Removing snow and ice from parking lots and parkades is easy, but getting the job done without damaging the deck takes some know-how.

Parking structure operators invest a lot of money into their lots to maintain high capacity operation throughout the year. Aside from the cost of staffing, ticketing and maintenance, owners of these facilities are facing a renewed push to add technology, payment options and electric vehicle charging stations to remain relevant in this rapidly changing sector.

With all of the new technology and trends in parking, it’s easy to lose sight of one of the most important, and basic aspects of every parking structure – what goes on the deck.

Parking structures are coated with deck membranes to improve performance, longevity and increase return on investment. These high-performance coatings are applied with an eye to the long-term lifecycle of the structure, sealing and protecting concrete from the wear and tear that comes with daily use.

But when bad weather hits, clearing snow and ice from your parking deck is about more than just operating at full capacity. The added weight may exceed the structure’s limit and put its supports under stress, resulting in costly repairs.

Yes, clearing the snow is a must. But so is clearing it carefully. Aggressive scraping and improperly equipped machines damage the coating, allowing moisture and temperature to damage the most expensive, important aspect of your structure — the deck.

Here are some tips to keep your parking structure operating at peak capacity in the depths of winter.

Buckets and blades

One of the quickest ways to clear a deck is with a truck or tractor. But whether the vehicle is equipped with a standard plow, separator or a bucket, you should avoid using metal blades at all costs. Metal can leave deep gouges in the surface coating and the first few layers of substrate, exposing your deck to the elements and risking substantial damage. Instead of metal, opt for rubber or polyurethane blades and wings that easily glide over the concrete or asphalt surface.

Speaking of plows and buckets, be sure their runners are also made of durable rubber or plastic runners instead of metal. This will better distribute the weight of the snow without leaving damaging and unsightly grooves in your deck.

Shovels and blowers

Snowblowers are a practical option for almost any parking facility. Fast, cheap and efficient, these workhorses get into corners and clear tighter spaces than any large plow. But even though they’re lighter and more maneuverable, these machines can still damage the deck coating. Use one with rubber cutting edges and don’t force the unit against the ground to clear stubborn spots. It may speed up the task, but potential damage to the deck will always be costlier that the savings from a rushed job.

Salts and de-icing solutions

Some deck coatings are resistant to standard de-icing salts and solutions, specifically de-icers using calcium chloride and sodium chloride. The first order of business is to check the specifications on your deck coating and ensure these are safe to use. If the coating is incompatible with standard de-icing products, it may be time to consider resealing your deck with something more resistant to these chemicals (like this).

If the coating checks out, de-icing salts are a great way to deal with stubborn ice patches and high-traffic pedestrian walkways. The trick to extending your deck coating’s service life when using salts is to thoroughly rinse the deck at the end of the winter season to remove residual salt build up. Not only does this improve the coating’s long-term performance, but it spruces up the parking structure for a cleaner, more professional experience for customers.

Not sure of the best snow and ice removal for your parking structure deck? Visit this page to find your local BASF expert, who can help you define the best practices for your deck.

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