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How to Select a Contractor

So you’ve decided you want to embark on a hardscaping project. Choosing the right hardscaping contractor is key to the success of that project as well as your long term satisfaction. One of the biggest mistakes made is hiring someone over the phone or through an internet contact form without meeting them in person.
A beautiful design and fabulous materials don’t mean a thing if the hardscaping contractor can’t get the job done. You need to make sure your contractor will stick around to complete the job, and that your costs won’t skyrocket because they didn’t estimate the project length or materials cost correctly.
Carlisle Cement Products recommends following these simple steps to help ensure you choose the right contractor for your next project:

1. Do your research: Before contacting any contractor it will be beneficial to you to do a bit of homework in order to create a short-list of contractors to work from.

A. Creating a Short-List

  1. Understand the value of a professional hardscape contractor. A professional hardscaping contractor is someone who has the experience to deliver the full set of responsibilities a successful project requires. You may know a good general contractor who built your house or remodeled your basement; but, unless he has explicitly implemented hardscaping projects, he is not a hardscaping contractor.
  2. Look for local coverage. Make sure that the commute to your property is financially attractive for the contractors you pick. If too far, the cost of getting their crew to and from your location can make the project unnecessarily expensive.
  3. Only use properly licensed and insured hardscape contractors. Each contractor should be licensed and carry all state recommended insurances. At the very least, they need to be registered as required under the PA Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act. Click here to go to the PA State Attorney General’s web page to search for contractor registrations. Also, Carlisle Cement Products recommends only selecting contractors who are properly certified & trained through ICPI and NCMA for interlocking pavement and retaining wall installations.

B. Using these guidelines, create your short list of 3 or 4 hardscape contractors. Contact each and select a time to meet and discuss your project.

Here are a few questions to ask each contractor to help you decide which the right one to choose is:
  • How long have they been installing pavers?
  • Are they ICPI & NCMA certified installers? 
  • Will they install the job per ICPI/NCMA specifications? Can they supply a copy?
  • Will they provide you with three references?  Be sure to ask for references from recent and past jobs.  Can you contact their references and inspect the jobs?
  • Will they provide a list of their distributors for you to contact to ensure they are reputable and pay their bills?
  • Do they have a portfolio of photos and letters to qualify themselves?
  • Can the contractor provide proof that Worker's Compensation insurance covers all employees on the job? If not, check your homeowner's insurance policy for coverage of the contractor while on your property.
  • Do they have current Liability Insurance?  Ask for a copy of the certificate.
  • Do they provide a written, itemized proposal outlining the scope of work and terms of payment?  At a minimum, it should include starting and completion dates, demolition and excavation, paving and base materials, and taxes.
  • Do they guarantee their work for one year and will they return to inspect it?

2. Selection – once you have bids in hand, the following factors should be considered in making your final decision:

  1. Cost – If one bid is especially low, beware! Make sure you understand what the contractor in not including. If one bid is especially high, find out why. Did that contractor consider something relevant that others may have missed? In short - the lowest price should not always be the deciding factor when choosing a contractor.
  2. Consider the contractors experience and customer recommendations when making the final decision. Also, consider their certifications, registrations, and insurance coverage.
  3. Warranty – Since most manufacturers offer a limited lifetime warranty, which contractor offers the best warranty on the installation?
  4. Comfort – Your selection should be the contractor who you are most comfortable with…specifically, who would you be comfortable working at your home unsupervised? This is a very individual and subjective issue but you will develop a rapport and trust with some individuals and not with others. You need to consider your comfort level in making your final decision.