Piles, upon piles of snow everywhere. This winter the white stuff has been falling on an almost every other day rate, and many of you have at least considered hiring a professional snow plowing contractor. But how do you know you are hiring the right one? Here are some tips for hiring the perfect contractor for your snow plowing needs.
1.) Is the contractor insured? This should be the first question asked to any prospective contractor. There is a very high liability in the snow and ice management industry. Poor road conditions and poor visibility can lead to mistakes, which could add up to thousands of dollars. Can the contractor produce a certificate of liability insurance? Will the contractor be using employees or subcontractors to provide service for your property? Does the sub-contractor have the proper insurances? If employees are going to be shoveling or driving the plow trucks, does that contractor carry workers compensation insurance? If they do not, you may be exposing yourself to unnecessary risk.
A great resource for researching this subject can be found at The Massachusetts Division of Insurance.
2.) Is the contractor prepared? After the initial meeting with your prospective contractor, you should feel confident that you will be in good hands and that you are hiring a professional. This confidence is built on the contractor being able to explain thoroughly to you how the snow plowing process works; from the time of day he or she will arrive (ex. before work), all the way to the billing process.
Will the contractor provide marking sticks to minimize accidental damage, or will you be responsible for providing them? How will you be charged? Is there any extra charge for snow removal if there is no longer any room to store it on site? Where does the contractor plan on putting the piles? All of these questions and more should be addressed before deciding on a particular snow pro.
3.) Have the prospective contractor walk the property with you and point out any problem areas that may be of concern. By doing this, you will have a better understanding of where the contractor is deriving his quote from. Also, if there are areas of concern on your behalf, the contractor will be able to figure the time in making the quote as accurate as possible, leaving you a job that (hopefully) hasn't been rushed through.
4.) Usually when explaining to a potential client that they will be charged "x" amount of dollars "per push," I receive the inevitable deer in headlights look.
A push, in its simplest terms, is one pass through the property. For instance, if I was to charge $30 per push, that would mean that the cost to plow your driveway one time would be $30.
Depending on the contractor, the frequency of each push could be every four to six inches. This means that if you were to receive two inches of snow, you would be charged $30 due to the contractor having to plow the property one time. If you received 12 inches of snow, you may be charged $60 to as much as $90. This is where communication is key.
If you are not OK with the way the particular contractor charges, you should address your concerns to them. Better yet, if the contractor is observant of your reaction to the estimate, he or she should address your concerns over price and give you a reason why he or she charges that way. Again, if you don't feel comfortable, don't agree to have that contractor provide the service for you. You are the consumer and have the right to shop around for the best price and service.
5.) Contract or no contract? You should always, at a minimum, be provided a written estimate if you ask for one. Included in that estimate should be any areas of concern that you feel need to be addressed. It should also be signed by an authorized representative of the company.
6.) Can the contactor provide an "on call" service? If you have an emergency at an unscheduled time and need the property plowed immediately, would the contractor provide that service for you, and if so, at what cost?
7.) Ask for references. Any reputable contactor will have a slew of them and will be happy to provide you with a few.
8.) How many clients does you contactor service per truck? If the contractor has too many clients, you may be left waiting hours before you are serviced.
9.) Does the contractor offer a referral service? This can be an effective way of lowering the cost of your snow plowing service.
10.) Start looking early. If you've ever tried to find anything last minute, you know that you never end up with what you want. By being proactive and starting your search early, you will get the chance to ask around for recommendations from friends and neighbors. Nine times out of 10, if they are thrilled with their snow pro, you will be too!
John Rocharz is the owner of Well Done Landscapes and has over nine years of landscape construction experience.
Question or comments? Would you like to see a particular subject covered? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.