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I looked at a house today and one of its drawbacks was that it had a very long, steep driveway. In New England we get thick snow, sleet and ice and with a steep driveway I am concerned the car might have trouble getting up it, or might slide off it going down.

The driveway drops 50 feet over 300 feet which is a grade of over 9 degrees in some places.

Is there any way to make such a steep driveway safer?

  • That's pretty steep. The safest way would be to let someone else buy the house. :-) That's going to put a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle, also. You don't mention what the surface is. Cutting grooves across it would improve traction, but New England winters will fill the grooves with ice and snow. A gravel surface will help if the snow isn't too thick, but that's hard to clear. A 4WD vehicle with chains on the tires would help. If you have the space, you could change the driveway to weave back and forth over a longer path to reduce the slope. – fixer1234 Dec 4 '17 at 2:58
  • Diligent clearing, sand, salt. Rinse and repeat. With any luck it's facing south and the sun will do some of the work for you. Also, do the responsible thing and use proper winter tires. All-season tires are a far cry from the most safe and effective rubber available. Just ask Scandinavia. Both of our cars get their wheels swapped in November and March. – isherwood Dec 4 '17 at 3:09
  • That's a *average*17% grade. (% rise/run being the normal way grades are measured). Does the driveway flatten out near the bottom, or are you on a hill straight onto the highway? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 4 '17 at 3:12
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Having lived a good portion of my life in an area where heavy snowfall is common I can say that the best way to deal with snow in any driveway is to keep it shoveled out down to the underlying surface. You should at all possibilities try to keep it shoveled, plowed or blown before any attempt to drive on it. In many cases driving on it compacts the snow down and begins to cause a build up of compacted snow ice that will tend to want to stay there for the rest of the winter. These comments can apply to any driveway but especially to one like you describe which is a serious grade.

In my last years of living in snow country I had a medium steep driveway that rose about 6 feet over a run of about 45 feet. I was working long days at my job and there were multiple drivers in the family that used the driveway multiple times before I could get it cleaned out each time it snowed. I can say that it was a mess of slippery iciness that was hard to drive in. Some years the icy build up was as much as 8 inches thick. The work around solution that I used was to spread liberal amounts of course sand over it to provide traction till the next snow.

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I spent 5 years living in a cabin deep in the woods with a 1/4-mile long driveway of gravel and dirt. It had some very steep grades here and there, and none of the local plows would have anything to do with me except one, who charged $175 per plowing. That was unthinkable, as I was deep in the snow at a high elevation for typically 7 months out of the year. For the cost of two plowings, I purchased a rusty old 4WD Bronco and widened the first 20 feet of the driveway at the road end. I parked my regular car at the end of the driveway and used the Bronco, with chains, as my driveway vehicle. It was the best and cheapest solution I ever came up with, and I regularly got up the steep parts in 3 feet of snow. I never registered, insured or inspected the Bronco. That's what made the solution so cheap.

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We have a 550' uphill (8 degree slope and worse in some points), north facing driveway in winter, we thougth it would be a nightmare when we bought it but loved it and just wanted the seclusion. We got great advice from the previous owner who lived there for ten years and just needed to move to a smaller place due to age. Recommendations: Make sure you have a four wheel drive vehicle and make sure you have snow/traction tires and in some places, you can have studded tires like in our province. Then make sure you have a reliable tractor with both a bucket to push snow and blower to move snow. Then have a smaller side by side or 4x4 to use in the most difficult situations to get up and down when you don't have time to plow or move snow off the driveway. Finally, order a mix of course sand and salt (we use about 56 or 6 yards delivered in early fall) to put on the surface only after you remove the snow, if a gravel combination with dirt driveway, better chance of keeping good traction. We have even been able to use our Ram truck with 4 wheel drive even on snow and ice to get up and down but only if you keep your speed up and down very low and steady, no heavy braking at all and no heavy acceleration when going up. So, great all terrain or heavy tread snow tires(studs if allowed), course sand and salt mix to spread after clearing the entire driveway, you can save amounts by covering only one drive wheel side of the vehicle tracks, tractor for blowing and pushing snow with bucket (blow up hill and push downhill), are just some of the options. Good luck

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Thanks for the answer; keep 'em coming. And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know how best to contribute here. – Daniel Griscom Nov 15 at 16:45
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A widely available solution is to install a driveway heater to keep the crucial section unfrozen. This technique is also commonly used on walkways.

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  • Sounds like it could be a very expensive retrofit as well as expensive to run, but as you asked for "any way".... – Aaron Brick Dec 4 '17 at 4:31
  • New England snow might just laugh at a driveway heater unless it's nuclear powered. :-) But it would be worth exploring the experiences of people who may have tried them there (and see if the local stores sell them, which might be an indicator). – fixer1234 Dec 4 '17 at 4:54
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    I do not know what a " driveway heater" is but In-slab radiant heat is used in Alaska ( and other northern places ) to great success. – Alaska Man Nov 15 at 18:37

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