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The Perils of Tire-Kicking: How People Who Call Too Many Ice Dam Removal Companies Get Confused

Doing some research before you pay for something is just good common sense.  That’s especially true when you’re considering ice dam removal – a necessary service, but not a cheap one.  It can sometimes be a wise decision to call a few companies.

But oftentimes homeowners call too many ice dam companies – and end up confused.

I know that because customers all too frequently call me and tell me I said things I’d never say. 

For example, we tell all of our customers that we charge a 2-hour minimum rate.  Some of them get angry when we tell them this, claiming that when they called us earlier we said there was not a minimum charge.  They accuse us of changing our “sales pitch” and being dishonest.

The trouble is that we’ve never seen any ice dam job take less than 2 hours to complete safely – therefore we’ve always had a 2-hour minimum charge.  We have to set up all of our equipment, find and connect to a water source, remove the snow that the ice dam(s) are buried under, and then use the steamers with enough finesse that your shingles don’t come off with the ice dam.  The cowboy technique doesn’t work so well with ice dams.  But some homeowners don’t want to hear that they’ll need to pay for at least 2 hours of work.  We’d like to give you the cold hard truth on the phone rather than on your roof.  Only twice in more than 15 years of ice dam removal have I seen a job take a bit less than 2-hours to complete.   

Some less-experienced, less-judicious, or less-honest ice dam companies will guarantee a certain number of hours to complete your job.  We don’t do that, and we won’t do it even if every other company told you they did.  We’ll tell you our average times for the winter, but we’ll make it very clear that your job could take far longer than the “average.” We need to see the roof in-person and remove the snow covering your ice dam before we can even begin to think about taking a stab at how long the ice dam removal process will take.

Our competitors quote all kinds of crazy prices.  We’ve heard it all.  Every year some customers call us and claim that we gave them a different hourly rate when they called earlier.  Sometimes they say “I called an hour ago and you said you were $1,000 an hour, now you’re telling me you’re $475 an hour?”  Others say “You told my daughter you were $275 an hour, but now you’re $475 an hour – that’s price-gouging!”  I’m sure it does get confusing when you call more than a few companies and don’t take accurate written notes.

By the way, we’re sad to say that every season we have at least one person who puts the decimal point a bit too far to the left.  At one point in 2015 we were charging $475.00 an hour but a customer thought it was $4.75 an hour.  Heck, for that kind of money we could leave the steamers at home and thaw our beards in the warmth of a McDonalds kitchen, where we flip burgers.  We’ve truly heard it all!

Confused customers will say “Nobody told us you had to have access to our water!”  Maybe another ice dam removal company “didn’t” tell you, but we sure did!  One of the first things we tell homeowners on the phone is that we need a water source, so our steamers can steam.  We tell them in the beginning of our conversation, and at the tail end of our conversation. 

Some people will tell us we promised them a 10-man team, when we never did.  They may think this huge team would make a difference in the amount of time it takes to clear the roof.  It does not.  Remember, only one person can operate a steamer at a time, and the steamer is what’s doing the deicing.  Unless you have 10 spigots and a roof the size of an aircraft carrier, getting a “team” typically means that all you’re paying for is a frat party. 

So how can you avoid getting all of your ice dam guys mixed up?

First, choose 2 or 3 really reputable ones to research.  Pick the company with the reviews that give you the best gut feeling.  Scribble your list on a piece of paper.

Then visit their website. Read their content.  Do they share what they know, or does their website exist for the sole purpose of “Shut up and call us”?  Jot down any questions you can think of.

Now, call and clarify anything you need to get clarified.  Lay on your questions.

Don’t wait around to call, either.  Hire the guys who make you feel most comfortable. Your ice dam isn’t getting any smaller while you window-shop every single ice dam company in town (9 out of 10 of which are out-of-work contractors looking for some extra winter income).  Do your research, ask the basic most important questions, choose the best company, hire them, and stick to your decision

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