The Property Manager’s Complete Guide to Selecting a Commercial Paving Contractor
By: Diamond Staff, Diamond Solutions
As a property management professional, you know that the state of your parking lots and walkways impact how customers view your property (and by extension, your brand). But when the time comes for bidding out paving projects, navigating the commercial contractor landscape can seem overwhelming.
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to every aspect of selecting the right-fit commercial paving contractor for your next project. Whether you need paving, patching, crack repair, sealcoating or striping, this guide will help you secure the right contractor with confidence.
If done well, selecting a contractor using this process does more than help you find the right fit for your next project. It will help you find a trusted partner that you’ll be able to rely on for future paving needs.
Step 1: Defining the Paving Project’s Scope
Before beginning your contractor search, define clearly (on paper) your project’s specific requirements. This foundation lays the groundwork for a targeted and efficient search, minimizing wasted time, and ensuring you attract the right contractors for the job.
1.1 Project Scope
Is this a new construction project requiring a new parking lot, driveway, or walkway? Identify the dimensions, desired design elements, and any specific features like drainage systems or decorative patterns.
Note: Certain contractors will focus on new construction while others are more focused on repaving and repair. This is because each specialty requires a different approach and skillset.
Repairs and Maintenance
Is the existing pavement suffering from cracks, potholes, or does it appear to be uneven? Define the areas requiring repair, the severity of the damage, and any potential underlying issues influencing the deterioration.
Is your pavement showing signs of age but still structurally sound? Determine the extent of resurfacing needed (full or partial) and the desired resurfacing method (asphalt overlay, concrete rejuvenation, etc.).
1.2 Pavement Type
A cost-effective and versatile option, asphalt offers smooth finishes, ease of repair, and good weather resistance. However, it requires regular maintenance and may not be suitable for heavy traffic areas.
Renowned for its durability and long lifespan, concrete is ideal for high-traffic areas and heavy loads. However, it can be more expensive than asphalt and is prone to cracking if not installed properly.
Offering aesthetic appeal and design flexibility, pavers come in various colors, textures, and patterns. However, they require higher initial investment and ongoing maintenance compared to other options.
1.3 Project Size and Complexity
Is your project a small parking lot for a local store or a sprawling campus access road? Project size will impact logistics, equipment needs, and contractor expertise required.
Does your project involve intricate features like retaining walls, drainage systems, or custom designs? Complexities demand specialized skills and experience from your chosen commercial paving contractor.
Will it be valuable for the project to be completed using a phased approach? What type of foot or vehicle traffic does the property have and are there peak and off hours? If needed, will the contractor be able to accommodate scheduling needs to keep the business operational during the project?
Does your contractor need to be able to scale with you to support other properties or support future needs for this same parking lot – beyond just this immediate project? If so, does your contractor have a large enough presence to meet those needs?
Make sure to inquire about the number of states and areas where they are able to provide paving and repair services.
1.4 Budget and Timeline
Be realistic about your financial constraints and allocate a contingency buffer for unforeseen circumstances. Transparency with potential paving contractors helps avoid budget misalignment and surprises.
Establish a feasible timeline for project completion, considering permit approvals, weather conditions, peak and off times for the property, and sequencing of work. Open communication with contractors ensures adherence to your desired timeframe.
Step 2: Researching Paving Contractors
With project requirements defined, it’s time to start gathering recommendations and broadening your search for qualified contractors. Use a multi-pronged approach to discover “hidden gem” candidates and ensure you have a qualified pool.
2.1 Word-of-Mouth Recommendations
Business Associates and Colleagues
Network with other property or facility managers in your industry or in your local business network. They might have firsthand experience with commercial paving contractors and offer valuable insights.
Consider contacting relevant industry associations like the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) or the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA). They may have directories of qualified contractors in your area, often categorized by expertise and project size.
2.2 Online Research
Leverage third party review platforms like Google Business Profiles or Better Business Bureau to search for local contractors and read reviews from previous clients.
Tip: Look for contractors with positive ratings and testimonials that align with your project needs and scale.
Contractor Websites and Portfolios
Visit the websites of shortlisted contractors to review their service offerings, project galleries, and experience level. Look for contractors that showcase projects similar in scope and complexity to yours. Pay close attention to case studies and detailed descriptions of past projects.
Industry Publications and Resources
Explore online resources and publications specific to the paving industry (like this guide!). These resources often feature articles, directories, and expert advice on selecting a qualified contractor. Additionally, industry forums and blogs can offer valuable insights and discussions on specific paving challenges and solutions for your project type.
Step 3: Shortlisting and Evaluation
Now that you have a list of potential contractors, the phase of shortlisting and evaluation begins. This process will help you narrow your list to just a few contractors that align with your project vision.
3.1 Qualifications and Licensure
First and foremost, ensure each shortlisted contractor possesses the necessary licenses and permits to operate in your region. Focus on licenses specific to commercial paving projects, such as paving contractor licenses, asphalt or concrete certifications, and any additional specialized licenses based on your project complexity (e.g., drainage systems, decorative finishes).
Tip: These licensing requirements can vary greatly by state, so it’s important to know if your contractor has experience with licensing and understands the requirements specifically in that area.
Verify that each contractor has adequate insurance coverage to protect your investment and mitigate potential risks. Ask for certificates of insurance detailing liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage. Choose contractors with coverage exceeding your minimum requirements for optimal peace of mind.
Membership in reputable industry associations demonstrates a commitment to quality and ethical practices. Look for affiliations with NAPA, ACPA, local construction associations, or relevant trade unions. These affiliations often signify adherence to industry standards and best practices.
3.2 Experience and Expertise
Request detailed portfolios showcasing each contractor’s past projects. Focus on projects similar in scope and complexity to your own. Scrutinize the quality of finishes, attention to detail, and the types of materials used. Look for testimonials or client references associated with specific projects for firsthand accounts of the contractor’s work.
Expertise and Specialization
Does the contractor have expertise in the specific pavement type and project complexities needed? For instance, asphalt overlays might require different skill sets than intricate concrete designs.
Catch basins and drain tile are also a unique skill set within concrete and asphalt due to the technical skills required. The contractor will need resources that understand how to set the basin level, connect the inlet and outlet pipes and perform any backfilling and compaction around the basin afterwards. The contractor should be experienced in knowing how to safely and accurately dig the trenches to the proper depth, width and slope for proper installation.
Look for contractors that demonstrably specialize in your chosen pavement type and possess the necessary skills for intricate features.
Quality Control Measures
Investigate the contractor’s quality control procedures. Do they have established protocols for material testing, workmanship verification, and adherence to industry standards? This commitment to quality control assures long-lasting results and minimizes future repair costs.
3.3 Financial Considerations and Transparency
Request detailed written quotes from each shortlisted contractor. Check every line item, ensuring clarity in material costs, labor charges, equipment usage fees, and any additional costs associated with permits or specialized features. Compare quotes thoroughly, but prioritize quality over the lowest bid. Remember, the cheapest option might not always be the most cost-effective in the long run.
Tip: A contractor that specializes in only asphalt or concrete may be pushing a specific solution because it’s what they know how to do, vs. it being the right solution for your property. Look for a contractor that specializes equally in both asphalt and concrete for a more objective recommendation. This could impact costs in the event that the contractor is recommending a solution that is less cost-effective due to their specialization.
Payment Terms and Guarantees
Understand the payment schedule proposed by each contractor. Negotiate terms that align with your cash flow and minimize upfront costs. Additionally, inquire about warranty terms and guarantees offered on materials and workmanship. Choose contractors with comprehensive warranties that demonstrate confidence in their work and provide long-term peace of mind.
Hidden Costs and Transparency
Ask pointed questions about potential hidden costs, such as unexpected material shortages, equipment failures, or weather delays. A transparent contractor will openly address these possibilities and discuss contingency plans to minimize their impact on your budget.
3.4 Communication and Customer Service
Initial Contact and Responsiveness
Gauge the communication style and responsiveness of each contractor during initial contact. Are they quick to reply to inquiries, professional in their interactions, and attentive to your specific needs and concerns? Choose a contractor with excellent communication skills, ensuring smooth collaboration throughout the project.
Project Management and Reporting
Inquire about the contractor’s project management practices. Will they assign a dedicated project manager to oversee your project? How will they communicate progress updates, address concerns, and keep you informed throughout the process? Choose a contractor with a proactive and transparent approach to project management.
References and Past Client Feedback
Request references from previous clients, preferably those with projects similar to yours. Contact these references directly and ask about their experience with the contractor, the quality of work, and any communication or service issues encountered. This direct feedback provides valuable insights into the contractor’s work ethic and customer service approach.
Step 4: Final Decision and Contract
Gut Feeling and Intuition
After thorough evaluation of all of the “on paper” criteria for selecting a contractor, trust your gut feeling. Choose the contractor that inspires confidence, demonstrates genuine understanding of your needs, and makes you the most comfortable about forming a collaborative partnership. Intuition often plays a crucial role in choosing the right team for such a significant project.
Contract Review and Negotiation
A clear and detailed contract should outline the scope of work, materials used, timeline, payment schedule, warranty terms, and dispute resolution procedures. Negotiate any necessary adjustments and ensure the contract protects both your interests.
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