How to Hire a Masonry Contractor?


The prospect of having to hire a masonry contractor or any contractor for that matter; can be a daunting task for some people.

Most people know basic vetting questions to ask such as “do you have references”; but many consumers end up being left in an indecisive position, particularly with the higher number of contractors they request a bid from.

A great deal of making a successful construction purchasing decision relies on honesty.
Not just the integrity of the masonry contractor being selected (substitute any type of contractor); but more important is being honest with one’s self.

Honest with oneself in terms of:

What are my expectations for this project (one should actually list those items out) examples could include things like: people showing up on time every day, I hate a mess, I want to do this work as inexpensively as possible, etc, etc.

At this point, no one can say that all of your expectations may be realistic, but you will begin to list criteria by which your masonry contractors may properly then understand, and factor into how they will frame your proposal, or not as the case may be.

The other point of self-honesty comes from what type of knowledge do I have on what work I actually require, and how much knowledge do I have about what the work involves. For example; you may have spoken with material suppliers, read articles online, etc. You may be an architect or an engineer, and as such may have better visualization on the subject than the average bear.

So step one is being as honest as one can about your expectations and knowledge of the subject at hand.

Most people solicit a number of bids based on personal referrals, online reviews, or from observing work conducted in their neighborhood. These are all good ways for selecting contractor prospects.

Some folks must start from scratch if they are new to an area or don’t have friends or family that have undertaken such work before. Check local materials suppliers who can often shed light on who their best contractor clients may be.

So the next step is to educate oneself on the subject. As an example; what is involved in rebuilding a chimney? Very quickly one will learn it involves replacement bricks, what flu tiles are and what they do, that the chimney they have is three stories in the air and the roof where the chimney is located, is very steep, and that the neighbors are not particularly cooperative when work is being done in the neighborhood.

These facts one has gathered on the subject have raised the level of understanding and awareness of the consumer as to what may be involved to achieve the project successfully. While one does not have to become a road scholar on the subject, it provides personal confidence to have an increased, working understanding of the project at hand.

The next step involves writing down all of your questions for the contractor. All of the questions will revolve around: who, how, when, what, and why.

Get these questions answered satisfactorily and you will be well on the way to selecting a good masonry contractor. To recap so far:

1) Make a list of your honest expectations.

2) Educate yourself on the basic project requirements.

3) Seek recommendations and referrals from reliable sources.

4) Develop your contractor questions based on who, how, when, what, and why. To break this point down:
– Who will be supervising the work?
– Who will be doing the work?
– Who will the materials be supplied by?
– Who is responsible for obtaining the permits if needed?
– How will you protect my property and my neighbor’s?
– How will you safely be able to work three stories high?
– How will the job site be kept clean?
– How will the job steps be sequenced?
– How will you keep the home dry while it is under construction?
– How will you protect my roof from damage while work is underway?
– How long do you warranty your work?
– How long will the job take?
– When would you be available to begin?
– When will we know when you are coming to do the work?
– When is payment (s) due?
– Why are you choosing an outside scaffolding vendor to erect the scaffold (answer: to limit your liability and that of my company)?
– What are the materials /quality that you are using?
– What responsibilities do I have when you begin the work?

5) When hiring a masonry contractor or any contractor, the property owner is responsible by law to verify some basic due diligence. This is necessary because of personal liability in the event a worker on your property or pedestrian, neighbor, etc., gets, injured. You will request to have supplied: proof of liability insurance, trade license, WSIB clearance certificate, fall arrest certification cards.

6) The next thing to establish is that the masonry contractor has an established place of business.

7) Verify that the contractor is financially stable, ie: pays his/her suppliers, can provide a bank reference. Depending on the size of the project; and for sure to confirm that you are dealing with a stable company that will be around to honour warranties and supply future service if necessary.

8) Ask the masonry contractor what their policy is regarding warranties.  Specifically, how does their process work, what are the limitations, is there any information in writing on the subject, what is or is not covered on your specific project.

9) Does the masonry contractor /company hold any credentials, such as BBB, trade associations, trade local, etc?

10) Can the contractor supply photos or other forms of reference regarding similar work.

By methodically fulfilling the checklist discussed; the result will be that you will have short-listed the masonry contractors that qualify for your project, and you will have provided clear communication and understanding of your expectations, expected job conduct, and job communication requirements.

Any difficulty with the contractor fulfilling this criteria, may help one further whittle down the candidates whom you may feel comfortable to deal with.

Remember it’s not all about you. Well actually it is, and so the consumer should also be prepared to answer questions of the contractor. Think of any contracting relationship like dating. Both parties should want to put their best foot forward.

If the contractor fears you may be too fussy, litigious, a know it all, want the cheapest………..etc., you may have trouble finding a good masonry contractor. An honest dialogue between client and contractor will enhance both parties’ understanding of one another and will result in the client having confidence in their particular selection.

Finally; the ugly subject of cost of the project will come into play in the final analysis.

There are some truths that experienced clients have come to learn with any type of construction investment. Remember, it is an investment in your home, commercial building, or property.

Truth number one: You seldom if ever get good for cheap.

The fact is legitimate contractors bidding on the same scope of work, using the same materials, paying scale wages, and operating within the laws of the land; are generally within 10-20 percent of one another. The fact is, the cost of doing business is the same for everyone who operates above board. Some do not truly understand or charge for all of their operating costs beyond direct project costs as for instance.

So when receiving quotes, the buyer should ask why is this price so low instead of why is the price so high. Let the masonry or any contractor answer the question.

Truth number two: Your gut instincts don’t lie to you. If you have developed some affinity for a particular contractor it should be as a result of clear and open communication, the fact that your questions have been answered properly, and that you have done your best to complete due diligence in the process.

If you don’t have total confidence in the contractor, you have made the wrong choice.

Truth number three: Make sure all items, expectations, colour choices, etc., are in writing. This keeps things clear and protects both parties.

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