Is The ICE SAFE To Walk On?

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Ice Thickness and Safetyice safe to walk on

Every year we hear about people falling through ice and dying. When I speak to people about the safe thickness of ice, everyone seems to have a different opinion on the question, is the ice safe to walk on.

When is The Ice Safe To Walk On?

My son has a friend who lives on a pond and they are always playing and skating on the pond ice. The fact that he was going to be lured by the iced over pond made me curious and motivated me to find out what is considered “safe ice?”

No matter what you are planning to do on the ice – like fishing, snowmobiling, skating or just walking, it’s important to do some checking yourself before you go out on it.

You need to consider several factors in deciding when is the ice safe to walk on.  Factors such as temperature, snow cover and currents and most importantly the actual ice thickness all play a role.

Checking the thickness of the ice:

There are many ways to do this but being a carpenter, you guessed it, I’m going to check the ice using carpentry tools.

With a cordless drill and a long, 8′ wood auger bit, you can drill through eight inches of ice quickly. Use a 1/2″ or slightly larger bit.

It’s important to use a wood auger bit since they have a spiral called a “flute” around the shaft that will pull the ice chips out of the hole and help keep it from getting stuck, similar to how an ice auger works.

Ice Thickness Rules of Thumb:

  • 2 inches – STAY OFF
  • 4 inches of ice for a walking individual
  • 6 inches of ice for a snowmobile or ATV
  • 8-12 inches of ice for a car or small pickup12-15 inches of ice for a medium pickup truck.

What if you fall in?

1. Try not to panic.

2. Turn toward the direction you came.

3. The safest place to pull yourself back up on the ice is the last place you stepped before you went through the ice.

4. Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface of the ice.

5. Work your way up by kicking your feet.

6. Once you are lying on the ice, roll away from the weak or broken ice, don’t attempt to stand up.

What if my friend falls through thin ice?

1. Keep calm, have a plan.

2. Do not run out to assist the victim. You can go from rescuer to victim in a short second.

3. Reach the victim with a long pole, board, rope, blanket or cables.

4. Throw the victim a life jacket, empty water jug, or other buoyant object.

5. Build a human chain in which rescuers lie on the ice with each person grasping the feet of the person in front.

Play safe!


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About Who is Concord Carpenter?

~ Robert Robillard is editor of A Concord Carpenter and principal of a full service carpentry and remodeling business located in Concord, Massachusetts.

Rob is a recognized leader in tool and how-to information for building professionals.

He enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate on best practices in the remodeling industry. The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!"