Arming yourself with a list of questions and a little prior knowledge goes a long way when hiring a contractor or expert of any kind.
If you’re planning a concrete driveway project, before you start calling around for quotes, plan out several questions to ask. It’s also a good idea to decide on criteria you feel the concrete contractor must meet beforehand to help prepare you for filtering through the information or sales pitches they offer you about their services.
Check out the list of questions and criteria below to guide you in preparing for speaking to concrete contractors.
1. Be prepared and confident
The more confident and knowledgeable you are about what you’re looking for, the easier it will be to assess the level of competence or experience of the concrete driveway contractors you speak to.
2. Find several options and narrow the field
Compare the responses you get to your questions as you go through your list of candidates and narrow your choices. Speaking to several candidates will likely give you an even better grasp of the criteria you should be looking for, which makes for a more educated final round of phone calls with any additional questions for your top picks.
3. Have several scheduling options
Concrete driveway contractors with the most experience and success may have busy schedules. So if they’re unavailable for the dates you want, consider being flexible and ask about alternate timelines before crossing them off your list. And definitely be suspicious of contractors with completely open availability and little to no upcoming projects.
4. Factor in drying time for your deadline
Keep in mind that whatever deadline you set for work to be complete, you still won’t have access to your driveway for at least one week. Many concrete driveway contractors recommend 2-4 weeks of drying time to ensure the strength and longevity of the driveway. Planning to host an important event at your home? Needing delivery of heavy appliances? Factor your plans into the project deadline by adding several weeks to the projected completion date.
5. Ask what permitting will be necessary
Asking about permits that you will need is a great way to self-educate with the advice of professionals as you prepare to have your concrete driveway built. It’s also an excellent way to gauge the contractor’s experience. If he is unaware of the permitting process or expects to you to shoulder that responsibility, it may indicate inexperience or a lack of quality service.
6. Be prepared to turn down upsells
Adding finishing touches such as stamping or scoring patterns into your concrete driveway or having it stained can give concrete a decorative flair and increase the curb appeal of your property. However, these upsells may not be within your budget, so be prepared to ask for prices ahead of time and refuse extra services if funds are tight.
7. Just get cost quotes, get technical
A home visit from contractors as you collect quotes can give you a better sense of specifics if you don’t already know them. Gathering several opinions on what materials and specifications you will need can also help you narrow your choices.
8. Make sure projects come with written contracts
Make sure a written contract is a standard procedure for the contractor and ask about what typically goes into his contracts.
9. Ask what is included in the contract
Contracts should be specific, technical and include cost and schedule to ensure a quality guarantee and clear expectations. This guide for helping decide between going DIY on concrete driveway projects or hiring a contractor points out that you should establish what thickness of pavement you desire and will need to be clear on the compaction of the subgrade and base before signing a contract. And this guide to concrete driveway construction basics can help you build more knowledge about specifics.
10. Ask questions to test the contractor’s knowledge and skill
Narrow your list by assessing how comfortable contractors are answering technical questions. An article from Angie’s List on hiring concrete driveway contractors recommends asking a potential contractor how they’ll ensure the prevention of the driveway cracking.
Their response should mention joints for flexing and the amount of water used in their concrete mix. You can also ask them to explain the process they’ll go through before pouring the concrete (during which they should compact the soil and add a base material as a top layer) and how long the total project will take.