10 PRO TIPS: USING SNOW STAKES/DRIVEWAY MARKERS FOR RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL SNOWPLOWING
We’ve learned a thing or two during our 34+ years of plowing snow. Having grown from a single truck and plow to an entire fleet, we know that efficiency and precision are essential to staying profitable. When plowing, you don’t just want to be quick at clearing the lot so you can move on to the next. You also need to get it done without destroying the property or your equipment. One product that will help you do both is driveway markers, also called snow stakes.
You might have used wooden stakes for this, back in the day. It was back-breaking work to pound them into the ground with a sledgehammer, made even worse if the stupid stakes broke during installation. Or, if they broke during plowing season when the ground was already frozen, replacing them was a massive pain. Not to mention that they were hard to see, especially in the early morning or late evening.
Thankfully, the introduction of fiberglass driveway markers in recent years has revolutionized the plowing process. Fiberglass stakes are lighter, more visible, and far easier to install. However, they aren’t perfect (because nothing is). Here are our top ten tips from our professional plowing team for making the most of your marking and plowing process.
1. WHICH TYPE OF MARKER DO YOU NEED, WOOD OR FIBERGLASS?
Wooden markers usually cost an average of 10-20 cents each, making them the more affordable option. However, they tend to split during installation, and they aren’t as sturdy as their fiberglass cousin. If you’re concerned about visibility, you’ll probably want to paint your wooden stakes or apply reflective tape.
While fiberglass stakes are more expensive, they tend to last longer and perform more dependably in harsh environments. Installing these can still be a pain, especially if the ground is already frozen or if your soil is rocky. If you use a drill to create pilot holes, be prepared to burn through several bits. Or you can check out tip number #7 below!
Just keep in mind that you should never substitute rebar or PVC pipe for wood or fiberglass snow stakes. Any material other than wood or fiberglass is likely to accidentally harm something or someone.
2. REFLECTIVE VS NON-REFLECTIVE
Snow stakes with reflective tape are much more noticeable, providing a clear boundary even in minimal light. Even though they’re more expensive, the increased visibility can justify the cost, especially for irregularly shaped plots and curved drives.
Non-reflective markers are best suited to straightaways or areas where visibility isn’t as vital. For areas that accumulate deep snow, you might try driving a non-reflective marker into the ground, then attaching a reflective one to the top. This will give the stake greater height and save you some cash by using a less costly marker as the base.
If you need to use reflective markers but also want to cut down on cost, try alternating stake types; one reflective first, then a non-reflective, and then another reflective, and so on. This will keep expenses low but still protect your equipment and property from damage.
3. WHEN TO SURVEY A PROPERTY
You can generally survey current clients around the first frost. You don’t want to hit them up too early, because they’re likely not even thinking about snowfall yet. You also don’t want to wait too late and have them switch to your competitor. However, when you get a new account, it’s good business practice to survey it as soon as possible and take thorough notes. Have a list of questions prepared for the customer so you can best meet their needs. Utilize Google Maps and bring a printed copy of the satellite view of the property. This will let the customer point out areas that need clearing first and where the snow should be piled up. Based on this, you’ll be able to figure out where to install your snow stakes, saving time and effort.
4. RESIDENTIAL VS. COMMERCIAL
Commercial properties often need more snow stakes than residential ones. Don’t cut corners to save a buck. Also, consider who will be present on the property. Are there children, pets, or elderly or disabled individuals? Be sure to stake high-traffic locations or areas that are required to stay cleared (such as fire hydrants).
It all boils down to what the property owner/management wants. If you want to keep your customer, you also want them to be happy with your results. If they require a specific type of stake or marker, you can always take that into consideration when quoting their snow removal rates.
5. WHEN TO INSTALL DRIVEWAY MARKERS
There’s some disagreement over the ideal time to put your snow stakes in the ground. This does vary by the region where you reside; in some places, the ground might freeze sooner than the first snowfall. Most professionals would recommend October for North America. By this time, most customers are already thinking ahead and are ready to prepare for winter.
If you’re plowing for a high-profile account such as a hospital, school, or senior residence, some contractors will wait until between the first 2 to 6 inches of snow. Just don’t forget to consider stake availability. Most suppliers restock at the beginning of a season. When they run out, they don’t restock until the following year. This is where The ROP Shop leads the pack. Thanks to our plowing expertise, we ensure we have a steady supply of driveway markers even through the off-season.
6. HOW MANY SNOW STAKES TO USE
When you’ve just started plowing for the first time or when you’ve acquired a new property to plow, it’s important to understand the proper frequency for placing stakes. Spacing the driveway markers ten to fifteen feet apart is best practice. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, though, so we recommend using a few extra stakes. You can always trim the number of stakes down if necessary.
7. ALLOW FOR ACCUMULATION
If you ask plow pros where they set their snow stakes, many might tell you they place 1 to 2 inches away from the road or drive. That doesn’t leave much room for snow accumulation, though. Not leaving enough space can contribute to dislodged or broken driveway markers. Try installing your snow stakes 6 to 12 inches away instead so spraying snow and ice doesn’t leave them broken or buried.
8. PROPER TOOLS AND PREPARATION
No matter what region you live in, it’s always best to get your markers in before the snow falls. When winter approaches, prepare your driveway by clearing and marking your path. You can speed up this process by using The ROP Shop’s driveway marker/snow stake installation tool. Check out our blog or watch this short video to learn more.
9. CURVED DRIVES VS. STRAIGHT DRIVES
When placing markers along a drive that forms a line, the process is pretty straightforward. (Get it? … Okay, moving on.) You won’t need many stakes to mark the entrance, and it should be simple to mark spots to place snow heaps.
On the other hand, when installing stakes along a curved driveway, use your best judgment to determine how many markers you’ll need. You’ll want to mark much more frequently, paying extra attention to crucial spots at the bends. It’s best to install more to decrease the risk of damage to your plow and to the property you’re clearing. Investing in more markers will cost less than it would to repair curbs, landscaping, or your equipment.
10. COLOR-CODE YOUR DRIVEWAY MARKERS
Using visual cues won’t just help you cut down on your plowing time. It will also help you stand out from your competition. Varied colors and stake types can guide you and your crew in identifying specific obstacles or landmarks just by sight. For example, use reflective orange stakes at entrances, and non-reflective ones on straightaways. Blue driveway markers could be used for spots that should be completely cleared, such as fire hydrants or crosswalks.
The ROP Shop stocks blue driveway markers in reflective and orange driveway markers in reflective and non-reflective varieties. We also carry different lengths and widths to meet all your snow safety needs. If you’re a business owner and would like to order custom stake lengths, colors, or widths in quantities of 3000 or more, we would be glad to accommodate you. Contact us today!
Also, be sure to check out our other snow removal-related blogs to keep your winter season hot!
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