Over 10 billion tons of concrete are produced globally every year, making it the most frequently used construction material. For its sheer strength, low maintenance, design-options versatility, and ability to outlast most building materials, concrete work is a good investment that improves your home landscaping and property value. However, you may get a negative return for such investment if you compromise on the required quality of raw materials, water/cement ratio, coarse/fine aggregate ratio, compaction, temperature, relative humidity and curing necessary to perfect the strength of the concrete.
A properly constructed concrete wall system in your home can cut down your cooling and heating costs by over 30%. Likewise, properly constructed and maintained exterior concrete structures like driveways and walkways increase your home's curb appeal, which in turn can increase its property value by up to 14%. Hence, hiring a professional concrete contractor near you is not only a quest to increase your property appeal and value, but also to save yourself from numerous hazards associated with concrete constructions. Such hazards include respiratory issues, amputations, falls, and exposure to dangerous substances like silica.
Also, note that concrete works are to be done in strict compliance with federal standards and safety regulations, and state/local building codes. To ensure that the concrete contractor you intend to hire is conversant with all construction rules and duly qualified to handle the job, you should ask the following questions:
Are You a Licensed Concrete Contractor?
License for concrete work is mandatory at state-level in 30 states including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. The specific type of license required and the requirements for obtaining it vary by location. For example, California issues a specific C-8 concrete contractor license for concrete work, while Hawaii issues a C-31a specialty license. Concrete contractors In Michigan are required to obtain a residential builder and maintenance and alteration contractor's license, while those in Oregon are required to obtain a construction contractor's license. In Mississippi, concrete contractors are required to obtain a state-level license for residential remodeling projects worth more than $10,000 and for new residential construction and commercial projects that are worth more than $50,000. For states like New York, Missouri, and Illinois where a statewide license is not required, licensure may be mandatory at the local level.
Make sure that your concrete contractor meets all the requirements for licensing in your state or municipality. You can find out the specifics of these requirements by contacting your local consumer protection office near you. This office can also help you verify the authenticity of your contractor's license. You can also perform these actions through the office of your state's licensing department.
Are You a Bonded and Insured Concrete Contractor?
Besides licensing, it is also important to make sure that your concrete contractor is properly insured and bonded. The nature of concrete work exposes concrete contractors to potentially fatal construction hazards like amputations, falls, slips, and trips, respiratory hazards, skin hazards, and even respiratory hazards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry had a nonfatal work injury incidence rate of 2.8 per 100 workers in 2019. This industry also accounted for approximately 20% of the fatal injuries that occurred during this period.
Hiring a concrete contractor near you that is not properly insured and bonded leaves you financially liable if something goes wrong during your project. For example, if an injury occurs either during or as a direct result of your on-going concrete work project, you can end up bearing the cost of any financial damages related to the injury. Similarly, if your contractor defaults on the project for any reason, you will also have to bear the cost of any losses arising from this default. However, if your concrete contractor is properly insured and bonded, then you are insulated from any financial liabilities that may arise due to unforeseen work-related events.
You should always ask your concrete contractor for proof of insurance and bonding. Ensure that the insurance premiums are paid up, and that general liability and workers' compensation insurance coverage are included in the insurance plan. It is also a good idea to find out whether concrete contractors in your state of residence have mandatory insurance and bonding requirements that must be met, and make sure that your contractor meets these requirements. You can do this by contacting your local consumer protection office.
What Kind of Work Are You Specialized In?
Considering that concrete work encompasses various types of jobs, it is important to make sure that your concrete contractor is capable of performing the particular type of job that you need done. This generally involves preparing the site of the job, pouring mixed concrete into a pre-designed shape or form that is required for the job, properly placing the poured concrete at a designated location, and performing any necessary decorations like stamping, staining, polishing, and coloringto the poured concrete before it completely solidifies. Other common concrete work procedures include concrete cleaning, cutting, repairing, and removal.
In addition to these procedures, concrete work involves the use of various types of concrete. Even though many professional concrete contractors are experienced enough to mix and handle most types of concrete, you should always make sure that your concrete contractor is skilled enough to properly handle the type of concrete that will be required for your project. Some of the most commonly used types of concrete are:
- Plain or Ordinary Concrete: this is mostly used for pavements, buildings, and structures that do not require high tensile strength.
- Reinforced Concrete: this is plain or ordinary concrete that has been reinforced with steel rods, wires, or cables. This reinforcement is added to the concrete before it solidifies, and it increases its strength.
- Pre-stressed Concrete: similar to reinforced concrete, this type of concrete also involves steel bars and tendons. However, in this case, these reinforcements are stressed before the application of the concrete. Pre-stressed concrete typically requires professional handling, and it is usually used for bridges and heavy-loaded structures.
- Precast Concrete: this is concrete that has been created and according to exact specifications, usually in a factory, before being transported and assembled at a designated site.
- Lightweight Concrete: this concrete is created using lightweight aggregates like clay, pumice, expanded shale, and vermiculite. Lightweight concrete has low thermal conductivity and is used for creating building blocks, long-spanning bridge decks, and protecting steel structures.
- High-density Concrete: this type of concrete is used for structures where radiation has to be controlled and it is typically made with crushed rocks.
- Air-entrained Concrete: this type of concrete contains tiny air pockets that serve to relieve its internal pressure and also create chambers for water to expand into when it freezes. Air-entrained concrete is used in climates and environments that have a freeze-thaw cycle.
- Glass-reinforced Concrete: this type of concrete contains strengthened alkali-resistant glass fibers. It is usually used in exterior cladding works.
Who Will Do the Work?
Make sure that your concrete contractor can provide you with a definitive figure regarding the total number of workers that will be involved in your project. Find out whether the involvement of any additional workers would affect the estimated cost of the project, and also ensure that everyone involved in the project is properly licensed, insured, and bonded.
Do You Offer a Warranty?
Before hiring a concrete contractor near you, you should find out whether you will be offered a warranty on the job. Professional concrete contractors typically offer their clients a workmanship warranty that covers any faults or defects in the concrete work done. Note that warranties are legally enforceable guarantees that are valid for a specified period, and they usually have terms and conditions that must be followed during this period. Therefore, it is advisable to request a written copy of any warranty that your contractor offers you. This way, you have a clear understanding of its conditions and the types of circumstances under which the warranty can be voided.
Will This Job Require a Permit?
Whether or not you will need to obtain a permit for your project depends on your location and the type of work that the project involves. For example, in Seattle, Washington, you do not require a permit for minor repairs and alterations that cost less than $6,000 or miscellaneous work like constructing patios and concrete slabs on the ground. Similarly, in Woodland, California, no permit is needed for flat concrete work unless it involves a driveway. In Ocoee, Florida, you need a permit to pour a concrete slab, driveway, or patio, while in Beaverton, Oregon you do not need one for private concrete sidewalks, driveways, and slabs that are less than 30 inches above adjacent grade and are not over any basements or stories.
Although any concrete contractor near you will probably know the concrete work permit requirements for your area of residence, it is always a good idea to find out what these requirements are for yourself by contacting your local building department. This is because failing to obtain a necessary permit before beginning a project can result in penalties from your local government authority.
Will You Provide References?
The Federal Trade Commission advises that you ask for no less than three verifiable references from any contractor that you intend to hire. You should always consider it a huge red flag if your concrete contractor cannot provide you with references near you and positive testimonials from these past clients. Many professional concrete contractors also offer pictures of completed projects in addition to a list of references. Another means of getting unbiased reviews and testimonials on your concrete contractor is by utilizing the services of a review website like Google Review, Yelp, and Better Business Bureau.
Do You Have a Business License?
Contracting businesses that are either owned by or employ concrete contractors are usually referred to as small businesses because they typically have less than 500 employees at any given time. These types of businesses make up 99.9% of the registered businesses that are currently operating in the United States, and they are typically required to obtain a business license before they can legally operate within a specified locality.
Always make sure that your concrete contractor has been authorized to conduct business in your area of residence by the necessary governmental agencies. You can do this by requesting a copy of your contractor's business license or license number and verifying it with your local Office of the Secretary of State.
What Are Common Concrete Work Problems?
Some problems and defects that are commonly associated with concrete work include:
- Spalling and pop-outs
How Much Does Concrete Work Cost?
Concrete work involves a wide scope of jobs, and these jobs generally cost an average of $5 - $10 per square foot of work done. Depending on the type of project and the amount of labor required, you can end up paying anywhere from $500 to $6,000 and more for a job.
Some common concrete work cost estimates per square foot are listed as follows:
What Are the Factors That Affect the Cost of Concrete Work?
The cost of concrete work is affected by the following factors:
What Qualifications Should Concrete Contractors Have?
Concrete contractors are typically required to have a high school certificate or its educational equivalent. These contractors generally gain their work-related knowledge through on-the-job training and apprenticeships with more experienced concrete contractors. Some concrete contractors also obtain professional certifications from trade associations and organizations like the Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association, the Home Builders Institute, and the American Concrete Institute. Although obtaining these certifications is not mandatory, professionally certified concrete contractors are generally more reliable and competent than uncertified concrete contractors.
Do You Need a Handyman or a Concrete Contractor?
You should always hire a licensed, insured, and bonded concrete contractor near you to handle your concrete work project. A handyman typically fixes minor household problems that do not require specific training and expertise and is not qualified to perform proper concrete work. On the other hand, a professional concrete contractor is specifically trained for this purpose. As such, hiring a professional concrete contractor instead of a handyman ensures that your concrete work is done expertly and safely in line with national concrete and concrete products regulations and standards. This also saves you time and energy by guaranteeing that the job is done properly the first time.
What Are the Common Post Concrete Work Expenses?
Concrete work is generally low maintenance and does not typically incur a lot of post-construction or repair expenses. Usually, the only regular maintenance that you will have to perform is cleaning and sealing your concrete structure. This costs an average of $1 - $3 per square foot. Some professional concrete contractors include cleaning and sealing in the warranties that they offer their clients, and so it is a good idea to find out if your contractor does this.
Other common post-concrete work expenses include the cost of enhancing the aesthetic appeal of your concrete structure. This usually involves painting, staining, coating, or overlaying, and it can cost you anywhere between $2 and $30 per square foot. Note, when hiring other contractors, employing professionals near you may help lower costs due to proximity.
Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Concrete Work Expenses?
Whether or not your homeowner's insurance policy will cover your concrete work expenses depends on several factors. Homeowner's insurance only covers sudden and unexpected damages and losses to your home and home-related assets and property. More than 90% of these types of damages are caused by fires, water, wind, hail, lightning, and theft. Therefore, if an existing concrete structure on your property is damaged as a result of a sudden and unexpected circumstance that your policy lists, then your homeowner's insurance will probably cover the cost of either repairing or replacing it. For example, if a tree is knocked over during a windstorm, and this tree damages your concrete wall or your concrete driveway, your insurance policy will cover the cost of fixing this damage. However, if it is determined that the damage was caused by negligence on your part, or factors like old age, normal wear and tear, and lack of maintenance, then it is very likely that your insurance policy will not cover the cost of your concrete work expenses.
The specific types of losses and damages that a homeowner's insurance policy covers depend on the insurance company that issues it. Therefore, you should always read and understand the fine print of any policy that you intend to pay for before you commit to it.
Can I Use Digital Payment to Pay My Concrete Contractor?
Many concrete contractors near you would accept payment for their services via digital channels. Digital payments are considerably easier to transact, more secure, convenient, and faster than other forms of payment. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, these payments also have the added advantage of reducing physical contact between individuals. However, not every concrete contractor is open to this method of payment, and so you should always confirm with your contractor at the beginning of your project. If you have to use physical payments like cash, then you should always collect a receipt for these transactions.