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9/10/2015 Dan Ellington | Category: Industry News | 26661 Views | 3 Comments |

It’s Time To Mark Your Territory


One of the first things you learn very quickly in the snow removal business is ALWAYS USE DRIVEWAY MARKERS. It’s probably the smartest and most cost effective way to protect your equipment from unseen obstacles. Now, as your plowing skills mature and you become better acquainted with the little nuances of every account that you service, you’ll need less and less driveway markers every season, but trust me you’ll rarely find a contractor not using any at all. Here are some techniques to help you regarding everything about snow stakes.

Wood vs Fiberglass

Wood driveway markers usually cost less about 10-20 cents less per stick, but they also break easier and more frequently. You will probably break a few installing them so just keep that in mind. One good place to use wood is if you are only doing your private lot or drive. If you are the only person, plowing you should be fine. When the wood stakes break they also can cause a poking hazard and nobody wants a lawsuit.

Fiberglass driveway markers are more expensive, but they can also take more abuse and bounce back most times when snow is rolled on them. The fiberglass snow stakes also come in several colors so you do not have to paint the tips like with wood stakes. Lastly, the fiberglass driveway markers can usually be reused year to year, well at least the ones still around in spring. They are also easier to push into the ground and you can pound them with a mallet.

Straight Driveway vs Curved Driveway

Straight driveways are relatively simple and don’t usually require using many stakes besides marking the entrance, any obstacles, and the spot where you plan to make snow piles.

Curved driveways are much trickier even for experienced plowers so it’s a good idea to stake everything you would with a straight driveway, but also at key points around the curve. When it comes to these abstract types of drives you really have to use your judgement on how many snow stakes are needed, but it’s a good idea to place more since breaking your plow or a customer’s decorative gnome will most certainly cost more than another box of driveway markers.

Commercial vs Residential

Commercial accounts usually require the use of more snow stakes than residential accounts; however, in most spots you can use the cheaper wood stakes to keep costs down. Only use the fiberglass in high traffic areas or for important obstacles like fire hydrants, etc. Really, it comes down to what the property manager wants. If they require a certain type of stake, then keeping them happy is always a good thing.

Residential accounts are where you’ll want to use only fiberglass stakes. With customers who may have kids, pets, they can’t drive and/or have frequent guests that can't drive, it’s smart to have the better stakes in place, or pullup the next storm to find all of your stakes broken or missing.  

Reflective vs Non-Reflective

Reflective driveway markers are far superior to non-reflective markers, but they are also more expensive. In the daytime or night the reflective snow stakes will provide a better reference point and are just overall easier to see. It’s one less thing to worry about.

Non-reflective driveway markers still have value and can be used to supplement your reflective markers. For example, you can use one reflective, then one non-reflective, then another reflective, and so on. This strategy can reduce the cost, but still keep you covered from obstacles.

How many driveway markers should you use?

The amount of snow stakes needed on any particular property will vary, however when you’re first starting out or have acquired a new account its always better to use more and scale back if needed. A good rule is place one marker every 10-15 feet.

When is the best time to survey your accounts?

For any existing accounts, you can usually survey these while doing fall cleanup, but if they are a "snow only" customer you can go double check everything around the first frost. For new accounts its good to survey them right away and always take good notes. You can use Google maps to match everything up with your notes so it takes less time when you’re ready to install your snow stakes.

When is the best time to place your driveway markers?

There is some debate on when is the best time to place snow stakes. Some people will say place them before any snow has fallen to save time when it starts getting crazy, however this does have some drawbacks to consider. Kids love to whack each other with snow stakes so depending on where your account is located in proximity to any schools or walking routes you may want to wait. In addition, it's rare, but I’ve heard of people actually stealing them, (most likely the same guys only charging $20 for a drive) but this can never be 100% prevented, however placing them a little later in the season can help. Most contractors will wait until sometime between the first 2’’ snow and the first 6” snow unless it’s for high priority accounts like hospital, schools, and senior buildings.

Where to place your driveway markers?

The debate continues when you ask plow operators where they place their snow stakes. More experience contractors will say put them 1’’-2’’ away from the driveway, but this option does not leave much room for snow piles and can lead to many broken stakes, just ask anyone in Boston last year. Personally, I like to place them 6’’-12’’ away to account for car doors and other unforeseen obstacles.

Why using different colors snow stakes is important.

Using different color snow stakes is important because the different colors can help you and your crew/subs identify obstacles just by color. For example a good tip I found regarding color stakes is “No paint means a curb where snow can be pushed past the curb line, orange means a hazard where you can't push snow or drive past the curb line (hydrants, utility boxes, etc.), and yellow paint is entrances. When it's all drifted over, you know the entrance is between the 2 yellow stakes.” By utilizing different colors, you can break less stuff and plow more snow.

Extra tips:


  • If the ground is still soft, you can use a screwdriver to make initial pilot holes for your stakes. If the ground is frozen, use a cordless drill with an old bit.
  • Never use rebar or PVC pipe in place of wood or fiberglass snow stakes. They both are more likely do damage  to something and/or someone.
  • If you have numerous accounts that require many driveway markers you may consider making a tool to help you drive the stakes into the ground.
  • They also make snow stakes with springs on the bottom, or with your company name on them, which can help with advertising, but most contractors can’t justify the added expense.
  • Stay away from cheap driveway markers. It may seem like a great deal until you actually start using them.
  • If you have any good tips please share them in the comments. Thanks! Happy Plowing




On 3/10/2016 atv fertilizer spreader said:

These are all very helpful tips. Glad you were able to elaborate all these. Thanks for sharing! atv fertilizer spreader

On 12/21/2015 James Hobusch said:

I like what this article mentions about using less expensive wooden stakes in less traffic areas. I am thinking of investing in a snow removal service for my warehouse parking, but I'm worried that it will be hard for the workers to know where the curbs are. I think stakes would be a great way of highlighting those areas in order to protect the cement and equipment. Thanks for sharing!

On 11/5/2015 Jordan Jorgenson said:

Thanks for your post. I don't think I would have really thought about putting up different color driveway markers for when we need to clear the snow. I like the idea though. It will just take time to get used to what the different colors mean.

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