Working With Concrete Contractors
When you're ready to start a paving project, it's not just about the material chosen but also the contractor you choose to work with.
When you’re ready to pave a parking lot, driveway, or any other surface, it’s not just about choosing the right material, but also the right contractor to work with.
Once you choose concrete (for its durability, versatility, and low maintenance) you’ll want to make sure you choose the right concrete contractor to implement your concrete project. In order to help you make the right choice and find a contractor who will help you successfully complete your concrete driveway, patio, or lot, we’ve compiled some information you’ll need to know when choosing and working with a concrete contractor.
Whether you’re starting a concrete driveway project, creating a beautiful patio or jazzing up your walkway, choosing the right concrete contractor can make all the difference in project quality. You don’t necessarily want to just pick the first company or the cheapest option you find — but how do you choose? Here are some qualifications you should look for.
When you start your concrete contractor search, the first thing you should look for is whether they have certifications from the American Concrete Institute. There are three types of certifications available.
A concrete flatwork associate is someone who has demonstrated knowledge (via a written examination) on proper procedures to place, consolidate, finish, edge, joint, cure and protect concrete flatwork.
A concrete flatwork finisher is a craftsman who has demonstrated the skills (via a hands-on performance exam) necessary to place, consolidate, finish, edge, joint, cure and protect concrete flatwork.
An advanced concrete flatwork finisher is a craftsman who has demonstrated the knowledge AND skills and/or experience necessary to place, consolidate, finish, edge, joint, cure and protect concrete flatwork.
Using an ACI-certified contractor means your project will meet specific requirements to make it durable and strong. Even the smallest residential project requires someone who knows how to cure concrete flatwork given individual site conditions as well as use the appropriate mix of aggregates, liquid and cement. They should also understand the different types of reinforcement material in structural concrete work. If you’re working on a driveway or patio, ask your contractor about their credentials for decorative concrete.
If anything goes wrong on a job, you want to make sure you’re not liable or responsible for paying for damages. Before hiring a contractor, verify they have insurance and that it’s enough to cover your home and your project. Don’t be afraid to call the insurance company to verify the information the contractor provides.
While your insurance needs will vary based on your business and your state, here are a few policies you should consider.
Commercial General Liability Insurance: This covers many of the liability exposures you face as a concrete contractor. It covers property damage and injuries you may cause to a third-party while engaged in concrete contracting work.
Worker’s Compensation Insurance: This policy provides funds for medical expenses and lost wages if one of your employees is injured or killed on the job.
Commercial Property Insurance: This provides protection for property that your business owns or is responsible for.
**This is not a comprehensive list of insurance you should have as concrete contractor. You should discuss your situation and business with an insurance agent.
Any contractor will assure you they will do a great job on your project, and perhaps they will, but the best way to make sure they are the right fit for your job is to request and call references. You should specifically ask for jobs that are similar to yours in order to get an idea of how the project will go.
Ask questions that pertain to:
Don’t sign a contract without talking to references first.
You might also want to see pictures of the contractor’s past work or ask how long they’ve been in business. Depending on your project, a more experienced contractor might be the best choice.
Selecting the right concrete contractor for the size and scope of your job is going to help your project go smoothly. Checking certifications and references are a great way to make sure the contractor you’re considering is the right fit.
Depending on your project’s requirements, you might need pre-cast items or a structural concrete contractor.
Here’s a breakdown of the basic categories of concrete contractors:
A concrete supplier doesn’t work on your project directly but supplies your contractor with the concrete they need to get the job done. Contractors know how important it is to have a supplier who consistently delivers product that meets strict quality requirements. They’ll get them to customers at the right time and in the right quantities.
If you're hiring a concrete contractor for your residential job, it's still important to have a professional who works with concrete suppliers who can deliver quality, ready-mixed concrete suitable for projects like basement walls, footings, foundations, and driveways.
Precast concrete support columns, pillars and beams are used in bridges and structures. Beneath the ground, box culverts, sewer mains and tunnels can all be pre-made in multiple quantities and transported to job sites. These items are poured and set offsite.
For a residential project, make sure to ask if pre-cast concrete items would be right for you. When large projects are replaced or repaired, precast concrete items can help the project move more quickly. Your concrete contractor can effectively evaluate your site conditions and recommend pre-cast products for your job.
Structural concrete contractors build upright concrete structures that are often reinforced with rebar or other materials. Concrete-poured basement walls — or even entire houses made of concrete — require a concrete contractor who knows local codes and can ensure the quality of the material and the construction methods will create a safe structure.
Flatwork is just like it sounds, the stretches of flat concrete we see in roadways, bridge decks, parking lots, sidewalks, driving aprons, street curbs and gutters. In a residential setting, most concrete work is flatwork. Flatwork contractors will form up and smooth foundations, driveways, patios, pools and more. Flooring and countertops also qualify as residential flatwork.
When hiring any concrete contractor, look for those who have the proper bonding and insurance, are licensed and who have the ACI Flatwork Finisher certification.
Once you know what type of contractor you need and how to check their qualifications, you’ll be ready to start accepting bids in order to move forward with your concrete project. Once the bids start showing up, sorting numbers might get a little overwhelming. Every contractor’s bid will look a little different, but in order to make an informed decision you need to know the staples that should be included in every bid.
All concrete bids should include enough information to help you make an educated decision and choose the contractor that will be right for your job. Here are some details that should be included in a bid for your concrete project.
Yes, every bid will quote you a final price estimate, but each bid should also include a breakdown of how they arrived at that number. These details should include how much materials will cost, how much labor will cost, and much each portion of the job will cost.The bid should get specific on the types of materials used and how long each portion will take.
These details will help inform your decision on who to hire; you can compare where and how they are getting their materials and if that impacts the total cost in a significant way. The cost of concrete shouldn’t vary from bid to bid, but other aspects of the price might.
Besides the cost of the project, there are a few pieces of information that a concrete bid must include no matter who is bidding for the job.
Concrete bids must include:
All of these items should be included in a bid as opposed to some items that are just nice to have, like photographs of past projects and the contractor’s qualifications and references.
Before signing a contract, make sure to get all your questions answered.
No matter the size of your concrete project — from a new driveway to a five-story parking garage — engaging your concrete contractor early can save you time and money. Asking the right questions at the beginning of the process, instead of when it's completed, can ensure you have a good relationship with your concrete contractor and there are no surprises along the way.
Traditionally, the construction and design segments of a project have been separated, with construction only beginning once design was complete. Today, that strategy is slowly evolving into a design-build method where the two processes are combined. The design/build method is gaining popularity for large commercial projects, but the same principles can be applied to smaller projects. How and why this process is changing can be attributed to some clear benefits that come from engaging concrete contractors during the design process rather than after.
When planning and design can proceed at the same time, valuable time can be shaved off the project. Issues that only a contractor would recognize could arise during the design process and rather than waiting until the construction phase to fix them, they can be addressed early. If these weren’t noticed until construction, the designer would have to brought back in and plans redrawn. When designer and contractor work together, this process is streamlined.
You can also bring in the concrete contractor to begin work on particular sections while others are still being designed. Depending on the project, this can save several months.
During the traditional process, contractors are only brought in when the design is complete and approved. But many issues don’t come to light until work begins. In many cases, these issues become surprises that the contractor must either work around or stop construction in order to address. The extra time spent doing this can show up in invoices as a surprise to the client.
When a contractor is involved early and can review plans throughout each stage of design, it makes it less likely that surprises will arise later in the process. Early teamwork eliminates change orders, delays and added costs.
When all parties involved can share their input and concerns from the very beginning, not only do the designers and contractors benefit, but the perks trickle down to the client as well. The risk of redesign decreases and the risk of confusion during construction is minimized.
Getting your contractor involved early can also increase the likelihood you will get the most accurate pricing information possible.
Some more reasons to combine the design and construction phases of your project include:
Across the country, the design-build method is being used to deliver office buildings, schools, stadiums, transportation and water infrastructure projects. Locally, you can utilize the same principles to complete your concrete driveway, patio, entryway parking lot, or sidewalk project.
The Michigan Concrete Association (MCA) was formed in 2009 as the result of a merger between the Michigan Concrete Paving Association and the Michigan Concrete Association. Its mission is to increase the use of concrete in Michigan and to further the interests of Michigan's ready-mix and concrete paving industries.
Today, the merged association includes over 200 members and offers a number of certifications to its members.
If you’re ready to get started on your concrete project, you can find the right contractor for the job by browsing our list of concrete contractors.
No matter how beautiful your driveway patio or concrete parking lot turns out, the end result won’t be as enjoyable or productive if you feel you’ve paid too much, don’t understand how to care for your product or were stressed along the way.
Your concrete project isn’t just about the material being used or the outcome. Working with a qualified contractor that you can trust will help ensure that the process is smooth and efficient, from the first bid to the final handshake.