Many people today want to include natural materials in the home. These materials are ideal for a new build or a renovation project and add beauty wherever they are used. However, the choice of a masonry contractor is just as important as the choice of materials, if not more important.
An experienced contractor can make inferior materials look better than they truly are. On the other hand, an inexperienced contractor can ruin the appearance of high-quality materials if they install these materials improperly. How can a homeowner choose the right contractor for the project they wish to complete? The following steps help make this process easier.
Determine the Project to Be Completed
When comparing masonry contractors, never assume all contractors do the same work. Masonry has three main types: concrete work, brickwork, and stonework. Any masonry contractor will handle concrete work, but you need a brick mason or a stone mason if working with those materials. They have the special skills needed to complete the project.
A person might assume they can change the material for the project if the right mason cannot be found. However, each material comes with advantages and drawbacks that must be considered when making this choice. A reputable contractor will share the benefits of each material and the disadvantages.
Ask for Recommendations
Once it is known what project will be completed, ask family and friends for contractor recommendations. Keep in mind that each project is different, so the experience may be different as well. However, speaking with people who have used masonry contractors is a good way to learn which contractors go over budget or don’t adhere to the project deadline. They may not communicate with clients, and this is helpful to know.
Don’t rely solely on recommendations from family and friends when making a list of contractors to contact. Look at sites such as Angi and Yelp to see reviews from people who have used masonry contractors and how their experiences were. The Better Business Bureau is another great resource when researching contractors. However, people are more inclined to complain about bad service. Customers who had an excellent experience may not share this information online or with the BBB, so consider that when narrowing this list of possible contractors to use.
Narrow the Options
When a list of potential contractors has been created, it may be tempting to start calling and setting up appointments. Before doing so, visit the website of each contractor. Learn more about the company and its offerings. A person might find the contractor they are considering doesn’t do the type of work they need. The website may also provide information about the contractor’s license and insurance. This information is critical when hiring a contractor.
Seek Multiple Bids
Always request quotes from a minimum of three contractors. Price should never be the deciding factor when choosing who to work with. The contractor and homeowner will work closely together throughout the project, so a good working relationship is needed.
When meeting with the contractors, ask for recommendations on the project. While the property owner may have a vision for the project, the contractor could find ways to improve on the original design. Ask for bids based on the use of different materials and learn what is included in the quote they provide.
If the contractor refuses to answer questions, doesn’t come prepared with samples, or won’t share references, continue looking for someone to take on the job. People should trust their gut when something feels off with a contractor. The project won’t happen overnight, so any discomfort needs to be acknowledged.
Verify Licensing and Insurance
Any contractor can say they have the appropriate license and insurance. Never take their word on this. Verify the information with the appropriate parties. In addition, make sure the contractor is bonded. The bond pays the property owner if the contractor fails to complete the work as agreed, so another contractor can take on the project.
The Lowest Price
Never choose a contractor simply because they offer the lowest price. In addition, if a contractor offers a quote without visiting the property, this is a red flag that should not be ignored. Many factors influence the cost of a masonry project, including the materials used and the location of the project. The size of the material also affects the price, as large bricks, blocks, or stones take less time to install than small pieces.
When the contractor visits the property, they take measurements and complete various other steps. In many cases, the contractor will provide a quote for the materials based on the size of the project. They then multiply this figure by up to three, depending on their skill level and experience. A contractor who provides a quote over the phone will often raise the price once the project begins. If they don’t, they may cut corners to make a profit on the project.
Always ask a contractor to provide references. The customers providing these references will probably have glowing things to say about the contractor, as the business owner will only share favorable references, which is why reviews should also be a part of the selection process. The important thing is to see these references. If a contractor cannot provide them, this is a sign of low-quality work. They know their customers won’t have good things to say, so they don’t bother asking for these references.
Craftsmanship and Focus
Masonry work is not something the average person can do. Expect to pay more for quality work. When choosing a contractor, ask if they have worked with the materials before and if samples of their previous work are available.
Masons tend to prefer a specific type of work. For example, a stone mason might have the skills to lay brick, but they prefer not to. Learn whether the mason typically handles residential jobs or prefers to take on commercial ones. When a mason works in homes routinely, they see their projects as works of art. When handling commercial projects, the focus is often on time rather than beauty, as the client wants the project completed quickly to minimize disruptions to the business. Choose a residential mason for work to be done in the home. A commercial mason is ideal for projects requested by a business owner.
Every person wants their project completed immediately. However, homeowners need to understand that a quality mason may be booked months in advance. It falls on the customer to know how much of a lead time they are willing to accept and how this lead time will affect the price of the project. A person might find they will accept their second choice of contractor because it means a shorter lead time. Another person might be willing to wait several months to have their contractor of choice. This is a decision every person must make for themselves.
Require a Signed Contract
Once the choice of a contractor has been made, never allow the project to proceed without having a signed contract in place. This contract needs to outline all details of the project. It should include details about the project’s start and end date, the payment schedule for the project, payment methods accepted, and the scope of the work. Ensure it includes information about the materials that will be used and the number of employees that will work on the project.
The contract needs to include additional information. For example, if permits are required, this contract needs to outline who will secure the permits and by what date. Will the contractor be present during any inspections by authorities? This document needs to explain what will happen if the work isn’t approved during an inspection. If the project requires a lien release, make certain this is highlighted in the document.
Inspect the Work
A property owner should never turn the work over to the contractor and walk away. They need to check on the project to ensure it remains on schedule and as planned. If questions arise as the project progresses, ensure answers are sought immediately. It’s best to get the project back on track quickly, as delays can quickly become commonplace if problems aren’t addressed promptly.
Choosing a masonry contractor takes time. A person should never do a quick internet search and choose the first person who comes up. When done right, the completed project will last for decades to come. In addition, taking the time to meet with contractors and get details in writing before signing a contract reduce the risk of a creeping bid, one where the price continues to increase as the project progresses.
Never hire a mason who charges by the hour. A professional will know the time needed to complete the work, even if problems arise during the project. Choosing a contractsor may take more time than is needed to complete the project from start to finish. Don’t worry if this is the case. Be thorough when selecting a contractor for a better outcome when the project is complete.