Tips for Hiring a Concrete Contractor

Concrete Steps and WalkPreparing yourself and knowing what to expect is crucial in finding the best concrete contractor. If you are looking to install a concrete driveway or patio to your home, the first thing you have to do it is to find a qualified contractor to perform the job. You would be more confident with your decision if you based it on specific criteria. When you know what you’re looking for, you will not fall easily for flowery words and clever marketing strategies.

To help you choose the best concrete contractor for the job, take note of the following suggestions we listed below.

Decide on what you want in a concrete contractor

Do you want a contractor with long years of experience? Do you prefer a company with a license and insurance? You should know these things beforehand because this will lead you to the right choice in the end.

Find options and choose the best ones

You will be surprised as to how wide your options are when it comes to a concrete contractor. Don’t get overwhelmed with the numbers. Look for companies that fit your criteria and start from there. You can speak to some of these contractors, so you can get an idea of how they treat their customers and cross them out if you don’t feel comfortable.

Set appointments

Concrete contractors with an excellent track record will most likely have a busy schedule. They may be unavailable on the dates you want to meet them, that is why you should also be willing to adjust. Only take them out of your list if they don’t show a willingness to work their way to meet with you. Also, be wary of contractors that are always available as this can mean they’re not as trusted as the others.

Consider the drying time when making your timeline

If you need the concrete driveway for your newly purchased car or your patio for an upcoming event, make sure to add a couple of weeks to your timeline. You have to remember that even if the contractor completes the task in a day or two, you will still not be allowed to use your concrete driveway or patio because of the drying time required. For most driveways, contractors recommend at least two weeks to ensure superior results.

Know the permits necessary for the project

You need to educate yourself when it comes to the necessary permits required for the project. This will help you avoid unnecessary delays and issues with your local authority. If the concrete contractor does not show knowledge of this thing, you should have second thoughts because you may be left responsible if anything unexpected happens.

Turn down additional services

It can be nice to add a decorative finish to your concrete, but it may not be within your means as of the moment. If you don’t want to get caught off-guard, make sure to ask for prices beforehand and turn down any additional services.

Obtain estimates

Any reputable contractor will come to your property to offer you’re a free quote for the project you want to be done. While they are in your house, don’t hesitate to ask them about the specifics of the job like the best materials to use or any additional service you think will help the project a success.

Make sure everything is in black and white

Always ask for a contract. This will save you from unnecessary troubles and headaches.

 Understand the contract

Take time to read the fine print. Make sure that the contract has all the details necessary for the completion of the project. The contract should enlighten you and not confuse you even more. While contracts are meant to be technical, they should be easy to understand and to the point. It should state what materials and tools they will utilize, the measurements of the driveway or patio, the number of men they need to complete the task, and so on.

Ask as many questions as you can to test their knowledge

You can distinguish an experienced and skilled contractor from one that is not by the way they answer your questions. If they seem in doubt of what they say, it’s probably because they are. You want to make sure you are entrusting the task to a contractor with the right knowledge and expertise fit for the job.

Concrete FAQ

What comprises concrete?

Concrete is a mixture of Portland cement, sand, gravel, water, and other chemical admixtures.

What affects the concrete’s strength?

The cement content and water are the two factors that impact the strength of the concrete. These components of the mixture are also commonly known as the water/cement ratio. The water/cement ratio has the most significant effect on the concrete’s strength, but it is also affected by correct sand and gravel grading.

What causes concrete to crack?

Concrete cracks over time and cracks because of a variety of reasons. Concrete contracts and gets affected in the curing, drying, and hardening stages that can result in cracks. If the bond between the cement mixture and the aggregates is not strong enough, the concrete will not survive stress induced by different factors and cause the concrete to crack. One of the most effective ways to prevent cracking is placing control joints every 2 ½ to 3 times the depth of the concrete slab. It will help prevent the appearance of cracks. Control joints sawed into the concrete should take care of the cracking. Improper sub-grade also leads to cracking.

How long can the concrete mixture stay in the bucket truck before it can no longer be used?

The concrete is considered “no good” two hours after it was batched, considering that the temperature is between 60 F and 80 F. The concrete may take a little longer to harden in lower temperatures. You should dispose of the balance of the truck if the temperature reaches 90 F or higher. It is crucial to monitor the concrete temperature to prevent accelerated hardening.

How much water should I add to the mixture?

More water cannot be added to the mixture because the water/cement ratio affects the overall strength of the concrete. If you add water to the mixture and compromise the water/cement ratio, the strength of the concrete will be affected. If you go beyond the allowable water/cement ratio, it will greatly affect the strength of the concrete. The concrete strength can decrease by 200 psi. To put it simply, you shouldn’t add more water when not necessary because it can do more harm than good.

Is it possible to just pour the concrete rather than placing it?

Concrete is designed with workability, which means it can be transported to the site by using a smooth rounded ramp and still keep its composition without it segregating. If you add extra water to the mixture to make it looser, it can result in segregation. And of course, there is an effect on the strength of the concrete. It will also affect the setting time and increase the chances of cracking. You should add a chemical admixture to the mix to make it more pourable, without causing adverse effects on its strength. You should be careful with the amount of admixture you will add.

What are the types of concrete?

Concrete mixtures are poured for specifically designed strengths and with specific components. For residential concrete, we should use concrete that is designed for 3000 psi. The maximum stone should be ¾” and the slump is 5″. For commercial concrete, we usually use a designed strength of 4000 psi or even higher and a maximum stone of ¾” and a slump of 5″. If you go beyond the allowable water/cement ratio, it will greatly affect the strength of the concrete. The concrete strength can decrease by 200 psi. You can always check with your contractor if you have questions about your application.

What tests do you run on fresh and hardened concrete?

A slump is used to measure the workability of fresh concrete. We also test the concrete’s air content, unit weight, as well as its temperature. We examine the compressive and flexural strength on hardened concrete.

Is a high slump better than a slow slump? Vice versa?

This depends mainly on the design of the concrete mix and its application. A moderate slump of 3″ to “is ideal for normal concrete. We typically use a high slump when the concrete must be placed somewhere with a high concentration of reinforcing steel. Low slump, on the other hand, can be used if the concrete is placed in large open areas. The mixture of concrete should be specifically designed for these particular applications. You should always check with your contractor when you need clarifications about your application.

Can we do something to make the concrete more workable if the workability is too low?

First, what do you exactly mean by too low? The design for commercial and industrial concrete applications is usually a maximum of 3 inches slump. The maximum slump for residential concrete, on the other hand, is designed at 5 inches. You should immediately contact the concrete plant if the concrete delivered to the site is so hard that it cannot be poured from the load. If you add extra water to the concrete mixture, above the desired design value, it may cause issues when the concrete begins to harden.

Can there still be something to do if the stump is too high?

Unfortunately, not much. Send the truck back to the plant.

Why is temperature essential?

Temperature is essential to concrete in significant ways. Concrete gets its strength from a complex chemical reaction that involves the hydration process of the cement mixture. The process of hydration is heavily dependent on temperature. If the temperature is too low, below 32 degrees F, the mixture will have a hard time hydrating. The water in the cement mixture can turn to ice and affect the setting and development of the designed strength. In this case, it may not achieve the desirable designed strength. If the temperature is too high, somewhere above 90 degrees F, the cement mixture will cause the mix to hydrate faster than average. The cement mixture may set and harden even before it is appropriately placed. Between 50 F and 85 F is the recommended temperature for proper concrete placement. It may require special preparation if the placement of concrete goes beyond these recommended ranges. You can ask your contractor for suggestions and clarifications.

Learn more