Try These Slick Tips for Drainage Solutions for Icy Sidewalks

Justine Harrington
Updated May 9, 2022
Children playing in snow
Photo: Stone / Getty Images


  • A well-constructed drainage system prevents ice buildup.

  • Divert water underground via a French (or similar) drain.

  • Install a storm drain channel to prevent icy sidewalks.

  • Treat ice using safe deicing solutions.

  • Prevent icy sidewalks by shoveling and covering the cement.

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Let’s get one thing straight: Snow days are pure magic. But dealing with snow- and ice-covered sidewalks? Not so much. 

The truth is that it’s tough to get rid of snow and ice on your sidewalks once it’s already accumulated. Preventing ice from building up in the first place is key. This is where having a proper drainage system in place comes in. Read on to find out more about the importance of drainage, as well as how to treat ice on your sidewalks. 

Drainage Solutions for Icy Sidewalks

A well-constructed drainage system stops your sidewalks (and the rest of your property) from being flooded with runoff water and ice. Here’s how to fix a driveway drainage problem and prevent standing water on your sidewalk.  

Divert Excess Water Underground

Installing a French drain or perforated underground drain pipe can help prevent water from pooling (and ice from forming). These drains direct water flow away from your home, depositing the water in a more desirable area, like a storm drain or sewage system.

Install a Storm Drain Channel

A storm drain installed along the sidewalk (where it will connect with a French drain) will carry excess water straight to the main sewer system. This way, you don’t have to wait for days for standing water and ice on your sidewalk to evaporate. 

Hire a Professional

Hiring a contractor near you to fix your drainage problems could end up saving you precious time and money. If you’re installing a storm drain or buried French drain, you may want to leave it to the pros rather than risk damaging your property (or putting in the substantial time and energy it takes to do so). You’ll also be able to rest easy knowing that a contractor installed your drain safely and efficiently. 

How Should I Treat Ice on My Sidewalks?

Is there already a thick layer of snow and ice on your sidewalks and in your driveway? Contrary to what you may have heard, rock salt can cause cracks in your sidewalk and do real damage to your landscape. Use a safe, non-damaging solution for getting rid of ice, instead. Here are some snow and ice removal tips to try.  

Use Magnesium Chloride

Magnesium chloride is effective at melting ice at low temperatures (down to about -5 degrees Fahrenheit), making it a good solution for deicing your sidewalks. It’s also less corrosive than rock salt and leaves less residue than other products.  

Try Kitty Litter or Sand

Kitty litter and sand aren’t deicers, but they can improve traction over slippery surfaces like ice. Other gritty materials like wood chips or straw work, too. 

How Else Can I Prevent Icy Sidewalks?

Man shoveling sidewalk
Photo: E+ / Getty Images

Once ice encases your sidewalk, it’s difficult to remove. Prevention is crucial. Aside from having proper drainage, here are some tried-and-true ways to prevent ice from building up.

Shovel Immediately and Often

As soon as wintry weather hits, be sure to shovel your sidewalk and driveway before the fresh snow becomes ice. And since deicers work best when there’s only a thin layer of snow (or ice), you should always shovel first before using any kind of deicing solution.

Cover the Cement

Using a tarp or other waterproof material to cover your sidewalks is a good way to prevent ice from forming. You could even try a heated walkway mat. Heated mats are electrically heated and typically made of a non-slip material like rubber.

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