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Should Your Ice Dam Removal Company Be Specialists?

I’ve often warned homeowners of hiring ice dam “professionals” that are really asphalt layers, plumbers, roofers, or out-of-work handymen, or just opportunists.  As I’ve said before, there is little to stop any joker from hanging his shingle and claiming to be an ice dam professional.

Of course, it’s not inherently bad for an ice dam remover to do something else during the summer.  Ice dam removal is a seasonal, niche business.

So what makes the difference?  Here are a few factors you should consider when trying to gauge how serious an ice dam removal company is:

Do they treat their summer business and their winter business as two separate businesses?

Each business should really be filed under its own LLC, S-Corp, or Corporation.  It should be registered with the state, and you ought to be able to find both businesses listed on the Secretary of State’s website (https://mblsportal.sos.state.mn.us/Business/Search).

Make certain that the ice dam removal business is in good standing.  Also, it should have a name that reflects what it does.  If all you see is “Gary’s Gutters,” you should at the very least, be concerned.  Gary may be a great gutter guy, but he’s probably in the ice dam removal space only to scrape together enough money to last until spring.

Each business should have its own website.  That means separate website names, and separate content that describes their services and showcases their expertise in detail.  Their site should be more than an online brochure or business card, with one lousy page on ice dam removal.  If they have expertise, they should share it – if only as a show of good faith that they’re not total deadbeats, and are willing to put in a little effort to win you as a customer.

Most of all, their ice dam removal business name had better be on their policy.  You want someone who has made that investment and who is prepared to pay in order to protect you – not someone who will cut corners because he’s uninsured (or improperly insured) and has nothing to lose. 

How long has the company dealt specifically with ice dams?

Experience counts.  And there’s a little trick contractors like to play, especially when they pick up a new area of expertise.

They might say, “In business for 35 years!” even though they only got into ice dam removal last year.  They’ve been Asphalt, Inc. for 34 years, but have only been Acme Ice Dam Company for one year.   Beware of this wordplay.  There are only about a half-dozen serious ice dam removal companies out there (and that’s a stretch!), but I’d say there are a hundred-plus that advertise falsely that they’re the first, the biggest, they’re specialists, etc..  

There are ways to tell if you’re dealing with a newbie ice dam removal company or a seasoned one.   These methods aren’t foolproof, but here are a few ways to get a sense of whether you’re looking at the varsity boys:

  1. Find out when they purchased they domain name.  (Visit www.whois.com and enter the name of their site.  You’ll see lots of info on that website, including the date it was registered and who registered it.)
  2. How long ago did their get their first customer reviews? And not a review posted on their website!
  3. Read their “About Us” page.
  4. Check their Better Business Bureau page.

I’m not saying someone who has only been in the ice dam business for a year or two can’t do a good job.  It’s just hard for you to tell, and it’s more of a roll of the dice.  If possible, choose someone more experienced.  Someone who is less experienced but is ethical and dedicated to the trade should do OK.  But that doesn’t mean your house needs to be his shakedown cruise.

If the company hasn’t passed these hurdles, we don’t recommend hiring them.

You don’t want to hire a company that treats its ice dam removal business as a hobby.   Even if that company has technically been removing ice dams for 10 years, you still may be sticking your neck out.

(Want to know some other ways you can evaluate ice dam removal companies? Check out my list of things to look for.)

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