Keeping Your Driveway Snow & Ice Free

Landscape Construction

Winter is a wonderful time to enjoy all that New England has to offer. Our abundant snowfall allows for all sorts of fun outdoor activities. But with the quiet beauty of snowfall comes something less enjoyable: clearing driveways and walkways full of snow.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to worry about clearing your passageways at all? You can have a driveway and sidewalk that stays clear of snow and ice by installing a radiant heating system under their surfaces. Many new houses are built incorporating heated driveways into their design, but installation can be done at existing homes as well.

Heating System Options

There are several options available to keep your driveway and walkways clear of snow: portable mats, a hydroponic (hot water) built-in system, and an electrical (wire grid) built-in system. We breakdown these systems, including installation details below:

Portable mats: These are the easiest and least expensive to install. It consists of portable mats that you lay down before any storm, wherever you want to keep snow from sticking and piling up. They come in a multitude of lengths and widths, so you can purchase mats to best fit your space requirements.

These are a good way to try out a heated driveway before committing to the time and expense of an installed system. The downside is that these mats must be placed before the snow comes and removed after the storm. They should be stored somewhere before the next use.

Hydroponic systems: If you are having a house built, the ideal time to install this system is before the driveway or walkway is laid. If you are adding this to an existing property, the driveway or walkway will have to be torn up, system installed and passageway redone.

This system uses tubing that is installed under the surface of your driveway and/or walkway. A warm, non-freezing water solution gets circulated through this series of tubes, and this solution is heated by a boiler that is usually located in the garage. This system is controlled by an automatic sensor or can be controlled manually. The driveway is then laid on top of this tube.

Electrical (wire grid) systems: Like the portable mats, these are a series of electrical wires that are meshed together in a grid pattern. These mats are embedded into the soil beneath the driveway, then paved over. Again, this is best done before the driveway is laid, but can be done to existing driveways if the driveway is torn up. Grids can be connected to cover the driveway completely, and this system is also controlled by a sensor that can be controlled manually or automatically.

Things to Consider

Apart from the initial purchase and installation costs, you should also be aware that heated driveways and walkways will incur operating costs each year as well. The boiler for the hydroponic system will use additional electricity or gas (however you heat your home) and the electrical grid system will increase your electricity usage.

If you install the hydroponic system, you’ll need to have the boiler inspected each year before the winter season begins, to keep your system in the best working order. While each system will likely give you 20 or so years of use, like any other mechanical system, breakdowns do happen, and you may need to do small repairs and maintenance over the years. If something really goes wrong, you may need to tear out part or all your driveway or walkway to repair the problem.

However, in weighing the pros and cons, having a heated driveway/walkway system to combat the snowiness of a typical New England winter is an absolutely excellent idea. Installing a heated driveway and walkways are wonderful ways to ensure the safety of your family and your visitors around your property this winter and will take away a lot of worry and fuss. You won’t have to find and rely on someone to plow and clear your property, and your driveway will be ready for you whenever you need to use it. You’ll increase the life of your driveway by not exposing it to great variations in temperature, or by being scraped by snowplows and shovels or corroding chemicals to melt ice and snow. And, you’ll increase the property value of your home.

We’d love to discuss the possibility of adding a heated driveway/walkway system to your home. Contact us, or give us a call at 603.707.0630.

Permeable Power: Benefits of Permeable Paving

Landscape Design

The pathways, patios, and driveways around our landscaped yards and gardens are often semi-neglected strips of land that deserve their own care and attention to detail. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that there are more eco-friendly options available today which not only improve the visual aesthetic, comfort, and safety of these passageways, but can also be beneficial to the environment.

Simply defined, permeable paving is the setting of porous paving stones in sand and gravel, and adjusting the size of the gaps between to allow for water to drain into a crushed stone base below. Permeable paving has been used for roads and paths for thousands of years, but in the past century or so, has fallen out of favor due to the increased popularity and ease of laying down impervious coverings such as blacktop asphalt or concrete.

How are permeable pavers considered “green”?

Consider what happens when it rains on asphalt or concrete: The rain comes down, and water pools on the surface because they are impervious. Rainwater then makes its way to the edge of your lawn or out to the street, picking up any debris or chemicals along the way (like oil or drops of gas from vehicles, for example). This dirty water gets sent down the storm drain, and flows into lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and oceans.

Permeable pavers will act as a natural filter for this water. The water, instead of pooling on the surface of the paver and immediately running off, will instead make its way down through the crushed stone and sand layers. These sediment layers will both filter the water and slow down the rate of water going into the storm drains, alleviating the demand put on drains during heavy storms and lessening the chance of flooding.

You can up the “greenness” by installing a rainwater collection system beneath your pavers during installation, allowing you to capture this water for use in your yard or garden. There are also permeable paver stones made of recycled materials, that are eco-friendly.

Can permeable pavers make driveway or patio more comfortable or safer to walk on?

By installing more permeable materials in your hardscapes, you can absolutely make driveways, walkways, and entertainment spaces more comfortable and safer year-round.

Impermeable materials, such as blacktop or densely packed tiles, not only trap water but also heat. Have you ever tried to walk barefoot across a driveway in the summer? If you have, then you likely quickened your pace because the surface was so hot. During the winter, when the snow melts and the water freezes, it’s common to find icy patches on driveways and sidewalks, which can be dangerous for household members and guests.

However, because permeable pavers are porous and allow water to pass through them, they stay naturally cool in the summer, and safer to walk and drive on in the winter. The water drains from the surface and through the joints more quickly, and does not rest on top of the pavers themselves allowing for fewer icy patches and less safety hazards in your passageways.

Questions? Please ask!

We have years of experience in designing and installing permeable pavers, and would love to discuss your project and ideas with you. There are a wide variety of permeable paver styles available to complement your home and landscape. We will work closely with you to design and implement plan that best fits your space, design aesthetic, and budget. Contact us, or give us a call at 603.707.0630.

Additional Resources:

UNH Stormwater Porous Fact Sheet

UNH Stormwater Pervious Concrete Fact Sheet

The Benefits of Native Plants

Landscape Design

Pictured: Blue Flag Iris, Hay Scented Fern Sod, and Birch.

Native plants occur naturally in this area. They are adapted to our climate and range of soils and also provide food for our native wildlife. They are low-maintenance, require fewer fertilizers and pesticides, and are not considered invasive.

We have chosen these natives for their multi-season beauty and interest, wildlife value and their adaptability to a variety of garden conditions found in the Lakes Region of NH. Other than irrigation in the first year or two, and annual weeding, once established these plants require little else to thrive in our landscapes. Here are our top picks for native plants:

Best shade perennial: Foamflower – Tiarella cordifolia. Foamflower is a beautiful semi-evergreen ground-cover that has pink and white flowers in spring. Fairly deer resistant – not a deer’s first choice – it is perfect for growing in shady areas underneath trees. In rich soil, foamflower can spread annually a few feet in each direction, but it is never invasive. Choose spreading varieties such as ‘Oakleaf’ or ‘Running Tapestry’ if you are looking for a ground-cover effect.

Most fragrant shrub: Sweet Pepperbush – Clethra alnifolia. This medium sized shrub attracts butterflies and grows in forested wetlands, lakeshores or on stream banks in full – part shade or full sun. Although late to leaf out in spring, they have abundant, extremely fragrant, candle-like flower spikes which usually bloom in July-August. Choose Clethra alnifolia ‘Compacta’ for a compact and heavier branched shrub with white flowers or ‘Ruby Spice’ for deep pink flowers. Clethra spreads by rhizomes so give this plant extra space in the garden.

Most adaptable flowering shrub or small tree: Serviceberry – Amelanchier spp. Some species, such as Amelanchier canadensis are native to low woods and swamps, while others such as Amelanchier laevis ‘Spring Flurry’ are adapted to high and dry exposed areas. Serviceberry is a beautiful, multi stemmed, shrub or small tree that grows in full sun or in the understory of larger trees. White flowers cover the tree in April, and they are a bird’s favorite in June as they like to feed on the pink and purple edible berries. The fall foliage can be orange, red and/or yellow, especially when grown in the sun. Two of our favorite Amelanchier’s are ‘Robin Hill’ and ‘Autumn Brilliance.’

Best edible plant: Highbush Blueberry/Lowbush Blueberry – Vaccinium corymbosum/Vaccinium angustifolium. Blueberry is an essential Northern garden plant because of its delicious berries, fiery fall foliage, and depending on the species, ability to grow just about anywhere with some sun.  The blueberry is a great plant to place along an eroding shoreline. Our choice for the best Highbush blueberry is ‘Patriot’. It grows 3 – 4′ tall and produces early season fruit.  For heavier berry production, plant two different varieties near each other.

Most adaptable large tree: Red Maple – Acer rubrum. Native to swamps, forests, fields, and river and wetland edges. For small spaces choose the improved native ‘Bowhall’ red maple, which is a great shade tree where space is limited.  Its maximum height is 40 – 60′ tall and only 10 – 15′ wide, and has a gorgeous yellow to red fall color. ‘Redpointe’ has a great pyramidal form and is a good choice for street plantings.

Best Winter Berries: Winterberry – Ilex verticillata. Known for its heavy crop of red berries in the fall and winter, winterberry is a great plant to add color and interest to the winter landscape. The berries are useful for incorporating into fall and winter planters and arrangements. This medium sized shrub attracts birds and is great for wetland applications since it likes moist, acidic soil. ‘Berry Heavy’ is a prolific female red berry producer which needs a male pollinator, such as ‘Mr. Poppins’ to produce the attractive red berries.

Best Ground Cover: Hay Scented Fern – Dennstaedtia punctilobula. A tough ground cover with a soft, light green texture that does well in sun or full shade. Aggressive, creeps very quickly and is great for locations where you need to cover large areas quickly with something deer resistant, attractive and undemanding. They add fabulous texture to woodlands and landscape plantings.

Best plant for poor soils: Sweet Fern – Comptonia peregrina. Sweet fern is a native shrub with a unique scent. It is a great plant to control erosion and it grows in the poorest, dry soil. If you are interested in attracting birds and butterflies this is a must have plant.

Other great native plants to consider are Blue Flag Iris, Witch Hazel, Red Osier Dogwood, Viburnum, White Birch and Sugar Maples. To learn more about native plants or help in selecting the right plant for the right location stop by Stephens Landscaping Garden Center at 63 Whittier Highway, Moultonborough, NH, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

 

Shoreline Tree and Vegetation Management Rules for Waterfront Properties

Landscape Maintenance

People are drawn to the beauty of New Hampshire for its mountains, wildlife, and its numerous pristine lakes and ponds. The Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act (SWQPA) was established to protect the natural resources and to oversee the management of shoreline properties. Protecting our natural resources and the quality of our public waters is the responsibility of all to ensure the health of the environment and the economy of NH.

The SWQPA regulates vegetation management within 150 feet of public waters. If you are a landowner of waterfront property here is a breakdown of the most important regulations.

  • Within 50’ of the shoreline no ground cover or shrubs may be removed, converted to lawn, or landscaped. However, shrubs can be trimmed to a minimum height of 3’ and can be removed to create a single 6’ wide walkway to the waterbody or water dependent structure such as a dock, beach, or boathouse.
  • Trees may be removed within 50’ of the shoreline if they are dead, diseased or unsafe because of a structural defect or pose an imminent hazard. Stumps do need to remain in place but can be cut flush to the ground unless they are being replaced in the same location with new trees.
  • Healthy trees can be removed, but there are limitations based on a tree grid and a point score system. Property owners are encouraged to manage grid segments by planting additional saplings. Priority should be given to planting within grid segments that do not meet the minimum point score.   Once saplings mature and the grid segments total point score increases, then additional trees could be removed.
  • It is recommended to document any trees you remove with before and after photos and a letter from a certified arborist describing the tree’s defects to help assist with any questions the town or state may have.

If you are considering re-designing or adding any additional landscape features to your lake front property, it is recommended to consult with an experienced landscape professional to help you maneuver through the town and state regulations. The SWQPA is a state regulation, but keep in mind that many municipalities have adopted stricter ordinances or by-laws. A NHDES permit is not required for vegetation management, but is required for removing stumps, constructing walkways, patios, perched beaches, docking systems or grading, etc… Stephens Landscaping Professionals has extensive experience designing and executing waterfront landscapes and has in-house designers and permitting specialists that would be happy to discuss your questions and help you maneuver seamlessly through the process.

For more information on Shoreline Vegetation Management for Water Quality, you can view the Environmental Fact Sheet from NH Department of Environmental Services. by clicking here.