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  • Michael Liebold

Ten Things To Ask Before Hiring A Stone Masonry Contractor

Long, long ago, stonemasons were retained to build cathedrals, castles, defensive fortifications, and even the pyramids of Egypt. Today, however, masons are involved with home remodeling and landscaping as much as civil engineering and public works projects. In fact, thousands of homeowners hire stonemasons every year to shore up the safety and aesthetic appeal of their properties. Important to remember, though, is that not all stonemasons are created equal; hiring the best fit for the desired project and within your budget requires research. Accordingly, you should always gauge the contractor candidate by the answers to the following probing questions. #1: Is the Mason Licensed? States have a vested interest in assuring a certain level of competence and ethics among contractors, stonemasons included. After all, issues of structural safety, business practices, and professional standards affect customers and, often, their neighbors. While different states impose varying criteria for licensure, most want to see references -- professional and character -- and require passage by the candidate of a standard examination, which could be preceded by a number of training units. A jurisdiction may also want to examine recent financial records as well as business formation documents before issuing this all-important credential. Needless to say, a licensed stonemason represents a comprehensive knowledge of the craft; wise stewardship of the business; and just and fair dealings with others.

#2: Is the Mason Professionally Certified? A doctor may be licensed to practice in a given state but patients might think twice if that physician was not board-certified. The same principle applies to masonry. Certification by the Masonry Contractors Association of America (MCAA) indicates that the stonemason's standards are on par with the profession nationwide and not simply adequate to state regulations. The MCAA brand tells customers that the contractor's peers have determined that he or she meets their standards of excellence and integrity. Expertise on technical matters, safety, materials, consumer education, and all other issues bearing on the trade is represented by MCAA certification. Asking a prospect for this credential is entirely appropriate. #3: Is the Mason Insured? The issue of insurance may be covered by state licensure but the customers have a right to know that the liability insurance is current and sufficient for their purposes. For residential jobs, the amount of $2,000,000 is most often the standard coverage. For masonry at commercial sites or public facilities, the contactor needs more indemnification. In addition, the policy should be endorsed for the specific kind of project the mason will undertake: brick, cement block, stone, or veneer, for example. This is crucial in the event that somebody is injured on or near your property due to the ongoing work. Moreover, you should assure that the policy remains in effect for the expected duration of the project. #4: Is the Business Financially Sound? A nightmare scenario for any homeowner is a half-finished contractor job that was aborted because the mason ran out of funds. Whether the service is lawn care in Suffolk County or a masonry company in Nassau County, homeowners should have total assurance that the job contracted will be the job completed without any delay due to a shortage of resources or manpower. To that end, it is not inappropriate to ask the contractor for names of suppliers in an inquiry as to the timeliness of the mason's bill-paying. If any prior liens are placed on the stonemason, it stands to reason, the current customers will doubtless feel the pinch. Best to discover any such problems in advance. #5: Does the Mason Have a Permanent Place of Business? Talent and craftsmanship are very important but so is transparency. Again, this may be a must for a license but the stonemason should have a regular, physical business address. This is important for liability reasons, credit purposes, and consumer confidence. That address could pertain to a commercial building or, alternatively, to a home office. The important factor here is that there is a brick-and-mortar structure that contains the blueprints, business records, and correspondence of the masonry company. Should the prospective stonemason simply offer a post office box and email address, a red flag is raised that he or she is either operating on a shoestring budget or avoiding some sort of accountability. #6: Does the Contractor Specialize in Stone Masonry? At its most basic, the masonry trade works in three different media: bricks, cement blocks, and stones. To be sure, there are masons who do good work in all three of these, preferring to generalize. Yet there is wisdom in selecting one that specializes in stone. Constructing stone structures is at once an intense and delicate task. A driving tour through the suburbs of Long Island New York -- i.e. Suffolk County and Nassau County -- reveals all kinds of stone ornamentation that complement the lawn care. Some of them reflect intricate carving by means of hand and chisel. Others reveal perfectly shaped stone blocks formed with power equipment. The art, precision, and facility with tools are all the result of continuous experience. #7: Does the Mason Have Photographs from Previous Projects? Stonework that complements and enhances the appearance of a lawn is designed to please the eye. A contractor can present all of the formal credentials and experience in the world but that does not convey what the homeowner can expect in terms of aesthetics. A photographic portfolio of accomplished work should be provided before any contract is executed. While a hard copy portfolio might be available, many masons prefer simply to post such pictures on their websites. Technology enables them to display literally hundreds of examples of their designs and craftsmanship. Here a customer can see the juxtaposition of a stone patio and fire pit with a lush, rolling lawn. A picture is literally worth a thousand words. #8: Does the Mason Clean Up the Project Site when the Work Is Done? By its very nature, masonry is dusty, messy, and even toxic if certain procedures are not followed. True professionals understand their responsibility after the last stone is in place. In the first instance, this signifies simple courtesy -- the job is not really done until the lawn and the masonry appear as a finished product. More significantly, and as noted, the dust and the material residue are not always safe for the layperson to dispose of. In addition, extra stones, shards, and pieces can be hazardous to children as well as pets. The vast majority of masons see clean-up as obligatory but you should get clarity on this in advance. #9: How Does the Mason Preferred Being Paid? Payment arrangements should be normative to the contractor and convenient to the customer. So, if the mason prefers installments, homeowners do well to confirm their own capacity to make the payments. Smaller jobs may involve a single payment -- or one divided between the start and completion of work. Incidental fees may be charged, fees for mowing lawn, power washing pre-existing masonry, etc. If the mason is affiliated with lawn care services near me on Long Island New York, for example, you will want to see separate line items for masonry and standard lawn care. Mowing the lawn is a nice touch once the stonework is all done. #10: Is a Warranty Given by the Mason? This is a reasonable question, given that most materials are not forever -- though stone should endure for a long time. The important thing is that the company stands by its products and services. Many lawn care services near me have licensed masons on staff so they can offer comprehensive landscape service. Lawn Brothers Landscaping of Holtsville, NY is one such enterprise that backs up its wide range of offerings with strong assurances of customer satisfaction. Indeed, Lawn Brothers provide masonry service as one of many components in overall property beautification. Call today for an estimate.

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