Soon community associations will have to deal with snow and ice, and the problems that come with it. In this article I want to discuss salt and other deicers. Many unit owners are certain that one type of salt will ruin their sidewalks. Other units owners believe that any kind of ice melt will harm concrete. Associations get complaints about ice in the winter, and then about spalling sidewalks in the spring. Which deicers are best, and which are asking for problems? Although most of my posts contain mostly legal advice, for this article I got to use my background as a chemical engineer too.
There are four main kinds of ice melt that are used. They are sodium chloride (rock salt), calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate (CMA). The truth is that all ice melt works in basically the same way. Magnesium chloride, calcium chloride and CMA all absorb water. In doing so, they produce a chemical reaction with the water that produces heat. The heat produced melts the ice. The melting ice dissolves the deicer, and then carries it onto the rest of the surface. Sodium chloride is a little different in that it actually lowers the temperature in which water freezes. So instead of freezing at 32 degrees, water with salt dissolved in it doesn’t freeze until it is 25 degrees. Try it at home – science is fun!