Getting ready to install a new driveway, walkway or patio? It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to your project and there's a lot of information to absorb. Concrete projects are complex and knowing the right questions to ask your contractor can ensure your project looks great, lasts long, is cost-effective and matches your needs.
Check out these questions and go over them with your contractor before you start your project.
Before you embark on your concrete project, it's nice to have a basic understanding of what a concrete project entails so that you know how much time and money to budget.
The price of your project will depend on the square footage. In many cases, the smaller the project, the higher the price per square foot. Other factors that will impact the project price include materials as well as site factors on your property, such as soil type, terrain, access to the project area, drainage needs and vegetation around the area.
Your new driveway can typically last 20-30 years with the proper installation techniques, high-quality materials and aftercare. The specifications related to base rock, rebar, and PSI will all impact the longevity of concrete. If installers cut corners and do not comply to the highest standards, the driveway may only last 5-15 years. Hairline cracks may show up a few days after the installation; this is to be expected. However, quality aftercare (especially during the curing process) will help ensure a beautiful and long-lasting new driveway. If the proper installation and care protocols are observed for your driveway then structural issues should not present for many years.
A typical project of 600-800 square feet takes about 3-5 days to be completed. Usually on the first day of the project, your contractor will demolish the existing driveway, excavate the area, and haul away the debris. Then it will be time to prepare the base by laying down the base rock, compacting it, and placing the rebar on dobie blocks for structural rigidity. The day of the concrete pour, the finishers work the concrete and then go over it with the appropriate finish. After the installation is complete, it will take at least 28 days for the concrete to fully cure.
You can typically walk on the concrete at the end of the first day and can drive on it after about 7 days. For heavy vehicles, such as RVs, or for multi-vehicle driveways you should wait at least 28 days.
It's usually important you support the curing process by keeping the concrete moist and hydrated. Ask your contractor for specifics on how and how often to mist the newly installed concrete.
If you've found a potential contractor, there are questions that you need answered before you even request a quote. Finding these answers on the outset will save you time and energy by avoiding a contractor who isn't reputable.
Making sure your contractor is licensed and insured is one of the most important steps when searching for a contractor. In California, licensing is handled by the CSLB. You can search for a contractor's license number on the website to verify information and see if the contractor or company is licensed, insured and bonded.
Quality assurances are also important. Legitimate contractors will have some type of guarantee for their work that applies to their workmanship and any defective materials. While things like minor cracks are normal, assurances may protect you from major cracks across large surface areas that are clearly the result of poor workmanship. Keep in mind that such assurances will not apply to everything that could possibly go wrong. For example, earthquakes are common in California and could potentially crack a concrete driveway. This isn't something that would be covered. Damage can also result from excessive weight applied on the surface, such as oversized vehicles that were not calculated into the original project scope. This type of damage would also be outside the scope of a typical project assurance.
When it comes to quotes, the more detail the better. Oftentimes you will see a quote with the total square footage and not much more information- and that can lead to sticker shock on your final bill.
Installers sometimes cut down on cost by using lower quality material (lower PSI concrete & rebar) and by using less material (spacing the rebar really far apart, using less baserock and therefore not excavating deep enough, pouring a thinner slab of concrete, etc.) All of the aforementioned factors can significantly reduce the lifespan of the finished product. With that in mind, here are some good guiding questions to ask during the quote preparation and quote review.
You should always check to see what, specifically, is included in your quote or proposal. Quotes should have information, such as:
If these items are not listed, it's worth following up to make sure you are paying a fair price for the materials and labor associated with your project.
The specs for concrete installation indicate the strength of the concrete. This is critical to know so that you have the proper concrete installed for your needs. Many contractors will offer a variety of specs, ranging from standard to more premium. Depending on your need and usage the concrete specs will vary. Surfaces with heavier vehicular traffic need to be quoted with different specs surfaces that are being walked on.
If you're looking for hardscape contractors, it means you're at an exciting point in the home improvement process. By using the questions outlined above as a guide, you'll have a good understanding of what a concrete project entails. A good contractor will answer any questions you might have along the way and help you feel empowered during the entire process.