How To Protect Your Lawn and Property From a Snow Plow

How To Protect Your Lawn and Property From a Snow Plow

December 21st officially marks the start of winter, and with it comes fresh snow. While the first snow of the season is often a treat, it can quickly become a nightmare if the proper yard protection measures are not enacted before deep snow arrives. Marking the boundaries of your yard and property can help keep your lawn safe from damage by snow removal services when the snow is piled high and helps you avoid dead grass and damaged chunks of sod in the spring. 

Growing up in Pennsylvania, every year, there were snow events followed by snow plows and consequent piles of snow as high as a car alongside my yard. There were countless times our neighbor’s properties were damaged by wayward blades and ill-dumped piles whenever there were considerable snow storms.

I was talking to a buddy who plows snow for some extra cash every winter about why this happens and asked him how to help protect personal property and lawn edges from snow plows, his best recommendations are included below.

Do Snow Stakes Really Work to Protect Your Lawn?

Driveway in Winter

Snow stakes, snow markers, or driveway markers are all names for indicators of boundaries of lawn areas, landscape features, and other property you want to protect against damage from snow removal services. Snow stakes are the most cost-effective way for property owners to signal to snow management services where not to plow during snow events to keep your landscape safe. Before the ground freezes and more than an inch of snow falls, get your bright-colored snow stakes into the ground.

How Many Snow Stakes Do I Need?

The number of snow stakes you need to properly protect your driveway and landscape depends on the shape of your yard and its size. The point of the markers is to signal where the road ends, and your property begins when the normal dividing line is buried under snowfall. Place a marker anywhere the property line shifts that is not obvious to a late-night driver or during a snowstorm. 

Stakes are also important for landscape features or cars and vehicles that may not be noticed in bad weather. Even if it seems obvious to you, a snow plow may not notice your mailbox or see a small tree in front of your yard. Spend the extra cash or build enough driveway markers to properly demarcate all of your property near the road. 

How Deep to Install Driveway Snow Stakes?

Driveway stakes need to be driven into the ground deep enough that wind, snow, and the occasional bump will not knock them over. My friend recommends driving metal, wooden, fiberglass, or plastic stakes at least 2-6 inches into the ground. Depending on your climate and soil type, you may want to go deeper than that, especially if you get heavy wind and continuous precipitation all winter long.

How Far to Keep Snow Stakes Off Driveway?

Driveway stakes that are positioned to close the road or pavement being plowed can become dislodged, knocked over, or buried. If you can’t find your marker, it is not going to help your or the snow removal company. To protect your stakes from disappearing, place them 6 to 12 inches away from the area being plowed. Place markers nearer the landscaping feature you want to protect if they are closer to the driveway and anywhere that is highly visible if nothing on the lawn needs to be identified. 

How Far Apart Should You Put in Stakes for Snow?

The distance between markers can help a snow plow driver judge the shape of your property, but having them too near or far from each other can make it more confusing instead of less. My pal said to try to set them in place every 10 to 12 ft to show a clear path for the plow operator to avoid without adding unnecessary cost and labor for you. If some features need to be marked and it does not fall exactly into the 10 to 12-foot range, you can simply add another marker to make it clear that snow shouldn’t be dumped there. 

When Should You Put Snow Stakes In?

20Pcs Driveway Marker Reflective Driveway Poles Fiberglass Snow Stakes with Reflective Tape for Easy Visibility at Night (4Ft-20Pcs-Orange)

Once the ground starts to get cold and freeze, any kind of earthwork becomes insanely more difficult. To avoid having to work way harder to prepare for heavy snowfall, choose the right time of year for winterizing your lawn. Start putting snow stakes into the ground before the first frost when daytime temperatures start to drop below 40 degrees to make sure the ground is still workable.

Since some of these driveway markers may be placed in the grass, you will want to wait until after you last mow of the season when your mower has already been put into winter storage. Having to remove the stakes to mow or mow around them would be tedious and not needed if you plan correctly. The end of October is usually a good time to start putting in snow stakes if you live in northern climates. 

How to Place Snow Stakes in Hard and Frozen Ground?

If you are late in planning or the frost happens way earlier than expected, you may need to place your markers in hard frozen ground. This is much more difficult than planting markers on soft ground, but not impossible. Stakes that need to be driven into the frozen ground can be set using a number of solid methods. 

Hammerable Material – stakes made of metal and hardwood can be driven into the hard frozen ground. Depending on the soil type, how frozen the ground is, and the exact material the mistake is made out of, this can be easy or rather complicated. Some stakes can just be hammered directly into the ground with no issues, just the right tool, and some elbow grease. 

Pilot Hole – For stakes that cannot be hammered directly into the ground for risk of splintering or other destructive effects, you can attempt to make a pilot hole. To make insertion easier, you can hammer a metal stack or pipe into the ground that has a slightly smaller diameter than your driveway marker. Remove the pilot stake and push and tap the final marker into the hole. It should go in much easier than it would in unbroken earth. 

Frankensteined Together – In some cases, you may have a very nice fiberglass or plastic marker that is highly visible and resistant to wind damage but is impossible to hammer into the frozen ground. If you still want to use them, you can use duct tape or any other weather-resistant adhesives to connect your plastic marker to a strong metal stake. Hammer the homemade snow stake into the ground, then attach the marker to insure a sturdy yet easily recognizable guide post for snowplow drivers. 

Movable Stake Rig – A really easy way to deal with annual staking without having to think about it ahead of time is with a movable stake rig. While this might sound complex, it’s a pretty simple solution to the snow plow readiness issue. Place any driveway marker you want into a 5-gallon bucket and fill it with concrete until it is full enough to hold the stake and heavier enough to not be knocked over. Place these along your property whenever you anticipate a snow plow will be coming to town. 

What Are Snow Stakes Made Of?

200 Pack 48 Inch Driveway Markers 1/4 Inch Dia - with 12" Install Drill Bit, Snow Stakes, Snow Plow Markers, Snow Poles, Rods (200)

Since a snow stake is a concept and not a specific product, they, and driveway markers, can be made from any material that will meet the requirements. Driveway markers need to be strong enough to withstand winds and snow being piled against them. A snow stake should be tall enough to remain visible through an entire winter of snowfall, between 4 and 8 ft, and uniform, so a plower will know exactly what they are. Anything that meets these requirements can be a snow stake. 

Fiberglass

Most common commercial snow stakes are made from fiberglass. It is a reliable choice since it is durable, lightweight, and affordable. It is extremely easy to pack a bundle of fiberglass driveway markers and move along your property, putting them in place. The bright colors offer high visibility during snow storms, and their thin profile keeps them safe from prolonged wind damage. 

Plastic

Driveway markers made of plastic can be bought from most home and lawn stores. These are usually tall and brightly colored to attract the snow plow drivers’ attention. These types of snow stakes are easily identifiable as such and are low-cost and lightweight. Some of the cheaper ones may not be able to withstand heavy winds or severe winter storms. 

Wood

While wooden stakes can be purchased at hardwood stores, they are not necessarily designed to be snow stakes. They are, however, effective if they are tall enough and hardwood. The good thing about wooden snow stakes is that they are easily noticed but not quite as obtrusive as some of the brightly colored plastic ones. Wooden stakes should be replaced when broken or rotten from exposure to the elements to ensure they don’t fall over in a heavy storm. 

Metal

Metal stakes are probably the least effective, most expensive, and potentially dangerous snow stakes available. While they are easy to hammer into the ground and will withstand the wind and weather, it is hard to find metal stakes that fit the rest of the requirements.

Can I Use Tent Stakes Instead?

Tent stakes and foundation spikes are too short to be used as a driveway marker on their own since they are usually much shorter than 4 feet. The main reason to avoid metal stakes is that if they are accidentally hit by a plow blade, then they could become a life-threatening projectile capable of damaging people or property in the area and should be avoided if any alternative is available.

Do Snow Plows Damage Driveways?

Snow Plow in Driveway

Believe it or not, snow plow operators are not intentionally trying to destroy your driveway and lawn elements. While commercial snow removal companies and snow removal contractors may check out a commercial property and mark it off to avoid costly damage, your average homeowner with private property will need to rely on the city’s snow plow drivers and common snow stakes to avoid lawn damage.

Since these drivers haven’t seen your yard without snow piles, they may hit your driveway or other hazards in the process of the removal of snow on the roads and pathways. For proper lawn care, it is up to you to mark the borders of your yard with snow markers to help the plow company with damage-free removal of snow. If you hire private snow removal professionals, you will need to take the following steps to avoid damage from snow plows on these types of driveways, especially when subject to continued snow removal.  

Types of DrivewaysWhat HappensHow to Protect
ConcreteCracks and lifted damaged sectionsLeave an inch gap between the built-up snow on the concrete and the snow plow blade when there is excess snow
AsphaltStrips pavement sealant and results in rapid deteriorationUse a rubber or polyurethane cutting edge to avoid snow plow damage on asphalt
GravelBunches and moves gravel, creating deep ruts and destroys edges of drivewaysUse snowplow shoes and go very slowly to keep the blade a constant half an inch above ground level

Concrete

This is the most common driveway material as it is cheaper than asphalt driveways and more durable in the long run. Concrete can be sealed and covered for added protection from temperature fluctuations and heavy impact damage but can be damaged by forceful snow removal efforts. No matter how protected a concrete pad or driveway is, repeated contact will lead to the risk of damage and potentially costly repairs, as well as snowplow damages.

The safest way to avoid severe damage to a concrete driveway is to leave a gap of about an inch between the blade and the pad. Snow plow drivers should go slow and do this to prevent the damage risks of the blade catching a cracked section and lifting the entire concrete piece up. Snow blowers can be used to remove the last 1/2 inch or so of snow left on the driveway for a custom snow removal plan.

Asphalt

These driveways are durable and a bit more expensive than concrete and can deal with snowplow damages better. They are sealed to protect them from the elements and damage if used and maintained correctly, but unmarked driveway entrances can get hit badly. A snow plow blade can quickly strip the asphalt of its protective sealant and lead to rapid degradation of the exposed driveway as well as restricted driveway access. Snow management services often attach a rubber or polyurethane cutting edge to avoid snow plow damage on asphalt and other immovable hazards.

Asphalt tends to accumulate black ice and can lead to the injury of property owners. To keep the business property and apartment complexes safe spreading salt is a common choice for snow removal and ice prevention. Excessive salt in the cracks of the asphalt can cause salt damage, making the material on asphalt weaker and more susceptible to decay. Make sure to prevent salt damage to your lawn and driveway by using alternatives to rock salt or spring lawn care will be much more difficult and green grass harder to achieve.

Gravel

 Some more rural driveways are made of gravel and are unable to withstand contact with a snow plow blade, no matter how briefly. In order to protect a gravel driveway, the blades should never be less than 1/2 an inch away from the ground. Chunks of gravel being pushed by a snow plow will leave huge ruts in the driveway and can damage the plow blade.

Snow plow shoes, in combination with rubber or polyurethane blades, can help prevent gravel from being pushed by a snow plow, even in a heavy snow dump. Snow removal professionals can skim the driveway and leave only a 1/2 inch of snow that needs to be dealt with. When more than an inch of snow falls, try to use snow blowers before large amounts of snow pile up since large accumulations of snow increase the risk of damage from snow plows.