Feb 9, 2012

Checklist for Hiring a Brick Paver Contractor

Brick Pavers are NOT Landscaping so do not treat them as such

This February in Ann Arbor, there is no snow on the ground and the temperatures are in the 40's. Currently there is no frost in the ground and if I had just popped out of a hole like Punxsutawney Phil, I would believe it was already Spring in Southeast Michigan.

Leads for brick paver repair, cleaning, sealing, installation, and restoration projects have begun early this Winter and its time to give homeowner's a checklist for hiring a professional, experienced, & qualified brick paver contractor.First and foremost, it is important to hire a brick paver specialist for brick paver patios, steps, walks, driveways, porches, etc.. and not a contractor who performs it as one of their many "jack-of-all-trade" services.

Performing your due diligence as a consumer will help you to avoid the unnecessary pitfalls experienced by homeowner's who rush to make quick decisions or are being pressured by scrupulous contractors. For long-term success and enjoyment, it is important to factor in many other variables other than price in making your final decision on which brick paver specialist to hire.

Below is a helpful checklist to use in selecting a contractor to perform your brick paver or retaining wall services:

Nothing replaces experience when it comes to installing, repairing, cleaning & sealing, and maintaining brick pavers and modular retaining walls.  There are many years of feedback from installation techniques and product performances that can not be learned from seminars, print media, or videos.  I believe a minimum of 10 years of performing brick paver services is required to gain enough feedback to fine tune techniques & design strategies.

Make sure any contractor you hire will, upon request, supply you with proof of insurance.  They should have both Liability Insurance for any damages they may cause and also Workmans Compensation.  Workmans Compensation covers the employees if they are injured on your property.  In the state of Michigan, if a worker is injured on your property, and the contractor does not have coverage, you can and most likely will be held liable.  Your best defense is to have a copy of an Insurance Binder from the contractor and make sure you check the effective dates.

A qualified brick paver contractor will have a valid Michigan Builders License. Most brick paver and retaining wall applications do not require a permit. This is one of the great advantages of paving stones & modular wall blocks & caps over other products such as decks, concrete, and asphalt. Most cities have adopted building codes that do NOT exempt brick pavers or modular retaining walls from adhering to these codes.  When it comes to raised patios, steps, driveways, egress windows, porches, etc.. it is in your best interest to hire a licensed contractor. A landscape license is not sufficient.

Prompt & Timely
A professional contractor will be prompt for your appointment. It shows respect for your time. If they were running behind, did they call to let you know?  Did they return your contact by phone or email within 24 hours (48 hours on the weekend)?  Were they able to offer you reasonable time frame for the work to be performed if you were to hire their services. Make sure that even if you are hire for brick paver repair, restoration, cleaning, sealing, & maintenance services, that your project has the same scheduling priority as installation projects. For most homeowners, timeliness is one of the most important aspects when selecting a contractor. Keep in mind that time of year can fluctuate due to demand. Spring and early Summer is high demand in Michigan and Fall is usually low demand.

Most homeowners should be able to select the best contractor that educates them about the products, designs, and options that best meet their needs and budgets.  A good brick paver contractor can map out a economical plan that can be carried out in stages if needed.  A contractor that is only interested in hitting the "home run" is short sighted and does not serve your purpose for the long run.  Brick pavers and modular retaining walls require routine maintenance over the years and a long-term relationship between homeowner and contractor can be beneficial.

Listens & Communicates
Nothing is more aggravating then when a contractor does not listen to what you want or need. It's aggravating to receive a quote that is not what you where looking to get done. A good contractor will not try to push unnecessary services. Upselling is a turn off !  A good contractor will listen to what the customer wants and make good suggestions and recommendations to meet those expectations.  Its fine to supply additional cost options for additional services as long as they are separately itemized out on the proposal.  It's just as important for a contractor to communicate how & when you will receive your quote, keep you posted on the status of your project, and when you can expect completion of the project.

I have found over the many years that most true brick paver contractors price within hundreds of dollars of each other. We are all very competitive when comparing apples-with-apples. I feel that specialized brick paver contractors are more efficient and streamlined to the techniques, tools, and equipment for paving stones and modular retaining wall blocks.  I do find that larger contractors with big names and huge overhead quote inflated prices for brick pavers.

When making a final selection on a brick paver contractor, make sure you use all the checklist variables listed above, not just price, to make an educated conclusion. I hope this post will help you avoid the many pitfalls that many homeowner's make each Spring when the weather breaks and we come out of our hole!