Better Business Bureau: Winter storm damage? Hire the right people to help

Milwaukee, Wis. – When major snowfall impacts an area, it’s not uncommon for problematic companies to capitalize on the situation.

The Better Business Bureau is here to help. Historically, out-of-state contractors will solicit in areas that receive significant storm damage and increase marketing for snow removal and snow damage repair services by soliciting door-to-door and by targeting advertising on social media and websites, such as Craigslist.

As ice dams build on roofs due to an abundance of snow, water damage may result due to melting snow being prevented from draining properly. While it is not unusual for contractors from various construction-related industries to offer assistance in mitigating ice dams and winter storm repair, it is important to do your research and hire companies you can trust.

Professionals point out that when attempting to make winter storm repairs or remove snow and ice from a roof, your safety is most important. If you are unable to make repairs on your own or remove snow and ice from a roof in a safe manner, BBB can help by providing a list of businesses that specialize in the type of repairs needed or provide ice and snow removal services. Companies that obtain the seal of BBB Accreditation have been found to meet and abide by BBB Standards regarding maintaining a positive track record in the marketplace.

Find a snow removal service near you and roofing contractors near you on Apply the filter to your results if you want to see only BBB Accredited Businesses.

Hiring a snow removal service contractor:

  • There is a wide range of fees being charged for ice and snow removal. Make sure to ask questions: Is the hourly fee per job or per worker? Does it include the removal of snow from driveways and walks? Some companies charge a “flat fee,” plus an hourly fee just to go to your home; ask what is included in the “flat fee”. Obtain all of this information in the form of a written contract and avoid paying the full fee in advance.
  • Does a municipality require the contractor to have a permit or license? Before you hire anyone, make some calls to find out and then check to make sure the contractor is appropriately covered.
  • Make sure that the company has CURRENT liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Check the contractor’s vehicle. See if it has signs or markings on it with the business name, phone number, and license plates for your state.
  • Check to see if a contractor is registered by checking with your attorney general.
  • Expect that a contractor may not be able to provide immediate service, especially during an unexpected major snowfall. Many contractors are receiving a lot of calls and can’t set up appointments for several days.
  • Understand that there is no guarantee that the problem won’t happen again. Many contractors are having customers sign waivers stating that they aren’t responsible for damage incurred by their ice and snow removal and there is no guarantee against future ice buildup.
  • Be careful of contractors soliciting door-to-door. Ask for proof of the company’s reliability; how long the company has been in business, a business card and physical contract with the name, address, and phone number of the company, references, and contact your BBB to see if the company has a Business Profile.
  • Contractors should supply the homeowner with an estimate for repairs caused by damage. It’s generally recommended to obtain at least three estimates. Some contractors may tell you that you don’t need to see an estimate and that they’ll send it directly to your insurance company. Insist that you get a copy.

Read more information about hiring a snow plow contractor.

Short term remedies

  • A “short-term” remedy is to create water runoffs through the ice and snow so there is water discharge off a roof. Creating the runoff may unavoidably damage the roof. This unavoidable damage is a tradeoff, but may be less severe than the interior damage caused by leaking water.
  • Some contractors may suggest that rock salt or calcium chloride be used to melt the ice and snow. This again may cause unavoidable damage. Some manufacturers of roof shingles don’t suggest this, as it may cause damage to the shingles and void the manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Ice in gutters and downspouts is virtually impossible to remove without damage. In many cases, the gutter system has to be removed from the roof to allow for water to discharge. This may not eliminate ice dams that are caused by interior heat.
  • Flat roofs on which the drains freeze will trap water on the roof system. The trapped water may accumulate to levels higher than the roof flashings, resulting in water leaks. The downspout needs to be removed and the drain may have to be cleared of ice so there is discharge.
  • Skylights covered with ice and snow may cause leaking because of their “weep holes” being covered. Internal condensation can’t escape causing water. Make sure the contractor is aware that there are skylights, so they don’t damage them if they are buried by snow.
  • If inside water leaks occur and form “pools” of water in the ceiling, puncture a small hole in the ceiling and allow water to escape into a container. If water is running near an electrical source, shut down the circuit breaker.


  • Notify your insurance agent and if you aren’t sure, find out what kind of homeowners’ insurance you carry. Depending on your insurance coverage, certain things may or may not be covered.
  • Once a claim is filed, your agent will notify the insurance company, who will assign a claims adjuster. Expect a phone call from the adjuster to discuss the claim or to set up an appointment to inspect the damage. They will be processing many claims, so please be patient.
  • Keep good records of ALL costs for repairs.
  • Safely attempt to minimize your loss by removing personal property from any damaged area. 

For more information

See our winter storm resources page.

Read more about BBB Accreditation Standards and BBB Standards for Trust. Learn how to become a BBB Accredited Business.

For an online version of the story click here  For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.