Archive for the ‘How To Articles’ Category

How to Choose a Concrete Driveway Replacement Contractor

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Your concrete driveway looks terrible and you’re finally ready to replace it.  But you are a little intimidated by the process of selecting a concrete driveway installation contractor and want to make the right choice to avoid concrete defects and contractor hassles.  You know that when it comes to concrete, quality matters.  There is a lot of information available on the internet but you just wish someone would put together the executive summary for you.

 

You’ve come to the right place.  This article is written to help you ask the right questions and define the proper requirements for your concrete driveway replacement project.

 

Where to Find Qualified Contractors

Your first goal is to find an experienced quality contractor who is right for the job and will deliver not only on time and on budget, but pour a concrete driveway that is free of defects and will last forever.  The last thing you want is an expensive concrete project gone wrong with cracks, pock-marks and other surface deterioration (scaling, spalling, delamination).  So where can you find a pre-screened honest, competent, professional contractor with good consumer ratings that will be easy to work with and fair in the process?  Seek a referral from someone that has already been through this process or visit ServiceMagic.com.

 

If you go the referral route, be sure to only pursue the referral if the property owner had their concrete driveway repoured three to five years ago.  Typically, the majority of concrete surface deterioration will occur within the first five years.  Don’t just go with the contractor your neighbor used if the concrete was only poured recently. 

 

In addition to good ratings on sites like Angie’s List or Service Magic, try to go with concrete contractors that are members of the Better Business Bureau.  This is important in the event issues arise. 

 

Select Licensed Concrete Contractors

Ensure that the contractor you select is licensed in your county and carries both liability and workmen’s compensation insurance.  Typically, contractors must have the proper insurance and proof of qualifications to get a license so this is very important.  For homeowners in Kansas City, use the links below to validate contractor license information. 

 

Johnson County, KS Licensed Concrete Contractors

Jackson County, MO Licensed Concrete Contractors

 

Don’t hire unlicensed contractors to do the job. If you do, you will have no recourse should you be unhappy with the job or should you have code or permit violations cited by your county.

 

Get Multiple Estimates

Even though you are busy, try to get at least three written estimates.  If you use Service Magic the process is simple because your request for an estimate will be sent to multiple local contractors.  Note which contractors show up on time and demonstrate experience, knowledge, and professionalism.

 

Check References

Get at least three references for your contractor and call them. The contractor will likely give you references who had positive experiences, so be sure to ask them specific questions about workmanship that are important to you.

 

Check Better Business Bureau Record

Check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if complaints have ever been filed or are outstanding against the contractor.

 

Sign a Written Contract

The contract should clearly spell out all the steps the contractor will take from beginning to end of your job, what supplies are included, the payment schedule and the time line for the project.  Use the requirements below and ensure they are included in your written contract. 

 

Defining the Requirements

If you want strong, good quality concrete that will withstand the test of time, experts would agree to use the requirements below:

 

Strength - The minimum recommended strength for exterior slabs is 4,000 psi (pounds per square inch).  However, this is the minimum and 4,500 psi driveways are even better. 

 

First Delivery – Try to ensure your job is the first delivery of the truck load and avoid being the last delivery of the day.  This will reduce the probability that additional water is added to the mix that may alter the ratio of ingredients that make up the batch result in weaker bonds. 

 

Weather - Try to schedule concrete placement when the weather is cloudy and overcast. Concrete placement in weather extremes is very hard on the material. Concrete loves to be placed when the air temperature is in the mid 50sF. Placing it in blazing sunshine or snowy days is simply not a good idea.  Try to have the concrete poured at least thirty days before the next freeze. 

 

Finish Type – For concrete driveways and sidewalks, go for the more slip resistant broom/brush textured finish. 

 

Finishing Techniques – Ensure that the concrete finishers do not sprinkle lots of water on the surface of the concrete as they trowel it.  This will dilute the concrete mix on the surface.  If you are the first delivery of the day and have the concrete poured in mild, overcast weather, this will be less of a problem. 

 

Curing Techniques – Insist on natural wet moist curing or plastic curing.  Do not allow the concrete contractor use a spray liquid curing compound.  Commonly referred to as “cure-n-seal”, these curing agents create a film-like membrane on the surface of the concrete that will allow the concrete to set up properly but will prevent you from applying a penetrating strengthening sealant soon after.  The cure and seal is misleading.  It may help cure the concrete but it certainly will not seal and protect it.  Choose the moist cure or plastic cure (tightly covering the slab with high-quality plastic for several days) for best results.  The hydration process will typically last 30 days.

 

Expansion Control Joints – Concrete shrinks as it cures and therefore expansion control joints are highly recommended.  The depth of these joints should be one fourth the total thickness of the slab.  So for example, a four inch think concrete sidewalk should have one inch deep control joints. 

 

Seal Concrete Driveways After 30 Days

You’ve done your research to find the right concrete flatwork contractor and defined the proper requirements for high quality concrete, now the last step is to seal and protect your new concrete driveway or sidewalk.  Be sure to avoid short-service life acrylic sealers or sealers that need to be reapplied.  For the best long-term results, select a lithium-based concrete sealant, hardener, and densifier that will tighten the surface pores and strengthen the concrete to make it less absorbent and less susceptible to surface deterioration.  The result will be a permanently protected driveway that is worry free and easier to maintain. 

 

Do Not Use Deicing Salts

Do not use deicing salts within the first two years after the concrete has been poured.  Instead, use snow removal services with sand and or kitty-litter.  If you need deicing salts for safety purposes, ensure you use a commercial grade concrete sealant that not only strengthens, hardens, and densifies concrete, but also contains a silane/siloxane salt barrier that neutralizes harmful chloride ions.  The Sealwize LithiSeal Zli71 commercial grade concrete sealer is ideal if deicing salts are necessary.