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Tips for Choosing the Right Asphalt Maintenance Contractor

Consumer Beware! 

No matter if you are a residential or commercial customer there are pavement "rip-off artists" and unscrupulous contractors looking for you. Here are a few tips on common scam tactics and how to avoid those "fly by night" contractors.

First a very basic rule. NEVER contract any job on impulse...no matter what the good reason or "today only" bargain seems to be.

  1. The #1 trap to avoid is the old "left over materials" line.  Someone stops by and says they have some materials left from another job and offer you a great deal right now. Reputable contractors calculate materials carefully and seldom have more than a small amount of "leftovers" never enough to do an entire other job.

  2. Beware of "fancy" trucks with small rollers or equipment carried on light "utility" type trailers, and "drag box" asphalt spreaders that pull behind the truck. (Sealer tanks should always be cylindrical shaped NEVER square and should have continuous agitation etc. It is important to check for the agitation, due to the 6 years these tips have been here, more disreputable contractors have switched to round tanks that give the outward appearance of being professional equipment) Also more of these contractors are using small paving machines nowadays instead of the drag boxes. Be aware of the combination of the trucks, the size of the rollers & other equipment.

  3. Look out for prices by units.  Bids quoted by "gallons, tons, square feet, etc." are usually rip-offs waiting to happen. Do you know pavement work well enough to know for sure how many units the contractor used? A common ploy is to charge per gallon for sealcoating or to charge for asphalt work by the ton. Run from these guys. A good contractor gives firm bids with a "total" price for the completed job.

  4. Beware the non-local. Does it really make sense for a contractor with out of state license plates or from many miles away to be at your door or office? Take a look at their license plates or vehicle inspections. If nothing else ask to see the person's driver's license; there would be no reason not to show you that and certificates of insurance.

  5. ALSO NOTE: Because of today's "throwaway" pay by the minute cell phones; often traveling groups these days seem to have a local phone. They will often buy a cell just to have a local number while they are in the area, changing as they move along and just having another box of cards quickly printed at an office supply since these days so much of that can be done "on the spot"-- Literally in just a few hours a traveling group can have a new local number and cards to match. Cell phones usually will not show up on a reverse number lookup. So do a reverse lookup even if the number is local but you've never heard of the company. Or maybe the number doesn't match the truck or the numbering for the phone on the trucks looks newer or "different" than other numbers on vehicles or equipment.

  6. Does the deal sound to good to be true? It probably is.

  7. There are too many others to list but remember the basic rule. Use common sense and never decide "right now" on a job you didn't contact the company about first.

  8. You may also wish to visit this links page for some warnings from Attorney Generals and law officials (about 2/3 way down the page)

 

As an interesting note: we've received them every now and then over the years, but as recently as Dec.2, 2007 we had VERY irate phone call from a "contractor" in Tennessee who irately explained that he had been "doing work for the same lady for 3 years and now she read your "expletive" web site" and didn't want to use him! We explained that although he met several of the criteria above he could simply show her his insurance and Tennessee business documentation and local phone listing and we were sure she would be reassured; or to just have her call us and we would explain what she should ask for... to which we got a few more expletives before he hung up!
We're glad to be of help, whenever it protects a consumer anywhere.

A Few Tips for Choosing A Contractor.

  1. Visit our more detailed contractor checklist on this site.

  2. Go to The National Pavement Contractors Association's free search engine for pre-qualified professional pavement contractors nationwide, you only need a zip code.

  3. References. Don't just ask, check them. Call customers near you who had work done some time ago. Ask if you can come visit to look at the work.

  4. Get it ALL in writing. A good contractor will give you a detailed written quote with all specifications, quantities, and costs included. This includes all costs for preparation, labor, materials, taxes, permits, clean up after the job etc.

  5. Make SURE the contractor has both general liability and worker's compensation insurance. If not you could be left wide open for damages to you or your property or lawsuits from your customers or even the contractor's employees. A million dollars is a minimum for liability/worker's comp. insurance in the pavement industry with 2 million becoming very common. A reputable contractor will gladly furnish certificates of insurance and will never mind you verifying coverage with his agent. (Note: Some smaller contractors who only provide one service such as striping may be sufficient with $250-$500,000 liability and self-employed individuals with no employees may be unable to obtain worker's comp. The consumer must decide the level of protection they are comfortable with.)

  6. Ask to visit a current job site where the contractor is working. See if this is the way you would want your job done. Talk with the property owner about how he found out about the contractor and if things are going as planned.

 

Got questions? Visit the NPCA Public Pavement Forums with a special section for residential consumer questions & answers!

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