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5 Reasons I Turn Away Some Ice Dam Customers

I don’t send my Ice Dam Guys® techs out to every person who calls.  Turning down business isn’t pleasant, because I know the person on the other end probably needs help.

But there are 5 situations where I have no choice but to let a would-be customer find another ice dam pro:

Turn-away reason #1: The customer insists on receiving an estimate over the phone.

It’s impossible to give an accurate estimate without looking at the ice dam first.  Some ice dams are trickier than others.  They’re also like fingerprints: no two are the same.

Some customers insist on knowing how long the job will take. Maybe they had an ice dam last year, and they know it took whomever they hired 4 hours to remove the ice dam.

But that doesn’t mean it will take 4 hours to get the job done this year.  It’s not the same ice dam.  The snowfall, wind, and temperatures were not exactly the same this year as last year. Different conditions, different ice dams.  And usually very different ice dams – even if they appear to be about the same size and in the same location.

Sometimes customers want to get around this by sending us photos or videos of their ice dam(s).  I’d love it if that worked, but it doesn’t provide us with enough intel to provide anything more than a very rough guesstimate.  For one thing, we don’t want to get up on your roof and remove half the ice dam only to say, “Umm, yeah…it’s probably going to take at least 2 hours longer than we expected.”  You won’t be happy with us!  We’d make lousy DMV clerks.

Even more important: we need to remove the snow covering your ice dam(s), so that we can see whether your ice dam reaches 5 feet or 20 feet up your roof. We also want to see whether you’ve got clear, hard, black ice. That stuff takes much longer to steam off your roof, whereas soft, porous white ice comes off with much less of a fight.

I understand: you don’t want to be sold, and you don’t want to spend more money than you have to. But people who are willing to give you telephone estimates are both inexperienced, and underbidding you.

No seasoned ice dam removal pro quotes ice dam removal over the phone, nor does he or she drive around handing out free estimates.

They know they’re underbidding, too. They just want to “get their foot in the door”. What’s going to happen is they’ll tell you 4 hours, they’ll be on the roof for 7, they’ll tell you it was “unforeseeable” and “unavoidable,” and then they’ll ask for more money.  (Think of Rudy the used-car salesman-turned politician in the underappreciated movie Used Cars.)

Or they’ll move too fast – trying to meet their time estimate and to keep you from breathing down their necks.  But they’ll cut corners and quite possibly damage your roof in doing so.

I want to save you headaches by insisting that an Ice Dam Guys® tech gets a first-hand look at the problem.

Turn-away reason #2: When customers can’t accept we don’t know how many hours are going to be involved until we’re up on that roof.

This is similar to the first issue, but not quite the same. Many times people will accept the fact that I can’t give them an exact quote, yet they’ll still ask, “But can’t you just give me a guesstimate of how many hours it will take?”

I don’t blame you. I’d probably ask the same thing if I were in the same situation (and maybe was new to the whole problem of ice dams).

But as is the case with ice dam companies that try to give you exact estimates, ice dam companies that try to give you rough estimates are just trying to get their foot in the door.

In a sense, the companies that give out rough-estimates are even worse than those giving out hard quotes over the phone.  At least you can make the hard-quote guys eat their words, before you write them a painfully large check.  The rough-estimate people will simply find a way for the job to take the maximum amount of time they quoted, and possibly additional time.

You may have heard of Parkinson’s Law, which says that if you’re given 3 hours to do a job you will find a way use up all 3 hours, but if you’re only given 2 hours to do the same job you’ll probably find a way to get it done.

Unethical and inexperienced ice dam companies operate by a slightly different law.  They’ll say they can get a job done in 2 hours – just to get their foot in the door – but they’ll end up taking 3-4 hours (or they’ll cut corners).  Let’s call it Palumbo’s Law.

One of the few times that a rough estimate is permissible, is after the snow has been cleared from your roof (fully exposing the ice dam).  At this point it is sometimes possible to give customers a fairly accurate guestimate of time.  Depending on the size of the job, even better would be to allow your ice dam removal technician to steam for an hour or two so that he can get a solid handle on how fast the ice is melting (i.e. is the ice popping off the shingles nicely or is the ice having to be melted from the top down).  There are so many variables in ice dam removal, it’s truly mind blowing.

If you still can’t accept that an Ice Dam Guys® tech must look at your roof in-person to provide a rough estimate, then we can’t help you.  I’d rather turn you down than let you down.

Turn-away reason #3: If we won’t have access to a water spigot, or water inside the house.

We need steam to remove ice dams. To make steam, you need water.

We can’t bring the amount of water necessary to remove these ice dams. Some ice dam companies do drive around with water tanks inside of a heated trailer, but there’s no guarantee they’ll have enough water, and it’s costly for them and in turn for you.  They’ll pass those costs on to you.  It’s about as good a deal as when you buy popcorn and a Coke at the movies.

What value does their water add?  This isn’t the Gobi.  They have water and so do you, and you’re paying for it either way, so the only question is whether you’ll pay their markup.

We need to use the water on-site. Usually this means turning on your exterior water (e.g. an outside spigot). The water will be flowing the entire time we’re using it, and it can’t freeze while it’s flowing. If your spigot happens to be frozen, we’ll use our commercial grade heat-guns (which look like heavy-duty hair driers) to get the water flowing, which usually takes only a few minutes.  Note that we use heat guns, NOT propane torches.  We’re not cavemen who just discovered fire and are curious about all its uses.  We’re also smart enough, and responsible enough to know that an open flame has no business anywhere near the exterior of your home!

If you’re adamant about not turning on your exterior spigot, we may still be able to gain access through a utility room or other internal source. But if you won’t give us access to your water, we can’t do the job, and we’ve got no choice but to turn you away.

Turn-away reason #4: When we deem your roof too dangerous.

The situation would have to be pretty hairy for an Ice Dam Guys® pro to say no, based purely on conditions.

Mind you, it’s not the most hazard-free job to begin with, and we are used to danger.  If as a kid I told my mother I wanted to be an ice dam removal guy when I grew up, she’d have slapped the back of my head and told me to go to actuary school.

But on top of the danger inherent in climbing on an icy roof, things like glass roofs, unusually steep roof-pitches, and homes taller than two stories give us pause.

Please let us know over the phone if there’s anything unusual about your roof or home – if we haven’t already asked you.  On the very slim chance we come to your home and see something that makes the job too dangerous, we’ll have to decline (but will let you know what we suggest).

We put safety first.  At the end of the day, we want to get in our trucks and go home to our families, alive and well.  Besides, your family probably doesn’t want to hear the sounds of news trucks and reporters in your front yard all night long.  Someone is seriously injured or killed every year as a result of falling off a slippery snow & ice covered roof.  We certainly don’t want to be part of that statistic.

Turn-away reason #5: You’re mean to us on the phone!

We’re nice, considerate, professional people. We understand ice dams can make anyone tense, but we can’t work with grouches, and never need to.

But Minnesota friendliness is contagious, so as long as the kindness bug is being passed around, we’re confident you’ll find that an unpleasant situation with ice dams goes by pretty quickly.

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