Choose Wisely! Top 10 List – Selecting a Decorative Concrete Contractor

The decorative concrete industry has exploded over the past 10 years bringing with it a new set of challenges in selecting the RIGHT decorative concrete contractor!

The Good News: Terrific products and beautiful spaces to live and work have resulted. As with any type of service, a little preparation in selecting the right contractor WILL make all the difference in your project.

The Bad News: Anyone in a pickup truck and with a trowel can jump into the business with little or no training nor experience.  These “shady contractors” pollute this amazing industry giving it a bad reputation and expose a whole lot of homeowners to major headaches after these knuckle heads are long gone.

 

DON’T WORRY… I’m here to help you choose wisely! I have found a number of pitfalls to avoid over the years when it comes to hiring contractors (of any type) – but especially a decorative concrete contractor.  Here’s my top ten list of what to look for before hiring someone to transform your concrete:

Selecting a Decorative Concrete Contractor - Tip 1Don’t be swayed by slick advertising gimmicks.  The best decorative contractors don’t have to do a lot of expensive advertising. They get the majority of their work through satisfied customers’ referrals. Consult friends and neighbors who have had work done.  Past superior performance is an excellent indicator for future performance!

 

Selecting a Decorative Concrete Contractor - Sundek Tip 2Check with the Better Business Bureau or local consumer-affairs agency for complaint histories of the contractors you’re considering. If you see one or two complaints it doesn’t necessarily mean the contractor isn’t qualified. Find out what the situation was. Find out how was the situation resolved – shouldn’t necessarily induce you to look elsewhere.  Be wary of a contractor with more problems than that.

 

Selecting a Decorative Concrete Contractor - Sundek Tip 3No matter how you find potential contractors, be sure to ask for a list of previous customers; then call them or, better yet, visit their projects to look at the work. Ask some penetrating questions such as these:

Would you hire this contractor again?
Were you satisfied with the quality of the work?
How did the contractor handle cleanup each day?
Was the contractor easy to work with?
How did the contractor handle differences and work changes?
Was the job completed on time and at the bid? If not, why not?
Did the contractor representative return phone calls and emails and keep his word?

Selecting a Decorative Concrete Contractor - Sundek Tip 4While licensing and insurance requirements vary from state to state check with the appropriate agency to see if the contractor is properly licensed and insured in your local. As a rule, licensing entails passing a test to measure competency, while registering involves only payment of a fee. If a problem arises, a government agency may be able to pursue a licensed or registered contractor on your behalf. Licensing won’t guarantee success, but it indicates a degree of professionalism and suggests that the contractor is committed to his or her job. You usually get what you pay for- mostly!

 

Selecting a Decorative Concrete Contractor - Sundek Tip 5The same holds true for membership in or certification by an industry group such as the Decorative Concrete Council or other trade associations. This is usually a sign of someone who is in business for the long run and not the quick buck.  It also means that this contractor is invested in the future development of the industry.  To go a step further, is the contractor a member of the council or trade association, or have they served on committees, do they attend the conferences, better yet, have they taken an active role by becoming a leader (key expert) within the organization?

 

 

Selecting a Decorative Concrete Contractor - Sundek Tip 6Get a written estimate from at least three contractors. An estimate should detail the scope of work to be done and the length of time the job will take.  Be sure to note what is included and not included.  Once agreed to and signed by you and the contractor, a bid becomes a contract. You can learn a lot about your potential contractor by the details and professionalism in the estimate writing. If he is sloppy in this area he will be sloppy in the work as well – which leads to misunderstanding and hard feelings.

 

Selecting a Decorative Concrete Contractor - Sundek Tip 7It’s not uncommon to pay for a decorative project in phases over the course of the job. Try to limit the down payment to 10 percent or less. Contractors who ask for a substantial amount up front may use your money to finish their previous job or pay for other bills. In some states, it’s illegal to require large deposits. Some specialty projects, however, will require deposits such as custom colors or textures requiring a higher down payment.

 

Selecting a Decorative Concrete Contractor - Sundek Tip 8Throw out the low-ball bid! This contractor is probably cutting corners or, worse and is usually desperate for work. There may be problems later on and you probably won’t be able to find them if something goes wrong.  Be especially wary of contractors who offer a bargain price, claiming that they’re doing a job in the neighborhood and have leftover materials. I advise my customers to always be wary of anything that looks too good to be true.  

 

Selecting a Decorative Concrete Contractor - Sundek Tip 9Ask for a warranty! Reputable contractors guarantee their work.  You may even choose to ask for a reference that has had warranty work completed so that you can get a feel for the type of service provided days, weeks, months, and years after the job is completed.

 

 

 

Selecting a Decorative Concrete Contractor - Sundek Tip 10Good LISTENING & Communication Skills:  People are people and the single most important factor in choosing the right contractor for your particular job is how well you and he communicate.  Set good expectations so that the contractor has a clear understanding of your needs and wants for your project.

 

 

Bottom Line Advice: 

This list should guide your path to selecting the BEST contractor for your project.  Beyond a high level of technical competence, being comfortable with the contractor and what his company stands for should play an equal or greater role in your final decision.  Go forth and choose wisely!

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So Many Flooring Options! Are Stained Floors My Best Choice?

Limited Flooring Choices Were Prominent Back in the Day – You, as a homeowner or building designer, did not have much choice in what went down as the final floor finish in the home or office. You were generally left with a short list of materials such as carpet,  vinyl sheet goods or tile.  Besides aesthetics, each has some good qualities and also some real issues that surfaced later. And then there was staining…

The Stained Floor Surge   About 25 years ago there was a surge of interest in stained floors driven by the “WOW” factor the look offers to ordinary décor spaces.  Some of the main reasons stained floors became a viable design choice were:

  • development of durable and user friendly sealers
  • reliable and predictable stain materials
  •  development of proper application guidelines
  •  installer training in the use of these materials

Today stained and dyed floors have become a top choice with discriminating designers When used in a polished concrete floor – or applied to the natural concrete floor, the stained floor look is not only highly desirable, but extremely functional.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of the flooring choices on the market today using the guidelines put together by Anne Balogh.

Wide choice of colors – Carpet – tile –vinyl – have stepped up and offer a wide choice of colors and textures to select from – but they are not custom nor unique to your project. Wood – wood laminates – stone and brick have a very natural and organic look but are limited in this area. Stained concrete projects are a one of a kind with unlimited color and design selection. Every project reflects the owner’s tastes and personality with their imagination being the only limitation.

Beautiful Decorative Concrete Floors and Star Wars - A Winning Combination!

Beautiful Decorative Concrete Stained Floors and Star Wars Decor – A Winning Combination!

Longevity and performance – Carpet – vinyl- wood and most tiles cannot match the durability of concrete. Natural stone and brick, if properly cared for can match the natural durability of good concrete floors.

Vulnerable to humidity and moisture damage – All of the above materials are continuously dealing with moisture-related issues, especially carpet, wood and vinyl, whereas ceramic tile, natural stone and stained concrete are strong performers in this area. This goes hand-in-hand with a major issue in today’s homes and offices that deal with allergens and mold problems that are magnified by modern construction that seals the building tight to keep air out as well as keeping the modified heat or cold in with HVAC systems. There are a lot of sick buildings and homes for this very reason. Stained concrete floors play a major role in eliminating this health issue because of the hygienic nature of the finish.

Average Cost per Foot Installed
Carpet                       $3.38-$6.61**
Ceramic Tile            $11-22**
Vinyl/Linoleum    $2.64-5.64**
Wood                          $8-10**
Laminate                  $8-10***
Natural Stone          $20-50+***
Stained Concrete  $2-15***

Turn Ordinary to Amazing  Stained concrete floors are a terrific way to really put an amazing look to an ordinary concrete floor without breaking the bank and it comes with many advantages over traditional materials in so many areas.

Bottom line: Stained floors are a GREAT choice! Choose a licensed and insured contractor who has a lot of experience in the installation of stained floors. Make sure they understand your particular project and what you are trying to achieve. Are they willing to make samples and do they have credible references that you can go see? Do they offer a warranty? Select your contractor, select your color/design, and ENJOY!

*Check out www.concretenetwork.com for more information on Anne Balogh’s decorative concrete.
Source ** Old House Web
Source*** Bob Harris Guide to Stained Concrete

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