How to Choose a Contractor

SOLIDForm Concrete stamped concrete patio

Written by Scott Weaver

Scott is the owner of SOLIDForm Decorative concrete with over 17 years experience in general construction and 7 years specializing in concrete installation & replacement and decorative concrete.

March 2, 2021

Do you know how to choose a contractor? Specifically, how do you choose a concrete contractor for your concrete driveway or concrete patio?

You hear a lot of stories these days about people being ripped off by contractors or contractors not showing up or doing the job incorrectly. If you’ve ever watched the show Holmes on Homes, you see all kinds of things that contractors can do to people. Most of the time the homeowner doesn’t know how to select and deal with a contractor.

The good news is there are ways to vet contractors whether it’s a concrete contractor or any other trade. The following is a step-by-step guide on how to choose a good concrete contractor. This formula will also work for other trades, such as remodelers and basement waterproofing.

Do your research online to find out concrete installation best practices for things like site footprint, ground prep, and installation procedures | How to choose a contractor

Identify if you want your concrete contractor to seed and straw your yard or if you’re planning on doing other landscaping yourself or with a landscaping company. Make a list of everything you learn in the form of questions. Some people look up costs which may not be too helpful. Most pricing online at places like Angie’s List show pricing based on ideal conditions for just the pouring part of the project. It’s also skewed by new home builder pricing where the concrete contractor is only installing concrete with no site prep (that’s done by other companies) and promised volume by the builder to the concrete contractor. With volume new home builders have more buying leverage than a homeowner. That’s why it’s important to understand the full scope of what you’re asking the contractor to do for you.

Create a scope of work | How to choose a contractor

To choose the right contractor, be prepared with a scope of work so that you can make sure you get consistent pricing should you get multiple bids. Draw a picture and look up pictures online of exactly what you’re looking for. Comparing apples to apples is important. If you did your research and took notes, you can create a scope of work. It’s important to share this with the contractor right before he leaves. This is an important part so I’ll say it again: wait to give the concrete contractor the scope of work until right before he leaves. The reason why is you want to see what questions he has, which are just as important as the information he gives you. The consultation of the contractor or salesperson is important for you to understand how good they are, what their concrete installation procedures are, and how they normally do business. Of course, they may not be very good and not go over any of it.

Who do you want to work for you? Someone who is thorough and detail-oriented and upfront who recommends the right way of doing things? Or someone who just measures and gives you a price? I’d recommend knowing and understanding what you are getting.

Find a concrete contractor online at places like Google, Yelp, Bing, & Yahoo | How to choose a contractor

It’s important to find a concrete contractor that is online because it helps demonstrate legitimacy and an investment into their business. It also keeps the contractos honest because if they do bad work or have more unhappy customers than happy customers their reviews will be under 4 stars.

It also shows you that they won’t just disappear. You can see their work for yourself on their website and make sure they do the type of concrete work that you are looking for. Not all concrete contractors do decorative work or they don’t do it enough to be really good at it.

New home contractors usually don’t have a website and normally do basic broom-finished concrete that you would see on your driveway. They also don’t know how to properly quote homes, which may sound good to have a cheaper price; however, cheaper isn’t better. You can run into problems with the contractor asking for more money to make the project work or they walk off the job and leave you hanging when they find out they won’t make the profit they thought they would.

At SOLIDForm, we frequently run into driveways placed by builders who use sand or pea gravel, which leads to shifting, sinking, and major cracking. It’s also most of the time 3.25 inches thick because they use 2x4s, don’t check grade, thickness, and base work is never checked by the site supervisors or even homeowners.

Builders grade is just that: cheap. It’s installed that way for volume, so they can get 3 driveways done in a day. 5-inch concrete thickness is recommended for a driveway and thicker at the apron where the driveway meets the road. All of these poor concrete placement techniques will increase the likelihood of concrete needing to be replaced after a
few years. Concrete driveways and concrete patios should last for 30-40 years if poured properly.

Would your rather have cheap from someone who is used to pouring concrete that way and have to have it redone in five years? Or do you want a professional who will bring these things to your attention and helps you get a concrete slab that lasts for 30-40 years?

Schedule concrete consultations (estimates) | How to choose a contractor

You’d be surprised at how many contractors simply don’t show up. We’ve run into contractors that won’t even come out and give prices over the phone. Neither of these efforts gives you a true consultation. You’re not a concrete expert and that’s ok – you need someone who is. Someone who will help you with ideas and suggestions and asks what you want not what he’s going to give you.

This is how mistakes can be avoided in not only pricing but the end product. After all, concrete is permanent and hard to correct after it’s done. Having a contractor come out to your home gives you a lot of information: Do your personalities work together? Do they ask good clarifying questions? Do they have good ideas/suggestions? Do they ask you what you want besides just ‘how big’? How much information do they cover? How helpful are they? Are they driving an old beat-up truck with holes in their jeans or are they driving a company truck and shirts with logos on them?

These are all huge differences in the quality of contractor you’re getting. Again, concrete is permanent and not the trade to find the cheapest price. You want a quality contractor who will not to stop in the middle of a job and take your money, or give you something different than what you intended.

Pay attention to details | How to choose a contractor

Make sure to pay attention to the details during the concrete consultation – and ask good questions. You
purposely want to hold back some information because you want to understand how the contractor would do it.

If they would suggest to pour you a 3-inch slab with pea gravel, for instance, then you know they do poor quality work and I wouldn’t hire that contractor. You will get a good idea of how good they are at business practices by their presentation or lack thereof.

If they are honest and answer questions correctly but just don’t have a good presentation, that’s ok. As long as they are at least helping you with good suggestions. Although most questions should be answered in a presentation, you can ask questions as well if they miss some information. Here are some ideas:

How thick do you pour concrete? What kind of base do you use under the concrete? Will my concrete be level or will it have fall and how much? Do you install rebar or is that not important? What kind of rebar do you use? Do you dowel the rebar into the house or adjoining slab? Do you use fiber mesh? Do you seed and straw after your done? Do you clean the street and my driveway? Do you own your own equipment or rent? How many workers do you have? Do you have an office person and salesperson and project manager?

All of these details build you a picture of who this concrete contractor is and what kind of company he or she operates. These things give you an insight into how they do things but also what kind of customer service you’re going to get. If the owner is doing it all, you’re generally going to get bad or lower quality of customer service and everything will be rushed and messy once you sign on with them, including your site when they leave. Concrete should never be rushed and nor should customer service.

If you’re looking to support small businesses, do so but determine what the limit is for that? Our suggestion is that they at least have enough help to get the job done correctly and make it an enjoyable experience.

Analyze and sign with your contractor | How to choose a contractor

Once you decide that the contractor fits everything you’re looking for, it’s important to do this last step. Make sure you have all your questions answered, and if you don’t, ask first.

You may get a quote in different forms. They may handwrite it, send a proposal via email, give you a quote in their presentation, or they may send over a proposal/contract. Any of them is acceptable but the first one.

What you want to see is the scope of work listed out along with the price, so you understand if they missed something you can get that corrected and the quote will be accurate. As an example, that could be a problem later if you think seeding/strawing is included but it’s not in his quote so he asks for more money. It’s also important to ask if it excludes anything so you fully understand what you’re getting and not getting. It sounds like the same question twice, but it’s important to be on the same page with your contractor. You also want to ask for proof of insurance for both business and equipment, workers comp, and secretary of the state certificate. All of these things will tell you if this is a legitimate company. If they don’t, don’t sign and find someone new.

Read through all the fine print. You may have questions about something they have in their terms and conditions and it’s ok to ask for clarification.

Lastly, pay close attention to payment terms. You should never pay a contractor in full upfront for the job. They should have a draw schedule. Concrete is so fast that they may not want multiple checks over a day or two. It may be 50% draws or 33% draws on longer jobs. Bigger more lengthy jobs, such as remodels, it may make more sense to do 25% draws.

Do they accept cash only? Legitimate concrete contractors take all forms of payment including cash, check, and credit/debit cards.

How would you feel if you paid a concrete guy $2500 cash and he left mid-job or failed to show up at all? Or worse, his company never even legally existed.

What do you do and how would you feel about that? My suggestion is to follow the steps in this guide so you never have to be in that situation. You can also simply call us at SOLIDForm to provide you with a proper concrete consultation.

At SOLIDForm Decorative Concrete, we strive to be the best at concrete driveways and concrete patios, but we also educate and give customer service that makes getting work done at your house an enjoyable event with mutual expectations. Our process is designed to give you a truly custom concrete flatwork project, using the best available concrete placement tools and techniques. Even if it is a basic broom finish concrete patio, we want to make it fit how you need it to.

  1. We do have an online presence on as many platforms as we can as well as different websites including Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, and online maps such as Apple Maps & Google Maps. Our website is designed for you to see what services we offer and some of the work that we have done and have many more pictures we can share with you as well as our latest reviews.
  2. We have a template scope of work that we adjust for each client as the job needs are sometimes different. Everything is listed out in the order of what we do and how we do it.
  3. We are a concrete contractor that does things based on best practices by the American Concrete Institute and the latest technology in tools and installation procedures, such as vibrating screeds and floats.
  4. Our concrete consultations are designed to ask questions to clarify what our customers are looking for. Once we help the customer come up with size and shape based on use, we educate the customer with visually with pictures and talk with them so they fully understand what to expect in getting their concrete work done from the first day till we pull out and leave.
  5. All of our concrete work includes grading the area free of grass and at the correct depth for steps, crushed limestone base, 3/8-1/2-inch rebar, and poured at 4 inches for concrete patios & 5 inches for concrete driveways with aprons per county code. We pull all the permits if needed, and we clean up the site, seed & straw everything we mess up with our equipment, and power wash your driveway and/or street. We are very detail-oriented and open to questions at any time. All of our customers have a dedicated project manager to make sure that what was sold is what gets installed. This one person keeps the contact down from multiple people to just one given the current status of COVID-19.
  6. Every customer that works with us is given a proposal to sign that has a scope of work dependent on the type of concrete slab and the customer’s wants and needs. We outline what is included and what is not included. We also have terms and conditions so that our customers can be on the same page with what to expect. If we need to clarify something further we can add it to our scope to make sure it’s covered and to put your mind at ease.

Schedule your concrete consultation for your new concrete patio or concrete driveway today by contact SOLIDForm Decorative concrete at 513.781.2491, solidformltd@gmail.com, or at solidformconcrete.com.

SOLIDForm Decorative Concrete services Lebanon, OH; Mason, OH; West Chester, OH; Liberty Township, OH; Fairfield, OH; Maineville; OH; Landen, OH; Montgomery, OH; Loveland, OH; Milford, OH; & Batavia, OH.

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