10 steps to choosing a quality contractorMarch 2, 2009
Selecting a quality contractor can be an arduous task. Here are some tips, including specifics about the way Rainier Asphalt & Concrete does business.
(1) Is the contractor license, bonded and insured?
This is a bare bones place to start. If a contractor can’t provide this, it’s not worthwhile to even entertain further examination. The State of Washington’s Labor and Industries website is a good resource to check contractor compliance. Visit https://fortress.wa.gov/lni/bbip/Search.aspx. Rainier Asphalt & Concrete is fully licensed, bonded and insured; contractor # RAINIAS991JO.
(2) Is the contractor experienced? Have they been around for awhile and will they be around in the future to stand by their work?
The fly-by-night contractor should be avoided because they’re more likely to cut corners. Companies that have been around and intend to stick around will be more concerned about their own reputation and customer happiness and retention. Rainier Asphalt & Concrete has been in business nearly 10 years. We have completed over 1200 jobs. Our management team has over 40 years of combined industry experience. We are members of The Better Business Bureau, Building Owners and Manufacturers Association, Community Association Institute and The Master Builders Association.
(3) Does the company have a well-trained staff, top to bottom? Do they know what they’re doing?
Rainier Asphalt & Concrete has a comprehensive strategy of continually gaining more industry technical knowledge and sharing it with employees. Our owner has attended training sessions given by the Asphalt Institute covering: (1) Overview of asphalt materials; Liquid asphalt, emulsions, aggregates and mixtures (2) Asphalt construction – The right mix on the job and placing it correctly (3) Asphalt construction – Proper compaction and working with quality control specs (4) Maintenance techniques – Patching, crack sealing and surface treatments (5) Understanding Pavement Defects. We also have proprietary DVD training materials which are shown to new employees before they step foot on a jobsite. Furthermore, our turnover rate remains very low, which means we have seasoned professionals performing the work.
(4) Does the contractor have a “process?”
It’s difficult for a customer to have trust that they’re going to get a top-quality finished product if the contractor doesn’t have a pre-established “process” of how they do things. When you receive a bid from Rainier Asphalt & Concrete, the first page will include a framework regarding what you can expect from us in performing your job. We have a defined “process” about when customers can expect to get a bid proposal, how long it will take get the job scheduled, a mechanism to give you a courtesy call after job completion to make sure you’re happy with it, etc. We also have various internal methods regarding how crews are to properly dilute asphalt sealer, for example. These activities are tracked on daily logs and are critically important to providing a quality finished product every time.
(5) Is the company safe?
Operating a construction business safely can be a good indicator that the company does other things well. Likewise, a lengthy history of jobsite injuries can be a clue that other things are handled sloppily. Rainier Asphalt & Concrete has a low 0.9 experience factor rating from Labor & Industries which means we are well below the industry average. Furthermore, we have detailed safety procedures and a safety officer that spot checks our jobs unannounced to make sure crews are in compliance.
(6) Does the contractor have or is it willing to provide references?
Any quality contractor should gladly and willingly provide references at your request – either names and phone numbers or addresses of previous job sites. It’s always a good idea to ask for references. Rainier Asphalt & Concrete will happily provide these upon request.
(7) Does the contractor have a quality control mechanism or process?
A quality contractor will have its own pre-established criteria of what its standards and expectations are. A well-designed quality control program will define (1) the proper process/outcomes (2) what criteria would qualify for being “out of compliance” (3) a plan for correction or coming back into compliance. Rainier Asphalt & Concrete has a quality control officer who will spot check audit our jobsites for quality, sometimes during the job and sometimes after completion.
(8) Has the contractor provided expectations in writing? What are they going to do, and what will it cost?
It is in the best interest of both parties – customer and contractor – to define in writing what the expectations are. If a contractor wants to operate without a written agreement, run away as fast as you can. Rainier Asphalt & Concrete has standard contract language that can be modified under certain circumstances. We also prepare bid proposal that are as detailed as possible to let you know exactly what you’re getting.
(9) Is the contractor bidding the work you’ve requested or that you “need”, not what they want to “sell you?”
It can be difficult to make a decision as a customer if you lack the technical or industry-specific knowledge to make an educated decision. It is usually desirable to obtain multiple bids from different contractors and compare the recommendations they’re making to you. Going with the first bid for work you don’t really understand can leave you vulnerable to manipulation. Also, don’t forget to check those references.
(10) Is the price fair?
Notice the word “fair.” The cheapest contractor is rarely the best value and can often be a complete waste of money. There are lots of ways to cut corners in construction, and if you’re paying a bargain basement price, you’re probably getting what you paid for. The goal should always be to contract with the company that is going to provide you the best value.