After the final bricks have been laid and a beautiful landscape project has been completed. A very common question we receive from homeowners is what do I need to do to maintain my landscape. Common answers include watering plants and sod, pruning bushes and shrubs seasonally, and picking weeds. An often-overlooked aspect is paver maintenance particularly throughout the winter months. Here in the Greater Toronto Area different types of salt are commonly used as de-icers and each type of salt will impact paving stones differently affecting there look and life span.
Paving stones or Pavers are made of precast concrete and are valued because of their relatively reasonable cost and long term durability. Pavers come in all different shapes and sizes as well as many different colors. Common suppliers of paving stones in Durham Region are Arnts: The Landscape Supplier and Brooklyn Concrete Products.
Salt de-icers damage pavers in several different ways but the most common is what is known as the freeze/thaw cycle. Salt will melt ice and snow as long as temperatures remain within the particular de-icers effect range. This melted ice and snow will sink into concrete pavers because they are porous and the water often gets trapped inside. Once temperatures drop below the effective range of the salt, the water/salt mixture called brine will begin to freeze once again. Water expands as it freezes and this will break off chips from concrete pavers which, allows even more water to be absorbed by the pavers in the future. The best way to avoid this damaging process is to reduce the amount of de-icer used. Some good tips from Consumer Reports include getting rid of snow and ice prior to applying de-icer and applying de-icer in a thin even layer.
With multiple de-icers on the market it can be difficult to know which the best choice is. Consumer Reports recommends using a Urea based de-icer as it is the least damaging to concrete but unfortunately it is not a very effective de-icer. Rock salt or Sodium Chloride based de-icers are the least expensive option that will create minimal damage to pavers and effectively melt ice and snow. Homeowners who require pet friendly environments may wish to avoid rock salt as it can be lethal to pets if ingested. Chloride based de-icers are more pet friendly and still do minimal damage to pavers but can be slightly more expensive. In an article on caring for pavers in the winter Unilock recommends avoiding any de-icer that is magnesium based because it can be very aggressive and damage the concrete surface of the pavers.
Our Canadian winters create an environment where a salt de-icer is likely to be required to create a safe surface to walk and drive on. Remove snow and ice prior to using any salt de-icer to reduce the volume of salt needed and apply salt evenly and sparingly when required. This is the best solution to stay safe and to extend the life of the pavers in your landscape as long as possible.
Landscape Construction Foreman
Birk’s Landscaping Inc.