by Louis Yannotti,
Concrete expert at Premiere Concrete, Los Angeles
Not all concrete contractors are created Equal
Finding a qualified, reputable concrete contractor, like finding any service contractor can be a challenge. Here’s a brief overview of things you can do to have a good process in place to make the best decision you can regarding this key contractor.
Ask Your Friends
Probably the most logical place to start is with asking friends that have direct experience with the type of job you are contemplating and with the contractors they used. Look at the result of their job and hear what they have to say.
Consider input with a grain of salt; don’t necessarily count this as your sole hiring measure. It’s just a starting point. You still need to do your own leg-work and satisfy your qualifications.
Online Directory Customer Ratings
Customer ratings are a well intended feature of online service directories. They can be very helpful in sourcing companies of interest. However, be warned- believe it ore not, there are people that spend time giving anyone-everyone negative comments; who knows the reason why. The lesson here is to look for consistency in reviews and companies. Then, when you have your list narrowed down, check for yourself.
Check for BBB and State Contractor Complaints
Most cities have a Better Business Bureau and all States have State Contractor Boards in which you can check the validity of a contractors license and to see if there are valid complaints. They are online and easy to access. Contractors don’t necessarily have to be ruled out solely because they have complaints. It may serve you well to dig deeper to see if complaints were unreasonable or questionable. It may also be prudent to see if/how issues were satisfactorily resolved. Anyone can deal with easy jobs: the ones that are successful with challenging ones can be your best candidates.
Check Local and State Government Building Agencies
As you might imagine, governent agencies will most likey not provide recommendations, but some may provide their list of approved contractors. Although nothing is absolute, you may be able to infer that if contractors you are considering are on their list that those contractors have been vetted and have a track record. Once again, you still have to verify findings for yourself.
Interview Your “Short List” of Contractors
Like any hiring process, interviews are standard procedure and expected. There are subjective things to sort out: if you would be comfortable working with the person representing the company. On top of that find out the tangible, quantifiable things like how long long they’ve been in business, their number and type of license, any complaints or pending lawsuits, schedule backlog, primary contact, payment terms and experience with the type of work you will be contracting for (i.e. driveways, walls, stain, stairs, structural, etc.). If you know a General Contractor you trust, see if they can be part of your review process.
Simple check list item: call or contact people, companies or agencies the contractor has worked for.
Go to Active Job Sites
Of course you can: see what there is to see regarding the state of the job site; who is there, their work ethic, how they interact and how the site is maintained.
Concrete Mechanics- What To Look For
Concrete work is art and science. It should look and be picture perfect. If concrete is applied incorrectly, underlying soundess as well as cosmetics can be adversley affected. Here’s a few things to be aware of when looking at finished concrete work.
The finish: concrete that has been incorrectly cured, mixed or mixed with too much water will break down rapidly. Hydration, shrinkage and movement are foremost enemies of concrete work. Look at the concrete surface for the following finishing red-flags: spalling, pop-outs, flaking, discoloration and cracking. Also, there should be no standing water, cracks, foot prints, trowel or edger marks.
Joints and slope: placement of concrete control joints is vital. Sidewalks should have joints every four to five feet with driveways having joints no farther than eight feet apart. Sloping concrete slabs is vital for water run-off.
Concrete is an aggregate Earth surface; it is a formulation that expands, contracts and hardens. Implementation must be planned, mixed and applied correctly.
Along with awareness of some of the things to look for regarding your choice of a concrete contractor, having clear understanding of your project, budget, timeline and expectations will put you in a reasonable place to make this important concrete contractor decision.
The above is a thumbnail sketch of things to be aware of. We hope it is helpful to you. If you have any questions about this, feel free to call or email us.