If your residential concrete driveway is breaking up, tilting, otherwise disintegrating you might think that selecting a contractor to replace it is a simple job where you call up a contractor, get a bid and sign a contract. If you select a concrete contractor based on that approach you may find yourself paying for a job you aren’t satisfied with. Outlined in this article are several things you can do to increase your likelihood of getting a quality driveway with the features you expected.
Selecting a reliable, conscientious concrete contractor is a major part of the job. It is advisable to select 3 or 4 contractors to have discussions with. To located these you can talk with people in your neighborhood who have recently had their driveways replaced. You can also use services such as Angie’s List or Handyman Connection. Obviously seeking out web pages and other references will add more information. Before talking with them look up their report on you local Better Business Bureau which usually has a dedicated web page in suburban/urban locations. In addition to their satisfaction report also look at the number of years in business as an indicator of their experience in the field. You can also ask for lists of references that you can talk to. A valid question for a reference would be whether the contractor remained on the job once started or did they disappear for days once the original concrete was torn up.
Next set up home visit appointments and have a list of questions you want to discuss with each of them. You will want to find whether the contractor is interested in the size of your job since some concrete contractors prefer doing new installations rather then smaller tear outs and replacements. Having this list will help compare the various residential driveway concrete contractors. You can start the list by noting whether they reply to your request for a visit in a timely manner and whether they have a professional approach in their appearance and visit.
For starters ask whether they use their own people on the job rather then day workers. Many times companies with their own work teams will have workers that take more pride in their work. You should also note if they volunteer lists of references, as well as insurance coverage and certificates. Lien waivers should also be available from any contractor you select. While you are talking with the contractor about the specifics of the job note on your pad whether the contractor has good suggestions or observations about the job and associated options.
Based on your prior research and discussions you should go into these meetings with a good idea of what options on the concrete job that you want. You will likely find that many contractors have their ‘own’ standard way of doing things which is fine as long as it covers the options you definitely want.
These are several areas you should discuss and decide on what you want:
1. Thickness of concrete: For typical residential use 4 to 4-1/2″ is typical. If you want something different this is the time to specify. Also mention that you want to make sure this thickness is held over the entire expanse of the drive, apron, walk and turn-around.
2. Type of concrete: Most often for residential use this will be 6 bag concrete. Ask what the contractor typically uses.
3. Colors and stamping: If you want color stains or decorative stamping be sure to ask the contractor up front if they do this type of work. This will always be an extra charge.
4. Base preparation: This can range from pouring the concrete on flat dirt, dumped rock or compacted rock. Compacted rock with a depth of 4-8″ would definitely be preferred to pouring directly on dirt since it will provide subsurface draining and less settling and cracking of the concrete drive.
5. Tying slabs together: In this area you will find contractors using anything from nothing, to long nails, to sections of rebar. #4 rebar would be more expensive then nails but would give increased protection against shifting or cracking.
6. Re-enforcing the concrete: Fibermesh added to the mix is also advertised as an effective re-enforcement however there are varying views as to its effectiveness and added value for the cost.
7. Divider material: This refers to the strips between the slabs. Cedar strips provide a nice looking divider but fiber strips are less costly. The selection is a matter of personal preference and economics.
8. Surface finish: Most often a standard broom finish is used and you can specify a smooth framed finish around the perimeter of each slab. This framed finish option may cost extra.
9. Sealing and caulking: A coat of concrete sealer and appropriate caulking is always advisable but may cost extra and it may be something you can do yourself if you’re inclined.
10. Backfilling and seeding: In most installations there will be grass dug out around the perimeter of the drive and walk to allow for the concrete forms. There will be a need to backfill this with dirt and to reseed it. Like sealing and caulking this may be something you can do yourself.Once the specifics are decided you should request a written bid on the job with the features you have specified. You should make sure that all charges such as the cost of removing the broken up concrete from the job site. When the bids are returned chose the two that you fill most comfortable with based on content, price, terms, and contractor reputation. Now is the time to sit down with each contractor and make sure you understand the content. If you are inclined to negotiate ask what you could do to lower the cost such as doing your own sealing. If the driveways in your neighborhood are all about the same age you may suggest a reduction in your cost if you find another local job for the concrete contractor. Also it’s fair to say you would like to go with them but have an attractive competing bid and ask if this is the lowest they can go. Based on the results of those final discussions make your decisions notify the winning contractor and make arrangements for the installation.