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Installing driveways isn't "do-it-yourself." Any advice on driveway contractors?

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Question: Installing driveways isn't "do-it-yourself." Any advice on driveway contractors?
Answer:

No, installing driveways is not typically for do-it-yourselfers, since such a project is large in scale and often fraught with pitfalls. While gravel driveways are relatively straightforward, you still need access to the heavy equipment needed to work with all that gravel.

As is the case whenever you hire professionals to work on your property, you should begin the process of hiring driveway contractors by seeking out references. Draw up a list of questions and contact the references provided by the driveway contractors. Include questions about:

  • The work ethic of the driveway contractor.
  • The trustworthiness of the driveway contractor.
  • How closely the driveway contractor followed the contract.
  • How much the driveway contractor charged.
  • Whether or not the reference ultimately was satisfied with the work of the driveway contractor.

But the initial phone call to the reference is just the beginning. Try to obtain permission to visit the site in question. If granted, inquire as to the date when the driveway was installed. See if it shows signs of any problems and ask the homeowners if they're aware of any problems. Keep accurate notes, as you'll want to visit the sites of references provided by other driveway contractors and make comparisons.

Based on those comparisons, choose the top driveway contractors and ask them further questions, to get a feel for their level of professionalism. Installing driveways properly often stands or falls based on whether the driveway contractor provides adequate drainage through site grading, etc., so this is always a good line of questioning. You should also check at this point for written proof that the driveway contractors have liability insurance. Finally, gain a sense of whether or not this is someone you'll want to do business with: never underestimate the personal element. If some of the driveway contractors come across as gruff and inattentive during mere interviews, imagine how tough they'd be to communicate with on the job site, should unforeseen difficulties arise.

Based on the results of your interviews, narrow the list down further to those driveway contractors who left you confident about their abilities to handle the job. You're now ready to have the driveway contractors on that "short list" make bids for the job.

The final step is the contract. Before you sign anything, make sure the contract covers the following:

  • What are the responsibilities of the driveway contractor, exactly? Who is responsible for bringing in other professionals (e.g., plumbers) for peripheral work?
  • Compaction of the subgrade and base.
  • Thickness of the pavement.
  • Overall cost and payment schedule.
  • A guarantee.

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