4 Critical Things To Look For In A Condominium Snow Removal Contractor

Every winter, it seems like a good old snow storm hits us in Edmonton and the snow removal companies are flooded with demand for their services.
In order to make sure that you and your property are taken care of properly, it’s important to learn what to look for in a condominium snow removal company.
Here are a few things to watch for.

5 Critical Things to Look for in A Commercial Snow Removal Company

1. Engage the right contractor

There are many different types of snow removal companies and each of them specialize in something different. Finding the company that specializes in your type of property is essential to receiving the right service.

There are typically 4 types of snow removal contractors that will work on a condominium:

1. The Small Residential Contractor

This contractor typically does single-family homes, duplexes, and other buildings with less than 10,000 sq. ft. of area needing clearing.

A smaller contractor can work out great for small to mid-size condominiums, especially if the contractor happens to be a resident of the condominium.
The larger size ensures it is their highest priority in their schedule, and if they are living on the property it will be their first effort in the morning.

Smaller condominiums (fewer than ~30 units) should try to find someone within the community to handle their snow removal as it is by far the most economical and ensures the property is cleared as soon as possible.

2. The Mid-size “Do-it-all” Contractor

This is where most snow removal contractors are categorized.
This contractor looks after mid-to-large condominiums, small commercial lots, HOA’s, strip malls, and the occasional parking lot. If it has snow and you have money, they’ll clear it. The mid-size contractor will take on any project that it deems large enough, and this is where it will typically run into complications and customer service problems.

Condominiums are often left ignored once this contractor picks up a Home Depot-level contract, and clearing the walkways and parking lot can take the entire day.

During this time, the snow at your condominium is trampled down, leaving a sheet of ice to be removed by the contractor once they show up. Some contractors will often make their problem into your problem, by using too much salt to melt the trampled snow. This can damage concrete and landscaping over time.

3. The Large Contractor

This snow removal company is likely an earthworks company that wants to put its equipment to use during the winter. They have large multi-site contracts with grocery stores, shopping malls, and massive parking lots.

When times are tough and they are looking for more work, they will often take on condominium projects to ensure they at least have some work for their machines.

Where you may run into problems is when they pick up a large project in the middle of the season and your project turns into an after-thought.

Larger contractors also have heavy-duty equipment that is not designed for the roadways typically found in condominiums. This can damage sidewalks and curbs, create potholes, and mangle landscaping.

If you have a 300 car parking lot, or a strip mall, this company can be a good pick, but make sure you’re the biggest contract they have or you may be left behind.

4. The Industrial Contractor

Are you overseeing an airport? Or a 300,000 sq. ft. industrial lot? Are you the manager of the West Edmonton Mall parking facilities?
If not, you have no reason to solicit estimates from a company that has these projects in its portfolio. Bigger is not better.


The Take-Away:

  • Ask the contractor for their portfolio.
    • How does your property compare to their average project size?
      If your project is substantially larger, you may want to go to a bigger contractor to ensure they have the right equipment for your property.
    • Is your property smaller than their average project?
      If it is, you need to be prepared to wait for them to finish their larger projects before coming to yours.
  • In general, it’s best to be the contractor’s largest project. This ensures you are high on their priority list and gives you more leverage when it is time to renegotiate your contract.



stores beside road

2. Have the right contract in place

Commercial snow removal companies are going to offer you a variety of snow removal services. Depending on the area you live in, you might have a need for recurring snow removal services where the contractor comes to the site as soon as possible.
The problem is, not all snow removal companies offer the same type of contract.

If your condominium is running on a small budget, you may want to increase the “trigger” amount of snow.
For example, a contract with a trigger of “on-trace” means the contractor will come out and clear the snow upon any amount of snowfall, even if it’s less than an inch. These contracts are typically priced higher as they require more call-outs.

If you are expecting a warmer-than-usual winter, you can save a lot of money by having a higher trigger, say 2 inches.
This will allow the snow to melt or blow away instead of having the contractor come out and clear it, saving you money on the monthly contract fee.

In the event that you do get a build-up of snow in certain areas (e.g. wind-rows), you can call the contractor out at their hourly rates to clear those areas. As long as you are getting fair and competitive hourly rates, the cost will be substantially less than having an on-trace trigger.

Your condominium demographics will also play a role in determining the type of snow removal services required.
A condominium with a large number of seniors will require more diligent snow removal to prevent slips and falls, whereas a younger community can handle some snow on their walkways without significant risk to their health.


The Take-Away:

  • Consider your budget and how much snow your residents will tolerate before it becomes unsafe or a burden. Make sure you communicate this decision to the residents if you decide to go with a trigger that is higher than on-trace so that they know what to expect.
  • Your condominium demographic will determine the amount of risk you are willing to accept. Senior-care homes and assisted living condominiums will require a higher frequency and diligence when it comes to removing all snow and ice from the walking areas.


edmonton snow removal

3. Set your expectations

Be sure to communicate and be upfront with the contractor on your condominium’s expectations.

As soon as you notice that something isn’t up to your standards, document it and look into the contract to see if this is an area that they should have completed or done a better job on. If you find that their service is deficient, send it (politely) to the contractor and ask them to return.

This is where it’s important to review the contractor’s portfolio before engaging in a binding contract. An industrial or large-scale snow removal contractor will have a different definition of “good enough” than a condominium snow removal contractor.

You may have certain areas that are high-risk, highly-trafficked, or perhaps it’s a resident that needs some extra care and attention.
Make sure the contractor is aware of this and has it in their project notes.


The Take-Away:

  • It’s easier to maintain a good working relationship with your snow removal contractor if you are clear about your expectations early on in the season. Ensure you notify them of any deficiencies early on so that they know the standards that you have.
  • Some residents and areas require more care than others. Let the contractor know ahead of time so that these residents or areas are taken care of properly.

White truck with yellow snow plow blade clearing streets after heavy snowfall in urban area with driver wearing yellow safety vest

4. Keep an eye on their timing and schedule

 When does the contractor show up at your property? This is a good measure of how far up their priority list you are.
If they are not showing up until the end of the day, or the following day, you may have an issue on your hands. (See item 1 take-away)

You want your property to be cleared as early as possible to avoid snow accumulation and ice build-up. If the contractor has other larger projects, they may extend their “time-to-clear” period to 48 hours.

The standard contract states that snow will be cleared within 24 hours of cessation of snowfall. This means that the contractor has 24 hours to get to your property and have it cleared after it has stopped snowing.
If they try to extend this to 48 hours, it’s a sign that your property is far down their list of priorities, and your property will have areas that are high-risk in that 48 hour period.
If your estimate/contract has that 48 hour period clause, you should be requesting a lower rate if their price is comparable to other contractors with a 24-hour time-to-clear clause.


The Take-Away:

  • The time it takes for the snow removal contractor to show up at your property is a good indicator of how high of a priority your property is to them.
  • Keep an eye out for high time-to-clear periods. Anything over 24 hours is a sign that the contractor has you towards the end of their schedule. If you do see a period higher than 24 hours, try to negotiate a lower rate.

Macsson Snow Removal is an Edmonton based company that provides snow and ice management services for Condominiums in the Greater Edmonton area.

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