Forecasting Snow Removal Needs – Effective Seasonal Budgeting

Posted: Sep 30, 2023

Person walking down snowy sidewalk passing by parking lots and buildings

Budgets, budgets everywhere! Managing budgets is an essential task for business owners and property managers. While payroll, expenses, and overhead budgets are certainly important, one of the most important budgets for commercial properties is snow removal. Snow removal can be expensive, especially if you’re not optimizing your contract to fit your needs. By developing an effective snow removal plan and budget, you can maximize savings while ensuring that your property gets the services it needs.

In this article, we’ll go over how to create a snow removal budget that best suits your needs:

Weigh Your Snow Removal Contract Options

The first step in determining your budget for snow removal is deciding what payment model you want to use. There are five types of payment models that fit various needs and budgets:

  • Pay-Per-Push

    Pay-per-push is the simplest snow removal payment option, charging a fee for each visit to the property. This can be a viable option for areas that don’t get much snow, but it tends to be more expensive than other options when snow is more frequent or the property requires multiple trips to clear, such as if snow hauling is necessary.

  • Pay-Per-Event

    Pay-per-event typically covers a 24-hour period as a single “event”. This means you will only pay once per day, even if the contractor needs to make multiple trips during that period to clear your property. This can be easier to budget for than pay-per-push contracts, but it can still leave you paying more during heavy winters.

  • Hourly

    Hourly snow removal contracts work well for smaller properties or areas that receive little snow, when it may only take an hour or two to clear everything. However, hourly contracts can be incredibly expensive for areas that receive regular snow and greater accumulation. Hourly contracts also tend to charge extra for materials used, like salt and liquid de-icers.

  • Seasonal

    For areas that receive regular snow, seasonal contracts are typically the way to go. These contracts offer the full spread of snow management services for one flat rate, with contracts usually set for 2-3 years. The fixed rates are easy to budget for, and you won’t have any surprise fees or extra payments during particularly rough winters.

  • Full Service (aka Year-Round)

    Full service contracts are essentially the “premium tier” for snow removal. Most snow removal contractors offer landscaping and property maintenance when out of snow season, which you can take advantage of by opting for a year-round service contract. These contracts can lead to savings in the long run, as you typically get good deals on one full service contract as opposed to separate snow removal and grounds management contracts.

Generally, the best way to budget for a snow removal contract is to go with a seasonal or full-service plan due to their fixed rates and complete service coverage. However, these contracts may not be the best choice for all businesses.

If a pay-per-push, pay-per-event, or hourly contract seems to better fit your needs, here are ways that you can effectively plan a budget for snow removal:

How to Properly Budget Snow Removal Services for Your Commercial Property

  1. Decide Your Snow Tolerance for Service

    After choosing your payment model, you need to determine your snow tolerance, which refers to the minimum amount of snow accumulation required by the contractor to clear your property. Higher tolerances usually mean fewer services (and fewer payments), but setting your tolerance too high can leave your property unprotected.

    For businesses and commercial properties, the general rule is to set your tolerance as low as possible (usually 2 inches) in order to keep your property protected as best as possible. Setting your tolerance higher – say, 4 or 6 inches – greatly increases the liability risks you take on if there’s *just* not enough snow for the plows to clear sidewalks, parking lots, and other high-traffic areas of the property.

  2. Plan for Multiple Snow Events

    Putting together an effective budget also means planning for the number of snow events you may get during the snow season. A good rule of thumb is to plan for five major snow events per season, which is a pretty good average here in the Denver area. For pay-per-push contracts, keep in mind that you may need to allocate extra funds to cover multiple visits for the same event. On top of that, hourly contracts also need to factor in the amount of time it takes to clear your property.

  3. Plan for Ice Management Services As Well

    Per-push, per-event, and hourly contracts may charge extra for ice management and material costs. Icy conditions don’t need snow events to appear, which can leave your property at serious risk if you’re only paying for snow removal. A good rule of thumb is to plan for 20 to 30 de-icing services per snow season to keep your property protected even if there isn’t snow on the ground.

  4. Don’t Wait to Respond to Snow and Ice

    Although it may seem more cost-effective to wait out a snowstorm before clearing, waiting until after the storm has passed is actually more expensive than acting while it’s still snowing. Snow is more difficult to clear when it’s had time to accumulate and compact, and if it’s turned to ice, it makes the job that much harder.

    Pre-treating surfaces is an incredibly effective way to cut down on time and money spent clearing snow. Pretreatment will drastically reduce the chance of snow accumulating and forming ice, and in cases of light accumulation, it can sometimes mean that crews don’t need to plow at all.

  5. Save Leftover Money for Next Year’s Budget

    Just because you managed to survive one winter relatively unscathed doesn’t mean you’ll be as lucky next winter. If you do have leftover funds for your snow removal budget at the end of the snow season, save those funds for the next season instead of moving them somewhere else. This can give you an extra cushion in case the next winter is rougher and will ensure that you won’t be caught off-guard.

Looking for Commercial Snow Removal in Denver?

Consider Snow Management Services

Our team of experts has the equipment and experience to keep your Denver area commercial property safe during even the roughest winter weather. With more than 25 years of experience, we can tailor a snow management plan that fits your needs and budget. We are fully equipped to offer the full range of snow and ice removal services that will keep your property safe and presentable no matter what Mother Nature brings our way.

To see how SMS can help your Denver-area business or commercial property, give us a call today at (303) 750-8867 or get in touch with us online to get started.