the house, so that if you slide you will go away from the house on your first pushes to break open the driveway. go the slowest speed you can, lowest gear, and low range on your transfer case as you make your initial cleaning passes. Steep drives are not a race like a parking lot at the mall. push snow on angle toward the down side of the hill, NOT the upside.

    For the uphill driveway, leave the plow straight and BACK UP the driveway about 30 feet or so. The reason you back up is that the weight of your truck is up front, engine and plow act as a fulcrom coming down a hill. Drop the plow and angle it left, so you are pushing toward the down side of the hill. Never angle to the up side of the hill, you could end up right off the side of the hill on your initial clearing runs. Again, you should have chains on. I would leave my truck in reverse, and let gravity take it down the hill. If I started to slide, I would let the clutch out and claw my way back up the hill. As I get to the bottom I straighten the blade and get ready to back up again as before. I repeat this pattern, each time going a little further up the hill, pretty soon you are at the top and you can clean up, collect your $$ and get on to the next one.

    Sometimes it helps to swing your front wheels left and right to help you claw up the side of the hill as you run up.

    Steep drives are not for the faint of heart, and you need to walk them in advance of your first snow plow BEFORE there is snow on the ground, make notes, and figure out where everything is going to stack up before you plow it at night. 3 am in a snow storm is no time for experimenting.

    Remember rule # 1, BUY CROSS LINK CHAINS AND USE THEM !!"
  10. Tommy10plows

    Tommy10plows Senior Member
    Messages: 345

    steep drives # 2

    here is another one of my old posts to a guy who had problems doing a steep drive:

    " You have a big truck,, you have a big plow, you have no weight to speak of in the back of your big truck when you do this driveway. To do this job you must always plow downhill, and with the plow angled so the snow rolls off to the down side of the hill, even if that means changing your plow direction as you round a curve and come down the hill.

    First thing you need to do is to get yourself a set of chains for all four wheels. Get v- bar reinforced chains and put them on, at a minimum you need to chain the fronts, and really you should do all four wheels. Also, for this job or any plow job you need to carry at least 20 -25 feet of solid logging chain and a come-along to pull you out, or pull you straight in case you get stuck or side twisted on a hill.

    Start this job by backing up the hill with the plow up, run about 1/2 way up the first section, then stop dead, leave your truck in reverse, and let the plow drop down to the ground, then pick it up so the truck nose drops a bit. Make your first cuts close to the high side of the hill with a full angle of the blade to the down side of the hill. the idea is you want to establish a snow berm on the downside of the hill as you plow. Let the truck roll downhill by gravity with the trans still in reverse. Do not lock your brakes, but if you go too fast downhill, give the engine some gas so you can claw your way back up the hill a bit. You need to completely clear the bottom section of the drive up to the curve before you start on the upper section. Repeat this pattern on the upper section, and always angle your snow runoff to the down side of the hill.

    The reason you back up these steep drives is that the majority of your weight and all of your directional control is up front. Your engine, steering, plow weight and angle of the plow should work in your favor like a bucket on the end of a rope. Do not put that bucket at the top of the hill, you will see it swing down around on you and off into the woods you go. Go slowly, and always use your LOW RANGE in your transfer case, to give you the torque to move the snow and to act as a brake when you come down hill.

    After you cut your openings, you can use your first gear only to plow the hill down. You do not plow these uphill, ever! Do not let your truck shift automatically, use the L1 setting of your trans to control your speed.

    Steep driveways separate the men from the boys, they are the ones that are not always about the money but about doing a job that no one else has the guts to do and doing it well. With a little planning and the right equipment (CHAINS!) you can do them. A deal is a deal, you should honor your part of it."

    #11 02-24-2002, 02:10 PM
  11. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    Chains??? I don't know what that driveway is made of, but I'm pretty sure they don't want any blemishes on it.

    No chains!!! Especially used by an inexperienced operator, which he seems to be.

    Likewise, no studded tires.
  12. DSquared

    DSquared Junior Member
    Messages: 5

    Great replies - thanks

    Thanks everyone - it seems that I've come to the right place. No argument here - I'm not a novice to snow, but definitely to long and steep driveways.

    I think that I'll stay away from the chains on the new concrete driveway, so thanks for the option - it really does help to hear how you'd do it.

    So if a blower is the way to go - tractor mounted or huge walk-behind?

    Mick - so you'd pre- and post-treat with Magic Salt? I did a quick look - this is salt with Magnesium Chloride and other stuff, which is safe for concrete? Anyone have any luck with calcium chloride or other deicer/anti-icers other than rock salt?
  13. basher

    basher PlowSite Fanatic
    from 19707
    Messages: 8,990

    Do you live at the top of this drive? If so it's not that hard. you need use a blade with a Polyurethane wear-edge to protect the drive. If you decide to sub it out make sure the contractor has a ploy wear edge, and does not run studs or chains, otherwise, what Mick said.
    First pre-treat the living daylights out of it, use a de-iceing product that will not eat the concrete. Do not use salt. This is the most critical part for all the reasons Mick outlined in his posts
    Then start plowing your way down the hill discharging the snow to the trouble side of the drive, use short "diagonal" pushes in heavy snow.
    Plow with the storm (don't let it get to deep) making sure to treat the drive after each push to keep the snow and ice from bonding to the surface.
    Make sure your wife uses low gear and her 4x4.
  14. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    As to the blower, others have more experience than I.

    If you want a plow, like basher said, put a Urethane edge on it to protect the concrete. I didn't think about Urethane in my other posts, but that is a good suggestion. It's like using a big piece of fairly rigid plastic (not a good comparison, but the best I could come up with) and will protect the concrete and grass.

    As to the deicer/anti-icer. DO NOT USE CALCIUM CHLORIDE (liquid or flake) which highly corrosive. There are several products out there that use a salt treatment, it's just that I am prejudical to Magic Salt as that is what I make and sell. Off the top of my head, there is a product called Ice Ban that works similarly.

    First, do not use any salt product (even Magic Salt) for the first year after you lay your concrete to give it time to cure some. Second, realize that damage in the form of cracks is caused by the freeze/thaw cycle. What the treatment does is lower the freeze point (in the case of Magic Salt to about -35F). Magic -0 (which is a dark liquid) by itself is less corrosive than tap water. When poured on rock salt (hence the name "Magic Salt), it saturates the salt and reduces the corrosiveness of the salt significantly. Then when the salt is poured on any surface, such as asphalt or concrete, it melts the snow as it falls. It is advertised to melt up to 2" of snow, but take advertising for what it's worth. The point is, it will melt the snow as it falls, then prevent the snow from bonding to the surface, so it's easily scooped up by a plow or snowblower.

    Salt alone is VERY corrosive and only effective to about 18F.

    Hopes this helps a little.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2006
  15. DSquared

    DSquared Junior Member
    Messages: 5

    Bottom looking up

    Our house is located at the bottom of the driveway. The pic was taked right at the corner of the house, which is right out of view to the left, looking up the driveway. So, I think the plow is out.

    I'll also spend some time on the Ice Management section regarding the pavement deicing/anti-icing chemicals, sounds like the Magic would be a good pick. I will also invest in another coat of good concrete sealer (like Enviroseal 40 or some other).

    I'm still interested if anyone has recommendations/experiences with the tractor-mounted blowers.
  16. justme-

    justme- 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,138

    Stay away from salt period- no matter how old the drive is- concrete is porus and the salt WILL eat it away. Same with Calcium Chloride- potassium chloride is the only viable alturnative that you could buy at the local hardware store- as it is much less corosive to the concrete- no chains are necessary in any case.

    The number one rule for plowing steep driveways is THINK BEFORE you do it. I've plowed steeper on a regular basis untreated and never needed chains. They are good to have but not necessary and can really be a crutch for some.

    I suggest a liquid ice melt product - see the ice control forum on here for help with what one and useage. Pretreat it and it will make a lot easier work, but it's not necessary. Neither is a poly edge on a blade, just use the plow feet and common sense.

    The answer to your original question is what of those options do you want to do. I don't like the idea of plowing anything with a late model cherokee- it's so lightly constructed that it will really take a beating, especially the front end. Cherokee's are noted for needing front end maintenance as it is.

    A larger garden tractor is a good option IF you have additional use for it, a Kabota or such that can handle a front end loader or has a 3 point hitch can add alot of versatility- but again you should have use for it the rest of the year or it's a waste of money for just snow removal.

    I would recomend a combination of a larger snowblower and liquid treetment- make sure to put in edge markers because the edges of the slabs are going to be vulnerable to a plow and there's no need to blow much past the edge.

    A tractor mounted blower is a possibility with the above additional use for the tractor- belts slip when things are wrong- like glased belts, worn belts, improperly adjusted systems, missing belt guards or missing belt guides. They guys who design the blower attachments know it will be used in the snow so it's designed for it.
    You could simply buy a 32" or 36" walk behind blower and have a relativly quick and relativly cheap solution.

    Remember driving in slick weather properly will do more to prevent sliding than snow maintenance- teach your wife how to properly use 4wd and descend hills. (4 lo and 1st gear or L in an auto for engine braking....)

    I avoided plowing technique because the above post covers it well, and it really doesn't answer your question.
  17. Tahoe99

    Tahoe99 Member
    from NY
    Messages: 76

    What about a used 2500 truck ?

    Experts - please comment.
    I have not done much plowing so please post negative side of this idea:

    buy a used , old 3/4 ton truck with a plow for around 2000. Do not register or insure it, just let it sit on the side of your property when not needed. Load the bed with balast if needed.

    I know, hopefuly everthing is in working order etc.

  18. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    Good idea - IF you've got the room for it and there are no neighborhood covenants against unregistered vehicles. Just from the picture and his decription of the layout, I'd guess he doesn't have the room for it and that this is a pretty upscale neighborhood.

    But for an old, beat up 3/4 ton, I wouldn't go more than $600 or so.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2006

    WOOFSPLOW Member
    Messages: 76

    Start from the top down - the first pass is the hardest going up.
  20. plowman777

    plowman777 Senior Member
    Messages: 227

    doesnt look so steep.
    you could put 2-3 concrete BOLLARDS at the bottom where
    the drive turns to stop a car from sliding off