How to choose the right snow removal company

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Hi, my name is Damian Phillips. I operate a Snow Clearing company here in Calgary, Alberta. It can be tricky to choose a snow removal service, especially when there are so many to choose from in Calgary. Most seasonal trades (such as landscaping or window cleaning) will provide snow removal in winter to keep their trained staff employed and with the company.
It can be especially hard to choose when you are new to the service and do not know what to expect. Here are a few tips, pointers and questions to as to give you an idea if the company is reputable and can do the job properly and safely:

Snow removal

Will the company come out to clear when it is still snowing?

Some companies will wait to the end of a snowfall before they start their route. This can be days (or more!) from the start of a snowfall and allows snow and ice build-up. If it snows through the night and is still snowing, it is reasonable to expect the company to clear in the morning and return the next morning to clear the snow that fell after the first clear (one per 24 hr period is usually the max.)

Time work done & how soon after the snowfall?

What time will the company be at your property to clear it? This may vary as the time it starts and ends snowing will affect the time of the clearing. But on a standard day, when the snow happens throughout the night, what time will they clear by the next day. Usually the morning is standard, with heavy snowfalls this may push to early afternoon. You should at least expect it cleared when you return from work.

How soon after the fist snowfall will the service guarantee they will be at your property to clear it? Legally, the city walk must be cleared within 48 hours of the end of a snowfall, but good companies will ensure they are there long before this. This is especially useful with residential properties as people like a clear drive/property to come home to.

Where do they put the snow?

It is no good to clear the snow from the areas contracted, only to dump it where you don’t want it. i.e., they clear the driveway but dump it in the road in front of the drive. You also don’t want to move all the snow to your neighbor’s property. Sometimes there is limited space for where to put the snow. Try to be flexible and discuss this with the service provider.

Contract – for your peace of mind but do they tie you in?

It is always best to get a written contract (with terms and conditions, dates of coverage, areas of coverage etc.) This covers you, and if the worst happens, and somebody slips on your property, you have something to show you have made every effort to keep the property clear.

Most contracts will not only tie the service provider in to the full term but the client as well. If you want flexibility or haven’t worked with the company before, look for a contract that you can adjust or cancel at your request. This will give you a chance to test out the service without the risk of 4 to 5 months of payments for poor service.

Flexibility – from first snow

Nobody really knows when it is going to start snowing (least of all the weather man so it seems.) Whilst you will need to specify the dates you wish to be covered from/until, some companies offer the flexibility of beginning the contract form the ‘first snow’. This means that as soon as there is a snowfall that is deemed to be sufficient enough to need to be cleared, the service provider will be around to clear your property and commence your contract from then. This also means you never have to worry about clearing snow.

Residential Snow RemovalInsurance

The company you choose should have liability insurance specifically for residential or commercial snow removal. $2 000,000 is sufficient, some carry $5 000,000. This is important as any damage that can be caused to your property, other property, or persons by a service contracted by you will be covered by the insurance of the service provider and not your insurance or you personally.

The same goes for WCB. If a worker gets harmed on the job providing a service contracted by you, this will be covered under the company’s WCB insurance.

Coverage

The company should be capable of clearing all areas of a property. What areas of the property will they cover; City Walks are a must, as these must be cleared by law within 48 hours of the end of a snowfall. You can also include driveways,paths, decks, patios, back walks, bin areas. The service should be able to provide clearing for all of these areas if requested.

Experience

How long have the company been providing snow removal services, and are their staff fully trained. Will they clear up to the edges every time (so there is no build up, or ‘creep’.)

Equipment

What equipment does the company carry to use on a regular basis? Is it just shovels or do they have powered backpacks to clear the snow down to the concrete efficiently and safely. Do they have an Auger, or ‘Snow Thrower’ or ‘Snow Brush’ to clear the heavy snowfalls?

Some companies also have a truck mounted plow. This can be useful in parking lots or when there is snow buildup in front of drives or roadways.

Customer Service – Friendly, Reliable & Professional

As with all services, they should be provided in a friendly, professional and courteous manner. You are the boss and should be expected to be treated as such. The services offered should be explained to you and any questions you have should be answered gladly. You should be able to get a feel for the company by asking some of the questions above.

Good luck & Happy Wintering!

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About Patrice Métivier

Patrice Métivier is an experienced window cleaner and savvy businessman, now serving residential and commercial clients in Calgary, AB.