How to Choose The Best Snow Shovel
We might not always have to worry about snow here in the UK (with torrential rain and gale force winds being a little more common), but it’s still worth having the right equipment for when those extra cold spells hit.
Depending on where you’re based, you might see a good few feet of snow during any given winter. While the odd snow day can be good fun, having your path or driveway buried can become inconvenient pretty quick.
Whilst a snow shovel is unlikely to be the most-used tool in your shed, it’ll come into its own when the snow rolls in. They can differ slightly in design, so there are a few things to consider when choosing the best snow shovel.
Snow Shovel or Regular Shovel?
Whilst a regular shovel won’t hinder your snow-clearing efforts, using one is unlikely to be as efficient as using a snow shovel. Considering snow tends to catch us off guard (when we possibly haven’t left much time allowance for snow clearing), getting the job done quickly can be key.
Snow shovels are broader than regular shovels, with curved blades that allow for a better ‘scooping’ action. The blade may also have ridges or grooves which can help stop snow from sliding.
Most snow shovels have plastic blades, which may seem counterintuitive given that they need to be strong. However, a plastic blade can help protect pathways and driveways from damage, whereas scraping a metal blade across the ground (especially with the force required to move snow) could scrape both the surface and the shovel.
The plastic used for snow shovels is generally rigid and strong, and sufficiently sturdy to support the weight of snow.
Which Blade to Choose
Shovel blades usually come in either round or rectangular shapes. Round blades are best for scooping and throwing, while rectangular blades are best for pushing snow. Rectangular blades will have a sharp, straight edge which will be better at cutting through compact snow.
There’s also a range of blade sizes available. If you’ve got a large area path or driveway, opt for a wider shovel that can hold more snow in one go. Shovels up to 45 cm wide remain relatively easy to handle, and they can clear a footpath’s worth of snow in one scoop. However, more snow means a heavier shovel, so there is a downside to buying the biggest option you can find. Narrower pathways are easiest to clear with a smaller blade.
Most snow shovels have blades made from plastic. Plastic is lightweight and easy to manage. It doesn’t rust or require any looking after. Plastic blades allow snow to slide off easily, making the clearing process more efficient. They are also less likely to damage the surface underneath.
The downside to plastic blades is that they aren’t usually strong enough to clear icy areas or very compacted snow. In this case, a metal blade would be more appropriate.
Some shovels with a plastic blade have a metal edge. This can help maintain rigidity in the blade. Sometimes it’s useful for breaking up compacted snow, but there is still a limit to how effective a plastic blade can be at doing this.
Choosing the Right Handle
There are few things to consider when it comes to the shovel’s handle.
Shape and Design
Most snow shovels come with a basic straight shaft handle. However, there’s some on the market with more ergonomic handles, as well as foldable handles.
While those with folding handles are unlikely to be the strongest snow shovels on the market, they are very convenient when it comes to storage. They are great for emergencies, as they can be stored in the boot of your car or in small spaces. The only downside is that they aren’t suitable for lifting large amounts of heavy snow at once – the folding mechanism naturally makes them a little weaker.
To avoid stooping, you ideally want to choose a shovel that comes up to chest height. This can reduce the amount of pressure put on back muscles. That said, a longer shovel will require more arm and core strength, as the weight is held further from the body.
If the shovel is an ’emergency shovel’ that is kept in the car, a comfortable shaft length is less important because you shouldn’t be using the shovel frequently for long periods of time. If you need a shovel for clearing the driveway, finding one of a comfortable length is more relevant.
Handles are usually made from metal, plastic, wood or fibreglass.
Metal handles are lightweight and affordable. They tend to be relatively durable but need to be stored carefully in order to prevent rust.
Plastic is the lightest of the materials available. If you’re looking for an especially lightweight snow shovel, a plastic model is the best option. The downside is that it’s the weakest material and may be unsuitable for shovelling large amounts of snow at once. If you’re in an area that receives a lot of snowfall, you’re better off opting for a metal, wood or fibreglass shovel.
Wood and fibreglass make strong handles for gardening tools. These materials are best for heavy use, and shovelling lots of heavy compacted snow. However, wood will need regular treatment to keep it in good condition, and fibreglass can be very expensive.
Snow Shovel FAQs
How do you remove icy snow from the driveway?
Icy snow is a lot harder to clear than fresh snow – although icy snow will only form if you leave fresh snow until the temperature rises then drops again.
When removing icy or compacted snow, it really helps to have a shovel with a strong blade – either a blade made from metal, or one with a metal edge.
Some people recommended spraying the blade of the shovel with a little oil. This should help you cut through some of the icy snow.
Another option is to spray the snow with hot water and then shovel it. If there’s any puddles remaining (and the temperature is still low), apply salt to prevent it from freezing again.
The best way to prevent icy snow is to remove fresh snow when it falls. Lightly shovel the snow on your driveway or path as it falls so that there is no build up.
How do I prepare my driveway for snow?
Luckily, we do tend to get a lot of warning before a big snowstorm, which means we can take steps to prepare for it.
To start, you should aim to seal any cracks in your driveway. This is because if water gets in and freezes, it can make the cracks a lot worse. It’s best to seal the cracks before the cold weather hits.
The next step is to clean your driveway. Sweep away debris, then give your driveway a wash with either a hose or power washer. If you notice any cracks that become visible once your driveway has been cleaned, these should also be sealed. Do this before the temperature drops, so that your driveway has time to dry without freezing.
You should also inspect your snow shovel to ensure that it’s in good condition. A rusty metal snow shovel that’s been in the back of your shed for the last decade might need to be replaced… If you know you’re in for a tough winter, it’s worth investing in a quality shovel.
Finally, sprinkle salt on your driveway before the snow begins. This will create a barrier between the snow and your driveway, so that the snow can be shovelled away more easily.
Does it matter if I buy a snow shovel with a short handle?
Whilst any shovel will help with clearing snow to a certain extent, you may find that a shovel with a short handle hurts your back. If you’re limited by space constraints (be that storage space, or the working area), then of course you may only have enough room for a shovel with a short handle. However, for the most part you will find that less strain is put on your back by using a shovel that comes up to chest height.