If there was a business out there that could tell you exactly how much of anything you need they’d be billionaires and you’d wonder where they’re hiding their time machine. The truth is, forecasting the demand of any commodity is pretty much impossible, especially when you’re trying to guess at something as dynamic and surprising as the weather and the amount of snow on the roads.
However, with a little bit of planning and a fundamental understanding of your rock salt and ice melt needs, you can become pretty good at estimating how much will last you through the season. Getting to that point takes both knowledge and intuition. We’re happy to, at the very least, share the knowledge!
How do You Plan Your Demand?
The popular adage goes, “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” This, too, is true in the snow-removal and deicing business. If you aren’t carefully strategizing your rock salt and ice melt needs well before you need them, then you’ll find yourself coming up short or, worse, spending a fortune on a dwindling supply at the last minute.
Forecasting salt needs can be as complicated as you want it to be. However, the basic rule of thumb is, the colder the winter, the more salt you’ll need. Even a drop of 15 degrees will drastically change the amount of salt needed to effectively cut through snow and ice on a sidewalk or driveway.
With that said, snow and ice, while both forms of water, have very different reactions to rock salt. To put it simply, an inch of snowfall requires less than half of the salt for melting it than an inch of ice does. That brings us back to our first point; temperature controls everything. Freezing cold winters means a higher chance of a winter storm with more icy weather events, thus much more demand for salt.
Is There a Calculation I Can Use?
While you could peel open your Farmer’s Almanac and see what winter has in store for you, or even ask your grandad with the busted knee if it feels like it’ll be a bad winter, you’re much better off getting a little more scientific with your estimations.
Of course, no one likes math. Yet, it’s one of the most effective ways to figure out your salt demands. We’ll provide a simple formula, which you can fill in on your own to achieve a fairly accurate result. Just remember that this formula operates on variables that may or may not be true; those, too, are just projections!
This is what we provide our customers when they ask for a salt calculation: 2.3 pounds of salt for every 1,000 square feet in 30-degree weather for moderate snow and/or ice. Let’s say your parking area is 2,500 square feet. You can then turn the equation into 2.3 (pounds) by 2.5 (thousand square feet). The answer comes to 5.75 pounds of salt per weather event. From there, you need to estimate how many days in the year it will snow. Through some quick research, it snows an average of 40 days a year in many Midwest states (that can be light, medium, or intense snow). If you multiply your 5.75 (pounds of salt) figure by 40 (days) you’ll see that one 2,000 square foot parking lot would need an average of 230 pounds of salt to remove a moderate amount of snow and ice from its surface over 40 days.
There are a few things to consider before you run wild with this figure:
- Always order more than you need. If you have a place to store it, it will last into next season.
- If the weather shifts from an idyllic 30-degrees to, say, 15-degrees or lower, your salt needs will suddenly triple or quadruple for that weather event. And let’s face it, we’re in the Midwest; it will go below 30! Always order more salt than you think you need!
- Snow plows reduce the amount of snow you have to cut through. Without a plow or a good shovel you’re going to need more salt.
- Try pre-treating your surfaces with a brine solution instead of pure rock salt. They both have similar effects as pre-treatments and brine solutions are more cost-effective.
- Pre-wetting salt will let you get more work out of less salt.
Is There Anything Else to Know Before Ordering?
We’d recommend that you give us a call. We’ll give you everything we know about road salt and ice melt (which is a lot). However, we have a few simple pieces of advice to follow to ensure you get the most out of your supply.
- Inquire about dyed road salt—it’s easier to see, which means you’ll use less and use it more effectively.
- Invest in a good spreader that spreads evenly. Cheap spreaders are going to clog up, spread salt unevenly, and ultimately waste your time and money. Worse yet, if you’re over-salting the pavement that salt will eventually run into the local rivers and pollute them.
- Order from a reliable supplier like us. Not only will we have the supply you need when you need it but we’ll answer questions and give you the kind of advice you’re reading here.
- Everything you wanted to know about salt but were afraid to ask can be found here.
What if I Run Short?
Even the most careful planning can go out the window after one bad blizzard. If you run out of salt mid-season and desperately need more then you shouldn’t feel like you’re up the creek without a paddle. If you work with a credible salt vendor, they should have no problem with replenishing your supply at a moment’s notice.
We’re not here to scold you because you didn’t plan your winter perfectly. It happens to everyone. What we’ll do is get you more salt and keep you in business. A credible salt vendor doesn’t simply run out of salt—they keep a solid supply through the season. With us, running short means you make a simple phone call. We can offer you the tools to plan ahead but also the peace of mind should your plans change!