Planning your snow removal budget for the winter is tricky.
You want to make sure your contract covers all your winter needs. But what are your winter needs? And the big question: how much to budget for snow removal?
The goal: to protect everyone who spends time on your commercial property and minimize your organization’s chance of being exposed to snow and ice-related hazards such as slips, falls, traffic accidents, and property damage.
How to create a winter-proof snow removal budget?
Joey Schneider, branch manager at Level Green Landscaping, offers some helpful tips.
Why This Can Be Tricky
First things first. How much does it usually snow around here?
The average snowfall is 19 inches, Schneider says.
“That being said, we almost never get 19 inches,” he says. “We either get 30 to 40 inches, or none.
“We usually get a heavy snow year, followed by a couple low snow years.”
Tip No. 1: Use Your Math
“We recommend planning for five snow events a season,” Schneider says. “Find out what the cost for a 4-inch snow event would be and multiply that by five.
“If it costs $1,000 to clear your property for a 4-inch event, your snow removal budget should be about $5,000.”
Tip No. 2: Decide Your Tolerance
Do you have a high tolerance for snow, or low tolerance?
“If you have a high tolerance for snow, that means if it snows 2 inches or less, you don’t want to be plowed,” Schneider says. “That might work if your property is very flat. But if you have hills on your property, vehicles will slide.”
Because one of the main reasons to have your snow removed is to reduce liability, your snow tolerance is an important factor, he says.
“How much risk are you willing to take?” he says. “That’s a very individual decision.”
HOAs often have higher tolerance, he says, as residents are often responsible for clearing their own sidewalks.
The lowest tolerance clients are typically medical facilities, government offices and shopping centers, Schneider says.
“All these places are really concerned about slip and fall risk,” he says. “How much is a lawsuit going to cost you, versus having a snow contractor keep your property safe?”
Tip No. 3: Save Money By Limiting Access
Some customers decide to rope off part of their parking lot or close several building entrances to save money on snow removal, Schneider says.
“You can decide to only have a couple main entrances cleared and the fire escapes,” he says. “People will just have to walk a little farther.”
Tip No. 4: Don’t Just Guess
“Sometimes people just make up a number for their snow removal budget, as opposed to making an educated guess,” Schneider says.
There’s a better way. Ask us.
“We can look at the amount we billed you for a couple events from past years to help you with the numbers,” Schneider says. “We can tell you what you paid for a 2-inch event, a 4-inch event and an 8-inch event.”
Not sure how much to budget for ice?
“We have formulas and spread sheets that take your property’s square footage and it shoots out a number,” he says. “Then we use our expertise to help you figure out a budget and a plan.
“You might be over budget one year and under budget the next,” Schneider says. “But over three years it usually evens out.”
Tip No. 5: Waiting Doesn’t Save Money
“A lot of people say, ‘We’ll hold off until the end of the storm, and have you come out after it’s all over, when we have four or five inches,’” Schneider says. “They think that will save money.”
“That actually ends up costing you more,” he says. “If you wait until after there’s more than two inches, it’s not fresh snow anymore. It’s hard and compacted. Snow is cleared faster and with less labor if we come out earlier.”
Tip No. 6: Pre-Treating Won’t Necessarily Cost You More
Concerned that pre-treating your property before a storm will increase your budget?
Not necessarily, Schneider says.
“If we pre-treat with brine, that helps us clear your snow faster,” he says. “There won't be a big difference in your budget. You’re just putting your chemical costs on the front end instead of after the fact.”
In some cases, he says, pretreating means crews won’t need to plow at all.
Tip No. 7: Remember, There Are Rules
Tempted to just ignore the whole thing?
“In Maryland, you have to have any common area sidewalks clear within 24 hours after the snow stops,” Schneider says. “And your property has to be accessible to emergency vehicles within 24 hours, too. Even if a building is abandoned, a fire truck needs to be able to get to it.”
Tip No. 8: Extra Money? Save It
So, you budgeted for a typical snow year — but it didn't snow. Woo hoo! It’s tempting to ponder all the uses for that extra money.
Not so fast, Schneider says.
“We recommend that you not spend that money on something else,” he says. “Put it in reserve for next year’s snow budget.”
Next year could be a doozy.
Tip No. 9: Talk To Your Snow Removal Vendor
Still puzzled about how much to budget for snow removal?
We pride ourselves on our client communication. “We start talking to our snow removal clients before the snow season even starts, to make sure we’re on the same page with their tolerance level and our plan,” Schneider says. We update clients three to four days before a storm, then again 24 hours before a storm.
“Once we’re on their property, we let property managers know, with a text or an email,” Schneider says. “All they have to do is look at their phone, say, ‘Good, they’re there,’ and go back to sleep.”
Tip No. 10: Use A Single Provider For Your Property’s Needs
At Level Green Landscaping, we only offer snow and ice management services for our clients already under contract for landscape maintenance services.
Why? It means better service for our loyal customers.
When we take care of your commercial property year-round, we really get to know your property — before the snow falls. We know where the delivery trucks come in, and other areas where clear pavement is crucial.
If heavy snow damages your shrubs or a plow nicks a curb, we take care of it.
When you become our year-round customer, you have the ease of dealing with one landscape maintenance vendor. Your Level Green account manager is your dependable contact, whether you need help planting flowers or clearing snow.
Trust Level Green With Your Snow Removal Budget
Winter’s on its way. If you’re still puzzling over your snow removal budget, give us a call.
We’ll stop over for a free property assessment and consultation. We'll give you an honest evaluation of your best options.
Level Green Landscaping provides snow and ice management services for its commercial maintenance customers throughout Washington DC, Maryland and parts of Virginia.
Call us at 202-544-0968 or complete our contact form online to ensure you have the best snow removal company for your commercial property — before the snow piles up.