When it comes to seasonal chores, there is no more hated task then shoveling snow. Unlike raking leaves or weeding the garden, shoveling snow is a deadly combination of backbreaking labor, harsh weather, and relentless retouches.
Furthermore, there can be no delay in clearing the driveway and paths around your home. The moment the first few inches fall, you need to get going right away before it melts and refreezes, making a tough job far worse.
If you live in an area where winter storms hit every year, then understanding how to shovel properly is essential. Even if you regularly use a top of the line snowblower, you will likely have to go back over the area with a shovel just to get those last few inches.
Throughout this process, it is all too easy to lose track of what you are doing, get into sloppy habits, or seriously injure yourself. This article offers the best tips and tricks for making the job a little easier and safer.
Preparation of The Area
In your haste to get it all done as quickly as possible, it is tempting to sprint out there and start tossing snow. However, for your own safety it’s time to take a deep breath and get ready.
First, lifting piles of snow is very hard work and can take the better part of a day depending on the area you are clearing.
Take a second and stretch your whole body. Pay particular attention to your back, legs, and arms. Make sure you get them loose and ready for what is essentially a long-form weight lifting exercise.
Next, dress in warm layers. It is winter after all and not only will it be cold to begin with, but you never know when another storm could roll in. Moreover, be sure to dress in multiple layers so that if you begin to get overheated during work, you can strip some things away. Sweating in the cold and can lead to hypothermia if you are not careful.
Plan on breaks and space them out in a way that best suits you. You do not need to work yourself to death. Breaking at regular intervals will give you a chance to rehydrate, fuel up with a snack, and rest your muscles.
Wax up your shovel with whatever material you have around. Pam spray, floor or car wax, and other slippery materials will help keep snow from sticking to the shovel.
Planning It All
Whether it is a pathway, driveway, or patio, divide the area into sections and clear them one by one. It will help keep your work organized instead of an inefficient patchwork. This is best after the snowfall.
However, if you are working in the storm itself, give the entire area an even, preliminary clearing so that its easier once the storm subsides.
When shoveling, try not to create enormous piles along the area that you are clearing. These can easily fall apart, leaving you to shovel the same snow twice. It will take a little extra effort but tossing the snow a good distance will save you a lot of trouble later.
Also, when picking the spot to toss the snow, be sure to avoid blocking areas that you will need access later or where snow is eventually going to be cleared. Keep doorways and other paths open if you have any intention of using them later.
Shoveling The Snow
This is the easiest part to get wrong. If done carelessly, you can expect a much harder workday as well as unnecessary but serious injuries.
First, with every scoop you should be bending your knees and lifting with your legs.
This keeps your back from bearing all the weight. Additionally, with every lift, bring the blade of the shovel close to you. This will also keep the strain off your back while giving you more control of the shovel itself.
Throughout the process, switch between your right and left hands. This will keep the work evenly spread between your muscles and lessen the chance of hurting your arms. In the same spirit, change up grips. Move from palm under to palm over throughout the job to keep your muscles working equally.
Keep your lifting reasonable. If you have several inches of snow or even a foot or more, do not lift it all in one go. Layer your scooping so that you only have to lift a few inches of snow at a time. The process will take longer but the you are much less likely to hurt yourself if you pace it out.
When shoveling snow, be sure to not block your dryer vent. It can be all too easy to forget about this little guy, but covering it is a major fire hazard. It can also lead to carbon monoxide poison as it blocks the exhaust from exiting your home.
Even better, make a point of clearing snow away from the vent so that the storms themselves do not block it. This goes for any vent attached to your home.
Clear away snow from your house number so that emergency services can find your home if the need arises. Moreover, you can assist the fire department by shoving the area around the nearest fire hydrant.
Make a note where the storm drains are along your street. When the snow melts the runoff can do brutal things to your garden and street. When the snow starts to pile up, keep the drains clear to prevent future flooding.
Be sure to brush off snow from branches and leaves. Over long periods of time, the weight can damage your roof or snap hardy branches. Even better, invest in a snow rake and clear large swaths from your roof and other hard to reach places.
It may seem simple at first, but shoveling snow takes serious planning and technique. Take the time to consider what needs to be cleared and how. Plan ahead to be as efficient as possible.
Protect yourself by stretching and treating the job as an intensive workout. Listen to your body throughout the day and let it rest when needed.
Lastly, shoveling snow is more than just the driveway and walkways. Keep your home completely safe by making sure utility spaces are kept clear and your roof isn’t about to cave in. With proper foresight and respect for the work ahead, your spaces can be cleared away without mistakes, strain, or injury.