Coping with snow and ice

Snow and ice can make the area around your home incredibly dangerous. If you don't know where to start the clean up, our action plan will help you get started.

Heavy snow can also cause chaos on the roads. Our guide to winter driving will go some way to keeping you safe in the chaos.

Snow and ice can make the area around your home incredibly dangerous.The Met Office advise immediate action for even the smallest of snowfalls. If left alone, that layer of snow on your driveway or pathway could later melt and refreeze, leaving a sheet of ice which is a serious slipping hazard.

Areas you should think about clearing are the path to your front door, your driveway, and the pavement in front of your house.

You can clear snow and ice from pavements yourself. Although it is an area of public use, it should be cleared safely and effectively. It's unlikely that you'll be sued or held responsible if someone is injured on a path or pavement if you've cleared it carefully.

Clearing snow & ice

Clear the snow and ice early in the day. It's easier to move fresh, loose snow rather than hard snow that has packed together from people walking on it. So if possible, start removing the snow and ice in the morning.

If you remove the top layer of snow in the morning, any sunshine during the day will help melt any ice beneath. You can then cover the path with salt before nightfall to stop it refreezing overnight.

Don't Forget Your Shrubs While Snow Shoveling

Keep an eye out for shrub branches that are groaning under the burden of excessive snow. To prevent such branches from snapping, gently brush the snow off them.

Shop shovels

Top tips for shovelling snow

Clear cars first
Brush the snow off of your car, and then clear around the car. You don't want to finish clearing your driveway, and then have pile of snow slip from the roof of your car onto your newly clear driveway.

Don't move snow twice
Carefully decide where you're going to put the snow you're clearing. You don't want to shovel heaps of snow to then find that it's blocking someone else's pathway.

Help others if possible

If your neighbour will have difficulty getting in and out of their home, offer to clear snow and ice around their property as well.

Check that any elderly or disabled neighbours are alright in the cold weather. If you're worried about them, try contacting their relatives or friends, or if necessary the local council.

Preventing slips

  • Pay extra attention to clearing snow and ice from steps and steep pathways - you might need to use more salt on these areas.
  • Use salt or sand - not water. This will make the pathways more dangerous by causing them to refreeze. If you use water to melt the snow, it may refreeze and turn to black ice. Black ice increases the risk of injuries as it is invisible and very slippery.
  • You can melt snow or prevent black ice by spreading some salt on the area you have cleared. You can use ordinary table or dishwasher salt - a tablespoon for each square metre you clear should work.
  • Don't use the salt found in salting bins - this will be needed to keep the roads clear.
  • Be careful not to spread salt on plants or grass as it may damage them.
  • If you don't have enough salt, you can also use sand or ash. These won't stop the path icing over as effectively as salt, but will provide good grip underfoot.

Go easy on the de-icer

Once the area is clear, all you need is a thin scattering of de-icer to keep it that way. If you're scattering by hand, throw the salt, pellets or granules low along the ground so they bounce and roll into a uniform layer.

Shop salt & de-icer

Clearing your roof

Snow & ice are very damaging to the roof of your home. Heavy snowfalls put too much weight on the roof and make ice dams when the snow starts to melt.

Heavy snowfall has becoming increasingly common in England in recent years, so it's important to know how to ensure that your roof doesn't get damaged.

If you can reach, use a rake to remove heavy snow build-up on your roof. Be very careful to only pull down as much snow as you can easily shovel from pathways and the driveway of your home.

You should also consider clearing the roof of your shed, which will be a lot weaker than the roof of your house.

Shop rakes

Safety first

Snow clearance from your roof
After a severe snowfall, do not go into the roof unless you have the correct safety equipment. If in doubt about the stability of your roof after snowfall, contact a professional.

Although it may be beautiful to look at, snow can be a major problem for gardeners, damaging plant growth and killing tender plants. We can help you avoid damage with our winter gardening tips.

Dealing with snow in your garden

The benefit of snow is that it acts as an insulator, protecting plants from the cold and frost. However, a heavy layer of snow can also cause problems. The weight of the snow can cause leaves and branches to break, so it's important to know how to deal with it when it arrives.

  • Shake excess snow from the branches of large trees, shrubs and hedges, to prevent them from becoming disfigured by the weight.
  • Remove heavy deposits of snow from the roofs of greenhouses or cold frames to let in the light and prevent the structures from bending under the weight.
  • Use lengths of string to support the branches of conifers and stop them being pulled out of shape. Branches that move away from the main plant won't spring back into place when the snow melts.
  • Avoid walking on snow-covered grass as it will damage the turf beneath and leave unsightly marks on the lawn. It can also encourage the growth of fungal diseases which thrive in the cool damp conditions.
  • The trees around your home could pose a threat if there has been a build up of ice & snow. If it looks like a large tree could deposit a hefty lump of snow onto a greenhouse or conservatory roof, it's worth gently removing the snow from the branch to avoid damage.
Shop plant protection

Damaged plants

If your plants do get frosted this doesn't necessarily mean the end for them, many plants will recover given time. However there are ways of minimising the damage:

  • Protect them from the morning sun, which can damage growth if the plant defrosts too quickly. If you can't move the plants, try covering them with a layer of black plastic to block out the sun.
  • Cut back frosted growth in spring to a healthy, new bud, to prevent further die back and encourage plants to produce fresh, new shoots.
  • Feed damaged plants with a balanced fertiliser to encourage strong, healthy growth.
  • Dig up small, tender plants and take them into the greenhouse or coldframe. Many will quickly produce new growth and recover, provided they are not subjected to prolonged periods of heavy frost, wet or cold.
  • Newly-planted specimens will often lift themselves proud of the soil surface if there is a hard frost straight after planting. Check them regularly and re-firm the ground around them to ensure their roots are always in contact with the soil.

Extreme weather conditions and icy roads can make driving more difficult especially in winter. Being prepared you can help make your journey safer and reduce delays for everyone.

Keep up to date & be prepared

Check your local and national weather forecast to keep up to date with the latest warnings.

Check that you know where to find traffic and travel information. Live updates are provided by the Highways Agency for motorways and trunk roads in England, or Transport Direct for public transport as well as car journeys.

Always fill up with a full tank of fuel before heading on a long journey. Being stuck on the side of the motorway in zero degree conditions isn't ideal.

Before travelling

Get up at least 10 minutes earlier and give yourself time to prepare the car. Make sure all windows and mirrors are clear and that wipers and defrosters are in good working condition.

It may be tempting if your car windscreen is iced up to put boiling water on the windscreen, straight from the kettle. However, the dramatic difference in temperatures can cause the glass to crack and will leave you with a hefty repair bill.

Check all tyres for condition, pressure and tread depth. At least 3mm of tread is recommended for winter motoring and certainly no less than 2mm. Try to keep your fuel tank topped up.

Plan routes to favour major roads which are more likely to have been gritted. Let people know where you are going, your route and when you expect to arrive.

In extreme weather, make sure you prepare an emergency kit for your car:

Driving in snow & ice

  • If you can't hear any noise from your tyres this could be a sign you're driving on ice.
  • If your vehicle skids, depress the clutch and turn the steering wheel into the direction of the skid. When you straighten up steer along the road. Don't brake - braking will lock up your wheels and you'll skid further.
  • Keep in mind that stopping distances are ten times longer in ice and snow.
  • Gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving on snow and ice.
  • Reduce your risk of skidding by reducing your speed, too much power is often the source of problems in snow and ice.
  • Wear comfortable, dry shoes. It's worth keeping a small towel in the car to dry your shoes before you start driving.
  • Select second gear when pulling away, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.
  • Try to maintain a constant speed, choosing the most suitable gear in advance to avoid having to change down while climbing a hill.
  • When driving downhill, choose third or fourth gear to prevent skidding.
  • Only ever apply brakes gently.
  • If you do get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels. Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip. Once on the move again, try not to stop until you reach firmer ground.