Managing Slippery Surfaces

With the coolness of winter, surfaces around the garden simply don’t dry out as fast. Paving can become slippery, and all types of surfaces can discolour and start to look ugly with the growth of moss and algae.

 
Slipperiness may be due to:
  • Recent rainfall
  • Poor drainage
  • Too much shade
  • Moss, slime or algae
  • Frost
  • Autumn leaves
  • Sloping ground
  • Smooth surfaces
 
 
SOLUTIONS FOR SLIPPERY SURFACES
 
 
 
BETTER DRAINAGE
Depending upon the situation, this can be a simple matter of digging a small trench. However, it may require excavation and the installation of sub-surface drains and loosening of the ground.
 
 
 
CHANGE THE SURFACE
Grass and soil can slippery or unstable, even when they are not wet. If the area is walked on a lot, grass is likely to become worn, muddy and slippery.
If grass or soil areas are a safety hazard, replace with a non-slip hard surface that will dry more easily.
 
 
 
IMPROVE VENTILATION
A poorly ventilated site will take longer to dry and will be more likely to become muddy or slippery.
It may be possible to prune branches to let in sunlight and breezes. Open fences allow better airflow than solid walls.
 
 
 
RE-LANDSCAPE TO CHANGE THE SLOPE
Terracing, cutting and filling can improve drainage and make slopes less slippery and hazardous. Major earthworks should be done with care, as they could potentially lead to more problems (eg. land slipping, compaction, altered drainage patterns).
 
In most cases, retaining walls will be needed, and surface or underground drains may also be required. For major jobs seek the advice of a professional soil engineer or landscaper.
 
 
 
RUBBER TILES/ RUBBER MATTING ATTACHED TO SURFACE
Rubber based surfaces are common in children’s playgrounds where they reduce the risk of slipping over and the impact of falls from play equipment. If you have a really difficult slippery spot, then rubber matting may be the answer. These products are often made from recycled car tyres.
 
 
 
ALTER THE SURFACE ON TREADS OF SMOOTH TIMBER STEPS.
Wet or frost-covered timber steps can become very slippery. The best solution is to buy grooved decking timber at the outset. Failing this, you can saw cross hatches into the surface of existing timber.
A quick solution is to secure chicken wire to the flat surface of the timber. As long as the wire is securely fastened, it will provide extra traction. Alternatively, paint on a clear sealant that has sand or fine particles added to give a non-skid surface.
 
 
 
CUT ROUGH SURFACE INTO SMOOTH CONCRETE
Smooth concrete, particularly on slopes can be slippery. Overcome this by laying a thin layer of concrete on the top and brushing just before the concrete sets. Scrubbing the concrete with chlorine will kill the algae. Alternatively, you can glue rubber matting or artificial turf to the surface of the concrete.
 
 
 
INSTALL STEPS ON A SLIPPERY SLOPE
Steps will enable safer access on slippery slopes. When constructing the steps, build them across the slope, in a zigzag pattern if necessary. A sturdy handrail should always be included on slopes with a steep fall.
 
 
 
AERATE SLIPPERY TURF
Algae will actually grow on turf! Even without the algae, turf may become slippery. The answer to this is to scarify and aerate the surface of the lawn. This may be as simple as forking the surface of the lawn, or you may need to go further and hire a lawn corer. When you core the lawn fill the holes with sand and this improves drainage. You should also reduce shade and address any underlying drainage problems.
 
 
 
STOP GAP SOLUTIONS
If the problem only occurs very occasionally, or if you need a quick fix (perhaps because it’s rained just before an outdoor party), try the following solutions:
  • Lay down matting. Hessian, cardboard or even old carpets can be used in an emergency. Just be aware that wet ground will become compacted, so that even though people walking over the surface won’t be in danger of slipping, your lawn may become very damaged and could take some time to recover.
  • Lay down gravel/stones or sand on bare earth.
  • Lay down coarse sand, mulch or even sawdust on a lawn (but not too thick). The grass will eventually grow through.
  • Machine-sponge the surface. There are machines used by some green keepers for drying wet grass, although they’re not widely available.
  • You can purchase a range of commercial algacides that will kill algae on patios, paths, lawns, etc. Remember that the algae will grow back unless you make the conditions unsuitable for regrowth.