It’s dark, wet and cool – perfect for an agonizing fall, behind the ears outside of your beloved home. Everything from pooling water on smooth tiles and paving, to moss and lichen growth can make going treacherous especially in the half light of a short winter day. Swinging a doorknob while scattering shopping — well, nothing to look forward to here. Dealing with treacherous pavers or stifling front steps, start by making sure there is enough run-off for any rain.
Are the drains and grooves clean? Soft joints in pavers can absorb drizzle, but hard joints will need some means for the rain to divert into the drainage points. Failing that, constant dampness will encourage biological growth which can be dangerous and will allow black ice to form which is often imperceptible to the eye. Ideally, the patio should be at least 150mm below your home’s DPC (Damp Proof Course) and slope away from walls or fencing by about 25mm over 1.5 metres. If you find that your pavers are green and wet near the house, watch where the rain flows and consider correcting the gradient or inserting grates to drain it safely.
Freshly sealed paving or patios, even under the proper finish, can cause water to drain and become dangerously glassy until corroded. Watch your step if this is your first cold season. If you are dealing with an established green path in a shady spot, a power washer on a dry day is a good first step to remove natural growth including moss knots prior to treatment. Don’t blow away loose joints, and work at an angle to mitigate the force of the spray. Channel the murky wastewater off the path into the drain or you simply spread glee and it will all come back in a bigger spread, falling and hearty. Cut back any drooping plants that will provide shade and keep walkways moist for longer.
A stiff brush is good for getting rid of lichen, moss, and algae if you don’t have a washer, but it will be difficult to do and will require repeated efforts in the winter’s misery. Surface brushing will disrupt emerging plants—so it’s worth doing. If you want to double up and avoid all the chemical yard cleaner (the classic Irish weapon is Jeyes Fluid) try a cup of washing up liquid, or a good handful of baking soda and salt dissolved in a 10-quart bucket of warm water to clean walkways and steps. Vinegar in a spray bottle 1:1 with water is also an effective algae killer with regular use. Spritz and let it run.
Even when you use a heavier chemical product such as sodium hypochlorite to remove fungus, moss, liverwort, and lichen, the natural greenness will likely return to the rough concrete. Refer to drainage issues and ensure the habitat is dry and less receptive to microscopic invaders. Wet ‘N Forget, which is just sprayed onto dry pavers and left to work, is biodegradable, free of bleach and ammonia, and breaks down harmlessly. It also provides residual strength, which keeps growth at bay. The problem is finding the two dry days required for the perfect application of any of these products. €54.99 for 5 liters, clarkesofcavan.ie
What about relatively shiny surfaces like keyless porcelain tiles or enough texture, outside the front door or on the patio near sliding doors? Liberon makes a brush-applied anti-slip coating that is UV and water resistant and will not alter the exterior appearance of your floor. Suitable for cement, stone, wood (not oil-based) and highly polished tiles such as marble, there are preparation instructions for each surface type. A test area is recommended to ensure color compatibility. Liberon Anti-Slip Coating, €20 – €25 per liter depending on supplier. Stonetex offers StepSafe, a sealant for glossy, polished and matte tiles that can be used indoors or outdoors. Guaranteed for five years, it comes at a fairly bruising price of €77 a litre, tiles.
If you have a rough, unpolished base like concrete, just spreading a little sand around it will provide some strength, but just watch that any abrasive doesn’t track right into the house. Bleach is not suitable for concrete. If you must use it and risk it on border plants and grass, use as little as possible, very diluted on natural paving stones only, and follow up with a really good rinse. Put a bag of rock salt away in a dry shed for now to deal with icy conditions or even (shouts of irish hysteria) snowfall. About 11 euros for 10 kg at any DIY outlet or agricultural resource.
With steps, the dangers of flying through the air are particularly worrisome because you’re at a height or you can lean on sharp, hard, and angled materials even inside. Moisture in a shady location, green growth and rain all increase the risk. A simple fix, non-slip tape is easy to install, relatively cheap, and can handle everything from the noses of stairs to walkways, ramps, and odd areas like steps, interior steps, boats, caravan entry points, and even along paths if you’re squeamish.
Scruffix offers a non-slip tape that is 100% weatherproof and in multiple layers with a jagged finish, it can save you a broken limb on a December night. Great for aluminum, wood tile, plastic, metal, and even concrete with a polished finish. 80m x 50mm, € 20.45, screwfix.ie. All anti-slip materials will wear with use, so be sure to replace them completely as needed. Solid aluminum planks and run noses will last longer and start around €20 per step. Try pittman.ie or your local DIY outlet for solutions, and consider an illuminated color to give you an idea of where the risers are.
A wide, coarse rug meant for outdoor use can be a useful, stable landing spot, and will obviously remove heavy dirt from your shoes before you head back inside. Always check that any rails or posts on your steps are in good shape as winter comes, and they will likely carry you if you have to swing on them in the event of a fall. Make sure you can clearly see your tracks and steps when installing them, as missing a riser can be annoying and leave you with potentially serious lower leg injuries. Motion Sensor Flood Lights are energy efficient and can be easily installed in one weekend to light your way.