T Nation

Should I Be Concerned About Contractor?


#1

Last year I interviewed and got estimates from a few concrete contractors but didn’t hire any of them because they were either late w/o notice or the estimates they provided didn’t have the detail they said they would provide.

This spring I tried again and hired a guy I liked. I liked him because he was on time, gave a detailed estimate, and was generally intelligent and friendly. I also checked him out on the web. His business is real, with proper licensing and all that crap.

The job is to pull out the cracked driveway, lay down a new one and also extend around the side of the house for parking the boat and moving the truck out there when I get my Tesla.

The concrete guy started yesterday. He was by himself with a pickaxe, a shovel and a wheel barrel. That’s it.

Thoughts?


#2

Are you paying him by the hour, or a fixed fee? You might be parking that tesla on the street for awhile.


#3

No, the estimate is $10,700, so somewhat fixed. I won’t get the Tesla until sometime next year (Model 3).


#4

Call around to a few contractors and ask them directly their cost per square foot. They should be able to give you a number right off the top of their head. Then compare theirs to his. Depending on size and regional cost- $10,700 could actually be a little light.

On the sparse tools- When I did residential, we did about the same thing. Usually 2 guys would tear out the turf, grade the ground a little and set the forms. Truck drops the under bedding and that gets wheeled in. Then the bobcat comes in and tears out the driveway and any heavy excavating (for versa-lock or various other walls). Final check up on forms, elevations, and installations of box drains and what not, then we’d pour concrete. Some guys (or Co.'s) will have a few people on standby or working on another job in the final stage while the forms are getting set, then bring them in for pouring/finishing.

A few things you can check in the contract and on the ground-
Thickness of concrete and depth of the forms- they should be the same. You can’t pour 4" into shallow forms. If you check a few concrete suppliers and the price of the concrete for the volume required is more than the bid- something is wrong.
Pitch- make sure it’s tilted where it should tilt (for drainage and what not) and not tilted if it shouldn’t be- like draining into your house. You can lay a 2x4 across the form and put a long level on top of that to get the gist of its pitch.
Under bedding- the gravel or cinder should be in before they pour, and shouldn’t be heaped up or too deep into the forms. If there’s only 2" from the gravel to the top of the form, its going to be thin. (No, it doesn’t sink in and grab the under bedding, not that much anyways).
Reinforcement wire- That goes in right before the pour. If it’s in the contract, make sure its in the forms.

When they pour and finish, a little douching with water is typical toward the end, but if they’re pouring a super loose slurry it’s screwed up and the aggregate will settle and a thick crust of cement will be on top. Conversely, if it’s coming out of the truck in lumps and people are yelling (they’re always yelling), running like crazy, and float scrubbing like their life depends on it- it’s probably a hot load- Started to cure in the truck. That is a disaster. Pouring and finishing is busy, but shouldn’t be crazy. If they go crazy, something is up. If they scrub it too much, you get a bad finish with magnesium burns permanently imbued to the finish.

The owner of the company I worked for used to come to the customer with a portfolio of work so that they could choose the type of finish(brushed, exposed, pattern swirled, stamped), and a list of satisfied customers for reference. Minus that or a stellar reputation (we had both) I’d be a little hesitant.


#5

Why would you buy a Tesla 3?


#6

Did he work hard and has he made good progress? If so, let him get the job done.


#7

For your next job make a written scope of work with steps, minimum requirements and pictures of what you want. Both of you sign it and get copies attached to the quote. Some contractors will be insulted by this and refuse… and that’s okay, next man up.

This prevents the he-said/he-said argument if you end up with 2" concrete instead if 4" or anything else.

It actually protects the contractor from dumb homeowners more than the other way around. Every contractor I know has a story where they did exactly what was agreed to only to have a homeowner change their mind or miss remember a conversation. People hear what they want to.


#8

Scroll to 1:35. Saw this episode the other day and gave me quite a laugh.

I have nothing else to add except all my previous experiences with contractors unfortunately are resembled by that line in The Simpsons clip…bewaaaaare.


#9

I never trust contractor that is why I make it a point to learn as much as I can about carpentry or masonry to avoid paying one unless I have no choice at all. If that’s the case I make it a point to watch them with their work and accomplishment.


#10

If you guys watch flipping projects you will understand me better why I don’t trust contractors.


#11

There’s really nothing to worry about with contractors. Just set clear expectations (scope of work) and clear timelines.

If you’re clear, even the worst of contractors will follow through. (Although, sometimes begrudgingly)

It’s the architects and engineers that do not understand clarity.

So, I should base my relationship with contractors on a dramatized show and not my actual career experience?


#12

Well not really, my point is that we can’t really trust contractors.


#13

Any other professions we shouldn’t trust based on dramatized TV?

You should be a painter with how broad of a brush you’re painting with.


#14

Want to generalise any more? With that attitude I hope you, specifically, get fucked over by a tradie.


#15

This is usually where the problems come from. “if it looks good on paper, it must work in real life”

Pfft yeah right Mr engineer!


#16

Oh man. If I had a freakin dime for every time…

Don’t even get me started on pre-drilling frames to facilitate installation. Or what now, since that duct was moved on the latest revision, but nobody thought about the plumbing or electrical? And now there’s a freakin beam in the way. Can we go through that? If so, where and how big? If not- That side of the house gets no electricity or water!

WTF!!!

I’ve run into some of those horror stories IRL. That type of stuff is never good. I’ve had the good fortune to work with some good contractors that take pride in their work and do what ever it takes to protect their reputation, but not all of them are like that.

I’ve never run into anything that a couple of phone calls and an hour of doing something else in the meantime didn’t solve.


#17

I did cement work for a year we did alot of things by hand. We had other backhoes for rentals for big jobs. It is possible to prep and pour by yourself but the amount of work for 1 guy is a shit tonne. Yeah you want proper depth for a laneway since you will have a car on it. I would think close to a foot of cement would do at least 8 inches preferably 12. Its easy to tell by the forms is he using two by fours or sixes.


#18

He should pack the hell out of the stone if he doesnt pack it send him packing


#19

I don’t watch a lot of reality TV, but what little I’ve seen has made me leery of dog whisperers, decathletes, lawyers, personal trainers and sitting presidents.