Winter is a beautiful season, but with it comes the inevitable snowfall. Although snow is picturesque, it’s also a nuisance, especially when it comes to clearing snow from your property. While it’s important to keep your walkways, porches, patios, stairs, and paths clear of snow, it’s just as crucial to do it safely and efficiently. Done incorrectly, shoveling snow can cause serious injury and even death from overexertion, heart conditions, and falls.

Avoid these common snow removal mistakes to finish this chore correctly and safely every time.

1. Delaying Removing Snow

The most common mistake when dealing with snow is waiting too long to shovel. Light snowfall needs only occasional clearing, but heavy snow requires prompt attention and repeated shoveling to prevent dense, heavy accumulation that’s much harder to clear.

Consistent shoveling makes the job easier by moving smaller loads, so you avoid overexerting yourself. Fresh powdery snow is easier to manage, which reduces strain compared to shoveling inches of hardened, compacted snow. Using a quality electric snow shovel can make the repetitive task easier.

Swift snow removal prevents the formation of slick ice by not allowing the snow time to melt and refreeze into dense patches. Starting the removal process early also prevents falls: you don’t have to try to walk on or through deep snow.

If you hire a snow removal service, we advise you to make that decision before winter. Services book up quickly after big storms. Waiting until the last minute risks having no help available.

2. Improper Technique

Many people incorrectly think heaving shovels full of snow is efficient snow removal. However, lifting and tossing snow can lead to back injuries and heart overexertion without getting the job done faster.

To shovel snow properly, make multiple passes as snow accumulates, keeping up with the storm by moving 2 to 3 inches at a time. Push snow along the surface using your shovel rather than lifting each scoop.

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Pushing snow reduces back strain because your legs and core do the work instead of your back and arms. Smaller loads moved repeatedly help avoid overexertion compared to wrestling with heavy accumulated snow all at once. Remember to keep the shovel blade on the surface to efficiently slide snow instead of lifting it.

When clearing snow, wear insulated and waterproof winter boots with good traction to prevent slips and falls that can cause injuries.

3. Making Narrow Paths

Keeping walkways and paths near your home’s entrances clear of snow is critical, but shoveling these areas can be tricky. Paths get narrow from additional snowfall as the season winds on and existing banks melt and refreeze. Starting with a wide path means any narrowing won’t obscure it.

We advise you to make your paths at least 36 inches wide. This width allows easy passage without getting wet and gives wiggle room as banks encroach with more snow.

4. Delaying Removing Snow from the Roof

A small amount of snow on your roof shouldn’t cause you concern. However, if the snow keeps falling, it’s important to remove it to prevent possible damage to the roof. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand the best time to act.

We recommend you remove snow from your roof when it reaches a weight of 60 pounds per square foot. That equates to around 6 inches of tightly packed snow or 12 inches of lighter, fluffier snow.

Signs it’s time to clear the roof:

  • Ice dams gutters as meltwater refreezes
  • Interior leaks spring up as snow melts
  • Sagging under the weight of snow is visible

We recommend being safer and using a roof rake to remove snow from roofs instead of shoveling, which can cause falls. For added safety, wear ice cleats and work with a partner.

5. Not Using Pet-Safe Ice Melt

Even though you’ve cleared the snow, your work may not be done. Applying ice melt can further protect walkways. However, you need to choose the right product to avoid harm.

Many ice melts and road salts are toxic to pets and plants. Pet-safe products avoid harm from toxic salts and chemicals. They’re also less corrosive to landscaping.

To keep your pets safe, use non-toxic ice melt. Propylene glycol is a pet-friendly alternative to consider. Just remember to read labels carefully and use them sparingly.

So, is Snow Removal Worth the Effort?

Snow removal can be tedious and expensive, but removing snow safely and correctly keeps your property safe all winter, regardless of snowfall.

Promptly shoveling, using proper technique, and clearing all necessary areas minimize hazards. It also reduces repairs by preventing excessive snow load damage. In short, proper snow removal is essential to protect your home and family.

FAQs About Snow Removal

How often should I shovel during a storm?

Shovel away every 2-3 inches of fresh snow to prevent heavy accumulation and keep the job easy on your body. If you’re dealing with an extended snowstorm or a series of them, you may want to use a snow blower to push snow off your sidewalks and driveway.

When should I worry about roof snow load?

Remove snow once it’s deeper than 6 inches or you notice roof sagging or interior leaks.

What’s the best snow shovel?

Use an ergonomic shovel with a curved handle to reduce back strain. Push rather than lift when possible.

How wide should a shoveled path be?

Make initial paths at least 36 inches wide for stability and room as banks creep inward.

What’s a good pet-safe ice melt?

Choose non-toxic products labeled safe for pets, like those with propylene glycol. Remember to use it sparingly.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Abbie Clark

Abbie Clark


Abbie Clark is a writer and blogger. She is the founder of "Hey She Thrives", where she writes about all things motherhood, coupled with expert cleaning tips that echo the warmth and order of a loving home. She is also the co founder of "RideRambler." There, you can find all of the info you'll ever need on DIY car fixes and Auto news.When not writing, you can find Abbie chasing her toddler, trying a new cookie recipe, or fishing with her husband.

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Sabrina Lopez


Sabrina Lopez is a senior editor for Today’s Homeowner with over 7 years of writing and editing experience in digital media. She has reviewed content across categories that matter to homeowners, including HVAC services, home renovations, lawn and garden care, products for the home, and insurance services. When she’s not reviewing articles to make sure they are helpful, accessible, and engaging for homeowners like herself, Sabrina enjoys spending time with her family and their two parrots.

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