As of this writing, the economy has been strong for nearly a decade. There’s no telling when it may slow but it sure has been a nice stretch of growth!

I mention this because a strong market lends itself not only to scammers but to contractors getting in over their heads in projects and businesses they ordinarily would not be able to. I’m not saying that taking a risk is a bad thing or even that it’s intentional, but in the contracting world, this can put homeowners at financial and legal risk.

So I decided to put together a blog to help you make the best possible decision for choosing a contractor. I’ll focus first on Paver Patio Hardscape Contractors and then add a few notes on General Contractors.

Paver Patio Hardscape Contractors & Why ICPI?

If you’re interested in a quality, long lasting hardscape project but have no clue where to start, you’ve found the right place.

Below are suggested questions compiled by the ICPI. This is a great tool to assist you once deciding on who you’d like to set up appointments with. You can download these questions & The Contractor Comparison Checklist here.

NOTE ON CHECKLIST: Due to the clay soils here in Central Virginia the ICPI base depth minimum is at least 2″ deeper than stated on this checklist. Weak or wet soils will need increased base depth. Contractors should test and identify soil conditions on your property before giving you final proposal.


Suggested Questions for Contractors

ICPI recommends getting written proposals from at least three contractors. Be sure the contractor visits your home before providing the proposal. Please note that the lowest bid might not always be the best option. To ensure a quality installation, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • How long have they been installing pavers?
  • Have they been trained by a manufacturer or the ICPI?
  • Are they ICPI Certified Installers?
  • What percentage of their total business consists of installing concrete pavers?
  • Will they provide you with three references? Be sure to ask for references from recent and past jobs.
  • Can you contact their references and inspect the jobs?
  • Do they have a portfolio of photos and letters to qualify themselves?

While the contractor is working on your property, they should be insured for any damage and injuries that may occur. Check your homeowner’s insurance policy for coverage of the contractor while on your property.

  • Can the contractor provide proof that Worker’s Compensation insurance covers all employees on the job?
  • Do they have current Liability Insurance? Ask for a copy of the certificate.
  • Will they install the job per ICPI specifications? Can they supply a copy?
  • Do they provide a written, itemized proposal outlining the scope of work and terms of payment? It should include starting and completion dates, demolition and excavation, paving and base materials, and taxes.
  • Do they guarantee their work for one year and will they return to inspect it?
  • Are they members of the ICPI or other associations?

 

Be sure your proposal includes all materials and specifies these installation guidelines.

General Contractors

When evaluating your next kitchen or bath remodel, roof replacement or anything in between there are a few basic characteristics you may want to identify right away. It may seem obvious to some but for others, say a busy professional homeowner trying to squeeze in a few bids, it may go unnoticed. When you make the first call does someone answer? Are they polite and knowledgeable? If you leave a message do they call back? Or does their voicemail message sound unprofessional? The first impression is ALWAYS the most important, especially with your first interaction with a future contractor.

Now here’s a tip that may not be so obvious. If the contractor is by far the lowest bid and can start the work immediately, BEWARE. Especially if they ask for a large upfront deposit. This is a sign that the contractor may not be a desirable one. We always recommend not rushing into a project but take the time to research possible candidates. Ask for references, look up reviews, make sure insurance and licenses are current.

Some say be wiery if a contractor asks for a budget amount. However, if you are working with a reputable professional that you trust, this can speed up the process for everyone. We always ask for a budget. Knowing the wants and needs of the project alongside a budget, we can make suggestions to help you get what you want. If a contractor only knows what you want without knowing how much can spend, they will spend a lot of time putting together a bid for you that could be way too fancy or too underwhelming for your overall project desires. You will both end up spending more time than needed working backward from there.

The Virginia Board of Contractors put together “What You Should Know Before Hiring a Contractor” a very helpful publication that could save first timers and seasoned renovators time and money.

That's me being silly in front of our wall of ICPI Certified Installers. It's our goal to have all CCA employees certified. Our Office Manager has even been passed the exam but is not "certified" since she does not have the installation experience.

I’ve put some great resources together to help you find the best contractors to include in your bidding process. The first place to start is the ICPI (Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute). The industry leader in engineering, training, certifying and policy making. If you’re just getting started, run a quick search to see if there are any ICPI Certified Installers in your area. We’ve also seen a lot of people out there advertising that they are certified when they are not so you may want to verify current candidates as well. Find or verify certified installers here.