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Bandwagon Ice Dam Removal Companies: Why and How to Avoid Them

This winter, hundreds of out-of-work handymen will flock to Craigslist like it’s New Orleans during Mardi Gras.  Then they’ll swing by GoDaddy, where they can build a website for the price of Natural Ice.

The party is at your house.  Instead draining a keg, they’ll drain your checkbook.  They know you’ve got an ice dam on your roof that concerns you, and that as a concerned homeowner you’ll probably pay good money to avoid leaks and all the damage that can accompany them.

For the sake of your home and your hard-earned money, you must avoid what I call bandwagon ice dam companies.

You might see their yard signs in the snow at major intersections.   They want you to call them for your ice dam removal.  And you certainly can.  It’s that easy, for you and for them.  There is no such thing as an ice dam license (though there is a misleading “certification”), and there’s nothing stopping any vagrant from climbing on your roof to operate heavy equipment.

You do not want these guys on your roof.  They can destroy your roof, drop ice on things you value, fall off your roof and sue you, or surprise you with gotchas when it’s time to write the check.

How do you tell the good guys from the bad guys?  It all starts with asking some questions of them and doing a little online research.  If you get them on the phone and don’t already know they’re legitimate, here are the questions you’ll want to ask:

“Are you an ice dam specialist?” 

You don’t want someone who’s just opened up a little side business for ice dams. You want a company that does nothing but ice dam removal every snowy winter, all winter long, and for many winters (or decades).

There safe and effective ice dam removal is a science and an art.  It takes years to develop.  This is a skilled line of work.  The scary part is that anyone technically “can” do it, but the question is can they do it without ruining your home, and are they properly insured to protect your finances if something goes wrong?

“What can I do to prevent ice dams?” 

Bandwagon ice dam removal companies have no interest in telling you how you can remove ice dams.  They want you to keep getting ice dams so they can keep getting work from you.  Imagine a dentist who tells you to eat Jolly Ranchers before bed.

We’ll always tell you how to prevent ice dams in the future, but the bandwagon people will lie and say there’s nothing you can do.  They may throw you a bone, but it will be vague advice about insulation and ventilation.  They won’t dare mention that you can prevent ice dams by raking your roof.

“Are you fully bonded and insured?” 

It’s OK to ask for a copy of their insurance policy. In fact, we strongly recommend it.

If you call an ice dam company and say, “Are you insured?” they will almost always say “Absolutely!”  But how do you know if you don’t see a copy of their certificate?

And if they do have insurance, are they even covered specifically for ice dam removal?

If you don’t see the words “ice dam” somewhere – anywhere – on their certificate of coverage, they might very well not even have the right kind of insurance to do what they want you to pay them for.  Now is when you can hang up like a DMV clerk.

If the clod who gets on your roof is not insured correctly and gets hurt, then he can sue you, even though the whole thing is his fault.  Forget about getting a dime if he damages any of your property.  His insurance company will probably deny the claim altogether.

“Will you help me repair the damage caused by ice dam leaks?” 

Personally, no.  That’s outside of our wheelhouse.  But we’ll probably be able to tell what issues caused your roof to collect ice dams in the first place, in which case we’ll often refer you to qualified contractors.

Fly-by-night contractors will just tell you to call someone else, while they move on to tidier pastures.  They’re simply scooping up hundred dollars bills and moving onto the next distressed homeowner. 

“Do you have staff to help?”

When you call, does the guy on the other end sound like he’s on a roof or idling his truck and nursing a cigarette?

If you didn’t get through, did you later receive the kind coarse-sounding voicemail that only a coarse contractor can produce?

OR do you get a friendly office attendant whose only job is to take your call and to answer your questions?  Doe she or he actually seem knowledgeable about ice dam removal – and not just taking appointments?

If someone answers the phone with a friendly and professional voice and you choose to stay on the line, one of your questions should be, “How soon can you end someone here?”  It’s good if they can get a technician out to your home quickly.  If they can’t, you’d only be getting Mayberry service (minus the charm) for Manhattan prices.

“Do you carry redundant equipment?”

Ask what happens if there are equipment problems.

Remember, we are running hot water through metal components in below-freezing temperatures.  Malfunctions can arise.  Sometimes we can make an adjustment and keep on going.  Other times, that piece of equipment is simply done for the day.

That’s why we almost always have backup steamers ready and waiting to be exchanged for a broken or frozen one.  Our technicians also have spare hoses, along with a giant repair kit that includes every possible replacement part that could realistically be fixed on-site.  Not to mention that we employ our very own full-time mechanic. Our resident grease monkey knows these steamers down to the washer, and often walks our technicians through a problem over the phone.  His only job is to keep our technicians running.  He’s Houston to our Apollo spacecraft.

We cover every possible redundancy, and spare no expense in doing so.

A bandwagon ice dam removal company, on the other hand, will leave you twisting in the wind – likely with a giant roof leak over your head – while they bumble toward a solution that may or may not work.  By the time they order replacement parts, thaw their machine, and/or wait for their turn in line at the local mechanics shop, your home will soak up thousands of dollars more of damage.

There is no substitute for professionalism. 

There are no advantages to using a bandwagon ice dam company.

They may sound cheaper over the phone, but the price you hear usually isn’t the price you’ll end up paying.

They can’t necessarily service you fast enough to help you out when you’ve got an emergency.

Their work may be sloppy, in that they may leave ice and snow on your roof (AKA ice dam ingredients), or they may take out some of your shingles, or both.

They don’t care enough to treat you right, because they know there’s no chance you’d be a return-customer.  They may never be in the ice dam removal business again anyway.  Remember: ice dam removal is just a side hustle to them.

Soon they’ll go back to doing asphalt or whatever it is they do, and you’ll be left to deal with the consequences of either their inexperience or lack of integrity.

If you wouldn’t feel comfortable buying a used car from them, don’t entrust your home to them.  Pick the ice dam company with impressive reviews  and a reputation to uphold.

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