What to Look for When Hiring a Concrete Company
- By texcon
- 5 Feb 2018
Working with concrete can be an appealing do-it-yourself job when the stakes are low and the amount of concrete is minimal. But because it’s easy to make mistakes that can affect the strength and durability of concrete in the long-run, it’s better to hire a concrete contracting company for large-scale projects. When you can’t afford to commit costly errors, you’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing that your project is in the hands of knowledgeable professionals.
But this begs another question: how do you choose the right concrete company or contractor? There are plenty of things to consider when hiring a serviceperson, and today we want to guide you in the process of hiring a concrete specialist.
Concrete Is More Than Just Concrete
First, you must determine the extent of the services you require. Maybe you are quite confident about your ability to prepare a site for a building pad, for example, but simply need a large amount of concrete delivered in a ready-mix truck. A concrete supply company would generally suffice. However, you may still need to spread the concrete and finish it. You’ll also need to know how to properly cure the concrete.
But it’s more likely that you need a concrete project to be tackled by professionals from beginning to end. In that case, you need to look for a more comprehensive service than just concrete delivery.
A concrete contractor will be able to perform the necessary site work to ensure that concrete is poured onto sturdy, level ground. Without stabilizing the soil, for example, the concrete is more likely to sustain cracks as the soil shifts underneath it.
Just some of the services that a concrete contractor must be able to perform, before concrete is ever delivered to the site, include:
- Soil stabilization
- Rough grading and final grading
- Building concrete forms
- Placing rebar
Because concrete can get thick and heavy the more it is “worked,” it’s best for it to be poured as close to its final destination as possible. However, it might need to be spread around a little. The concrete professionals will also take care of this.
Before the concrete dries completely, some extra touches may be added. For example, on a warehouse floor, it is common to lightly score the surface of the concrete in order to add traction. For more decorative purposes, stamps and colorants might be added.
Finally, concrete must be cured. If concrete dries too quickly, it can crack. Although it seems counterintuitive, the surface of the concrete must be kept consistently moist for as long as two weeks (depending on various factors like the weather and the specific type of concrete used) in order to properly dry. Curing is very important not only to prevent cracking, but also to ensure that it is as strong as possible. Improperly cured concrete is weaker than it should be.
All this is to say that when hiring a concrete contractor, you should find out exactly what services are offered by the company. It’s also wise to be very upfront about your needs so that you get an accurate estimate.
What to Look for in a Good Concrete Contractor
Once you know what you need and are ready to talk to concrete companies, you’ll need to do some additional research about each company or contractor.
If you do a quick Google search or even flip open the Yellow Pages, you’ll likely find dozens of contractors. How do you find one that will do a good job?
You can weed out a few contenders just by doing a little extra research online and making a few phone calls.
Let’s take a look at the qualities of a good concrete contractor, plus how to find one that you trust to do the job right.
- Prior experience in the services you need. Obviously, you wouldn’t hire an electrician to do a plumber’s job, so why hire someone who isn’t a concrete specialist? It’s never fun to be the guinea pig, especially when you are paying for these services. Look for a contractor who specializes in concrete installation.
But remember, concrete installation is more than just concrete. So if you need excavation and other dirt work performed, a contractor who can do it all (which is sometimes called a “turn-key concrete service”) should be your priority. Likewise, if you need decorative concrete, someone who specializes in structural concrete might not have the skill set or tools that you need.
Look online for a portfolio of previous work to gain confidence in a contractor’s ability to install concrete.
- Good customer service track record. Concrete contractors probably won’t have hundreds of reviews or testimonials online. If they do, great! Read the reviews you do find to get an idea of what to expect. One or two unhappy customers is to be expected in absolutely any industry, but review after review that expresses dissatisfaction is a sure sign to stay away.
You can also check the Better Business Bureau to see if any formal complaints have been filed against the company.
- In lieu of reviews, look for other signs of good customer service. Not everyone is in the habit of writing reviews when they’ve had a good experience with someone’s service. A company without online reviews is not necessarily an inexperienced or bad one.
So if you do come across a local concrete contractor that seems like a good fit but has no reviews, don’t cross them off your list yet. If they have a website, look for some signs of good customer service, such as an easy way to get in touch with them, mentions of payment options or guarantees. Test the water yourself and give them a quick phone call to ask a couple simple questions. If you’re treated like you’re wasting their time, move on.
- Ask for references. It’s completely normal to ask any contractor for references to help you make a decision. So if you don’t find those public reviews, call or email the contractor and ask for references.
And let’s not forget the power of word-of-mouth! In fact, maybe one of your friends or neighbors recently had some concrete work done by a professional. Ask who did the work and whether they are satisfied. Even if they have some complaints, their experience can help you determine what kind of questions to ask other contractors.
- Insurance. Professional contractors know how important it is to be fully insured in their line of work. This is a physically demanding occupation, and accidents can happen at any time, especially when heavy machinery is involved. Contractors should never rely on the client’s insurance to cover their needs. Their own risk and liability should be the concern of their own insurance company, leaving you risk-free and with valuable peace of mind.
- Professional qualifications. Virtually anyone can market themselves as a concrete contractor, but wouldn’t you feel better knowing that the person you hire has had some sort of training, education or credentials?
The best professionals know the importance of continuing education. Years of experience becomes a moot point if they don’t bother to understand the latest research and techniques. Yes, even in the world of concrete, advances are being made all the time.
Look for or ask about qualifications such as professional certifications, awards, and education.
- Location. If you live in a small town or in the country, your only options for contractors might be located in urban areas. Concrete contractors are typically willing to travel to job sites within, for example, a 50-mile radius of their home base. However, there might be travel fees associated with a longer journey in order to cover the cost of fuel and billable time spent on the road.
There may be a few concrete contractors closer to you, and if cost is your chief concern, they might be able to offer you the best deal simply because there are no travel fees.
- Affordability. This is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back for many people, but it’s important to understand that quality and higher prices go hand-in-hand. When a contractor earns a reputation for being an excellent craftsman with great customer service, he can afford to raise his rates. Lesser craftsman with poor customer service rely on low rates to draw customers in. Think hard about weighing the pros and cons of price versus quality. Rarely can you have them both.
However, many concrete companies understand that this is an investment, and that you may not be able to pay in full upfront. They will often require a certain percentage to be paid before work begins, but then may offer payment plans like Net-30 or Net-60, in which you have 30 or 60 days to pay in full. It all depends on the individual contractor or company’s policies.
To help you make a decision about each contractor or company you interview, make a priority list. What matters to you most? Will you splurge for a contractor who has a proven track record? Or is affordability the factor that will ultimately decide who you choose to hire? A simple spreadsheet can help you weigh the pros and cons of each contractor as you do your research. It’s worth taking the time to find the right person for the job so that you have confidence in your decision.
Interviewing a Concrete Professional
When you’ve got your Top 3 or so choices, it’s time for an extended interview. Because you want to have the contractor’s full attention, it’s a good idea to schedule a time to chat in advance. This could be a 15-minute or longer phone call. Also, it’s normal for you to talk to a business representative, since the craftsmen themselves often hire office staff to keep up with phone calls, paperwork, invoices, etc.
Have your questions written out and at the ready. Ask about the essentials, like their services, insurance or payment options, right away if you weren’t able to find this information out in advance. If you don’t like what you hear, there’s no reason to continue the conversation.
Describe your project, including whether or not you think you’ll need services like excavation or decorative stamping. Explain that you’d like an estimate. Estimates can typically be given over the phone, but know that if you are in need of a particularly large structure, the contractor might ask to visit the site or see blueprints for accuracy.
Ask about a timeframe and schedule. How long might it take to complete your project? When is the earliest that the contractor could begin? If you’re in a hurry, this can be a crucial factor in deciding who to hire.
Ask any other questions you may have that would give you confidence in your choice of contractor. No question is too silly. A contractor with good customer service will take the time to explain what he does and why he does it so that you never feel like you are paying for unnecessary services.
It’s okay to ask about worse-case scenarios too, like, “What happens if the project runs behind schedule? Will I be given a discount?” or “What are your refund policies?”
If the project will take several weeks to complete, ask about whether the contractor will give status updates. If you are in charge of hiring a contractor for your place of employment, these status updates will keep your own boss happy, not to mention any investors or backers. If the project is just for you personally, it still helps to keep an open line of communication between you and the contractor regarding progress and any potential hiccups.
And hiccups do happen. The weather might not cooperate, or a machine might break down. Good contractors hedge extra time into their estimates to account for these scenarios.
At the end of your phone call, don’t feel pressured to say, “You’re hired!” right away. Thank the contractor or business representative for talking to you and inform him that you still need to call a few other companies, but you’ll be in touch.
When All Is Said and Done
Once you make a decision to hire a concrete professional, you’ll typically sign a contract that stipulates the work that is to be performed, the materials that will be bought, and the total cost of the project. Then work can begin.
And when everything is finally complete, be sure to leave a review or testimonial to help other people make an informed decision. Whether your experience was perfect or left a lot to be desired, you know how useful reviews can be. Pay it forward!