5 Spring Lawn Care Tips

5 Spring Lawn Care Tips

5 Spring Lawn Care Tips

Soon, winter will once again be giving way to spring. The snow and ice will start to melt away and we will once again be able to smell that earth of our yards as they thaw. Naturally, our thoughts will return to setting our lawns up for success so that we may enjoy them for another season.

Having a successful lawn, with lush green grass isn’t just a matter of doing the right thing as much as it is about doing the right thing at the right time. Otherwise, you end up with a lawn that isn’t as healthy or attractive as it could be.

Having that lawn of your dreams takes more than some watering in the spring. It’s actually something that requires various types of care all year long, but when the days are getting longer and the birds are singing again… well, that’s when the magic really happens.

The timing for spring lawn prep is around the time when the worst of winter is over and you’re pretty sure you won’t be getting any more snow. Of course, in Michigan, that’s not always easy to predict with a great degree of accuracy.

In this post, we are going to look at five tips to get your lawn looking good right from the start this spring.

Rake it Like You Mean It

Raking in spring sounds as about as fun as a dental appointment. After all, didn’t we just do a bunch of raking a few months ago? That should have been the end of it, right? Well, raking in spring accomplishes different goals.

When you rake in the spring, the main goal is to remove any thatch that may have built up during winter. Spring raking also helps you locate any parts of the lawn where the grass is clumping up, which could prevent seeding from being as effective as it could be.

The primary goal of fall raking is, of course, to get those leaves off the yard. If you “deep rake” in the fall, that can also help remove thatch. In fact, if you knock it out of the park with your fall raking, you’ll have a much easier time with the spring raking.

Check for Moss

After you have completed racking, you’ll want to inspect the lawn for signs of compaction. These are often most common in areas of the lawn that get the most traffic. Compaction occurs when areas of the soil become so dense that roots have difficulty taking hold. Moss will very often start to grow in these areas; so keep an eye out for that. The solution to compaction is aeration. While aeration is usually considered a fall lawn care task, it can be beneficial in spring to help break up compacted areas of the yard.

Lime Time

The goal of lime is to rectify any issues with pH balance in your yard, particularly to lower acidity levels.

On occasion, you’ll hear someone say, “you can never add too much lime.” That is absolutely not true. While lime can help cure acidity issues, it is not an instant fix. Adding more lime will not make it work faster!

When you add lime consistently over a longer periods of time, pH levels usually return to their ideal equilibrium. To ensure you are getting those levels correct, you should periodically have a soil test done. Too much lime leads to soil that is too alkaline, which, like being too acidic, is not an ideal growing condition for your grass.

Seeding and Fertilizing

A common fix for bare spots in the lawn is overseeding. If you are overseeding, keep in mind that you’ll want to use a slow-release fertilizer.

For the best results, you’ll want to seed in late fall. That’s the time of year when weeds are not competing with the grass. When you seed the lawn in fall, then overseed bare spots in the spring, you set yourself up for a thick, healthy lawn.

After you overseed, wait about five weeks, then add a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer to kick start the growth.

You’ll want to be careful with how much fertilizer you add in spring, though. This is also “weed season” and the fertilizer can bolster weed growth. For that reason, the majority of your fertilizing should be done in fall.

Weed Control

The enemy of a good looking lawn, garden, or flower bed is weeds. In general, a pre-emergent herbicide can help. For absolute best results, however, specific areas should be treated with specific herbicides.

A pre-emergent herbicide is more of a weed preventer than a weed killer. It works by preventing seeds from germinating, which allows your grass to flourish. If you apply a pre-emergent herbicide, you are essentially setting up a barrier against weed growth, which is greatest in spring. If you apply a pre-emergent herbicide, do not aerate. Aeration creates holes in that barrier, give weeds an opportunity to germinate.

All that said, pre-emergent herbicides can also pose problems for your lawn, too. Ideally, you’ll want to limit their use to areas where you want neither weeds nor grass to grow. Consider the ground around trees and shrubs or where you have mulch placed. The ideal way to rid your yard of weeds is to aerate and seed in fall, then overseed bare spots in spring. Pre-emergent herbicides actually negate overseeding. So plan accordingly.

When people talk about weed killers, they are usually referring to post-emergent herbicides. These weed killers are no joke. They will kill any kind of plant they touch, weed or grass. When you have weeds growing through sidewalk crack, post-emergent herbicides are ideal. Some post-emergent herbicide manufacturers advertise that their product kills only weeds. That’s a risk, however, that many homeowners don’t want to take.

Good old-fashioned weed pulling can work well if you get the whole root structure. Dandelions are a good example, because they return every year. Let’s be honest, though. Nobody likes pulling weeds because it is a serious chore and you have to do it quite a few times every season. Weeds grow so fast that just one day of weeding, no matter how thorough, just isn’t enough to do the job completely.

In Conclusion

For the best-looking lawn, it helps to know the best times to seed, fertilize, and implement proper weed control measures. Too often, people just plant and water in the spring, then shake their fist at weeds all season. It doesn’t have to be that way. Keep these tips handy and plan accordingly. You’ll find that your lawn will start look much better very soon.

If you are interested in exploring all of your residential and commercial fertilization and weed control options, contact us online or call us today at (517) 990-0110.

The ROI of Landscaping

The ROI of Landscaping

The ROI of LandscapingAs the old saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This is just as true for houses as it is for people. If you are in the market to sell your home, or just want to make sure you are making sound financial decisions when upgrading, well-done landscaping can actually increase the value of your home as much as 20%. There are, of course, some basic guidelines you’ll want to follow along the way.

Landscaping Guidelines

How much to invest is often the first question people ask and, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), you should invest about 10% of your home’s total value in landscaping. To be clear, landscape architecture is more than plants and softscape; it can also include structural features, such as:

  • fences,
  • fire pits,
  • garden paths,
  • lighting,
  • patios,
  • water features,
  • and more.

Outdoor kitchens, terraces, and other hardscaping are also high-yield investments. A good landscape architect will work with you to create a detailed plan that works for you.

The Lay of the Land(scape)

If you are planning a landscape renovation, it’s a good idea to begin with a property assessment. An arborist will be able to tell which of your trees are dying and which ones will be fine with a little TLC. A landscape architect can help you choose the plants and flowers that are the best fit for your climate and—not to be overlooked—your lifestyle.

Some other areas that a landscape architect may point out for development can include:

  • above-grade deck,
  • on-grade patio,
  • front walk,
  • exterior lighting,
  • front yard plantings,
  • and more.

Outdoor Rooms

One of the most popular trends in landscape architecture right now is an outdoor room. Sometimes, it’s a kitchen. Sometimes, it’s a patio that functions as an outdoor living space, as well. When done properly, such features act as a link between the indoors and outdoors, giving more “space” to your home and promoting a more natural environment.

Landscaping Faux-Pas

One of the biggest mistakes we see homeowners make when it comes to landscaping is that their ambition is greater than their available time. What ends up happening is that several parts of a “big picture” are started, but some are not finished; some are not done as well as they could be because of a lack of time for completion; and, some things just don’t match. As a result, the yard is a collection of disparate, half-finished ideas that, collectively, look confused. One of the greatest benefits of working with a landscape architect is that you can start with a clearly-defined plan, a strategy, and a timeline… all within an agreed upon budget.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

One part of your landscaping project you’ll want to keep in mind is the aftercare that keeps your yard looking great. This means maintenance. A landscaper can work with you to create a maintenance schedule. If you don’t have the time for the maintenance—and this is where you really need to be honest with yourself—it would be wise to hire a landscaping maintenance company to keep your new landscaping investment looking its very best. If you don’t think you will have much time for maintenance, it would also be wise to share this with your landscape designer during the planning phase, as it can influence the type of vegetation used in the project. Some vegetation requires less maintenance and that might be a better fit for you if you are pressed for time.

It’s worth remembering that the entire project doesn’t have to happen at once. With a strategy worked out, you could have a three-year plan or a five-year plan that incorporates new elements each season in a cohesive manner that looks appealing and organized. This is sometimes an option for those with a close eye on budget, but still want to complete a more ambitious landscaping project.

Can You Establish a Direct ROI for Landscaping?

Trying to pre-determine an exact return on investment for a landscaping project isn’t always an exact science. While the data confirms a significant ROI does exist, trying to pinpoint it in every case can be a bit like trying to hit a moving target.

John Gidding from HGTV’s “Curb Appeal” said that clients on that show invested $20,000 into landscaping and got back $200,000 more than what they originally paid for the home just one year earlier. He admits, however, that this is a bit of an outlier, but still possible. He advises homeowners to take the architectural style of the home into consideration and work with a landscape architect to create a plan that best complements that style.

Ways to Freshen Up Your Existing Yard

If your yard is already getting a little out of hand, some basic cleanup would be a good place to start. This can include pruning shrubs and trees, as well as some weed whacking. It’s best to handle the weeds before they go to seed and become an even bigger problem. A gluten pre-emergent herbicide, when applied in spring, should help kill weeds before they take root. (Weeds hate gluten.)

Beyond pruning and weeding, using a rake to turn over your mulch to give it some volume also helps your yard to look freshened up.

Patio Additions Pay Off

If you haven’t yet considered a patio or outdoor living space, you should. We mentioned earlier that this option is becoming more popular as of late, and for good reason. Not only can it greatly enhance your ability to enjoy your home and yard, it also increases your home’s resale value. According to a 2018 article by houselogic, an average patio cost of $6,400 yields an ROI of 102% ($12,928). Further, wood decks tend to be more expensive but yield a greater ROI. For a wood deck costing $9,450 the average ROI is 106% ($19,467).

Trees are a Timeless Investment

While well-cultivated flower beds certainly have appeal, so do trees. In addition to their stoic appearance, trees offer a host of benefits, as well. When planted in the right locations, trees offer shade. More than just being a reprieve from the summer sun, that shade can actually help lower your energy bills, too. And while most things in life lose value over time, trees actually gain value over time! If you were to plant a $10 sapling now, it could add $1,000 to $10,000 to your home’s value when it matures.

If you are content playing the long game for increasing your home’s value, affordable smaller trees are the way to go. If you have your eye towards selling in the next five years, you’d be better off planting larger trees. Yes, they cost more, but you’ll get the full benefit of them faster than you would with saplings.

Plant a Bouquet of Flowers

Pretty flowers can certainly dazzle. The ones with the most color, however, are usually annuals (plants that live just one year). If you go all in on annuals, you’ll find that you need to replant every spring. The solution is to also include perennials, which can live for several years.

Let’s be honest, landscaping can require a lot of attention. Unless gardening is your passion, you likely don’t want to be replacing all of your flowers every year. So, remember to work with a combination of annuals and perennials.

Beyond that, consider flowers of different shapes, colors, heights, etc. and those that bloom throughout the course of the year, so something new is always popping up. Some examples would include salvia bushes which bloom a vibrant purple in summer, as well as a Euonymus alatus, which is a bush that delivers a brilliant red foliage in autumn.

In Conclusion

A well-planned landscaping endeavor can add years of enjoyment to your home, as well as substantially increase its resale value. To get the most from your investment, work with a certified landscaper to develop a plan based on your yard and your desires. In doing so, you can be assured you’ll get just want you want and a high-quality installation on a timeline that works for you. If/when you decide to sell your home, you’ll find the investment more than worth it.

To get the most out of your landscaping, E.P.M. Lawnscape and Supply offers professional landscaping services in the Jackson, MI area. Feel free to contact us online or call us today at (517) 990-0110.

The Benefits of Brick Pavers vs. Concrete Pavers

The Benefits of Brick Pavers vs. Concrete Pavers

The Benefits of Brick Pavers vs. Concrete PaversThere isn’t much disagreement around the idea that a paver walkway can add curb appeal to your home. The real question is whether you want to use brick pavers or concrete pavers. In this post, we are going to go over the benefits of brick pavers vs. concrete pavers.

Before we jump in, we should first define the term “paver,” so we are all on the same page. A paver is just a flat, thin stone created specifically for paving projects, including driveways, patios, walkways, etc. Yes, brick pavers and concrete pavers are installed in the same manner and they can both be attractive and provide years of practical use. There are some notable differences between the two, however. So, let’s learn a little more about brick pavers and what makes them a better option.

6 Reasons Why Brick Pavers are Better Than Concrete Pavers

First, brick pavers are crafted from clay that has been shaped into the paver shape we need, then fired in a kiln; it’s a similar process to crafting pottery. You want to be careful when you are shopping for pavers. Sometimes the term “brick” is used for describing the shape of the paver, rather than the material. As a result, you can sometimes come across concrete “bricks,” which really aren’t bricks in the truest sense of the term.

Other considerations include the following.

Color Retention: Clay bricks get their color from combining a variety if different clay. For this reason, they do a much better job at keeping their color over time, especially with regards to UV exposure. Concrete pavers, on the other hand, get their color from dyes or pigments added to the concrete. As a result, they fade much fast, particularly in locations that see a lot of sunshine.

Durability: With clay brick pavers, you may get cracks or chips over the years. Clay bricks have a tendency to break when put under stress by prolonged traffic, moisture, and ice. That said, they are durable enough to last for generations and still look good. Concrete pavers do a better job with traffic-related stress, but the surface of concrete pavers will fade and erode in time. With proper installation, clay brick pavers will last generations, while concrete pavers will last, on average, a couple of decades.

Less Maintenance: In addition to retaining their color longer, clay bricks are also much more resistant to staining. They require less cleaning and, in general, less maintenance than concrete pavers. In fact, because of the staining issue alone, concrete pavers will often require the application of sealants to extend the life of the color, which adds to overall maintenance.

Classic Style: Clay brick pavers have a timeless appeal with regards to appearance and style. As a brick paver walkway or driveway ages, it’s cracks and chips look charming. Because concrete erodes rather than chips as it ages, the underlying aggregate starts to surface, while clay bricks retain their original surface appearance. As a result, with aging, concrete tends to look, well… worn out.

Environmentally Friendly: First, clay bricks are crafted from completely natural materials. They are very often salvaged, cleaned up, and reused. The classic look creates an appeal that is just more sustainable over time and lends to this reuse.

Quality: Concrete requires a combination of materials for its creation. Varying amounts of certain ingredients can have a range of effects on the concrete’s eventual strength and durability. This can make it difficult to really discern the quality and/or consistency you’ll be getting from concrete pavers. As a result, you can come across some really beautiful concrete pavers that look just like natural stone, but you can also come across some that crack and crumble very easily. Nobody want’s that level of inconsistency in their walkway, patio, or driveway.

In Conclusion

When choosing pavers for your next landscaping projects, there are a variety of factors to take into consideration. When it gets down to the brass tacks, brick pavers have some definite advantages versus concrete pavers.

If you have some landscaping ideas (include brick pavers and beyond), contact E.P.M. today or give us a call at (517) 990-0110!

How to Safely Remove Snow and Ice from Your Deck

How to Safely Remove Snow and Ice from Your Deck

How to Safely Remove Snow and Ice from Your Deck

When the inevitable winter storms come through, they can pile up a lot of snow and ice on your deck in a relatively short period of time. This snow and ice and pose problems for your deck, so it’s ideal to remove them. Sadly, improper removal techniques can do a real number on your deck, whether its wood or composite. Wood, however, usually sees the worst of it. Here are some tips on ways to safely remove snow and ice from your deck.

Does That Snow Really Need Removing?

The old adage is that you need to remove snow and ice from your deck so that moisture doesn’t cause damage or your deck doesn’t collapse under the weight of the snow and ice. The reality is that, if you are using a high-quality waterproof sealant on your deck, it should do a fine job of prevent against moisture damage from snow and ice. Also, if your deck is well-built, it should be able to handle up to about three feet of snow. It’s not often we get that much snow at once, so the urgent need to remove snow can usually be spread out across a few days. Of course, you could always let the sun do some melting for you, too. Still, you can still slip and fall on even the slightest amount of ice. So you’ll want to make sure your railings are stable, as you will need them for balance in icy conditions.

Eventually, however, you’re going to have to remove that snow and ice. We’ve assembled some pointers to keep your deck in good shape and keep you safe in the process.

Removing Snow and Ice from Your Deck

When you are removing snow and ice from your deck, there are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.

  • Don’t use a metal shovel. Instead, use a shovel with a plastic or rubber blade. Using a metal shovel is a quick way to scratch the bejeepers out of your deck. If, for some reason, a metal shovel is your only option, then don’t let it come in direct contact with the deck surface. It’s okay to leave a thin layer of snow if it means preserving the deck surface.
  • Shovel with the deck boards, not against them. If you shovel perpendicular to the way the boards run, you increase the risk of catching the side of some boards and damaging them.
  • Sweep light snow with a broom. If it is light snow and it is not too deep, a broom could be the easiest way to clear that type of snow. It also greatly reduces the risk of scratching your deck. You could also use a leaf blower.
  • Don’t shatter ice on your deck. Seriously, don’t do it. I know it can be really tempting to shatter that ice, but don’t do it. This can do a lot of damage to your deck boards, especially if you are ignoring the first tip and whacking away with a metal shovel.
  • Use the right de-icer for your deck. Calcium chloride and salt are generally seen as safe for composite decks, but if you have a wood deck, you want to be extra careful when choosing the right de-icer. Do some research for which products are safe to use. Also, be mindful of products that have added colorants. They exist and they can stain your deck. If you opt to use simple salt in your wood deck, be sure to rinse your deck down after the snow is gone. Salt residue can corrode your deck hardware, leading to early replacement.
  • Don’t use sand for a wood deck. While sand can, in some cases, be used as an alternative to de-icers, it works because it is so abrasive. If you put sand on your wood deck, then walk all over it, you might as well be walking around with sandpaper soles on your shoes.
  • Clear icicles that are hanging above your deck. In winter weather, it can be common for icicles to form along eaves and other parts of the roof line. If these are suspended over your deck (or any other entryways, really), they should be cleared. They are not only a hazard to humans, but they are sharp and, if they fall, can damage the wood on your deck.

With these tips in your pocket, you should be able to keep your deck in tip-top shape in winter and avoid weather-related damage.

In Conclusion

If you or someone you know is in need of commercial snow removal services, don’t hesitate to contact us online or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today!

10 Hacks for Removing Snow and Ice

10 Hacks for Removing Snow and Ice

10 Hacks for Removing Snow and Ice

Nobody likes to remove snow and ice. Seriously, when was the last time you heard someone say, “Hey for Spring Break, let’s go somewhere really cold, so we can spend a week removing snow and ice!”

To make the whole process a little more bearable, we have assembled 10 hacks for removing snow and ice.

1. Cooking Spray

Wet, heavy snow is the worst. Not only is it back pain waiting to happen, it wants to stick to your shovel, so you have to try harder to actually get the snow off the shovel. As if, you know, shoveling snow wasn’t already everyone’s least favorite form of exercise. Next time you have this problem, spray some cooking spray on your shovel head and wait a few minutes. It will form a Teflon-like surface that helps the snow slide right off! You’ll want to be sure to wipe your shovel off before you put it away.

2. Shovel More Frequently

I know, I know. Shoveling more sounds counter-intuitive. The reality is that if you sit out a heavy snow so you only have to shovel it once at the end, you are making things way more difficult for yourself. Honestly, people actually die from doing stuff like that. Instead, keep a schedule where you shovel small amounts more frequently. Your heart and your back will both thank you when all is said and done.

3. Shoes, Then Socks

One of the biggest challenges to shoveling snow can be when everything is slick and slippery. When you can’t get a decent footing, it can be difficult to get a solid base under you so you can use your legs more. Keep a few pairs of socks large enough to go over your shoes/boots. The texture of the socks can help prevent excess slipping. It might look silly, but I’d rather look silly than spend the rest of the day with a sore back or bruised tailbone.

4. Mega Melt

Often, as you are shoveling snow, you’ll find that there is a layer of ice beneath it. Always be sure to keep de-icers on hand. We wrote a pretty thorough post on de-icers if you want to review your options. If you are unable to get out to pick up some de-icer, combine 1 tsp. of dish soap, 1 tbsp. of rubbing alcohol and 1/2 gal. of water in a bucket. Then just pour it in the spots that need the most help.

5. Get the Scoop

Snow scoops are a great alternative to snow shovels. They can collect way more snow at a pass. They have crossbars, which allows you to grip the scoop in several different ways to leverage your body weight in your fight against the snow. The back of the scoop is also sturdy enough to allow you to use a foot for extra oomph in those difficult spots.

6. Tarps Aren’t Just of Moving Raked Leaves

If your shovel is indisposed (or even nonexistent) and you don’t have a snow blower—really, if you don’t have a shovel, the odds are you don’t have a snow blower, either—it’s time to get creative.

If you have a large tarp, like the one you use for transporting large piles of raked leaves or covering your woodpile, you can lay it over exposed sections of driveway, sidewalk, or even your car! After the snow stops, just pull the tarp back and voila!

7. Two Words: Leaf. Blower.

Leaf blowers don’t have to be just for leaves. If you get a dusting of relatively light snow, your leaf blower will peel that stuff off your driveway and sidewalks like a Band Aid®… only without that painful yanking on your arm hair.

8. Snow Blowing: Smarter Not Harder

The ideal way to blow snow from your driveway is to start right in the middle and set the chute to blow snow towards one edge of the driveway. After you finish the first pass, do a U-turn and come right back down the driveway next to the path you just blew. Keep doing this on alternate sides of the original path and you shouldn’t have to adjust the chute or blow over snow that you already moved from one part of the driveway.

9. Yes, the Wet/Dry Vac

Your first inclination might be to suck up the snow and just dump it somewhere else. Don’t; that’s dumb. Instead, hook the hose up to the exhaust of your unit and create a makeshift blower. Then just use it like you would a leaf blower.

10. Shovel Attachments

These nifty gadgets allow you to add a second handle along the shaft of a shovel so you can get a better hand position. There are a few of these on the market, so do your homework. They all, however, claim they can attach and detach quickly for fast adjustments. Handy!

In Conclusion

If you or someone you know is in need of commercial snow removal services, don’t hesitate to contact us online or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today!

The Quickest Way to Remove Snow from Your Car

The Quickest Way to Remove Snow from Your Car

The Quickest Way to Remove Snow from Your Car

Is it cold? Yes. Do you want to spend all morning cleaning off the car? No. Here are some pointers on how to do it as quickly as possible so you can have some more hot coffee before heading off to the daily grind.

Step 1: If you park your car in a driveway, as opposed to on the street or in a lot, get ready for the storm by parking as close the street as you can get, but be mindful not to block the sidewalk. When you do this, you don’t have to get up extra early to shovel the whole driveway to get out. You can clear the driveway when you want to. Plus, if you aim to remove that snow later, the sun might help take care of some that by the time you get to it.

Step 2: Clear snow from around your tires before you get to shoveling the rest of the driveway. Also, while you are down there, be sure your exhaust pipe is free from any snow buildup. If that is blocked, it could lead to a carbon monoxide buildup inside the car when you turn it on. And that stuff is deadly.

Step 3: Gently start to remove the snow from your car with a non-abrasive broom or foam brush. Improper snow removal techniques are a common cause of scratches in your car’s paint. Even a nylon brush can, over time, leave many little scratches in the finish that become visible when the car is washed and the sun is shining on it. And, for goodness sake, please don’t try to remove the snow with a shovel. (Yes, some people actually try this.) If you use a shovel, you are setting yourself up from some serious scratches that will lead to some serious bills at your local body shop.

Step 4: Start the snow removal at the top of the car. Work your way down from the roof, to the windows, to the trunk/hood, to the lights, and bumpers. Pulling the snow, rather than pushing it, gives you more control. Try your best to keep your swipes in a straight line. This technique helps prevent accidental scratches from being as visible.

Step 5: Know when to good enough is good enough. You don’t have to brush off every single snowflake. Turn up the heat and defroster and let the heat from the engine do some of the work. If, for some reason, that is not doing a good enough job, then you’ll want to stop driving and finish what is left. It’s worth noting that driving around with too much snow on your car is a hazard. In some cases, it’s even illegal.

In Conclusion

If you or someone you know is in need of commercial snow removal services, don’t hesitate to contact us online or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today!

Yes, People Actually Die from Shoveling Snow

Yes, People Actually Die from Shoveling Snow

Yes, People Actually Die from Shoveling Snow

Far be it from us to be fearmongers, but it’s true. About 100 people die in the U.S. every year during everybody’s favorite form of exercise: snow shoveling. But why is that? A study from researchers at the U.S. Nationwide Children’s Hospital looked at data from across a 17-year span from 1990-2006. During that time, there were 1,647 cardiac-related deaths related to snow shoveling.

Barry Franklin, director of preventative cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI, says, “I believe we lose hundreds of people each year because of this activity.” Much more than what was documented in the Children’s Hospital study.

The physiology of snow shoveling involves increases in heart rate and blood pressure that are greater than what is seen when running on a treadmill. Franklin continues, “Combine this with cold air, which causes arteries to constrict and decrease blood supply, you have a perfect storm for a heart attack.”

Whereas most exercises in which we commonly partake primarily rely heavily on the legs, the arm work of snow shoveling seems particularly taxing to our bodies. When we strain to lift snow, particularly the wet and heavy stuff, it is more likely to prompt a sudden surge in heart rate and blood pressure.

To further complicate the matter, many people—who knows why?—also hold their breath while shoveling snow. This reduces oxygen flow at a time when the body needs it most, further taxing the cardiac system. The cherry on the sundae is that the most common time for snow shoveling is between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., which is usually when our natural circadian fluctuations render us more vulnerable to heart attacks.

In fact, Franklin believes snow shoveling can be such a dangerous activity, that he recommends people ages 55+ should refrain from doing it.

He says, “People at greatest risk are those who are habitually sedentary with known or suspected coronary disease, who go out once a year to clear snow.” He added that smoking and obesity, predictably, increase the risk of heart attack by quite a bit. Finally, he recommended that, if you must shovel snow, try to push the snow instead of lift it; allow yourself regular breaks; dress in layers; and, don’t smoke or even eat right before you start shoveling.

In Conclusion

At E.P.M., we are big advocates of smart shoveling. Plan ahead. Take breaks when you need them. Shovel lesser amounts of snow more frequently rather than waiting to shovel a huge amount all at once.

Of course, if you or someone you know is in need of commercial snow shoveling services, don’t hesitate to contact us online or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today!

Winter Weather Car Care Myths Debunked

Winter Weather Car Care Myths Debunked

Winter Weather Car Care Myths Debunked

People can be fanatical about their vehicles. We get it. An automobile is an investment and you want to take care of it as much as possible. At a certain point, however, maintenance tips that seem like they could make sense are just myths and acting on them could actually do more harm than good to your modern vehicle. Naturally, you want your vehicle in perfect running order during the winter weather. So, in this post, we are going to debunk some winter weather car care myths so that your vehicle can be as dependable as possible this winter.

Myth 1: Batteries are More Likely to Die in Winter

In short, this is straight up false. It just seems that way because when you are stuck in the freezing cold waiting for help, you are more likely to remember it than if it was 70 degrees and sunny out. What’s to blame here is usually just improper battery upkeep by vehicle owners.

Most batteries have two rankings to consider: cranking amps and cold cranking amps. That second one is the full amperage the battery can generate, at peak, when the air temperature is below zero degrees Fahrenheit. By and large, most vehicle owners will never find themselves consistently in temperatures that cold. For that reason, cold cranking amps aren’t usually a factor in gas-powered vehicles. If you do happen to live in a place where the temps are consistently this low, or you drive a diesel, then you should put more stock in cold cranking amps rankings.

By the numbers, most batteries actually die in the summer months, specifically August. Yes, cold weather can deteriorate a battery’s state of charge, but that can be replenished with a simple battery charger if need be. Hot weather for extended period of time, however, can “cook” a battery’s electrolyte. When that happens, your battery loses it chemical storage capability.

So, if it’s not the battery, why don’t cars like starting in winter?

Most often, the reason a vehicle won’t start is because of the connections going to and from the battery. Regardless if you are driving a gasoline or diesel engine, the colder temps will mean that “cranking” it over to start it up will take longer. The oil in the engine becomes a bit thicker, too, which creates a little more friction during turnover. The longer the cranking time, the more power is necessary. A byproduct of that power is heat… at the connections. To be more specific, it generates more heat at the terminals and the connection on the starter solenoid. When you send more heat through the metals that are used to establish those connections, the associated cables will start to flex. If they flex often enough, they will become loose. When that happens, it means there is less charge sent to the battery during your everyday driving. Less charge than required, when it happens again and again, leads to a better being lower than it should be. Then, when it sits in the cold for a stretch, it no longer has the juice it needs to crank the engine. So the moral of the story is that if you notice that it is getting more difficult to start your vehicle in colder temps, check your connections as well as your battery.

Myth 2: You Get Better Traction from Sandbags in the Trunk

This is only true if you drive a rear-wheel drive vehicle. By and large, most cars today are front-wheel drive. Adding extra weight in the trunk can actually decrease your traction.

If you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, added weight in the trunk helps to push the tires down and tighter to the ground, which creates more traction. With a front-wheel drive vehicle, it works just the opposite way. Added weight to the back of the car can add “lift” to the front of the vehicle. In front-wheel drive vehicles, this left puts less drive pressure on the ground and actually reduces traction.

In the end, sandbags in the trunk will only help rear-wheel drive vehicle, which, by the numbers, yours is likely not. That said, having sand in the trunk might come in handy for traction if you spread it on the ground when you find your tires in a particularly slick situation.

Myth 3: Midday Starts Keep Your Battery Charged in Winter

If your vehicle started that morning, after sitting in even colder temps over night, the odds are pretty good that it will start up just fine in the middle of the day after you have driven it to work and parked it outside or in a parking garage during the warmest part of the day. But, by all means, if you have time to kill on your lunch break and wasting gas sounds like a good time, have at it!

All snark aside, if your car is having difficulty starting after sitting for a few hours, it is likely less about the weather and more about the need for a tuneup. Check your service schedule and see if you are overdue for new filters, spark plugs, etc.

Myth 4: Your Windshield Washer Fluid is Freezing

Odds are, it’s not. Most windshield washer fluids on shelves these days contain an anti-freezing agent of one type or another. Still, sometimes extremely cold weather can be too much for the anti-freezing agent. The results is streaks on the windshield as your fluid freezes to it. To help prevent this, keep your defrost and fan both on high while you are driving. Heating the windshield this way can counteract some of the bitter cold. If this still isn’t enough, pick up some methyl alcohol from your local paint store and add some to your washer fluid reservoir. Windshield washer fluid usually runs at about 40% methyl alcohol. If you add a few more ounces to a normal-size (one-quart) reservoir, you can bump that percentage up to about 60%. Quite simply, the more methyl alcohol in the washer fluid, the less likely it is to freeze.

Myth 5: The Squirt Nozzles Freeze in Winter

If they are working fine, then suddenly stop working, your windshield washer squirt nozzles are likely not frozen. The likely culprit is that the fluid is being blocked by debris that has built up in the lines or nozzles. This often comes from reflux after the check valve on the fluid line fails.

What that means is that your washer fluid lines have a check valve that keeps the fluid from running out of the lines and back into the reservoir. This keeps the lines from sucking in dirty water and slush from your windshield. It also keeps pressure on the lines so that they stay filled with washer fluid, which contains methyl alcohol, like we just mentioned, to keep the lines from freezing.

When the check valve fails, debris can be pulled into the lines and the pressure holding the washer fluid in the line isn’t there anymore. This can lead to debris in your reservoir that, then, plugs up your nozzles when you try to use them. Further, since there is no anti-freezing agent being held in the lines, they lines can become frozen.

There is a five-minute fix for this. Just replace the check valve and leave the car somewhere warm (even in direct sunlight) to thaw. You could also run the engine to create heat that way. That can thaw the lines for you. Then just use the washers like you normally would so they can pull the fluid back in the lines to stay.

In Conclusion

If you or someone you know is in need of commercial snow removal services, don’t hesitate to contact us online or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today!

The Art of Predicting a Snow Day

The Art of Predicting a Snow Day

The Art of Predicting a Snow Day

Snow days. The best part of winter as a child and the part that can make you scramble for child care and/or fret extended commute times as an adult. If you could predict those snow days, life would be a little bit easier. While there is no way to be 100% accurate in predicting a snow day, there are certainly red flags to watch for that, when presented together, can be a pretty good indicator that a snow day is on the way. In this post, we will take a 10-step approach to the fun-for-the-whole-family activity of predicting a snow day.

Step 1: The Hourly Forecast

If the hourly forecast is predicting snowfall to end by 3:00 a.m., there is a very good chance that snow plows will have time to clear the roads well enough for school buses to run as scheduled. Your best odds of a snow day happening occur when the peak of the storm is hitting between 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m.

You might also get a snow day if the peak of the storm is hitting during normal school day hours. Schools have to account for not only getting kids to school safely, but getting them home from school, as well. If a snow day is not called in the morning, you should keep an early dismissal on your radar.

Another item to watch for is drastic changes in the forecast. If changes to the forecast call for more snow than originally predicted, the odds of a snow day increase. Also consider the amount of accumulation expected. It could snow all night, but if it is a light enough snow that you only get a couple of inches of accumulation, then the odds of a snow day decrease.

Are there any kind of winter weather watches or warnings in effect during the sweet-spot hours? These types of advisories are issued by governmental agencies. If a school is on the fence about calling a snow day, it will often default to the government’s decision regarding the potential hazards of an impending storm and call it.

Ice is just as important as snow when considering a snow day, perhaps even more so. If the storm is bringing freezing rain or if cold temps following a warm up freeze the standing water on the ground, these conditions could make travel even more dangerous than snow accumulations.

Step 2: The Hype Factor

It’s Snowmageddon! It’s Snowzilla! It’s the Snowminator! Sure the national hype would help, but it can be local hype, too. If lots of people are talking about the storm, the odds are that it is going to be legit. Everyone is an amateur meteorologist. If enough people bring their experience to a similar conclusion about a snow day, it will often be right on the money.

Step 3: It’s Who You Know

If you happen to know a school administrator, give him or her a call and find out what the murmurings are. The closer to the decision-maker that person is, the more likely you are to get an accurate answer on the potential of a snow day. That said, sometimes snow day decisions aren’t made until the wee hours of the morning, so you might not always get an answer with this approach… but it’s worth a try!

Don’t underestimate social media either. Many school districts will update their Facebook page or Twitter feed as soon as a decision is made, which is often before the news can cover it or the school can notify parents via a phone call.

Step 4: What Else is Closing?

Are daycares being closed? Events at senior centers? Evening classes at the local college or university? These types of closings are a great predictor of school being closed for inclement weather. After all, if a school administrator is unsure whether to close, an influx of nearby closings may be enough of a push to make the decision to call it.

Step 5: The State of Other Schools

Are other schools in the area calling snow days? If you see a couple of local area school closings, the rest (including yours) can start to fall like dominoes. If you know people who live in other school districts, you can get ahold of them or just watch the ticker at the bottom of your local television network.

Step 6: Social Media

We hinted at this earlier with regards to following your school area’s profiles. That is just the starting point, though. See what people in the surrounding areas are saying about the weather. Local news pages and profiles will often post updates to social media between newscasts. You may not get a solid answer there, but it can help you in discerning the level of hype (Step 2).

Step 7: Snow Day Calculators

Snow day calculators are totally a thing. There are a handful of them online, most of which boast a darn good accuracy rate for predicting snow days. Just enter your zip code, and they look at relevant factors for your area, such as weather conditions and the consistency with which your district calls snow days.

You can even get apps for your mobile devices. Just visit your app store and search for “snow day.” Voila!

Step 8: How Good is Your Local Snow Removal?

Some areas simply get more snow than others and are, therefore, better-prepared for snow removal. For that reason, if you live in an area that doesn’t normally get a lot of snow at once, it might not take a huge storm to bring about a snow day. The timing alone (Step 1) might be enough.

Step 9: Does Your School District Cancel Easily?

Snow days are discretionary decisions. There is no universal set of criteria that determines a snow day. That said, some districts are quick to call snow days even at the risk of the weather not being as bad as predicted. Other school districts are notoriously stingy with snow days, perhaps for fear of make-up days being added at the end of the school year. Having a good idea of where your local school district tends to draw the line will help in your own snow day prediction.

Step 10: Be Prepared for Any Decision

All of the normal school day prep should still be done (e.g., packing lunches, completing homework, setting out clothes, etc.). Further, you should have the names and numbers of people you may need to call in case a snow day is announced (e.g., babysitters, work contacts, etc.). You want to cover all your bases so you are prepared for any decision by the local school district.

In Conclusion

If you or someone you know is in need of commercial snow removal services, don’t hesitate to contact us online or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today!

What You Need to Know About Buying a Snow Plow

What You Need to Know About Buying a Snow Plow

What You Need to Know About Buying a Snow PlowWhether you handle your own snow plowing or offer professional snow removal services, like us, knowing what to look for when buying snow removal gear is very important. It’s an investment and should be treated as such. To help you discern what you really need to know about buying a snow plow, we have assembled some rudimentary guidelines.

Get a good quality snow plow and get to know your dealer.

Unlike getting a key cut at the local hardware store, your snow plow purchase is likely to be just the first interaction you have with your snow plow dealer. After purchase, there are other matters to be addressed, such as installation and setup. This means you should also inquire as to whether these services are part of the price or will require additional funds. Even after these processes, having your dealer’s card in your wallet is probably a good idea. You’ll eventually need parts, repairs, or even basic information regarding your snow plow. Your dealer is often your first resource when that time comes.

Your plowing needs and budget.

After you have located a dealer with whom you feel comfortable, it’s time to decide just what size of snow plow you will require and which is the best snow plow for your budget.

If you are looking at a snow plow for your own home use (and maybe a neighbor or two), you should be fine with a straight blade that measure 7′ or 7’6″. In the current market, this size snow plow will run you about $3,000-$4,500. Naturally, the exact prices will hinge on the particular size and model of snow plow you choose. If you have an ATV or UTV, you can sometimes find a straight-blade or V-blade snow plow for $200-$3,000. These are a good option for home or camp, as they offer pretty much the same capability you would get from snow plowing with a small truck. Just be sure to ask if the mounting kit comes with the snow plow or if that is an additional purchase.

If you are considering commercial snow plowing, you will want to start look at snow plows that are 8′ and longer. This is because commercial snow plowing involves removing larger areas of snow more quickly than you would in a simple driveway. In addition, a V-plow should be an option for you if you are thinking of going commercial. The V-plow offers a greater number of blade positions, which gives you greater flexibility and improves time efficiencies. commercial snow plows can vary quite a bit in cost. You’ll find that $6,000 is a common price for new V-blades. Straight blades will run you a little bit less.

Straight blades versus V-blades.

To get right to the point, both snow plows are more than able the do a good job. Straight blades remain the more popular choice, likely because they are easier on the wallet. As mentioned above, though, a V-plow offers a multitude of positions that make it much more flexible than a straight blade. So, in that respect, you certainly get what you pay for. For instance, when it’s in the “scoop” position,” a V-plow stacks snow in a way you just can’t do with a straight blade plow. Further, cutting through frozen snow is much easier with the V-plow. The point of the V slices through the ice like a knife, because the force of the truck can be put behind a single point of ice, rather than an 8″+ swath of ice.

Material: Poly versus Mild Steel versus Stainless Steel.

In short, when it comes to commercial work, all three of these material will work just fine. That said, each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Let’s start with poly first, which is the slickest of the three. No matter how thick and wet the snow may be, it just won’t cake up and stick to a poly blade. Poly also stands up well to not only corrosion, but everyday scratches and dents. For these reason, we see a lot of professionals switching over to poly blades. Contrary to popular belief, though, poly is not lighter than steel. The truth is that most poly plows weigh in heavier than their steel counterparts because they require a reinforced steel framework to rest behind the poly moldboard.

Stainless steel blades are not as slick as poly blades, but they are still a little slicker than mild steel blades. Furthermore, even though stainless steel blades are corrosion resistant, they are prone to scratches and dents. When you hit stones—and you will hit stones—you’ll start to collect dings on a stainless steel snow plow blade. After a few season, the accumulation of dings could make your blade look a little weathered. Depending on the severity, it might even begin to effect performance.

At the moment, mild steel is the industry standard for snow plows and has been for decades. A layer of zinc powder is used to treat these steel snow plows. In time, though, rusting will eventually occur. That said, mild steel snow plows are still remarkably rigid, durable, and valuable.

Ease of Use.

In Michigan, it is not uncommon to see snowfall six months of the year. For this reason, you will need to be able to hook up your plow in a variety of different winter conditions, including cold, sleet, snow, ice, and dark. Keep this in mind when you are looking for a snow plow. Different snow plow manufacturers will have different attachment systems. Each system will tout its ease of use as a unique selling point. You want one that will attach to your truck quickly, as sometimes storms roll in fast and you needed to get hitched up and going right away.

Control and Lighting Systems.

Quite simply, it is very important to be able to see what you are plowing. Whether you are in the thick of a storm or just plowing at night, your visibility can be compromised by a variety of winter conditions. An efficient lighting system you can count on, such as a high-output, dual-burning system, is an integral part of a solid plow offering. You will also need to consider the mounting system. A dual-stud system is regularly offered among many manufacturers. It is common, though, for these dual-stud designs to loosen up and move around. You can imagine how frustrating this is when you are in the midst of plowing. A better alternative is a two-piece clamp system, which simply does a superior job at keeping the headlights locked into place.

Another critical component of a good plow system is the controller. Because the controller is the main point of contact you have with the plow, it is important that you find one that is easy to use. You don’t want to be fighting with your controller when the snow is flying. Each manufacturer will offer the usual joystick or touchpad controller with a keypad to position the snow plow just the way you want it. You’ll find, though, that some controllers can have as many as 8 buttons. This can be cumbersome for drivers with larger hands, as well as for beginners. As mentioned several times already, ease of use is paramount. For that reason, you’ll want to find a controller with fewer (and larger) buttons, unless you are already comfortable with a more involved controller.

What is your plow vehicle?

Another very important factor in choosing the right snow plow for you is deciding which vehicle you will be using for plowing. Every vehicle has what’s known as a Front Gross Axle Weight Rating (FGAWR). The FGAWR is the available weight capacity for the front of your vehicle. You need to know this number because you cannot go beyond that number when you add a plow to the front of your truck. As you would expect, the larger the plow, the heavier the plow will be.

If you are doing commercial snow removal, you’ll likely be using a blade that is 8′ or longer. For a snow plow that size, you will need 3/4-ton truck, at least, whose FGAWR can take the weight of larger plows. Again, don’t just assume a truck that size has the necessary FGAWR for the plow you want; check first. If you are looking for a plow for personal snow removal, a 1/2-ton truck should be okay for your needs. Of course, a plow on your ATV or UTV can also clear your driveway quite well.

A good first step for discerning this information is to turn to the web. Many manufacturers have selector tools that will take your truck’s information and recommend plows for your consideration.

New or Used?

We all like to have nice, new things. Sometimes, though, buying something new, when there is a viable used option available, isn’t always practical. This is especially true if you are watching pennies for the holidays or if you are trying to parlay your plowing work into a business opportunity. For this reason, a lot of snow plow dealers also offer high-quality used snow plows. As mentioned at the top of this post, this is one of those instances when having a solid relationship with your dealer is important. The dealer will know the history of the plow. They will be sure that the model in which you are interested has been inspected and any necessary repairs have taken place. When you are eyeballing a used snow plow, you’ll want to look for obvious damage beyond the basic cosmetic wear of scratches and chipped paint. Bigger issues can include:

  • bent blades,
  • bent beams, and
  • damage to major components

While we could easily go on about other facets of buying a snow plow, this list should get you started on the right foot.

In Conclusion

If you or someone you know is in need of commercial snow removal services, don’t hesitate to contact us online or give us a call at (517) 990-0110 today!