As a contractor, this can be a frustrating thing to hear. We invest time into evaluating the specific requirements of your project, assessing the soil, permitting, equipment and other considerations, and are subsequently told by the client that they have a friend/coworker/cousin who will do it for less.
We get it, you work hard for your money and you want to get the most value you possibly can for your dollars. You have choices, there are a lot of contractors out there these days. Additionally, for every licensed and insured business, there are five other weekend warriors who earn a living by undercutting established contractors. The reality is if you go with your buddy, it’s possible that nothing will happen. They’re probably a first-class operator, and the job might go off without a hitch.
That said, we want to touch on some points to consider if you’re going that route. Excavation is a complex task and a challenging business. You never know exactly what you’re going to find underground until you get in there and expose it. Here are a few questions that you should ask your buddy before you let him put the bucket in the ground.
Knowing how to operate a machine, and knowing how to run an excavation job are two very different skills. Ask if they have done this kind of job before. If so, you can ask for a reference from a past client. This will go a long way towards verifying whether or not they’re qualified to perform the work.
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What’s their plan for disposing of material that is removed from your site? Is it going to a proper disposal facility, or will it be dumped down a forest service road somewhere? How are they going to get their equipment in without wrecking your lawn. Do they have access to the correct equipment for things that may not be foreseen? This might include rock breaking, contaminated soil or a dozen other unforeseen scenarios. The point is, they should have a basic plan for how to perform the work and how they will respond if things get more complex partway through the job.
Any type of property work should include at least a basic contract. If nothing else, this outlines the scope of work and details what will and will not be done. This isn’t a good thing to do on a handshake deal. If something happens and costs rise, your buddy can just walk off the job and leave you high and dry if you don’t have a contract outlining their responsibilities. No matter what, make sure you have a contract for the work.
Every legitimate contractor carries business insurance, with no exceptions. If you’re going to have somebody working on your property, you want them to carry proper insurance. This is designed to protect them and you as the owner in the event that things go seriously wrong. If your contractor can not provide you with proof of insurance, this alone is a very good reason to avoid using them.
You’re going to require a permit for many types of residential jobs. Your contractor should be familiar with the process of applying for and obtaining permits. It’s not required for every type of job, but it’s a conversation that you should have to be sure.
If you’re working around active underground services, you’re going to need a map to locate and navigate around them. Some utilities, including many modern natural gas services, have a tracer wire to which a signal can be applied to aid in locating it underground. Do they have the equipment and knowledge to do this correctly, or a partner business that will do the work for them?
Further to the last point, ask them what happens when a utility is damaged underground. Some things, such as water service and drainage pipe can be a relatively easy fix, but gas and underground electrical/data cables are another story. As the homeowner, you are typically responsible if a gas line is broken on your property, even if it was done by somebody that you hired. This may include the cost of the repair, as well as the cost of gas leakage and other considerations. This is a huge risk. Most modern gas lines are plastic and can be easily broken with a shovel, and seriously damaged with a piece of machinery.
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Some jobs are simple and it might work out to have a buddy do it. That said, when you hire a professional contractor, you’re paying not just for the work, but for the years of experience running jobs. While your buddy may be a good operator, there’s more to running a job than running a machine. They need to be able to manage a jobsite, make decisions quickly, and deal with changing circumstances. They may not have the experience to do that.
The safest solution is to entrust your job to an experienced, insured contractor with a reputation for quality work. If you want to make some upgrades on your property, give Erdem Excavating a call for a free estimate.