New Hampshire winters invariably bring snow and ice, and with it, inconvenience and safety concerns. Fortunately, Belknap County has a variety of companies that can help when these storms arrive. Unfortunately, not all of these companies are the same, and it’s important to consider several questions when you’re choosing a provider.
Here are 7 Things You Need to Know Before Hiring A Snow Removal Provider in the Lakes Region
Are they experienced?
Snow removal is a service that has an influx of new providers every year, and invariably during or shortly after the season, these new companies disappear, commonly leaving clients struggling to find a new provider. Additionally, plowing snow requires practice to do it effectively, safely, and without damaging your property.
Ask providers how many seasons they have plowed snow. Will they be plowing, or will one of their employees be plowing? Do they have a training program? Can they provide you with references?
Are they insured?
Do not hire a service provider who is not insured. Insurance is not optional for a professional provider, and a lack of insurance is a glaring warning sign. If they are insured, do they have enough coverage?
Someone working on your property should have you, their customer, as well as their own company’s and employee’s protection in mind. As a good practice, they should carry commercial coverage in the following types at the following limits:
- Commercial General Liability of at least $1,000,000 for each occurrence and $2,000,000 general aggregate coverage.
- Commercial Auto Liability of at least $1,000,000 combined single limit. Some small businesses assume their personal auto insurance is enough. However, if they are using a personal vehicle to do business, their personal policy will not cover them in the event of an incident.
- Workers Compensation Insurance of at least $500,000 because if they do not have it, and something happens, the customer may become liable. Even a sole proprietor should carry this, even though the state of NH does not require them to have it.
- To cover any higher claims in any of these areas, it is a good idea to carry Commercial Umbrella Liability coverage of at least $1,000,000.
A customer can ask the contractor for a certificate of insurance from their insurance company, and it can be faxed or emailed to them so they can be sure the contractor has the proper coverage. It comes directly from their insurance agent.
Do they have the proper equipment?
While a small pickup truck with a 6′ plow may work fine for removing snow from many driveways, professional equipment is a good indication of a professional organization. Professional equipment is built to withstand the rigors and abuse of recurring use and is better able to provide the demands of the task. Larger properties, in particular, will require professional equipment.
Similarly, how much equipment do they have. If your snow removal service provider only has one plow truck, what is the plan if the truck breaks down during a storm?
Are they certified?
There are many certifications snow and ice management professionals can have. In New Hampshire, there’s one, in particular, that is important. Living in the Lakes Region, we understand how important water quality is for our lakes, and salt runoff is a serious concern. Lakes like Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, Squam, and Newfound need the safeguards a mindful, certified ice management company can provide. That’s why we believe Green SnowPro certification for salt applicators is essential. Through a partnership with the NH Department of Environmental Services, and the UNH Cooperative extension, Green SnowPro provides education, resources, and accountability that help us protect our lakes and waterways. Providers holding this certification have attended the aforementioned training, maintain a knowledge of best practices, and follow local and industry standards to reduce salt runoff into our fresh waterways.
How many employees do they have?
It’s not unusual snow to fall continuously for over 24 hours in our area. If your provider does not employ enough people to operate snow removal equipment in shifts, they may either need to work for an unsafe number of hours to cover the storm or abandon their plowing routes for rest. The prior is dangerous, and the latter may mean they are unable to meet obligations in some instances. A good practice is a minimum of 2 employees per piece of equipment, with more being desirable to cover emergencies, sickness, or other challenges in staffing.
Do they actually provide the service you expect?
Some providers offer full-service snow and ice management. This offers a comprehensive 24-hour service and is the best option for property owners or managers who expect a proactive and responsive solution. This service does require periodic proactive monitoring of the client’s property. If you’re considering this service, inquire about the monitoring practices of the service provider. How often do they check the property? How do they keep track? What exactly do they look for? Do they pretreat surfaces?
What if you need Out-of-Scope of work services?
In many instances, general snow and ice management is sufficient for most properties. There can be instances that a unique service may need to be performed, and it’s helpful to know if your service provider can assist in these circumstances.
Can your provider assist in pushing back snowbanks? Sometimes larger snowbanks may need to be pushed further back as they encroach on the driving and parking areas. Large snowbanks can be very heavy, and some smaller equipment may not be able to achieve this task.
If you need snow hauled away, are they capable of doing this, or do they have a relationship with another contractor who can? Snow hauling is typical in large commercial spaces, and it can take a lot of resources to achieve. Most small service providers do not have the internal resources to do this on their own.
If there are slips and falls on your property, can they provide you with detailed service information? Many service providers utilize GPS and camera systems to track their equipment and services provided. This tracking is especially common for providers who offer slip and fall coverage as part of their service agreements.
Do they remove snow from rooftops? As snow accumulates, the load burden on roofs can create a dangerous situation. Many snow and ice management companies offer this service, but it’s helpful to know about this option before you realize a need. Scheduled services with existing clients are typically less costly and better performed than emergency services performed by whoever is available.
Regardless of your specific snow and ice management needs, a little bit of homework and asking the right questions can save you a lot of time and problems. From Gilford to Tilton, Laconia to Meredith, there’s many options in central New Hampshire for your winter maintenance needs. Don’t feel like you need to settle for a service provider who cannot meet your needs.