The cold weather is here and some locations have received several inches of snow fall. Removing mounds of snow can be a chore. Perhaps your plan is to leave the shovel in the garage this winter and hire a snow-removal contractor instead. Before you do, the Better Business Bureau recommends the following tips:
- Get several estimates. Prices can vary widely and are usually based on the amount of work, which takes into account the layout of the property, size of the area to be cleared, and whether the customer, in addition to plowing, requests shoveling or snow blowing to remove excess snow from other areas. Remember, the least expensive service is not always the best service.
- Ask the contractor about additional charges and price options. Beside the quoted price, there are sometimes additional charges during large storms. After the snow reaches a certain depth, some snow removal contractors charge by the inch, so you'll want to find out how the company calculates the size of the snowfall. Other contractors may offer a fixed price for an entire season, regardless of the amount of snow.
- Make sure you know what services you're getting. Find out exactly what's included in the estimate. Are the walks and steps included? What about the cost of sand and salt? Will the company clear only after the storm, or during the snowfall as well? If the contractor has to come back, is there an additional charge? Ask if the company will remove heavy snow loads from a building roof top? Is there an additional charge?
- Ask for references and check them out.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau for a business reliability report on the contractor you're planning to use.
- Do not settle on an agreement over the telephone. The contractor should provide you with a written agreement. A representative should come out to examine your property and make notes about the service requested and potential obstacles. Before you sign the agreement, ask who will be responsible for damages, such as cracked driveways or broken gates. Ask if the contractor is insured or bonded. Also, find out how you can terminate the agreement if necessary.
Your expectations should be realistic. Keep in mind that a snow storm makes traveling difficult for you and the contractor. During major snowfalls, workers are required to use more caution when plowing and traveling, therefore it may take longer for the contractor to reach you and do the contracted work.