Author Archives: Westar Construction, LLC

6 ‘Must-Haves’ when Hiring A Contractor

We know that Hiring a Contractor can be a difficult task (we’ve hired our own sub-contractors before). So we created this list to help the visitors to this page so they will know some of the ‘must-haves’ when it comes to hiring a Contractor for just about any project in any given trade. Let’s kick it off!

1. License and Insurance: Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Licensing insures that the person is registered to do business and has met some educational requirements for the field they’re doing work in. The contractor will usually have to have two years’ experience in a management setting in their trade in order to apply for a license. Another requirement for acquiring a Contractor’s License is General Liability Insurance. Liability Insurance is crucial to protect the client and contractor from financial loss due to injury or accidental damage to property. If you hire a concrete contractor who, while operating a skid steer, hits the corner of a garage and knocks that portion of the home off its foundation, the cost of repair can be quite high. Bottom line is that you run a greater risk of poor workmanship, fraud, and financial liability by hiring an unlicensed Contractor. And it is unlawful to do so.

2. Experience: Hiring someone who knows what they’re doing. Verifying experience can be difficult: an expert in a field can tell the difference between a novice and an expert with ease but it is difficult for a person with little to no knowledge of that trade to evaluate the Contractor they’re speaking to. Thankfully, through the online review process, it is relatively easy to track down solid contractors who have done work properly and left their clients happy. But online reviews aren’t everything; there can be a lot of shortcuts taken by the contractor that their customers aren’t aware of and won’t surface for years and a typical homeowner might simply chalk up to wear and tear. We recommend homeowners consider the following when making their choice:  a Contractor’s years of doing business, a diverse portfolio, online reviews and/or recommendations, and your gut instinct. These are your best bet for hiring someone who has the experience to get your job done correctly.

3. Warranty: Do you need one? As of this blog post’s writing (June, 2017), Contractors in the State of Utah are not to provide a warranty for their work in any fashion, for any amount of time. This means that as soon as the contractor is paid in full, the work that the contractor performed is now the client’s responsibility. This is where it is absolutely important to hire someone who is knowledgeable and has integrity. Some Contractors will offer a 1 year warranty (Yep, we do!) for their clients piece of mind, and that’s a good thing, but in our specialty field (concrete) it will usually take several years for defects in workmanship to show up, so a warranty isn’t really a guarantee that you’re dealing with a quality Contractor, nor does a lack of a warranty mean that a contractor will do bad work. The offering of a warrant usually is contingent on the how reasonable past clients have been when calling upon a Contractor’s warranty. Example: a rogue crack in a $10,000.00 concrete driveway slab that has proper control joints and was properly placed should not be something a client feels the Contractor is responsible for, as concrete cracks in unexpected ways sometimes.

4. Pay attention to how the contractor treats you: The first few minutes matter! Chances are that if your Contractor doesn’t treat you with respect, than they aren’t going to care about the quality of the work they’re doing. We believe that a Contractor should do what they say they’re going to do, including be on time for a preliminary estimate or, in the case of an emergency, inform the potential client of any issues. We believe that customers should be free to ask questions without fear of asking a ‘dumb’ question and that a Contractor should be approachable and available to discuss project details and concerns with their clients. Don’t settle for less. There are plenty of contractors who value their clients and want to provide good service to them at a price that is fair (yep, we’re one of them!). Communication, respect, and trust are important aspects of the contractor/homeowner business relationship.

5. Bid Pricing: Fair to all parties. There can be a large difference in the bids a typical homeowner gets at the start of their project. Different contractors have crews composed of different workers who may take more or less time to complete the same task. A larger company can have more overhead while a smaller company can have less. Also, a contractor might capture an item as part of their bid that another contractor omits and the omissions will require coming back to the client for a change order or lowering the quality of a project. These are all factors that each Contractor will take in to account when creating a bid, and so it is important for a homeowner to clearly understand what each Contractor is offering in their respective bids and then compare. An example: one contractor’s price for a driveway tear-out and replacement may be $1,000 higher than their competitors, but that higher bid includes adding 3 inches of roadbase and a higher bag mix of concrete to improve the new driveway’s quality, whereas the other bids did not include any of those additional items. Clarify, compare, then decide.

6. Communication: Do you understand? Now I’m not only talking about the ability to communicate verbally with your Contractor and their crew – though it is very important – but also the ability of your Contractor to listen to what you, the client, want to get from your project. There are Contractors who want to tell the customer what they want, rather than listening to what the customers goals are. In some cases, those Contractors just ignore the wishes of the client entirely and do the job the way they think it needs to be done. Sometimes, it is necessary for a Contractor to guide a client, but the client should never feel left out of the decision making process and should know why the Contractor is making the recommendations/decisions they are. We also believe that it is important to be able to communicate effectively in a variety of ways, including verbally, e-mail, and text messages.

We hope this list will be useful to you. If you’re a client looking to hire a General Contractor or Concrete Contractor, please reach out to us! We’d love to work with you and build something great together! Call us today at 801-243-7827 or email [email protected]

 

7 Important Factors for Great Concrete Work

Regardless of whether we are selected for a project or not, we want people to get the highest quality concrete work possible – we hate when good people pay good money for bad work! So we decided to take our passion for quality and create a list that any homeowner or client can use as a reference to make sure they’re getting a quality concrete project. We recommend they discuss the following key (yet often overlooked) factors with their Concrete Contractor:

1. Soil Conditions: The ground beneath the concrete being poured can have a massive impact on the longevity of the concrete poured on top of it. If the ground consists of clay or other fine particle soils, the water in the soil won’t drain quickly and the concrete slab above will be vulnerable to heaving and cracking from the increased water table and the freeze/thaw cycle. For this reason, we recommend a minimum of 2 inches of engineered soil (called “Road Base”) or gravel be placed beneath concrete slabs, especially driveways and floors.

In addition to the type of soil beneath the slab being of importance, proper grading and compaction of the soil are also important factors. A properly graded sub-grade should be free from any dramatic variations in depth. This is important because if the concrete varies in thickness from 4 inches, to 3 inches, and back to 4 inches, a thinner, weak spot is being created throughout the 3 inch thick area, which may result in cracking.

Proper compaction of the sub-grade is important because it settles and locks the soil together, which will prevent future settling, which will add to the longevity of any concrete work above the soil grade.

2. Thickness: A lot of the crummy concrete work we tear-out and replace is tied the thickness (or lack thereof) of the concrete slab. Some “Contractor” was either lazy or greedy and didn’t pour the concrete at a proper thickness and then the concrete cracks all over the place and fails; we see it all the time!  4″ Thickness if perfectly fine for most residential flatwork, except where large trucks, trailers, or RVs will be using the slab. In those areas, we recommend 6″ thick concrete. Personally, we recommend 6″ concrete for most driveways, because the 50% increase in thickness really improves the longevity and durability of the driveway but 4″ thickness doesn’t mean you’re getting a bad job. Just ensure that you’re getting what you pay for!

Tip: Checking the thickness before your contractor pours your slab can be a safe way to ensure you’re getting a good job and is relatively simple. Grab two helpers, a string line, and a tape measure. Have your two helpers hold the strings on top of the wood forms or the grade lines and then measure down from the string to the ground every 2 ft or so. Variations of 1/2 are no big deal; variations of 2 inches are a huge deal.

3. Rebar Dowels:  We recommend that your contractor (who will hopefully be us!) installs rebar dowels where new concrete meets your home’s foundation, even if no other rebar is being placed in the concrete. This is important to prevent the slab from settling along your home’s foundation, which will help prevent water from draining toward your home’s foundation, which could cause seepage/flooding in basements and crawl spaces.

Tip: If you elect to have a rebar mat installed throughout your concrete, keep in mind that it will not prevent all cracking but will help resist bending forces and prevent uneven settling and concrete separation.

4. Control Joints: Control joints are cut into the concrete slab to create a weak point in the concrete’s surface and encourage cracking inside the joint, hence why it’s called a Control Joint. Control joints should be placed at a maximum of every 12′ in each direction. Control joints should also be run off any inside corners. It’s also important, especially when dealing with saw-cut control joints, that Control Joints are cut to the proper depth, which should be ¼ of the concrete slab’s thickness.

Tip: Customers should expect concrete to crack but for cracking to be confined to control joints. Sometimes, even if control joints have been properly placed, rogue cracking, cracking outside of a control joint, can still occur. Sometimes, the concrete just does whatever the heck it wants to!

5. Concrete Mix: Not all concrete is created equal. There are many different mixes available, which offer a wide range of strengths. Some Contractors will offer their customers a 5 bag, 3,500 PSI concrete mix in their bids, where as we always include 6 bag, 4,000 PSI concrete mix in our bids. Make sure you know what type of mix your contractor is offering, so you can make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when choosing your Contractor. Not all concrete suppliers are created equal, either; we recommend concrete from either Geneva Rock, Parsons-Staker, or, in some cases, Alta-View. We only use reputable concrete suppliers because we care about the quality of the product our customers are paying for, and most larger suppliers also offer a materials warranty on their product, which affords the customer another layer of protection.

Tip: Feel free to ask your contractor for a copy of their dispatch ticket to verify the type of concrete placed, the slump (water/cement ratio) the concrete was ordered at (slumps higher than 6″ lead to weaker concrete except when using a superplasticizer) and the amount of water the contractor added on the job (again, making sure the contractor didn’t add too much water and place inferior concrete).

6. Drainage: It is crucial for water that finds its way on to your concrete to drain away from your home/garage. A good standard rule is 1 inch of slope in every 4 feet. It’s also important to make sure that drains are placed at the bottom of outside entrance stairwells. Always ask your Contractor “Where is the water going to go?” It’s important to establish where water from your property is going, especially to avoid potential problems with your own home or your neighbor’s.

Tip: Pay special attention to the roof above the area of the work. Are there rain gutters? If there aren’t, the concrete will wear more quickly from water erosion where the water runs off the roof. Is there a Downspout in the area? A large volume of water will come down the Downspout and could lead to ice hazards and in winter time. This can be avoided by hooking the Downspout a non-perforated drain line and running it beneath the new concrete to an appropriate outlet.

7. Sealer: Sealers exists to prevent the surface of your concrete from being damaged by external factors, like salt, which can cause corrosion and spalling. By penetrating the porous surface of the concrete, sealers also prevent other substances from being absorbed, such as oil, paint, and gasoline, making clean-up a bit easier. An added bonus is that the sealers ability to keep foreign substances out also locks moisture in, keeping the concrete hydrated, which increases its cure strength. Sealer is not necessary for every job, or to even have an excellent job, but can add definitely add quality to a project.

Tip: Even if you don’t use salt on your driveways, keep in mind that the city uses it on most of the roads during the winter months, which can easily be tracked onto your slab by your car. Sealers should be reapplied every 2-3 years, depending on use, aesthetic (stamped concrete) and environment.

In summary, there are many factors that can contribute to a high quality concrete project. We hope that this information helps you, the consumer, to understand those factors and make sure you’re getting the quality that you deserve. Oh, and there is one more tip: Just hire Westar Construction to do your concrete work and you won’t be disappointed.