Part One: How to choose a concrete contractor to repair your driveway

Learn how to avoid the common mistakes homeowners make when choosing a concrete contractor to repair their driveway.

If you have a cracked or sinking driveway and you’re looking for someone to fix it for you, then this article will be useful. We interviewed Matt Cook of Complete Concrete and Masonry in Woodstock, GA.

Matt started to work for his cousin 15 years ago doing sales and estimating for concrete work and repairs, but 11 years ago he took the plunge and started working for himself. Matt’s company specializes in residential driveway repairs, patios, and masonry. He said there are two things that influence his work ethic: his love for the Golden Rule in business—treating others the way he would want to be treated—and that his father was a hard worker who taught him to be particular in his work.

We asked Matt what you should know before choosing a driveway repair company.

Matt advised that you always research the company. He suggested that you find out:

  • How long their crew has been with the company.
  • What kind of warranty the company provides.
  • How long they’ve been in business.
  • Whether or not they have insurance.
  • What’s included and excluded in the concrete work.

Always research the concrete company.

Matt suggested using websites that filter out the reputable concrete companies from those that don’t care about customer service. You can use websites like Kudzu or Angie’s List to do this very easily. Read the reviews and focus on how the company provides customer service.

Here’s a tip: Look at how recent the referrals are. Sometimes you’ll see a concrete company that had reviews 4 or 5 years ago, but nothing since then. Why should you care about this? Management and supervising personnel—and their attitudes—change over the years. The awesome people that were bragged about on Angie’s List 4 years ago may now work for another concrete company.

Here’s another tip: Ask how long the concrete installers that will be working at your home have been with the company. There’s a high turnover with crews at many driveway replacement companies. You want the best crew to work on your driveway, don’t you?

We appreciated what Matt had to say about his own crew. “I’ve had the same bunch of guys working for me for the last 10 years,” he explained. “They’re reliable, dependable and trustworthy. Each of them has at least 20 years of concrete experience. There’s no need to micromanage them because they know how I want the job done.” There probably aren’t too many business owners who can say that!

What kind of concrete warranty does the company provide?

Many driveway installers don’t offer a warranty. Perhaps they imply that they’ll guarantee their work, but that’s not enough. Remember, if it’s not in writing it’s not enforceable.

Tip: Make sure the warranty is part of the written contract, and make sure it spells out what it does and does not cover. Matt said, “If there’s no written warranty, that should be a huge red flag about working with them.”

Complete Concrete and Masonry includes its warranty as part of each and every contract. Matt offers a five-year warranty against major cracking (cracks over 3/16″), major scaling, water holding, and improper sloping away from the house.

The lesson? Always get a written warranty as part of your contract.

How long have they been in business?

This goes hand-in-hand with having a 5-year warranty. Companies open and go belly-up every day. You probably want a company that’s been around long enough to service a 5-year warranty on its work. Choose a company that has a five-year track record of happy clients.

Are they insured?

There are lots of people that like to “play” concrete contractor – without insurance. Matt told us, “The industry standard is a $1,000,000 general liability insurance policy for residential concrete work. With regards to workers’ compensation, the state of Georgia requires all concrete companies to carry workers’ comp if they have more than three employees.”

Matt suggested that you request the contractor to have their insurance company send you a certificate with you listed as the certificate holder. Why is insurance important? What if the workers accidentally splash cement all over your new car’s paint? What if they back the cement truck up and dent your car or fence? Who will pay for these things to be repaired? Thus, you should always ask for proof of insurance.

Will they contact the Georgia Utilities Protection Center before starting work?

Did you know that if a concrete crew starts to break up your existing concrete or dig in your yard it could mean thousands of dollars in fines for you? “Your front yard may contain water pipes, natural gas lines, phone company cables, cable TV conduits, and electrical power lines,” Matt said. “It’s important to contact the UPC before starting any work. They’ll identify all underground utilities so that they aren’t damaged by accident. Failure to do so may result in thousands of dollars in fines to repair the damaged pipes and wires.”

So, make sure your contractor calls UPC before beginning any work on your property.

Matt shared a tip that will help you prepare for the future.

Matt shared, “We always recommend installing a PVC pipe under the sidewalk and driveway for future access. This will allow you to, later on, add low voltage lifting, outdoor speakers, cable or phone lines, or wiring for a sprinkler system.” This is a small investment to future-proof your yard!

What does the concrete work include and, more importantly, exclude?

“Having a driveway contractor provide you a contract that says they will install a new concrete driveway for you is not enough,” Matt said. “You must insist on getting a scope of work with your contract. Without a scope of work, there are too many unknown surprises for the homeowner later. It must be clearly defined and not vague at all.”

Matt continued, “Some people just want a bottom dollar price. They don’t care about quality or the concrete lasting for many years. As a result, many concrete installers will look to do it as cheaply as possible and want to get in and out as quickly as possible. In the end, [the homeowner] gets what they pay for. A lot of the time I get called in to repair bad concrete jobs.” So, how long do you want your concrete to last? If you want the job done right, you’re going to have to look at the scope of the work.

That, of course, begs the question of what the scope of work should include. We’ll cover that, plus other driveway-related things that you might never have thought about, in Part Two of this article. Our goal is to educate you so that you can make an informed decision about what to ask for and what to look for when you’re having work done on your driveway. You can check out Complete Concrete and Masonry’s website here

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