Updated: Sep 21, 2020
Stonemasons and bricklayers have constructed some of the oldest buildings in the world. No wonder many people prefer stones or bricks when it comes to building their homes. These professionals can build or repair installations such as pathways, patios, chimneys, landscape curbing, and load-bearing walls.
The most common masonry repair works include rebuilding, repointing mortar, and rectifying water damage. Masonry work can only serve its purpose and last longer if done professionally by qualified masonry contractors; otherwise, it will collapse, resulting in significant loss financially and time wastage.
Do you want to hire a masonry contractor? Here are 12 tips to help you find the best masonry contractor in New York.
What's the Contractor's Specialty?
No single contractor can be an expert in working with all building materials - stone, concrete block, and brick. Most masons only specialize in one or two of the materials listed. So if you have a building or a repair project, ask your potential contractor the type of material(s) he specializes in.
A contractor who has experience in a particular building material can do excellent work and even make unique aesthetic or artistic value cuts. They can also come up with unique masonry designs that will make your home look exceptional. So, when selecting a masonry contractor, don't go for a Jack of all trades.
Does the Contractor Have Some Reference?
We are living in a digital age that makes it possible to find company reviews online. Second, nearly all contractors or businesses have websites, and they also use social media. Before you hire any contractor, go online, and read the reviews and testimonials from their previous customers.
You can also check their online rating. These should give you some vital information about the contractor you are about to hire. A contractor with many negative reviews and a low rating is a no-no. If possible, contact their previous customers and ask them for references. This will help you gauge whether or not their previous customers were satisfied with their work.
Who Will Manage Your Project?
Even after selecting a contracting company, it is vital to know who will be in charge of your project. It is a common practice that the estimator or the salesperson you discussed your project with may not necessarily be the same person who'll manage your project. For this reason, find out who'll be in charge of your project, and ask to meet him beforehand.
This will help you determine whether or not you'll be comfortable with them. You can also determine whether the supervisor assigned to you has the qualification and experience needed for your project, particularly the type of materials you intend to use. If the supervisor or project manager does not fit your standards, you can request the company to replace him.
Word of Mouth
Sometimes it may not be possible for you to get a good contractor on your own. Why not talk to your co-workers, family, or friends who have undertaken a similar project you have and ask them for reference? This will help you understand the failures, pain points, and successes of their projects to be psychologically prepared.
However, remember that even if a relative or friend whose project was successful endorses a contractor for you, that doesn't give an assurance that your project will also succeed, even if the two projects are similar.
The relationship between a contractor and a contractee is very subjective.
People have different preferences and tastes, and what your friend/family considers a beautiful work by the contractor may not be the case for you. The bottom line is that even if someone recommends a contractor to you, you must also do some background checks to determine whether they are the best fit for your project.
Does Your Contractor Hire Subcontractors?
Some contracting companies subcontract their projects. Though there's nothing wrong with subcontracting, you need to know beforehand whether this will be the case. Not only that. You also have to find out who the subcontractor is, and whether he's qualified for the job.
You also need to know how long your main contractor has been working with the subcontractor. Take your time to find out more about the subcontractor. Just the same way you would do with the main contractor, go online, and dig their background. Find out whether they have successfully handled projects similar to yours.
If you aren't satisfied, feel free to object. You also need to know whether there will be extra charges for the subcontracted work. It would be best if you also found out whether there has been a dispute between your contractor and the subcontractor he has been working with.
Does Your Contractor Have Insurance?
Accidents and inadequate estimation, management, and accounting are some of the things that lead to project failure. If your contractor can't give you a detailed and precise bid before the project begins, then you should get concerned because the contractor's business might not be healthy.
Also, find out if the contractor has insurance. A good and trustworthy masonry contractor must have insurance. You don't have to assume that all contractors have insurance; you have to confirm this with your contractor of choice. And you must verify whether the insurance covers the type of project you are planning to undertake. While your contractor may claim to have insurance, you have to confirm whether the insurance is up-to-date and valid.
For example, your contractor can be insured as a carpenter, meaning if you have a general contracting work and damage your property, the insurance company won't cover you. You'll have to foot all the bills.
It would be best if you had an assurance that all the workers, your property, and your family are protected.
Remember, if anyone gets injured in your home, you may be sued, and you'll have to pay the fines plus their medical expenses. This is because, in this setup, you're the employer. You need to insist on the proof that the company is insured, and the insurance is current and relevant to your project.
Do You Have to Sign a Contract?
Gone are the days when people rely on word of mouth and trust that things will go as agreed. Today, some quacks and con-men masquerade as contractors but are out to defraud unsuspecting customers. That's why you need to insist on signing a contract before the project begins.
Suppose you and your contractor can design a contract, well and good. If not, you'll need a lawyer to do it for you. The agreement must also be signed in the presence of the lawyer and some witnesses.
The contract should spell out all the aspects of the project, including the start and completion dates, payment schedules, what materials to be used in the project, and any other thing you feel needs some protection element. You have to ensure every little detail is accounted for in the contract before the work begins.
It is this contract that will protect you in case the contractor cannot keep his promise. You have to remember that the agreement binds you and the contractor, so you must also meet your end of the bargain; otherwise, you can be sued. A contract is an essential document because it will help both of you in case a dispute arises. That explains why it should be as detailed as possible.
What's the Status of Your Contractor's Masonry Certification?
Masonry contractors in New York get certified by the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA). Established in 1950, this is a national association that represents masonry contractors. Its main aim is to promote and preserve this industry by encouraging reasonable standards and codes, fostering a risk-free work environment, providing continuous education, and marketing the best masonry materials.
The association also certifies masonry contractors qualified to handle masonry work using specific materials and can manage complex and high-precision projects. Hiring a contractor with the MCAA certification is the surest way of knowing that the project will succeed. Apart from the certificate, the general contractor's license is also necessary. This document proves that the contractor is knowledgeable about masonry and is allowed to serve in that capacity.
Is the Contractor Experienced?
As you peruse your contractor's insurance and certification status, check how many years they have been in the market. A contractor might have all the paper qualifications to carry out a project, but they may lack the experience to get the job done correctly. That's why experience is necessary.
Find out what materials they have been using and whether they are conversant with modern materials and construction methods. The construction industry is quite dynamic, and new ways are developed to cut the construction materials and lay them. If your contractor is not well versed in these new techniques, they may waste your materials or end up doing a shady job. If that happens, you shall have wasted your time and money because you may be forced to hire another contractor to fix their messes.
An experienced contractor knows what he's doing and will create beautiful patterns and strong joints to ensure your structure is not only attractive but also sturdy and durable. Another thing to check is whether they have all the equipment, tools, and workforce to handle your project.
If you have a big project, a small company with just a few masons may not complete the project within the stipulated duration. A good contractor should also be conversant with building codes of regulations to ensure everything they abide by the law and the building codes.
How Much Does the Contractor Charge?
You need to know what you'll be expected to pay before the contractor starts working. Of course, you'd not want to pay more than is necessary. That's why you should shop around for a contractor that doesn't overcharge but offers a decent service.
You can contact a few contractors and ask them about their charges. You can then sit down and compare the bids. Do not choose a proposal just because it is the cheapest. Neither should you pick the highest bidder, expecting that they will offer a better service.
When it comes to choosing a contractor, you must balance between affordability and quality of work. Pick a contractor who charges reasonably and offers the best service. Remember that the cost alone should not determine your choice of a contractor. It would be best to consider other factors such as experience, certification, insurance, etc. Above all, remember that what you pay for is what you get. A cheap contractor may look appealing now, but it will be costly in the long run.
Is There Anything the Contractor Will Need from You?
It is common for masonry contractors to create a list of whatever they will require to carry out their work. But it doesn't harm to ask the contractor what he will need from you. Even an experienced contractor may forget a few things once in a while unless they have a template to check what they need from their clients.
Some information that a contractor may need from you includes photos of your property, the list of your desired materials, your building/compound plans, etc. Asking a contractor what he will need from you is another way of knowing whether the contractor is qualified. A contractor who doesn't ask you to provide them with your home's details may not be experienced enough.
Will the Contractor Clean the Site After Work?
Cleaning the site after work is also becoming a common practice among masonry contractors. A good contractor should ensure the place where they worked is left as clean as possible. You need to confirm from your contractor whether they will clean the site before they leave. This is important because if the site is not cleaned, you may incur an extra cost to hire cleaners. An area that's not cleaned may also be hazardous to your family.
Wrapping it Up
There are many masonry contractors in New York, and finding the best one can be overwhelming. By following the tips above, you'll most likely get the best masonry contractor. You can start by creating a list of contractors and then eliminating them one by one until you remain with the best. To be sure that your choice is the best, you can take your time to visit the sites where they have worked to see for yourself whether their work is satisfactory.