A color coded snow stake strategy

Need for snow stakes
When you can’t see anything stakes can act as your eyes.

If your company plows commercial properties then you understand the headaches of curb damage. Every spring as the snow melts off the damage becomes painfully obvious. It is the main reason for snow staking, and we all have to do it. Since you’re going to be out there staking every commercial property why not make your life easier by using a color coded staking strategy? Color coding can offer useful information to plow operators who can no longer see the roads, curbs, walks, driveways, catch basins, and more, acting as a visual aid, helping them imagine the property with the mind’s eye.

What is the purpose of a color coded snow stake?

Color coding is a staking system in which you decide, before staking, what different colors on top of each stake will represent. Different colors will have certain things they represent, so when everything is covered with snow you can still find certain points of interest. The common points you want to be aware of on a property are catch basins, fire hydrants, nasty lips or edges that you plow blade gets caught on, and most obviously the curbing. You can get very specific in the different things you mark off on each property but you should pick a universal system of colors for every property so that there is no confusion. Providing a color decoder to each crew enables your employees with the ability to see what is covered with snow.

Staking should be done before the first snow and before the ground freezes up ( trust me I have done it after and lets just say you can learn from my mistake.) I usually like to stake around thanksgiving, after all fall clean ups are done, but I am in New England and you will have to decide the best time for you.

I use regular wooden stakes bought by the pallet and paint the top one to two feet the proper color. I wouldn’t waste any money on fancy plastics or fiberglass stakes, they will break over time and aren’t worth the benefit, especially if you use color coding. If you use this system properly it will save your crew time, save you money, and most importantly impress your clients.

The color code I use:

White-

I use a white tip stake for all regular curbing with nothing special to denote. All of my straight-a-ways and curves without a point of interest get this stake installed. Place stakes as close together as you can afford to help visualize the curb lines, helping you to avoid damage. I use white because it is neutral in color and there is nothing really special to mark off they just act as a visual guide for the curb lines. Because you won’t be able to see white in a storm you can leave these stakes natural in color if you choose.

Blue-

Blue painted tips are used to mark all catch basins. After a heavy snowfall it helps to know exactly where catch basins are so they can be dug out, which helps to alleviate any localized flooding problems during a melt down. One stake directly in the center of the sewer will be enough, some crews do prefer to pick either the left or right corner of the drain to stake but I always thought this is a bit overboard.

color coded snow stakes
Blue snow stakes are good for catch basins.

Red-

Use red stakes directly behind fire hydrants. I like to use a taller, heavy duty stake for all hydrants because of their importance. It is the law that hydrants need to be dug out and accessible following a storm, so it is important that you are able to find them.  A large red stake marking a hydrant will also help prevent people from parking in front of one after a storm.

Snow stake for hydrant
Red stakes should be large enough for any, single snow fall amount.

Yellow-

I like to use a yellow stake to mark off the entrances to driveways. If you are maintaining residential or a homeowners association then it is important that the crew knows where each driveway is, so using yellow to mark off the entrance to every driveway is helpful. I just put two yellow stakes per home, one on each driveway corner.

Fluorescent Orange-

Use a nice bright orange color to mark off any dangers or warnings. Dangers can include manhole covers that trip up a plow edge, large potholes, speed bumps, or anything you need to alert your operators to.The value in this is inherent, if you can save yourself from the cost of ripping off a plow edge or tearing up a manhole cover then it is worth it.

Green-

Driveway staking.
Stake every driveway entrance at each corner.

I use green to mark off any underground utility boxes. I am sure you have seen them, they are usually green or blue, plastic or steel, boxes along the road, usually set behind the sidewalk. I never used to do this one, but after the forty inch storm we had in CT this winter, we will from now on. Trust me when I say customers that are snowed in are not happy if your crew takes out their internet or cable tv.

So that’s it, a snow staking color code system, that works. Feel free to change your colors as needed and if you come up with any helpful tips, or time savers, please leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading!

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