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Snow deal: Plows, snow blowers, shovels all have their benefits and drawbacks

Union Leader Correspondent

December 08. 2013 9:28PM
Homeowners can choose to clear their driveways with tractors or snow blowers, or they can rest easy and wait for the plow man to come, and both options have their benefits and drawbacks. (Nancy Bean Foster Photo)

CLEARING SNOW from the driveway is just part of life in the Granite State, but homeowners have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of doing it themselves, or having the job done for them.

The first question folks have to ask themselves before hiring someone to plow or investing in a tractor or a snow blower, is whether they want to be outside when the weather is frightful.

"Doing it yourself is just like mowing your lawn," said Michael Therrien of Therrien Landscaping in Bedford. "Would you rather be spending time with your family or watching the game, or outside in the bad weather snow blowing your driveway?"

Therrien has been plowing for nearly two decades and said that hiring an experienced plow operator is a convenient way of removing snow without damaging driveways, lawns or fences, but either a plow or a snow blower can do damage if the operator isn't experienced.According to Chris Gage of C&C Maintenance in Keene, because snow blowers operators are closer to the action, they may have a better sense of what the equipment is doing to the ground below, especially very early or very late in the season.

"When the ground isn't frozen, the snow blower or the plow can dig in and cause damage to lawns," said Gage. "With the snow blower, you can see the damage as it's happening but you can't see it with the plow if you're taking up turf."

The amount of snow can also dictate which form of removal is best.

"When there's only a small amount of snow, it's better to clear with a plow," said Therrien.

Gage said that when heavy, wet snow falls, snow blowers often can't rise to the challenge, leaving driveways a sloppy mess.

But Bill Matheson, owner of New Boston Truck & Equipment, said snow blowers are becoming more efficient and better at tossing the heavy stuff around, and the higher end models are easier to operate and steer than ever before.

"I was a firm believer in plows until we started selling snow blowers," he said. "With a plow you have to push everything back, but a snow blower will throw the snow wherever you want it."

The biggest drawback with plowing is snow banks, said Therrien. "People don't like snow banks during a heavy winter, and plows create snow banks."

Pushing the snow back without causing damage takes experience, he said.

And sometimes, even the best plow guy can't compete with the weather and a tractor needs to be brought in to remove some of the snow, said Dan Gallant of Blue Willow Landscapes in Brentwood.

Gallant said hiring someone to plow saves time and gives homeowners a sense of security.

"It takes me minutes to do your driveway while it takes you a half-hour to an hour to snow blow it," he said. "And when you go on vacation or have your house up for sale, having someone come by to plow makes it look like somebody's there so burglars don't target your home."

Facing the weather and clearing snow themselves gives homeowners a sense of control, said Gage.

"You don't have to depend on anyone else, and sometimes it gives you a sense of accomplishment to do it yourself," he said.

But that sense of accomplishment comes at the price of a snow blower, gas, and storage space, while hiring a plow guy just involves writing a check.

"We don't usually plow more than 10 or 12 times a year, and at $20 to $25 a driveway, that's pretty cost-effective," said Gallant.

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