Mr. Hutcheson

Maintenance

Hotel Garden: Managing Severe Winter Weather

By Ken Hutcheson, President, U.S. Lawns

Co-Authored by Mike Fitzpatrick, Vice President, U.S. Lawns

Though winter brings to mind blankets of white snow and nights curled up by the fire, the season's inclement weather can bring many challenges when it comes to maintaining a property's landscape. In order to operate efficiently and safely during the colder months, hotel leadership must ensure that all walkways are treated, snow is plowed and a watchful eye is kept for ice and slick spots. Not only will proper snow and ice management keep a hotel landscape looking hospitable and accessible despite inclement weather, it will also help avert potentially dangerous conditions.

Winter weather comes in many forms, all of which can cause significant damage to a hotel landscape. Snow can block employee access to parking lots and can inhibit patrons by either covering walkways created to direct customers to entrances or blocking access to buildings and driveways. Heavy snow accumulation can cause structural damage to hotels such as cracks in the foundation or leaking. Clearing snow properly will help keep a hotel accessible in even the worst weather, ensuring operations can continue and revenue will not suffer due to weather.

Snow management is essential to maintaining a hotel's image. For those hotels that do not work with a landscape professional, keep in mind that clearing snow to keep vehicle and pedestrian areas clear may require a significant number of man-hours from hotel personnel. For hotels in colder areas, it is likely necessary to use a snow plow to keep parking lots, driveways and pathways open. Despite their utility, snow plows can pose big challenges to the layman. For example, heavy snowfall can cause issues for a plow. Waiting for significant accumulation can result in serious damage to plowing equipment with expensive repair costs. Experienced snow removal professionals know that it is wise to plow early and often if a large amount of snow is expected.

Hotel owners and managers who operate in a region susceptible to severe winter conditions should take care in choosing the right landscape professional for the job, as many landscape professionals are trained to properly tend to a property in winter months. Selecting an experienced and trusted landscape professional can ease winter worries and remove hassles for any business owner or manager. Look for the landscape professional who has all the necessary equipment and tools to safely care for a property and make sure they are able to provide the expertise and experience to identify specific inclement weather care needs. Properly trained landscape professionals can offer peace of mind, as they often track weather patterns and adjust maintenance strategies accordingly.

Another important factor to consider when planning for the winter months is the necessity of maintaining safety around a hotel's building structure. It can be extremely dangerous to leave large amounts of snow on a building's roof. Sliding snow and ice falling from above can harm pedestrians, vehicles and the building below. In extreme cases, snow accumulation on a building roof can cause roofs to collapse due to the extra weight load. It is also important to ensure that snow isn't allowed to accumulate around the base of a building. Snow that sits too close to can lead to leaking that can ultimately damage structure walls and cause basement flooding when the snow melts.

Excessive snow and ice accumulation can be extremely hazardous. Failure to maintain walkways can lead to serious injuries from slip and fall accidents. Snow build-up can negatively affect the exterior appearance of a property, deterring customers and reducing business traffic. Hotels can greatly decrease their liability with proper winter weather management.

Ice is potentially the most dangerous winter element. Ice can pose a serious threat for both pedestrians and drivers. It is extremely important to keep ice from accumulating on walkways and driveways in order to reduce the risk of an accident occurring. Ice is also one of the most difficult winter weather elements to manage, and it is easiest to manage it before it forms. Failure to pre-treat areas susceptible to ice accumulation can result in countless man hours spent on difficult and frequently ineffective manual cleanup.

The best way to manage ice is before it forms is through pre-treating. This can also be done after it forms, but it is not nearly as effective. It is quite common for commercial and private properties to use melting agents such as calcium chloride, salt or salt-based solutions to prevent the forming of ice on walkways and driveways. These materials effectively soften ice, breaking the bonds between the ice and pavement which then makes its removal easier. Ice can still be treated after it forms, but the effort to remove it will be greater. Once a melting agent is applied to ice coverage, sidewalks and walkways will need to be scraped either by hand or with an ice shovel. Melting agents are not, however, necessary in every case. If the temperature is above freezing, allowing ice to melt for a short time before removing it will lessen the effort needed to break it free from the hardscape. It is imperative that all guests and employees are made aware of any ice hazard so the proper caution can be exercised.As de-icing and ice management often involves many types of pavement such as asphalt, concrete, or pavers, it is important to select the right product. Some solutions contain types of salt that can be harmful to cement, animals or grass. Other products can be harmful to water supplies if absorbed into the soil or allowed to run off into sewers or drainage systems.

There are a number of commonly used products on the market for use in deicing. The most widely available of these products, sodium chloride solutions, are often the least expensive. Unfortunately, these pure rock salt solutions can harm plant life and mar cement if left for too long on ground surfaces. Potassium chloride and calcium chloride can also be used to soften ice and make it easier to clear. These options are usually more expensive than sodium chloride but cause less damage to ground areas and may melt ice coverage quicker than pure sodium chloride.

Another product that is used to help control ice formation is a solution which contains urea. This is the least corrosive and is widely used in high traffic locations such as airports, hotels and parking structures because they are the least harmful to metal. Since urea is commonly used in fertilizers, it should not be used in areas with plant life or areas that run off into gardens or lawns as it can promote unhealthy growth in winter. Unfortunately, urea-based solutions are only rated for temperatures as low as 21 degrees Fahrenheit.

More effective and less toxic to plant life, magnesium chloride solutions are the latest in ice management. And unlike solutions containing urea, magnesium chloride solutions do not promote unhealthy growth in the winter months. Able to melt ice in contact with cement in temperatures as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit, magnesium chloride is extremely useful in pre-treatment as well as removing ice after it has already formed. Unlike sodium chloride, solutions of magnesium chloride do not leave a powder trace behind after they have dissolved.

Regardless of which methods of snow management and deicing are chosen for an area, it is sometimes not enough to keep walkways safe. In times of colder weather where the ground is continually freezing, the use of extra measures may be required in high traffic areas. While it is always a good idea to break up and remove ice, placing a layer of sand or gravel over areas of ice can help prevent slip and fall accidents by adding traction. This technique can also help prevent the formation of more ice build up as it does not allow ice to make contact with cement surfaces. It is also important to keep guests notified of any areas that are deemed unsafe or that may cause them any problems with getting around the property.

The best way to ensure the use of proper materials, techniques and tools for every region and business landscape when it comes to snow and ice management is by leaving it to a landscape professional. Winter weather does not have to interfere with the operations of a hotel; in fact winter can be a wonderful time to attract new customers. By promptly removing snow and using ice melt products and sand, hotel owners and managers can deal with unexpected and extended cold spells quickly, minimizing interruptions to operational hours and ensuring guests stay safe despite adverse weather.

alt textCo-Author Mike Fitzpatrick is a Vice President with U.S. Lawns and has been in the landscape industry since 1980. His experience covers market areas across the country and in all types of climates. Mr. Fitzpatrick is also a Certified Franchise Executive bringing valuable experience and industry insight to U.S. Lawns. Mr. Fitzpatrick can be reached at mfitzpatrick@uslawns.com

Ken Hutcheson is President of U.S. Lawns. He joined the company in 1995 and has grown the organization from a regional 18-franchise network to a national network of over 250-franchises in all 48 contiguous states. U.S. Lawns is nourished by the values and passion of family-owned and operated franchise businesses. Mr. Hutcheson champions an entrepreneurial spirit and a teamwork culture. He’s skilled at developing employee, franchisee and customer bases that are anchored on a commitment to long-term relationships. His focus on the company’s Franchise Development and Support is central to the company’s steady national expansion and consistently high rankings on industry lists. Mr. Hutcheson can be contacted at 407-246-1630 or khutcheson@uslawns.com Please visit https://uslawns.com/ for more information. Extended Bio...

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