Choosing a Paving Contractor to Install Your Driveway.
January 16, 2009
Do you have an asphalt driveway that is in shambles? The global market forces unique challenges for consumers to spend wisely. Take some advice from an expert so that you will get the most for your money.
Paving an asphalt driveway may seem like a simple task to some people. Basically you just get a couple of companies out of the phone book to give you an estimate and then pick the cheapest one right? Well, not if you’re concerned about the craftsmanship or making sure you get what you pay for. This is the number one mistake people make when choosing a contractor. Before you call any company do some research first. Information is readily available 24 hours a day on the web. Stay away from people that knock on your door. You will never ever get a good job from someone telling you he has an extra load of asphalt from a job up the street. These people are called travelers and never deliver on what they promise. There is plenty of info on the web regarding these types of people.
Try to zero in on companies that specialize in residential asphalt drives. Commercial contractors excel in putting down lots of asphalt really fast, but usually fall short of a homeowner’s expectations when it comes to details. Review a company’s website, check them against the BBB or other reporting agencies, and compare your notes about your research. When you look at their website, be sure to pay really close attention to the details you find both in the content and in the pictures on the site. You want to see what kind of work they are capable of, and you want to be confident they fully know what they are doing. You’ll also be able to make sure they have adequate equipment if they have good pictures. Once you have 1-3 good companies with a clean history and a good reputation now is the time to talk to them and request a bid. Always get a written proposal. This makes sure both parties’ expectations are clear and known. It also helps protect you if a legal matter ensues.
When reviewing the bids pay close attention to the entire proposal; including the letterhead that it’s composed on. Sloppiness or inadequacies on paper now may be what you’ll get on your asphalt driveway too. Be sure that everything you expect from your paving project is included in the scope. Make sure you understand everything that is taking place. Be sure you understand how the job will be scheduled, how thick the driveway will be after the asphalt is compacted, how much rock will be installed prior to paving, and the dimensions or square footage. Signing a contract means you have accepted what is in writing. If something is left out, make sure you get an amended contract.
Before you sign a contract you should take some time and use good judgment to compare the estimates. Price should never be your number one concern. We’ll discuss price in a moment. Take an opportunity to ask a contractor for referrals that best match the design of your job. Some companies keep a cheat sheet of their best referrals, but you should insist they provide you with 1-2 jobs nearby that best match your own asphalt driveway. You want this because you should be inclined to physically investigate what kind of work they do. Ask about jobs they might be doing in the area so you can personally witness them while in action.
How do you know what to look for when looking at a referral driveway that a company has already completed? Here are a few great tips that will bring you up to an educated level.
- Check all the transitional areas such as sidewalks, garage floors, and streets. These should all be flush, with no bump, and should have the proper thickness. Without these details you will see water problems, or unraveling of the asphalt. These symptoms only get worse as time goes on.
- Streaking or pock marks are a good indicator of a thin surface. This happens when there is not enough material to encapsulate the larger stones while paving. The larger stones will tumble and cause imperfections in the surface, or “mat”.
- Seams and joints should be flush with each other, and barely visible (if at all) to an untrained eye. Seams and joints that are severely visible or are not evenly matched will fail prematurely.
- Exposed edges of the perimeter should be properly constructed. This is where most companies sink or swim. You should pay most of your attention here. Stand back and carefully look at the edges from a distant point of view. You should observe several aspects: The edges should be either in a perfectly straight line, or consistently “flowing” with the turns. The edges should be properly shaped, beveled, or tamped in a consistent looking 60 degree angle. The edges should be compacted properly without looking “squashed” from the top. Without these characteristics you will have problems later and it just doesn’t look as good as it should.
- If you look at the job after a rainstorm, be sure there is no considerable ponding, or puddling of water. If you do see water spots you can quickly deduce if they are too deep by measuring them with a coin placed flat in the water. The water should not be deeper than the coin.
- Last but not least, if the driveway was paved recently look for trash or debris left behind. This will indicate the level of cleanliness the crew is at.
You should really focus on the importance of inspecting past jobs by the company before spending your own money on having your asphalt driveway paved. By printing out this guide you can take it with you to create a checklist to write notes and comparisons on. Once you have done this, talk to the home owner and ask how their experience was with the firm. If you are diligent about researching your contractors prior to hiring them, you nearly eliminate the chance of getting a bad asphalt driveway. It’s your money, be sure it’s well spent.
Certainly ask your contractor about asphalt prices. Since early 2008 prices have gone up and down every month (typically up). Most paving contractors will not absorb a price increase. You and your contractor need to be in agreement with what will happen in the case of rising material costs.
Since we are on the topic of price now, let’s explore a few matters. There are a few ways of eliminating contractors before price. Be sure they are completely aware of your expectations. Have they presented you with a solution that gives you the absolute best return on investment? Does their reputation meet what you are looking for? If you have done your homework and still are lucky enough to have several contractors to choose from, price now becomes an important focus. Ask about available discounts. Typically, discounts are usually for cash payment, multiple jobs done at once (i.e. neighbor also needs a driveway), senior citizen, or repeat work. Also inquire about getting free or discounted maintenance packages once they have completed your driveway. Ask about including other options such as crack barrier or curbing at a lesser amount. Before asking a contractor to directly drop his price, be aware of several things. If you have found a very good contractor, chances are they are very passionate about their work and may feel a bit insulted if asked to match another company’s price. If you ask them to match a price and they feel as though their competition is as good as they are, a price reduction might be made to try to satisfy you. Be very considerate when asking for a direct reduction. These days it’s very expensive and stressful to operate a successful paving operation. The last thing you want to do is cause your contractor stress that may influence how your driveway is constructed.
Hopefully this has answered any questions you may have regarding the selection process of a residential asphalt contractor. If you have problems or questions regarding anything asphalt, feel free to look me up at our website. www.ccpstl.com
The author, Richard Dinkela II is employed by Creve Coeur Paving, a family owned, full service paving company operating in the Saint Louis Metro area since 1973. They are focused on serving the needs of commercial and residential patrons.
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