It’s intimidating, dealing with contractors, car mechanics, and other such craftsmen who presumably know a lot more than you about the thing you need help with. This gap in knowledge can make anyone feel like an easy target of manipulation and schemery.
The purpose of this post is to help close the gap between you and decorative concrete contractors (such as ourselves). But some of the points you’ll find in this article may apply to other contractors and craftsmen.
1. A Good Contractor Will be Licensed, Bonded and Insured
There’s a quick and easy way to check this all in one place. Just conduct the following Google search:
“(Your state) contractors state license board”
Just like this:
“California contractors state license board”
Look for the “.gov” result.
In the case of the California Contractors State License Board, cslb.ca.gov, you can see the “Check a License” button right there in the search results.
Once you’re there, click “Business Name” to search by name, rather than by license number. Then, type the contractor’s business name and see if a result matching their name comes up. If it does, click on “view more details”. In the case of the CSLB, they have information such as business name & address, qualifying individual (the person whose name the license is under), and information the company’s bonds and insurance policies.
And if a result matching the contractor’s name doesn’t show up in your state’s license board, contact the contractor in question and ask them if they are registered with a different name. If they aren’t registered with a different name, they simply aren’t licensed. If a contractor isn’t licensed, that indicates they’re lacking insurance, as well. We recommend staying away.
2. A Good Contractor Will Reply to Your Calls/Messages
You’ll be surprised by the number of contractors who won’t return your initial call or message. If they don’t care enough to get back to you, it’s safe to assume they won’t care enough to install your decorative concrete properly.
3. A Good Decorative Concrete Contractor Should Show/Make You Samples
You don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for something you don’t even like. If your contractor is any smart, he won’t want that either. That’s why, unless you’re absolutely certain about the design you want, your contractor should offer to show/make you some samples. There’s not a more secure way to ensure that you’ll love your resurfaced concrete than to touch, see and feel it first. Us, decorative concrete contractors, usually apply our systems on small cut-outs of plywood sheets for samples.
Sometimes, though, a sample area may be done directly onto your concrete (somewhere in a corner). That is usually the case with acid staining, as the same color acid stain will produce a different look on every different slab it’s applied on (because acid stains create a chemical reaction with minerals and lime in your concrete).
4. A Good Decorative Concrete Contractor Will Prepare Your Surface to Perfection
The surface preparation, or the first phase of any type of decorative concrete work, is one of the two most important steps for ensuring a long lifespan. The contractor should tell you that they’ll thoroughly clean your concrete floor to make sure there’s no dust, dirt, oil, or other contaminating particles on it. If there’s a coating covering your floor (paint, tiles, old overlays, etc), that coating must be removed completely before the installation of any other flooring system. All this prepping is done to make sure all of the decorative concrete solutions either bond, or in the case of acid stains – react with your concrete to their fullest ability.
5. A Good Flooring Contractor Will Seal/ Clear-Coat Your Floor for Protection
Sealing, or the last phase of decorative concrete works, is the second most important factor for the durability of any colored concrete floor. The sealer, a clear protective coating, should be applied after all other steps in the resurfacing process have been completed. In most cases, at least two coats of sealer are recommended. The sealer serves two main purposes – it enhances the look of your floor, and most importantly, it protects your floor. That protection includes UV resistance so that the colors of your floor don’t fade away from the sunlight, as well as protection from scratching, staining, chipping and other such undesirable outcomes. You can see why it’s so important.
6. A Good Contractor Should Offer Information about Maintaining Your Concrete
The sealing phase we talked about in the last paragraph needs to be repeated every 6 to 24 months if you want your concrete to last as long as possible. Your contractor should offer that information to you without you even asking. How often you need to reseal will depend on how much traffic the concrete undergoes, how much UV lighting it gets, and other such factors. In our case, we offer a 10-year warranty as long as you keep up with the recommended maintenance of your floor.
7. Check Reviews From Sources Outside of Their Website
Be very skeptical of reviews you see on people’s websites. Unless they have embedded reviews from a third-party source, they have full access to writing, editing, posting, and declining reviews. That much control, for something that important, can cause even an honest person to do shady things.
That’s why it’s a good idea to reference a company’s website reviews with reviews from Yelp, Facebook, and other such public platforms. Also, be skeptical of reviews from third-party platforms that require businesses to pay for a listing. Such sources are Homeadvisor, BBB, and others. That point is so important that it deserves more delving into.
8. Be Skeptical of Reviews From Third-Party Sources That Charge Businesses for Listings and Reviews
The one that comes to mind initially is the BBB (The Better Business Bureau). Many of you remember the stories that were in the news a few years ago, about all the cases of convicted criminals who had perfect ratings in BBB. That’s not necessarily because the folks over at the BBB are bad people, it’s because their business model promotes that type of behavior (intentionally or not).
A business has to pay $500 a year to get a BBB listing nowadays, which is a price that scares many small business owners (ourselves included). To incentivize people to list their business on BBB, and to eliminate their buyer’s remorse, BBB employees are naturally inclined towards giving better reviews and making business owners happy. The same applies to other similar platforms – Homeadvisor, Thumbtack, etc.
Instead, focus on public review platforms like Yelp, and Facebook. Such platforms don’t stand to benefit from inflating business reviews and ratings. Therefore, those platforms are much more likely to show an accurate representation of a business.
9. A Good Contractor Should be Accepting if You Tell Them You’d Like to Get a Second Opinion
If you tell a contractor that you want to get a second opinion, and if he doesn’t seem to take it well – be very cautious. If the contractor starts resisting your statement by trying to convince you that you won’t find a better deal – it’s almost certain that you can find a better contractor (and probably even a better deal). If a person is confident in their pricing, expertise, and customer service, they won’t be threatened by a simple competition comparison.
It’s important to get a good deal on your concrete resurfacing, but it’s more important that the job lasts a long time. If you have to fix your decorative concrete in two years, your bottom line will be worse off than if you paid extra for the proper installation to begin with. So get plenty of opinions and go with the contractor you trust the most.
10. A Good Decorative Concrete Contractor Won’t Resurface Your Concrete If It’s In a Bad Structural Condition
Things like concrete degradation, sunken concrete, concrete that has been risen by a tree root, or other such irreparable problems with your concrete make resurfacing it a waste of money. A good contractor should tell you that (especially if they offer a warranty). Research the problem in your concrete in a little before calling a decorative concrete contractor to see if what they are talking about matches the information you found on your own.
11. A Good Contractor Will Take Special Measures in Temperatures Under 50° or Over 90°
Most types of decorative concrete cannot be performed in temperatures below 50 and 90 F. That’s, at least, what’s advertised by the product manufacturers. We’ve installed concrete overlays in 100-degree weather, and we know of people who’ve done it in 20-degree weather. But resurfacing concrete in such weather conditions isn’t like resurfacing it in the right temperature window. For extremely hot and dry days, retardants must be mixed with the concrete to reduce its drying time and prevent cracking. In cold days, the contractor must heat up the freshly resurfaced floor with propane heaters to also prevent cracking. So, our point is – if the temperature is less than 50 or over 90, make sure your contractor has a plan on how to deal with it.
12. A Good Contractor Will Instruct You About Your Resurfaced Concrete’s Drying Time
This time frame varies slightly between the different systems. But generally speaking, not walking on a freshly resurfaced floor for at least 24 hours is recommended. If the weather is cold and humid, that window may be bigger – 48 hrs. Intuitively, vehicle traffic is considerably more impactful than foot traffic. And the window for curing is around 5-7 days.
13. A Good Contractor Will Follow The Payment System Allowed by The State’s Licensing Board
In California, we have many rules and restrictions about contracting. One of these restrictions applies to down payments. Here, a down payment can only be 10% of the total cost, or $1000 (whichever one is lower). So, if you’re in California, you should be skeptical of any contractors who are trying to take a down payment larger than $1000.
14. A Good Contractor Will Provide You With a Detailed Contract
At the bare minimum, your sales contract should include a detailed description of the services that are to be provided. The total cost of the contract (as well as the amount taken as down payment). Information about possible additional costs (not a huge concern when it comes to decorative concrete, but a big concern things like electrical, and plumbing), estimated start and end date of the project, and a notice of cancellation (your right to cancel the project three or seven days prior to its starting date).
If you’re not too busy, it’s useful to check the rules established by your state’s contractors board. We found their website in the first step if you remember, and in our example, we used the California State License Board (CSLB). To find their guideless, let’s head over to Google and type:
“Your state license board sales contract”
In our case, the very first result is a very helpful PDF the CSLB has provided for both contractors and customers. Inside the PDF there are templates and information about what your sales contract should look like.
Finding a good decorative contractor may turn into quite the time-consuming task. However, the money and the headache a good decorative contractor will save you is well worth the time spent on researching. Dare I say, that applies to many other types of contractors and craftsmen.
Thanks for reading!