How to hire for snow removal
Homeowners in the north, midwest and northeast are MIRED in the season of heavy winter, when snow, wind, ice and other treacherous weather rules our lives. What the forecasters call a "weather event" can mean hazardous duties for many homeowners with an ice- or snow-filled driveway and sidewalk.
The dangers can extend to the roof, too, when an ice dam forms. Dirty gutters are the primary cause. "If the four corners of your gutters are filled with leaves, you'll probably see ice dams at those four corners," says Miguel Wong, owner of Century Lawn Care Co., an A-rated firm in Evanston, Ill.
Like many landscapers and lawn care professionals, Wong's company takes on the winter chore of snow and ice removal. He also removes ice dams, which is treacherous work because the job requires ladders and is done with hand tools on an icy roof.
Landscapers usually give snow removal priority to their regular clients. "We pretty much take care of our customers first," says Theresa Zingrone, co-owner of highly rated Zingrone Landscaping in Pittsburgh. "That would be any customer who used our services over the year."
She has a mix of younger families, older couples and businesses among her clients. Some customers sign up for service whenever there's a 2-inch snowfall. Others may request services for ice.
The cost of snow removal varies on whether the job requires plows, hand shoveling and the application of ice melting chemicals. "I just charge a flat rate of $40, plus $10 if hand shoveled," says Andy Jefferson, owner of highly rated Northside Landscaping and Supply in Noblesville, Ind. That cost covers an average driveway.
About 50 percent of Jefferson's snow removal customers are residential. Some have the 2-inch requirement and "we just show up and get the job done as quickly as possible," he says.
Homeowners also need to consider where the contractor can dump the snow, he adds. Ideally, the snow can be scattered in the street, but sometimes it needs to be deposited at the end of a driveway. In that case, the contractors should try not to cover up landscape plants, which can be killed or severely damaged by the lack of light or weeks sitting in ice or soggy soil. Ice or snow treated with an ice melt also can damage plants.
Most snow removal companies offer three types of ice melts. Consider how each option affects your landscaping.
Sometimes known as the Hoosier Gardener, Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp lives in Indianapolis. A freelance writer, her work appears in many publications, including The American Gardener and Garden Gate. Sharp also speaks about gardening throughout the Midwest and is a director of the Garden Writers Association.