Hire a Concrete Contractor... Advice and Tips on Selecting a Good One
So it's time to hire a concrete contractor and hopefully one that will give you your money's worth. As a contractor myself, I can tell you that none of us do anything the same way. From the materials we use to the messes we make (or don't make), each contractor will have a different approach to the project. For that reason, it's important to find out exactly what you're getting with each quote.
If this is a decent size project (new patio, driveway, floor staining, etc.) and not just a tiny repair or routine maintenance, then I suggest getting at least 3 estimates. There are several places to find contractors that give free estimates including the phone book, online referral services, and referrals by word of mouth. Some contractor referral services will take care of the search for you and have screened contractors contacting you.
Questions to Ask for Pouring New Concrete Projects
Here are some questions you should be asking to help compare quotes.
- What type or strength of mix do you use?... Most concrete jobs, other than footings and walls, should be poured with a mix that will have 4000 psi compressive strength or greater.
- Will the concrete be reinforced?... I'm not saying the concrete has to be reinforced, but adding it does raise the material cost.
- How long will the job take?... This is a judgement call on your part. A typical patio or driveway shouldn't take more than 2 or 3 days if the weather cooperates. You don't want the guy that get's started and then leaves for a couple weeks.
- How soon can you start?... Obviously you don't want to wait months on end to get the job started, but the good contractors are usually booked out at least a few weeks or so. If a contractor says he can start tomorrow, that should raise a red flag.
- What will the site look like when you're done?... This is a question most of my potential customers don't ask, but I make a point to answer it anyways to help close a deal. Some contractors will destroy a yard just to pour a small patio, while others will leave it looking like they were never there (except for the new concrete of course).
- Do you have pictures of previous jobs?... A good contractor will proudly show pictures of his own work and not just hand out product brochures.
- What happens if it rains on the new concrete?... It happens more often than you think. I take full responsibility for any damage that inclement weather may cause. But this also means my customers don't get to influence my decision on whether to pour the concrete if there is a chance of rain.
- Is there a warranty?... Most contractors offer a one year warranty. If it's longer than a year then you better read the fine print.
Questions to Ask for Overlay, Staining, Sealing Projects
- What products do you use?... They sould be contractor grade products. If they're using brands you've heard of that you can get at the Home Depot, that should be a red flag.
- What prep work is done?... Anytime you do something to the surface of concrete, some sort of prep work is needed. Unless it is just a reseal job, prep work should involve more than just a basic cleaning.
- What type of sealer?... Sealer can make all the difference, especially for interior concrete. An epoxy or urethane sealer will last much longer than acrylic, but costs more. Both can produce the same appearance upon completion, but what about 6 months or a year from now?
- Will walls, doors, baseboard, etc. be taped off or covered?... Overlays and staining can be messy, so protecting surroundings is important unless you want to do a bunch of cleaning or repainting.
Selecting the Contractor
The lowest bid always sounds tempting, but is rarely the wise choice. Remember, you usually get what you pay for. This doesn't mean that the highest bid is the best choice either. Ask for some references and check the BBB. When it comes to concrete or any skilled trades, it's always best to choose a company that specializes in that particular trade. Don't forget the old saying "A jack of all trades is a master of none".
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