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No Such Thing as an Ice Dam Removal “License”

Sometimes people call me up and ask me if I’m “licensed” in ice dam removal.  I say no, because there’s no such thing as an “ice dam removal license.”

For better or for worse, there isn’t really any regulation of ice dam removal. It’s one reason you need to be extra careful when you’ve got ice dams and need help.

Because you can’t vet based on licensing, you’ve got to look at other factors, like the length of time the company has been in business, whether or not they specialize in ice dam removal, the amount of detail on their websites, and the reviews they’ve got on other websites. (You can ignore any testimonials posted on their website; anyone can write those.)  Tip: Pay more attention to how long a particular company has actually been removing ice dams than how long they’ve been in business.

So if a company claims they’re “licensed” ice dam removal professionals, they’re having a bit of fun with words.

They may have some type of license.  A few people who offer ice dam removal have contractors’ licenses, for example (us being one of them). This would allow them to build a home, remodel a home, or pull a permit.

Of course, that doesn’t have much to do with steaming multi-ton ice dams off your roof.  But hey, you asked whether they’re licensed – not what they are licensed in.  Technically they’re right.  Maybe they’re also licensed attorneys (although I doubt it).

But they’re misleading you, because none of that has anything to do with getting the ice off your roof. Saying, “I’m licensed” is a marketing tool.  Heck, we’re licensed to spray pesticide in the summertime, but we’re not going to advertise that we’re “licensed” in the context of ice dam removal.  Again, misleading.  But…we are licensed contractors, and that’s spelled out in black and white within our website if you click on our license number.  The fact we’re licensed contractors may give you some amount of relief (and it rightfully so – it should), but we’re not specifically licensed in “ice dam removal” and we’ll be the first to clarify that if you ask us “Are you a licensed ice dam removal company?”

If someone says they’re licensed, go to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry website to see (or whatever state he or she claims to be listed in) to see exactly what kind of license they have.  If you see a contractor’s license you can roll your eyes a little, but still consider doing business with him anyway.  If you don’t see any license at all then you know they’re taking you for a ride, and you should run the other direction.

Maybe there should be licenses for ice dam removal.  If that day ever comes, I’ll be the first in line to get one.  I’ll camp out like it’s the opening night of a Harry Potter movie.

But what we have – and what any other responsible ice dam removal company has – is proper insurance (as well as experience!)  Whomever you hire needs to be properly insured.  That’s because you want to know you’ll be covered if there’s any accidental damage to your home, or if – heaven forbid – your technician is hurt while on your roof (or if he takes a spill off your roof).

Even then you have to be very careful about wordplay when you hear the “we’re fully insured” schtick. Why do I keep italicizing the word “proper” you ask?  Because a lot of guys will tell you they’re insured – as in they’ve got car insurance.  People like that are obviously scammers, and you should absolutely not hire them, no matter how desperate you are for help.

But even more common are people and/or companies that are insured with a general liability policy, but their policy doesn’t cover the act of ice dam removal.  Think about it: if Bob the plumber (temporarily “Bob’s Ice Dam Removal”) damages your roof, do you think Bob’s general liability policy is going to cover him for damage caused while on your roof steaming ice in the dead of winter?  No way.

Bob the plumber may very well be masquerading as BobsIceDamRemoval.com but his insurance policy is for plumbing and other related tasks commonly performed by a plumber.  Ice dam removal certainly ain’t one of them.  The same is true of landscapers, concrete dudes, some general contractors, etc.  If their certificate of general liability insurance doesn’t have the words “ice dam” somewhere on that certificate, there’s a very good chance they are NOT covered for ice dam removal – and they may not even know it.  Some contractors and business owners simply think that because they have a General Liability policy, that they can run around performing any kind of service they’d like, and they’re covered.  Not so.

You need to be sure that the ice dam removal service you choose, not only has a general liability policy, but just as important is the fact that their ice-dam-related business name is listed on that policy.

The same is true of workers’-compensation insurance.  If someone falls off your roof and gets injured, without workers’-comp insurance you may soon find yourself lost in the wild eyes of a bankruptcy attorney.

Do your online research, ask the tough questions over the phone, and then trust your gut.  It’s OK to ask an ice dam removal professional for a certificate of general liability and workers’-comp insurance.  The fly-by-night guys will drop like flies.  And remember: if you don’t see the words “ice dam” or “ice dam removal” somewhere on that certificate (for both general liability and workers’ comp), tell them to take a hike.

There may be a few uninsured companies floating around out there that actually know what they’re doing.  If you’re comfortable taking that risk, go for it.  Even in a game of Russian roulette you’ve got a few empty chambers.  Just know that if something goes wrong – and it often does in this dangerous business – you’ll be on the hook for it.  Do your due-diligence.

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