Does Home Depot rent flame throwers?
February 28, 2014 9:53 AM   Subscribe

What is the best/easiest way to clear snow and ice from a driveway and parking area in sub-freezing temperatures?

We had a fire in our house back in September, so we had to move out for a while. We're back in now, but as a result of not being there for much of the winter, there is significant snow and, more annoying, ice on our driveway and parking area. Some of the driveway was plowed, but a good part of it wasn't. I'm going to try to hit the parking area with our snowblower, but I'm slightly worried that the snow is too icy for the snowblower to work well. And what about the underlying ice?

I could just salt the whole area, but I'm wondering if others have better ideas. Is there some way to apply heat to the area to melt the snow/ice? My experience with salt is pretty good, but not typically over such a large area (the driveway is ~30 feet x 8 feet and the parking area is ~20 feet by 15 feet). It is not supposed to get over freezing for the next ~10 days at least and this is something I'd like to tackle this weekend.

posted by Betelgeuse to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There are actually mini flame throwers sold as weed killers: Example
There are comments about using it to remove ice. If you are willing to use fire again around your house, this might work. Of course, you have to have some drainage as well to make sure you aren't just melting it to have it refreeze.

Secondly, I have heard that Epsom salts will help prevent refreeze
posted by soelo at 10:01 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I LOVE the flamethrower idea, if your driveway is cement. If it is blacktop, the heat will cause issues with it. Plus, not sure if your insurance company would appreciate it especially so soon after a fire.

I would clear the loose snow off the ice layer on the bottom. I would then salt liberally and add sand to it for traction. Over the course of the next several days, I would then attempt to break up the ice that remains and remove it by shovel.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:04 AM on February 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have had luck de-adhering ice from my blacktop driveway by using an edging spade. It's a wide flat metal shovel for digging slits to install garden edging.

Depending on the temperature and smoothness of the surface you are working with that thing can peel off large swathes of ice with little effort. Certainly many times more easily than a snow shovel.
posted by rocketpup at 10:11 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Home Depot lists this product called an "Ice Torch" for sale for $39.95.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:12 AM on February 28, 2014

Using a torch seems wasteful. I had pretty good luck with a simple ice pick like this on my 30 foot long driveway.
posted by Poldo at 10:23 AM on February 28, 2014

Vermont? You must know people with woodstoves. The ash is pretty good for traction, and it's dark, so it promotes melting if there's any sun at all. Use some salt, too, and whenever it's at all warm out, get out and clear, or, better yet, have someone with a plow come and clear.
posted by theora55 at 10:38 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your driveway and parking area isn't all that large. My driveway/parking area is ~30' x 60'. Because of the shade provided by my house and trees a couple times a year I end up with a curling rink instead of a driveway even when I keep up on the snow removal.

Worse case we get freezing rain over a centimetre or so of heavy snow. Even then about 10lb pounds of ice melt (the NaCl/MgCl mix) spread liberally over the affected area loosens up the ice. And then a little work with a square nosed spade clears it down to the pavement.

I could clear the drive without shoveling if I was willing to spend more on salt. However my drive way slopes away from my house; be aware of where the salty water is going to end up as you don't want it draining into your flower beds or something.

Temperatures above freezing are the ideal time to spread salt.
posted by Mitheral at 11:02 AM on February 28, 2014

You could get a metal trash can and some charcoal and start a fire in it, letting it melt the ice and then moving it across the driveway until you're done.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:05 AM on February 28, 2014

Pay someone else to do it. Once it gets iced over it takes forever to clear out with a pick or a torch. A team of pros can get it done in like 20 minutes, for less than the cost of buying the gear to do it yourself.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 11:07 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Turning ice into water takes a whole lot of heat. I don't think a flamethrower will have much of an impact (but never tried).
posted by anadem at 11:46 AM on February 28, 2014

I have had luck de-adhering ice from my blacktop driveway by using an edging spade. It's a wide flat metal shovel for digging slits to install garden edging.

Also my preferred tool for ice and heavily-compacted snow situations. Definitely something you want in your sidewalk arsenal.
posted by gimonca at 11:51 AM on February 28, 2014

I use ice melt. Easier than salt on driveway & sidewalk surfaces, grass etc. Effective to -15°C/5°F.
posted by PickeringPete at 11:53 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've lived in Iowa and Winnipeg. If you can get a nice fracture started it will be easier to take up with a rigid "scraper' type tool. Start where the ice is the thickest.
posted by vapidave at 12:14 PM on February 28, 2014

If you're going to go out and buy a tool for this, I'd get an actual ice chopper/scraper instead of an edging spade. A nice heavy head so you can throw it into the ice to break it up for a starting point, then slide under it to clear.
posted by ckape at 1:29 PM on February 28, 2014

I think a heat gun would be safer, more effective, and less likely to cause your insurance company to drop you than any kind of flamethrower. I also think it will take forever to do this with heat and you'd be better off chipping and salting.
posted by gingerest at 3:13 PM on February 28, 2014

I haven't had much luck with the melting option when the temperatures are still below freezing due to refreezing. My method of choice involves brute force using something like the following to break up the ice with vertical stabs:
It is tedious work but not without some degree of satisfaction.
posted by piyushnz at 3:31 PM on February 28, 2014

I have a weed burner similar to this. Happened to still have it in the truck when I was up at Dad's cabin for the week, and they plowed the roads. Froze again, and the berms from the plowing were hard as a rock. Bent two shovels trying to chip through it, and we were about to give up. That torch went through the snow and ice like a hot knife through butter. Lots of water to deal with, though.
posted by xedrik at 11:20 PM on February 28, 2014

I tried to make some headway on an 8" thick ice dam with a torch years and years ago. I might have succeeded clearing a foot or two had I stood there all night with the torch.

If you have a handheld propane torch, light it up and go try to melt some ice off the driveway.
posted by chazlarson at 2:42 PM on March 1, 2014

« Older Jehovah's Witnesses...Organs, Yes; Blood, No?   |   Should I file a grievance with my health insurance... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.