An Inside Guide to Hiring a Professional Snow Removal Company




Chances are, if you own property in snow country, you have needed snow removed from your roof by yourself or by someone who claimed to know how to properly remove it. Unfortunately, many contractors who remove snow from roofs are not properly trained or are just downright dishonest.

Often what is portrayed as a “roof snow-removal company” is merely a group of guys with business cards and a truck. They have no clue how to properly remove snow from roofs without causing damage. And forget about having current liability and workman’s compensation insurance.

When to Have Roof Snow Removed

Trying to figure the weight of the snow on a roof can be subjective, as drifting or newer, wet snow can increase the snow weight on the roof dramatically. Continual monitoring of your specific roof snow conditions is recommended.

Here is a rule of thumb:

Basic Calculation (for a quick analysis, only). This calculation uses 25% moisture density, which may be conservative. As a rule of thumb, saturated snow weighs about 20 pounds per cu ft. The moisture content can range from 1% to about 33%, so snow can weigh from 1 to 21 lbs per cu ft.

(S) x (1.25) = P

S = Inches of snow on roof

1.25 = Weight of 1 sq ft of snow for each inch of depth

P = Pounds per sq ft

Example: A roof has 20 in of snow.

(20 in) x (1.25 lbs/sq ft)= 25 lbs/sq ft

Any ice buildup on the roof should be added. Use 5.2 lbs for each inch of thickness.

Roof snow load can be checked by weighing 1 sq ft of snow cut from the roof. This will determine if the snow load is getting close to the designated roof snow load.

Flat roofs, patio covers, drifted snow areas, and ice buildup can be high-risk areas that increase the weight per sq ft. These conditions may justify pursuing snow removal.

The roof drainage system should be checked to ensure it is not frozen or clogged with slush or ice buildup, potentially increasing the weight dramatically.

Be aware of the potential dangers of shoveling or raking snow from a roof. This kind of work is best left to professionals.


Wait as long as possible before having roof snow removed

Never. Roofs are rated for maximum weight loads, and they should never be tested. Once roof snow load has reached 50% of capacity (maximum load), the snow should be removed.

The only reason to remove roof snow is because of its weight

Weight is important, but there are other reasons as well.

When the sun melts the snow on the roof during the day and freezes at night, it causes ice to form on top of the snow. Snow that accumulates on top of the ice can cause roof avalanches to occur. Pedestrians should not walk under or near a roof that has accumulated snow after a sunny day.

Also, if ice dams are occurring, snow should be removed to allow the ice to melt naturally.

Snow removal companies have roofing liability and workman’s compensation insurance

No. Companies that are reputable, experienced, and have been in business for a while know the importance of carrying the proper liability and workmen’s compensation insurance. They take the necessary steps to ensure their clients are covered in case an accident occurs. On the other hand, “fly-by-night” companies think insurance is not necessary, and if an accident occurs, they shut down and move on.

If an accident occurs while work is being performed, and the contractor does not carry current liability and workmen’s compensations insurance, the building owner’s policy will be responsible for any losses. If someone falls and gets hurt, the owner will be responsible for his or her medical bills, loss of pay, etc.

Prevent this by insisting that a current Certificate of Insurance is sent to you by the contractor’s insurance agency prior to work ensuing. This will answer the important question: Do you have current liability and workmen’s compensation insurance?

Beware: Unfortunately, quite regularly, contractors will instigate an insurance policy and request a Certificate of Insurance from their agency. Once they get the certificate, they cancel the policy. When a homeowner asks for proof of insurance, they present the “certificate” they received from their insurance agency (certificates show insurance is in effect for the period of the policy: usually one year), while, actually, the insurance was canceled a week after it was initiated.

Prevent this by insisting that a current Certificate of Insurance be sent to the building owner by the contractor’s insurance agency.

Having the right equipment is all a company needs

Not true. Many companies own shovels, ropes, and ladders, but very few companies teach their employees how to use them properly. This is why it is important to choose a roof snow removal company carefully.

Unfortunately, possessing ladders, shovels, ropes and harnesses and setting out to “take the snow off the roof” doesn’t always end there. Often, along with the snow, they also take or damage shingles, ballast, or even membrane and possibly cause other damage to the roof, such as damage to gutters—all of which can create leaks. Just because someone has the equipment and the manpower does not mean he has the “know-how” to remove the snow and ice properly.

Any honest roof snow removal company should be able to give an accurate quote over the phone

I wish this were true, but it isn’t. Honest, reputable roof snow removal companies never price roof snow removal over the telephone. Instead, roof snow removal is usually priced by “time spent.” A “ballpark” figure estimate can be given, based on “like roofs” in the area. Exact costs are next to impossible to come by.

Alternatively, an owner can set a predetermined dollar amount of work to be accomplished. For example: “I want $600 of work to be performed on my roof.”

Estimating the cost of removing snow from roofs should consider three things:

  1. Size of roof
  2. Depth of snow
  3. Difficulty of removal

Beware of contractors who give an exact price to remove snow. They may be giving a “bait-and-switch” price–offering a low price to get the job, then halfway through or at the end, they will charge a higher price.

The Work is Always Guaranteed

Maybe. Maybe not. Any reputable company should guarantee all of its services. The contracted work will be safely and properly performed and should be completed to the owner’s satisfaction.

Necessary precautions should be taken by the company to prevent damage to the roof. Use of plastic shovels, not removing all of the snow (leaving a few inches), and using proper safety equipment are just a few of the requirements an owner should insist on.


Step #1

Make a commitment to get the roof snow removed properly. The longer roofs remain with heavy amounts of snow, the bigger the risk of damage to property or people.

Step #2

Ask specific questions. Here are thirteen questions to ask a roof snow removal company before they start work on a roof.

  1. How long has the company been in business?
  2. What method of roof snow removal do you recommend?
  3. What are the steps that you will take when removing snow?
  4. Where do you put the snow that is removed from the roof?
  5. Do you clear sidewalks and driveways if snow is placed on them?
  6. Do you have any references?
  7. What kind of shovels do you use?
  8. Do you remove all of the snow?
  9. How do you remove ice dams?
  10. What precautions do you take when removing ice dams?
  11. Are you liability and worker’s compensation insured?
  12. Will you have certificates of insurance sent/faxed to me?
  13. Do you guarantee your work?

Step #3:

Once you’re satisfied that you’re working with an honest, competent, professional, hire them to remove the snow from your roof. Do not give them any money until the job is completed to your satisfaction.

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