A concrete contractor makes his money by offering his expertise to property owners in need of driveway paving, new building construction, and commercial additions. Your experience with concrete contractors can be fruitful if you understand the challenges and costs awaiting these professionals with each new project.
Concrete contractors have to balance out the costs for supplies needed on a particular project with their profit margin to get each job done on time. A contractor needs to have a few items in his truck at all times to create concrete that dries quickly without cracks. A set of heavy-duty buckets in different sizes is ideal for contractors who need to hand-mix concrete mixes that dry quickly. Every contractor needs to have a shovel in order to spread out wet concrete into frames without major gaps. A contractor should also carry a set of garden hoses in case a property owner fails to offer running water on a site.
Commercial projects require a concrete contractor to use advanced tools to finish concrete work quickly. A mechanical mixer has a large opening at the top for distribution of aggregates, water, and cement. These mixers funnel the final concrete formula through a funnel at the bottom to a series of gutters. Concrete contractors may be able to work with a concrete truck which is a mobile version of the mixer. These trucks allow large amounts of concrete to be made for parking lots, foundations, and large architectural projects. A contractor should not expect to work with these advanced tools on residential projects unless the property owner has a lot of money to throw around.
Newcomers to concrete creation may think the concrete used on driveways is the same concrete used for highway overpasses. There are 6 billion cubic meters of concrete used each year with thousands of concrete varieties available around the world. Construction companies utilize accelerators to speed up the drying process, corrosion inhibitors to prevent cracking in future years, and retarders to slow down the hydration of concrete slabs. It is important to look at standard concrete versus high-performance concrete before you do any driveway paving or cement building.
The standard mixture used in residential and commercial projects involves aggregates, cement, and the right amount of water. Aggregates are materials like sand, crushed stone, glass, and recycled concrete that help enrich the final product toward a particular process. A trip down the aisle at a local hardware store will reveal a seemingly endless list of cement types that can be used for specific types of projects. The X factor in creating concrete slabs, pillars, and other structures is the right water level for a particular cement type.
There are several factors that separate high-performance concrete from standard brands. Premium concrete is easier to place in a specific spot than regular concrete by novice concrete contractors. A commercial contractor will use premium concretes for larger projects that require a high volume of concrete in a small space. Contractors opt for high-performance concretes due to an ability to withstand great amounts of heat over a matter of decades. One of the high-performance concrete types that have hit the market recently is self-packing concrete, which requires no smoothing or flattening.
The most common project for a concrete contractor is laying a foundation for a new home. A contractor is called in after an excavation company has finished a basement to a specific grade level. The contractor begins by inserting forms into the footings and pad areas in the basement to give a solid base for the foundation. A property owner should watch concrete contractors complete this work to determine if the forms are aligned properly with the excavation plans.
After the forms are laid down in the basement, a contractor will make a concrete mixture that is sufficient to fill the forms to the top. Residential contractors will also lay down a layer of concrete along the bottom of the basement inside of the foundation before home builders arrive to complete the home. You can save money on mixer and concrete truck rental by helping a contractor create the concrete mix and distribute the finished product into the forms. It is also wise to shop around for concrete mixes at construction supply companies to cut down on overall expenses.
Concrete contractors also work on additions to homes, condominiums, and apartment buildings. A homeowner in need of a professionally-completed patio will look for a contractor to lay down a concrete slab. Property owners who want to build a swimming pool, tennis court, and other amenities to their residential properties will call on concrete contractors to finish the hard work needed for these projects.
A commercial contractor who can travel throughout a region or state may have projects lined up every day of the year. Communities work with engineering companies on highways, roads, and sidewalks that cost millions of dollars and require hundreds of workers to complete. Commercial contractors are needed to operate concrete trucks, perform edge work on sidewalks, and oversee the proper mixing of concrete for city projects. These contractors may work on a cement building designed as a storm shelter one week and finish off a few parking lots for a municipal building the next based on the high demand for new construction.
The other venue for commercial work by concrete contractors is construction generated by private companies. Companies expanding into untouched property need commercial contractors to lay out slabs and erect concrete pillars in a timely manner. The brief windows of time afforded to contractors by private companies means that concrete work needs to be completed in an efficient manner. While the prevailing wisdom is that public projects are more difficult to complete than private projects, concrete contractors need to have a balance of both projects in their portfolio due to the competitive nature of the market.
Your property needs a paved driveway to give visitors, workers, and residents a safe path to your front door. Driveway paving is a fundamental skill for concrete contractors, though it is often completed at the end of a larger project. A contractor needs to coordinate with excavators and home builders to lay down some gravel prior to paving a driveway that can be packed down with a steam roller. Concrete contractors need to have a base layer prior to distributing a liquid formula to ensure structural integrity while drying.
A contractor needs to mark off the driveway area with string and wooden stakes after the excavator has left. Contractors can simplify the process of placing an even layer of concrete mix on the gravel by bringing in a truck with a long gutter that can be moved from one spot to another. Most contractors need to use a mechanical mixer and buckets that make distribution more difficult. Sub-contractors and property owners may be asked to assist in this process to decrease the number of hours spent on driveway paving.
There are three types of forms used by contractors who work with concrete in residential and commercial settings. The least expensive option for contractors is timber-framed forms that consist of thick wooden boards framed with metal pipes. New contractors invest in these forms because they are simple and effective in completing foundations and footings. The problem for commercial contractors who work on unique paving jobs is the inflexibility of wooden forms. These forms are considered appropriate for the initial round of projects by a contractor who can invest in more durable forms in the future.
A second class of concrete forms is constructed of metal and plastic with hinges for adjustable settings. These changeable forms allow a commercial contractor to line up unusual foundations for a new building without the cumbersome dance associated with timber-framed forms. Experienced contractors favor these forms because they do not bow with pressure and cut down on the costs of replacing forms on a seasonal basis. The durability of these forms comes from the heavy-duty materials, which can make transportation difficult from truck to job site.
A final group of concrete forms are called stay-in-place forms. These forms are constructed from environmentally-safe materials because they remain in the ground after a project is completed. Stay-in-place forms allow a contractor to lay down a foundation and get to the next project without removing and reloading forms into the truck. The expense of stay-in-place forms can be prohibitive for contractors, construction companies, and property owners who are paying the bill.
The general concern for environmental protection by the public has led to changes within the construction industry. Concrete contractors have not been immune to pressures placed by property owners and government agencies to clean up their work. There is a burgeoning global industry for concrete recycling, which has married the concern for environmental health with the demand for new concrete.
Concrete recycling is a simple process that is spreading throughout the United States as construction companies look to place a sustainable label on their work. Blocks of concrete removed from a job site are placed in a crushing machine, which looks similar to a concrete mixer. The resulting materials are inspected for dirt, contaminants, and other materials that cannot be placed in a new property. Clean concrete blocks are broken down further for use as gravel. Recycling companies are able to reuse metal rebar inside commercial concrete works as a foundation for pillars, sidewalks, and parking lots.
There are three expectations you should use in your experience with a concrete contractor to get the job done right. Your concrete contractor may be busy with other projects but you should expect a written schedule from day one. A contractor may try to balance several paving projects at the same time at the expense of your new basement if you do not push for a regular start and end time each day.
Your concrete contractor needs to have experience in your particular project in order to work as efficiently as possible. A contractor with a long list of references from commercial builders may not be ideal if you want to add on a patio and a swimming pool to your home. You should ask for a portfolio and a description of past projects applicable to your particular needs to find the right contractor.
The biggest expectation you should have of your concrete contractor is honest and clear communication about potential issues. Your contractor should be willing to speak frankly about the dimensions of a driveway and the approach a project manager is using to complete a foundation. These discussions need to be discrete to avoid animosity from other contractors, but you should expect your concrete contractor to offer advice and concerns in a timely manner to avoid wasted time and money.
Your relationship with a concrete contractor needs to begin with an assessment of paving and construction costs on your project. The common thread between you and an experienced contractor is an effort to keep costs low. A contractor does not want to carry more bags of cement mix and aggregate to the job site than is needed and you do not want to foot the bill for these supplies if they will go to waste. A few simple calculations can help assess paving costs before your contractor gets to work.
The essential calculation for concrete work is the cubic footage of the area that needs to be paved. You need to measure the depth, width, and length of the project area to figure out how much cement is needed. After a calculation of the project size, your contractor needs to provide a close estimate of the number of hours needed to complete the project. This estimate needs to feature rental costs, supply expenses, and the hourly wages of sub-contractors needed to expedite the project. It is important for property owners to negotiate a price that balances a contractor's minimum demands and the upper limits of your building budget.