Angie's List: Snow removal tips

We haven't seen much snow so far in Michiana, but remember last year when you woke up to find eight inches of snow?

Not only did you have to dig your way out, but you may have been late for work.

Have you done something about it this year? It may be time to think about hiring a snow removal company.

Snow removal is essential for safety and protection of your property. You don't want to be unprepared, especially when a big storm hits.

“Time is of the essence when it comes to snow removal. You want to get ahead of the snowfall so be sure to call around and find companies that are going to be able to be there for you when it does snow. Waiting until the day it snows means you're likely not getting your snow removed,” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List.

And planning now means knowing how much it going to cost to keep your property cleared.

“The cost for snow removal is determined by the size of your driveway and the number of sidewalks you have,” explains Hicks. “By planning ahead you can have an on-site estimate that is going to give you the best price you can find.”

And protect you from someone who's just looking to make a quick buck.

“Beware of companies coming door-to-door. Anyone can put a plow on the front of a truck and call themselves snow removal, but you want to be sure you have a company that's experienced, has insurance, and isn't going to damage your property while removing the snow,” says Hicks.

Snow removal has gotten more sophisticated.

Some companies can do more than just plow the snow after it's fallen.

"Most residential customers don't want ice melt, but there are some that may want ice melt especially if they have some kind of handicap so they need to also let them know whether or not ice melt is going to be required. And then another thing they need to know about is what is the trigger point in other words a lot of people may have a trigger point of 1-2 inches of snow and some people may have a higher threshold,” says John Right, a landscaping contractor.

And having trigger points is good if you only want to pay to have the snow removed when big storms hit.

Remember, chances are any given snow removal company has several clients, so you may or may not be the first on the list to get plowed. If you have any special needs that should give you priority, such as health conditions that could require treatment at a facility, let the company know.

Angie's List tips for hiring a snow removal company:
No matter whether you are looking for an on-going or one-time service, here's what you need to ask as you consider snow and ice removal services.

  • What services do you provide? Depending on the conditions forecast, many services are at ready to lay down salt or other deicers as soon as bad weather is expected. If a snow that can't be handled with deicing is expected, snow removal companies will plow, haul snow, and shovel sidewalks and other walkways in order to maintain safety.

  • What kind of staff and equipment do you use? Most companies employ radio dispatchers in addition to their snow removal specialists. They may also have at their disposal commercial grade equipment such as skid steers, front-end loaders, snow plows and pushers.

  • What planning takes place before the storm? Gather two to three on-site estimates so the company can plan for the precise services that may be required when a storm actually hits. Make a plan with the provider that will best suit your needs.

  • What is the cost, and how is it calculated? The cost varies on the market conditions of a particular area and current fuel costs. If you know you live in an area of the country that is likely to experience a certain amount of snow, you may be able to lock in a reasonable rate because the company will expect a minimum amount of work. Ask if cost is a flat rate, based or depth of snow, or by trip.

  • Ask about additional charges: Will the company charge more for large storms? What about if you need them to come out more than once a day?

  • Are you covered? Ask the company about licensing (if required in your area), check references and inquire about insurance and bonding. You want to be protected should the company damage your home or property during the snow removal process.

  • Manage your expectations: Chances are any given snow removal company has several clients, so you may or may not be the first on the list to service. If you have any special needs that should give you priority, such as health conditions that could require treatment at a facility, let the company know.

  • Read the contract: The company should provide you with a written contract detailing all aspects of the work. Be sure to read it before you sign.

  • Steer clear of fly by night companies: Beware of anyone who shows up unannounced in an unmarked vehicle offering to clear your drive. Just because they have a plow attached to a truck does not mean they are qualified to do the job.

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