9 Questions to ask before decorating with concrete
I suspect many of you were surprised by the title. Most people still think gray slabs on the ground or bland cinder blocks when they think concrete. However, modern staining and stamping techniques mean it can be so much more than either of those. It’s often used as a floor, wall, or surface in high end celebrity homes.
That all being said, there are risks. Many contractors are primarily focused just on making gray slabs on the ground. So you have to be careful who you hire when you are going for a more artistic look. As a concrete contractor, I have had to clean up after someone else’s poor construction more than once. Here is how to make sure you don’t end up being the homeowner that pays twice to decorate with concrete without wasting a lot of time.
Starting your search on the internet is perfectly fine. These questions can quickly help you eliminate some of the options you come across.
- Do they even mention staining and stamping? If there website is nothing but pictures of concrete foundations and sidewalks, they are probably not very experienced with the more aesthetic uses of concrete. Unless you want them to train themselves using your home, you should probably move along to the next website.
- Do they mention being bonded and insured? It’s possible that they are bonded and insured and the web company that they hired simply didn’t put it on the website. But if you have a lot of options and need to quickly eliminate some, not mentioning this basic information can be a another way to filter out some quickly.
- How long have they been in business? Again, this isn’t necessarily a show stopper. All things being equal your better off with someone who’s been doing this a long time
Once you have a list of a few contractors who have pased these basic checks, you can move on to some more involved checks. See if you can find out any other disqualifying information before you even start to call them. Look at review sites like Yelp and the BBB. Search for their name to see if it shows up in any news articles. Here’s what you should ask yourself while you read them.
- Are there any reviews? If you are only looking at companies that say they have been in business for many years, it would be unusual that they have no online presence at all. Having no reviews shouldn’t be the only reason you disqualify someone, but you should definitely confirm their experience if you move forward with them.
- Do any of their reviews mention staining or stamping? If no one has ever mentioned these, it is doubtful they have much experience with them.
- Is there a trend in the bad reviews? Almost anyone who’s been in business will have upset someone or had a competitor try to hurt their business. Occasional bad reviews should not instantly eliminate someone from consideration. If you see frequent complaints about the same thing or a constant stream of bad reviews, you should be very leery.
At this point you should have a fairly short list of contractors to follow up with. Along with the usual questions about schedule and cost, here’s what you should ask when you talk to them.
- What expenses does and doesn’t your quote include? Unethical contractors hide fees so they can get the job then spring them on you later when it is hard to switch.
- Do you do all the work yourself or subcontract parts out? There isn’t a necessarily a wrong answer here. You just want to be very explicit about who is responsible for what.
- What are your guarantees and warranties? Many if not most contracts will say they guarantee their work. You want to ask this at the end of your conversation so you can make sure the contractor includes subcontracted work in the guarantee.
Despite its reputation among many, concrete can be an inexpensive and elegant way to decorate your home and yard. Asking these questions will help ensure that getting it installed and keeping it beautiful is as easy as possible.
Chris Duell is the owner and operator of Austin Concrete Pros. They do repairs, staining, and stamping in Central Texas.