Bet you have heard the expression: “Tough like a concrete wall”. It is just a result from the wide popularity of this material and the way it has established itself as a benchmark for strength, durability and long-term exploitation qualities. No matter what new technologies are born or the rapid technological development in the construction sector, nowadays concrete still remains as the most commonly used and proven material, all due to its qualities. As one of the most versatile construction materials, concrete is easy and comfortable to work with, because of its plasticity when mixed and its durability when hardened.
Concrete has been around for centuries. The first concrete floors that pretty much resemble the one in your home or in the parking lot date back to 1400 – 1200 BC. Ever since concrete is used for building skyscrapers, shopping centers, bridges, highways, houses and so on and so forth. Even though many people have negative thoughts when referring to our cities and urban areas as “concrete jungles”, it is an interesting fact that the entire life cycle of this material is not harmful for us and the nature at all. Every single stage – from its extraction, through the application in construction works, to its demolition and recycling is positively contributing to the environment and the sustainable living.
Different types of concrete products
In its simplest form, concrete is a mixture of cement, water and some additional aggregates like sand and stone. All these ingredients form a solid rock-like mass, known as concrete. In addition to all these, some concrete mixtures may also contain highly specialized chemical admixtures that enhance their specific characteristics. These admixtures are added with the intention to improve the general workability and durability of concrete.
But the technological development in the construction sector has led to the creation of different types of concrete and significant optimization of its qualities and characteristics. Nowadays there are many different forms of concrete that are usually applied in residential construction, such as:
This is the most common form of the material as it accounts for more than 65% of all concrete that is used in construction. It is batched locally and delivered by special trucks right to the sight that it is going to be applied.
Precast concrete products
This type of materials is usually produced in a factory which makes their quality assurance guaranteed. There are various different choices when it comes to precast concrete materials – from bricks and paving stones, to structural components, wall panels and etc. Another very widely spread form of this type of materials is the concrete masonry units. They are large blocks, available in wide variety of shapes, textures, colors and etc. in order to fulfilL variety of different construction needs.
These materials are usually quite different from the natural understanding of the concrete ones, yet share many of their characteristics. Mortar, grouts, soil-cement concrete materials and many other concrete-like products are often used for pavements, dams, bases and etc.
Other concrete-based products
Nowadays, there are various concrete-based products and materials that can satisfy even the most specific needs a construction company may have. Roofing tiles, siding, countertops – these and many other similar products represent the recent developments in the concrete industry. Produced by fibers and special aggregates, these solutions are now becoming more and more popular among residential construction companies.
Of course there are many forms of concrete that may be used for the needs and according to the specifications of your project. For example, if you have some additional money and you are about to build your new home, for its foundation’s floor, a self-compacting concrete may be used. Its innovative formula makes the applied mixture flow under its own weight, thus allowing the formation of a perfectly self-levelled surface. Another, more widely spread way to build the foundations of your home is the pumped concrete. As it name suggests, the pumped concrete is applied easily by a giant pump, coming from the specialized truck. Few workers on the ground deal with the levelling of the applied concrete until a smooth surface is formed.
Concrete comes in various forms and product types. From affordable and more traditional, to specialized and technologically-enhanced ways of application, the concrete materials nowadays are designed to satisfy all the needs that you may face.
Concrete services and how much they cost
If you are about to handle some initial construction or major remodeling projects, there is a very high probability that you will have to deal with concrete works. There are different tasks that may involve concrete application, but here are the most common ones:
Building concrete foundation
This is one of the most important tasks that you are about to face when building your new home. Here, the need of hiring a trusted concrete company with solid experience is necessary. Bear in mind that a structurally sound building starts with a well-designed foundation, capable of handling its weight and ensuring its long-term stability. Building concrete foundations usually require significant labor. On-sight workers will deal with the concrete appliance and levelling in order to ensure a smooth and durable surface.
When it comes to cost estimations, you should be aware that a professionally-executed project of this type, will cost you in the range of $7 – $10 per sq. ft. with labor included. For that price, you should expect to have the foundation of your new home finished in no more than 3 – 4 days.
Bear in mind that some projects may require the area below your future home to be leveled before the concrete is poured. If that is your case, you may be charged additional $1 – $2 per sq. ft.
Many homeowners decide to install floor heating when the concrete foundation is poured, which in fact is the best time to do it, if you would like to have such system. Floor heating for a whole house is usually in the range of $5000 – $10 000.
Repair of concrete foundation
Although not a pleasant task to deal with, sometimes there is the need of foundation repair. No matter whether the reason for that is cracks, water or other aggressors, it is good to know that the process should be handled as soon as possible, because the foundation is the most important element of your home and any potential delays may result in further, way more serious problems.
A concrete foundation repair will always start with an initial inspection that may cost you no more than $500. Depending on the extent of the problem, you should expect to be charged anywhere in the range of $300 – $2000 for minor repairs and up to $5000 for major, structurally-important ones. Basic repair works usually include some crack fixation with concrete mixture, while on the other hand, the more specific ones may require adding new soil under the foundation, pouring of new concrete, complete drainage reinforcement and etc.
Concrete floor coating
After you have built your concrete slab floor or foundation, it is always better if you apply some finishing coat in order to ensure its comfortable exploitation and protect it for the long-term. Concrete itself isn’t considered as the best flooring surface because of the fact that it becomes prone to crack and hole formations over time. In addition to that, unsealed concrete produces serious amounts of dust that may spread around your entire home, thus requiring more maintenance efforts.
So, coating the concrete foundation/floor is essential for its exploitation quality. Depending on the specifications of the applied concrete, your budget and project’s characteristics, your concrete contractor will most probably suggest one of the following coat finishes: sealant, paint, epoxy, polyurethane or etc. All of them will ensure the durability and attractive look of your concrete floor/foundation.
When it comes to estimating the costs for the application of floor coating, experts suggest to set aside budget of $2 – $4 per sq. ft., depending on the condition of the concrete, the size of the floor and its specifications. The case is a little bit different when it comes to epoxy coating as it is more specific and often considered as a ‘’high-end’’ finish. Epoxy coats can be designed with metallic or other patterns, as well as with integrated particles in order to achieve a more decorative appearance. This type of finishes is more expensive and if you like to have one, you should expect to pay in the range of $10 – $15 per sq. ft.
The labor costs that you will be charged for concrete floor coating are in the range of $2 – $4 per sq. ft.
Another very specific task that you may need to hire an experienced contractor for, is concrete removal. No matter whether it is due to cracks and holes that can’t be fixed, or just the age of the concrete, its removal is sometimes necessary.
The size and the location of the area covered with concrete that needs to be removed are very important factors which determine the final cost that you will need to pay. But it is the type of the concrete that has the biggest influence on the cost for the whole project. For example – a reinforced concrete, has steel bars that make it very hard-to-break. In order to be removed, this type of concrete usually requires a mechanical power – a hydraulic lifter and pneumatic hammer. It is usually unable to be recycled, which adds some additional disposal fees to the final cost. Nevertheless, experts suggest that the cost of removal of reinforced concrete starts from $10 per sq. ft. and can go up to $15. On the other hand, if the concrete that should be removed is not reinforced, the process becomes way easier and cheaper, as you should expect to be charged $2 – $4 per sq. ft.
If your foundation, sidewalk, driveway or other concrete zone in your home is slumping or has some voids beneath, your contractor will most probably provide you with two solutions – either leveling of the surface or its complete replacement. Of course, leveling is the more affordable solution. It can be done in two ways – the first one is application of self-leveling slab which will overcome any minor cracks, bumps or joints and will ensure smooth and durable surface. The other way, which is also more suitable for major problems with the surface, is focused on lifting the entire slab level higher and/or reversing the sloping that has occurred over time.
The average cost of concrete leveling works in the USA is estimated to be in the range of $5 – $8 per sq. ft. which is a very reasonable rate, given the complexity and structural importance of the task. Labor for concrete leveling projects, on the other hand, is often priced at fixed rates because it usually takes about an hour or two for the work to be completed. Basically, the average price for concrete leveling works is $3 – $4 per sq. ft.
Driveways are essential parts of the surroundings of almost every house in the USA. A well-constructed driveway provides stable and secure access of your car to the garage and will last for a very long time. When designing the structure of a driveway, contractors always take in consideration the fact that most of the households have two or more cars. Even if you have one car, it is always better if your driveway is constructed with a little bit bigger size, in order for you and your family to feel comfortable when getting in and out of your garage.
The most common types of driveways are built from concrete slab with integrated steel mesh for stability and crack-prevention. The cost for a typical two-cars driveway (approximate dimensions: 15 feet wide and 35 feet long) can vary in the range of $1300 – $1500 (or $2.50 – $2.80 per sq. ft.). But a concrete slab itself may not look well along the style of the façade of your house. In order to provide a more pleasing look, as well as ensure some further protection for the concrete slab, it is always advisable to pave the area. The paving material will cost you additional $2.50 – $3.00 per sq. ft.
Handling such project will take approximately a day. The contractor will charge you in the range of $1300 – $1800 for the labor needed which means that for the whole concrete driveway project, you will have to set aside a total budget of $3900 – $5000.
Building concrete patios
Another thing for which you may be eager to call a concrete company is the building of a patio from stamped concrete. These projects are very popular because of their ability to completely transform a backyard by adding additional leisure space and improving its look. Stamped concrete is designed to resemble luxurious paving materials, such as natural stone, granite, bricks and etc. It is a very affordable solution that looks realistic and aesthetically beautiful. Stamped concrete is also very stable, because of the fact that it is produced as a one solid piece rather than multiple bricks or stones. That way, it becomes way easier to create a smooth, continuous surface.
When it comes to costs breakdown, it is important to know that for the building of a concrete patio, contractors may either provide you with a bill with all the materials included, or charge you at cost per sq. ft. For a smaller project, you should expect to be charged with a fixed amount. For example, a 250 sq. ft. concrete patio will require from you to spend from $800 to $1000 on materials. The cost of the labor is calculated usually by the time that is required for the team to finish the work. For a 250 sq. ft. concrete patio, the time needed will be approximately 30 – 36 hours and will cost you approximately $1000 – $2500. Bear in mind that the average hour rate for tasks like this is in the range of $35 – $85 per hour.
So, to summarize – the average cost for such projects depends on the type of the concrete patio, it’s details and design, colors, whether it has borders or not and so on and so forth can vary from $8 – $10 per sq. ft. for basic and more common projects, to more than $15 per sq. ft.
A very popular decision among most homeowners, is the installation of fiber-cement siding as more than 70% of all new homes are built that way. The significant interest in such solution is based on its durability, design options and value. Fiber cement is made from concrete, cellulose fibers and different recycled materials. The fiber-cement siding can be designed in different colors or even stained like wood which makes it a suitable solution for various kinds of projects.
When it comes to estimating the costs for the installation of fiber-cement siding, a variety of factors should be considered but it’s style and size are the most important ones. Basically, a good-quality typical siding starts from $4 and goes up to $10 per sq. ft. The cost of labor for such kinds of projects is in the range of $40 – $50 per hour.
If your siding is compromised and needs to be replaced with new one, you should expect to be charged with some additional removal and disposal costs which will most probably vary in the range of $500 to $1500.
Construction of a swimming pool
Swimming pools are the best part of a home. Although they are now becoming a more common than a luxury part of one’s house, their installation is still a not-so-expensive process. A typical 200 sq. ft. in-ground concrete pool may cost you anywhere from $18 000 to $25 000. Any additional add-ins such as water heaters, custom designs and functionality features will drive the price up. Although concrete pools are not considered as the best choice on the market, they still remain as a very popular solution for the average homeowner. Nevertheless, before deciding to call your concrete contractor for such project, make sure to research the other options too.
10 Questions to ask your concrete contractor
Concrete works are often the most fundamental ones as they are often handled in the start of the whole project. No matter whether you are building your new home, remodeling its foundations or walls, or you just want to build some stairs or a simple driveway in your backyard, you will have to consult a concrete company to handle the works.
Concrete-related projects are the most important once, when it comes to the structural stability of your home and its long-term exploitation quality. That is why, trusting the professional that will handle your project is from main importance. But the trust should be earned and it comes after the given company has passed your careful judgement and made you feel sure about their abilities and professionalism. That is why you should not be afraid to ask questions. This is the only way for you to feel confident in the investment that you are making. Here is a list with some important questions that you should ask a concrete company before considering to hire it for your project.
1) Ask about previous experience and references.
When it comes to concrete-related projects, the previous experience and references is the most important thing that you should be willing to check before considering to hire the given company. Because of the fact that concrete works are often related to major home improvements or construction tasks, it is necessary for you to check what other projects has the given professional handled before. It is even better if you make sure to visit some of his previous clients, in order for you to see some real examples of the contractor’s work and check what is their condition after some period of exploitation.
The best way to judge the quality of a concrete-related project is to make sure that it has gone through at least two winters. If it has done so and there are no visible signs of deterioration, then you can conclude that the given project has been handled professionally and the delivered quality is high enough. Last but not least, remember that it is always better if you request at least 3 references that are similar to your project. That way you will be sure that the quality of the delivered work is constant and not a one-time miracle. Be sure that every concrete contractor that is proud of his previous work will be more than glad to share it with you. Otherwise, you may need to reconsider hiring him.
2) Ask about license and insurance.
The starting point of your questions should be whether the contractor you are about to hire has a license. Bear in mind that any respectable contractor should have an active license in order to work in a given state. Working with a contractor that is licensed is so important, due to the fact that an unlicensed company won’t be a subject to the same regulations as a licensed one. So make sure to ask about this first. If the answer leaves you wanting, then you should move on and find another concrete company.
Next is the insurance.
It is very important that you make sure to hire a contractor that is insured, so that any potential damages or injuries, that may happen during the working process, will be covered and you will not have to pay for them. And such accidents usually cost a lot. Bear in mind that most of the licensed contractors are reliable enough and will most probably be insured too. But you should make sure that this is the case by requesting from them to show you a proof of the insurance. That way you will be able to check whether it is still active.
3) Ask how long has he been in business.
The solid background is the most important thing when it comes concrete contractors. Due to the fact that concrete works are every specialist’s first steps in construction, there are numerous companies on the market and many of them come and go and a regular basis. That is why it is necessary for you to find out whether the one you consider hiring has solid background and additional proofs of his abilities. A good benchmark for judging whether a given concrete company is a good fit for your project is to ask how long have they been in business and whether they are a member of the Better Business Bureau. If that is the case, then go further and ask what is their rating. If they are able to maintain high for a long period of time, then this is a very significant proof that you can trust these professionals.
4) Ask about the financial terms.
As you have already noticed, concrete-related works are not one of the cheapest. That is why you need to know the payment structure of the project before it has even started. You should ask the concrete contractor about his terms and way of working – whether he requests an initial installment in order to buy some of the materials or he will be charging you according to a work schedule – when a stage is completed, a payment is required. Do not hesitate to request such information, because that way you will be able to plan how much and when are you paying. Bear in mind that many contractors offer initial estimates to clients which may be way lower than the total amount that they will charge in the end. That practice is widely popular among unprofessional concrete companies and is done with the only reason to hire them. It is possible that companies provide you with an offer even on the phone, without any inspection on sight. If that happens, be sure to avoid working with the given company.
5) Ask about the contract and the terms of the provided warranty.
Most of the trusted and proven concrete companies will raise that question themselves, because they realize how important it is to make you feel comfortable and confident for the quality that you expect to receive in return of your investment. In any case, make sure to ask about having a written contract and check whether it includes everything that you have discussed, as well as schedule and financial terms. Most of the proven companies work with ready-made contracts that are filled on sight with all the details of your project. Yet, there are some scammers who will try to convince you that no written contract is needed as the work is very simple and you should not expect any risks. That is not the contractor you want to hire. A written contract is your proof should any problems during or after the working process is completed arise. It will also serve as a guarantee for the quality of the delivered work, the project expectations and the contractor’s responsibilities.
Make sure to ask for warranty also. Most of the established concrete companies will back the quality of their work with a warranty that will be included in the written contract. And that is very important in order for it to be honored at a later stage, should any problems during the exploitation arise. You should seek to have a written warranty, because some unprofessional contractors may try to convince you that a verbal one is enough. Bear in mind that such “warranty” won’t stand a chance if the quality of their delivered work is poor and you need some future repairs.
6) Ask about the guarantee of the delivered work.
During the working process, the professionals will leave some joints in the concrete surface, in order for them to absorb any structural vibrations and movements, so that any major cracks formation can be prevented. Although a well-poured and properly-joined concrete will serve you for the long-term, without any potential problems, there is always that risk of small cracks formation. And even if this problem will have no harm over the durability and the long-term qualities of the concrete, it will most probably harm the aesthetical appearance of the surface. That is why you should be willing to ask your contractor about their policy of preventing and taking care of any potential cracks.
And when we talk about guarantee, we should mention the quality of the materials that will be used for your project too. For example, unprofessional concrete companies may decide to use concrete mixtures will subpar qualities and strength in order to cut costs and gain additional profit. Bear in mind to ask about the qualities of the concrete that is about to be used and even request a proof for that. Most concrete tasks, except walls and footings are usually handled with a mix with at least 3500 – 4000 psi compressive strength. Everything that is below that level will be prone to future problems that you will have to pay for.
7) Ask about work permits and who will take care of them.
First, make sure to ask whether the concrete project that your contractor is about to handle requires any state permits. Bear in mind that most of the major concrete projects will do so. If the contractor you are considering to hire has no knowledge about that, you will have a clear sign that he is either not professional enough, or lacks previous experience. In both cases, it is advisable for you to go ahead with the search of a concrete company to take care of your project.
The next thing that is important to make clear before starting is who will handle the paper work for the project. The last thing you want is to deal with that too. Bear in mind that you are paying significant money and a professional contractor will realize that and will take care of the required permits. In addition, an experienced concrete company will be able to proceed with all this faster than you as there is very high probability that they have done it numerous times before.
8) Go for a tricky question by asking what is the most important step of your project.
Although very common and not so hard to handle, the concrete-related projects are often underestimated. That may lead to some very serious problems, such as cracks formation, reduced concrete strength and etc. That is why, even if you know the answer of this question, you should ask your contractor about the most important step that should be handled carefully during your project. His answer should be: the curing of the concrete. You should make sure that your contractor is about to follow the proper industry practices and will take the needed time in order to ensure the effective cure of the concrete. Bear in mind that it is 7 days that are required for exterior concrete flatworks to cure effectively and approximately 3 days for any other concrete. If you find out that your contractor is trying to cut corners with the schedule, in order to finish the project earlier, you should warn him that you are aware of what is curing time is required and insist for it to be respected. Remember that this is very important! If the concrete does not cure completely, it will negate all of the good work that has been delivered in the previous steps of the process.
9) If you are having your concrete driveway built, ask when you will be able to drive your car over.
As we have already mentioned, the curing time for exterior concrete is 7 days. But bear in mind that this is just the time when the concrete reaches its recommended 70% strength in order to be able to handle significant traffic. Although you will be able to drive your family vehicle over just after a week, it is always better if you wait as much as possible in order for the concrete to reach its maximum strength which usually happens in approximately 28 days (in normal conditions). Nevertheless, if you need to park your car on the newly built driveway, just make sure to be careful with the edges and the corners of the concrete. However, depending on the type of the concrete that is used (as there are some rapid-curing concrete mixtures), these time frames can vary. That is why it is important to ask the professional that you have hired to handle your project. That way you will be sure that the concrete will get the needed time in order to reach its full strength.
10) Ask how to take care of your concrete investment.
As you have already found out, a concrete-related project can have significant structural importance for your home and its surroundings. As these works usually require huge investment of time and money, the first thing that you should be willing to do is to find out how to take care of these areas and preserve their exploitation quality for the long term. That is why you should ask your contractor for some advice. The general rule when it comes to concrete is to avoid using any aggressive chemicals during its first year of exploitation. Most professionals will advise you to use sealers to further protect the concrete area. That way you will be able to ensure additional protection from moisture absorption, chemicals, stains, oil or other aggressors. It will also preserve the color of the concrete (if it is a decorative one) and make it last for a way longer period. But bear in mind that every case is individual and the maintenance depends on the type of the concrete and its application specifications. That is why asking the professional that works on your project is the best thing for you to do.
When you are about to start your concrete-related project, make sure to find a trusted company that will execute the whole process professionally and with guaranteed high-quality. Concrete works have fundamental importance for the comfort and the stability of your home and its surroundings. That is why, they should be handled accordingly by a responsible contractor. Cutting corners with the quality of the materials and the technical time required for their curing is the last thing you want because your whole investment will be wasted. So do your research, find a trusted contractor and go ahead with your plans.