My wife’s friend, Carina, who lives out of town, is currently getting bids for concrete around her pool. It is a big investment and her first time installing concrete, so she called me wondering what she should be looking for when hiring a concrete contractor.
My exact response to her was this:
“There’s a lot to consider before hiring any contractor really. Really I think there are a couple things you have to make sure you cover. When hiring a concrete contractor, always start with your personal network, see if anyone you trust recommends someone. Check how many years they have been in business, you want to make sure they are not a new company that has little experience. If you can, see their work in person if possible. Ask the contractor a ton of questions, get a gauge if he’s bs’ing you or not. Of course, make sure they are insured, and as always, get multiple quotes; 3 is usually plenty.”
In this post, I am going to go into much more detail why I gave her this advice and how it has been successful not only for me in finding a contractor but for everyone I know who hires a concrete contractor.
Referrals aka Word of Mouth
When you were in the dating world or if you still are dating around, were you more likely to meet someone off the streets or through someone you trust?
Same applies for concrete for obvious reasons. You are about to invest some solid cash on your concrete project and you want to make sure you hiring someone dependable, knowledgable, and of high quality.
You may get lucky and pick a contractor off of Google, but you are for sure going to get lucky when you ask your friends and family who they have personally used and what their experience was like with the contractor.
A lot of times you will even get a response like “whatever you do, do not use Company XYZ. I used them and it was a terrible experience.”
I will talk about it more in the “see their work” section, but if you are new to the neighborhood and haven’t made friends yet so you have to use Google; always ask to see the contractors work and actually speak with the person who had to deal with the contractor on their project.
Right now, I am currently remodeling the exterior of my home and needed a brick mason, which I have never used before.
The first thing I did was called all my aunts and uncles and asked who they liked. I received around 5 names and went to calling. These are 5 high quality leads because people I trust, trust them.
Needless to say, I went through the same process I am taking you through now, and as we speak the brick masons are finishing up the work I hired them to do and it is AMAZING work.
Get Multiple Quotes
It is very important to get multiple quotes before starting your concrete project. Note: the cheapest quote is not necessarily your best option.
The reason we get multiple quotes for any construction project is simply because you want to make sure whoever you are going with is being fair.
Even if you have already made up your mind with who you like, it doesn’t hurt to get another price just to double check that you are not being taken to the bank.
For example, this winter I needed plumbing work done and for some reason it is not easy to find a clubber in my area. One company came recommended from a friend of a friend; usually an orange flag but I was desperate.
The plumber came and quoted me $13,000 for my project. My initial reaction was that it was a super high price but I honestly had no idea, I was just going with my gut.
I decided to keep hunting for more quotes before I signed with this company and thank the Lord I did.
My neighbor happened to have a plumber at his house the same day and I was able to wave him over before he left for the day.
His price came in at $1,500. You read that right, more than $11,000 cheaper than the first guy.
Now I thought to myself, “oh jeez I hope this guy knows what he’s doing because that is super low”. So I fought for one more quote, and I got one from my Aunt, who for some reason forgot about her plumber the first time I asked for a referral.
The third plumber is Charlie and he is a godsend. Charlie came in at $1,800, a little more expensive than my neighbors plumber.
I chose him because: he is highly trusted by someone I highly trust, his price is fair, I am reassured that his work is good because my Aunts work is good, and he answered all the questions I could have had for him honestly.
Ask them questions
Okay so you have your list from people you trust and they are starting to show up at your house to take measurements and ask questions.
If it is possible I highly recommend being present when the contractor is doing their measurements. Watch them and see how they measure, or if they even measure at all.
You may not know what goes into making a concrete project successful, but you can tell if someone is willing to cut corners or cheat and that is what we are looking for here. By watching the contractor process the job site, you can sometimes pick up on who they are as a person which will translate how they act as a professional.
This is also your time to ask any questions you may have. No question is a bad question when you are looking to hire someone to take on your project. You are investing a lot of money so make sure the person you are exchanging with knows what they are doing and that they are honest.
When asking your questions, try to get a sense if the contractor is being honest or trying to deceive you. You will have a better sense as you have multiple contractors come to your project site and you ask them the same questions.
For my brick siding, the first contractor that came to my house was very eager to start measuring. Although he did not have the correct tape measures, he seemed like a hard worker.
He gave me a fair price (I know this based off of the other prices that came in), however, I did not get the impression that he was clear on what I was looking for in the job. Lack of spoken english was a barrier.
The second contractor who came by came with the same enthusiasm but asked me questions like “after we take this wall down you are going to have a problem because the bricks will be damaged, here are you two options to fix that.”
BOOM. Right there I knew this guy was thinking two steps ahead. He was preparing for every possible situation and I knew that I was not going to get any surprise charges later on after I hired him. HUGE GREEN FLAG.
This is why we walk around with the contractor and ask as many questions as possible. When they ask you questions back that is a great sign as well. This comes with time and experience. Which leads us to our next step.
With the concrete contractor on site or actually even before they come to the job site; find out how long they have been in business.
You know they are good enough to be recommended by a trusted source, now its time to do some investigating yourself and see what you can find.
Years in business is not a direct relation to quality of work, however, there is something to be said about a business that lasts the test of time.
If their work is no good or their customer service is trash, odds are people are not going to keep hiring them which will lead to them going out of business.
Also, some businesses work like scams where they open up, give the cheapest price, win a bunch of projects, do crappy work, file for bankruptcy, take all the cash and do the cycle all over again.
Companies with over 10 years in business can’t run like that and usually have a solid system in running their business effectively.
However, let’s say you really liked the way one contractor communicated and they showed a ton of knowledge in their craft but they’ve only been in business less than 5 years; ask them questions. How long have they been doing concrete? When did they decide to start their business?
Every business starts somewhere. When my dad started Presta Construction in 1991, someone took a chance on him for their first job. Quickly, the word spread that his work was great and people loved the fact that he had 15 years of concrete experience before he decided to go on his own.
What is also great about working with people who have been in business a while, they have a ton of completed projects you can go see for yourself.
See Their Completed Work
As the age old saying goes “I’ll believe it when I see it”. Now I don’t necessarily recommend you live your life this way because the some of the best things are felt and not seen but thats not here nor there.
You’ve narrowed your search down to one or two contractors who have been really accommodating and have checked all your boxes so far.
The next step, which really isn’t terribly necessarily but I love to take the extra step, is to go see their completed work.
If you really trust the knowledge and taste of the person who recommended you this contractor, you probably don’t have to go see their work because you know its going to be good.
However, if you are particular about what you want, go see the work and determine if they meet your expectations.
Look for cleanliness, longevity, quality, finish, cracks, any defects and any details you want to see in your project.
If their completed project looks like something you would want for you project then you are golden!
PRO TIP: If the land owner is home and willing, go chat with them about their experience with the contractor. They have nothing to lose and nothing to gain with their opinion about the contractor so why would they lie?
You are going to get a second recommendation from a trusted source because they too have worked with this contractor and have first hand experience with them.
Must Be Insured
This is the last detail that may seem minor but can be extremely major.
Any concrete contractor who is in business is most likely required to be licensed and insured in order to conduct any business. Obviously, if you hair someone to do a side job, you are bypassing these regulations and are leaving yourself up to have more liability.
While a contractor is working on your job site, damage can occur. Bodily, property, and other damages occur every day on worksites and you want to make sure the business is covered so you do not become liable.
One example in my life, again. I hired a tree cutting service to cut down a row of trees in the side of my yard with no recommendation or any idea how good they are but they were super cheap and I saw them working down the street from my home.
Went against my advice and this is why I give this advice.
As the company was grinding the stumps of the trees down, sure enough, they ripped right through the power line to my house. Power’s out, huge electrical bang; this is no bueno.
Thankfully, no one was injured in the incident but now I have a ripped power line that I am liable for. I did not do my due diligence when hiring the tree company so I did not have their insurance on file and they did not do their due diligence with calling J.U.L.I.E before digging.
Luckily, the contractor hung around, sent me their insurance and made sure everything was taken care of before they left. However, I got lucky.
They could have easily left me high and dry to deal with the problem and pay for the damage that they caused.
Always make sure your contractor is insured in case of any damage to anyone or anything.
I hope this advice helps, please do not make the same mistakes as I have made and take the same precautions I listed above so that you have a high quality project that is completed the way you want it at the price you are happy with.
Comment below if you have any other advice you would add to this list.