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Homeowner help: driveway paving quotes

  1. Jun 22, 2008 #1

    DaveC426913

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    I'm getting quotes for paving my driveway. I've got two quotes that are miles apart and I'd like to find some sort of checklist to compare them.
     
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  3. Jun 22, 2008 #2

    brewnog

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    Forgive the daft question, but have you compared the quotes to see what labour and materials are actually included in each proposal? Are you comparing apples with apples?
     
  4. Jun 22, 2008 #3

    turbo

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    If the labor and materials are not equivalent, the quotes could be way off. One more thing to consider - does the lower-priced paving contractor own his own asphalt plant? With the soaring price of materials, and the fuel needed to heat, transport, and apply the asphalt, a paving company that owns a plant can afford to let you have the asphalt far cheaper than a smaller company that has to buy all their paving mix. That way, they increase their share of the available business and keep their crews and equipment working, even if they are not making a killing. My nephew works for a small paving company that has to buy their paving mix from a plant some 25 miles away, and their jobs have dried up due to the high prices they have to quote.
     
  5. Jun 22, 2008 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    When I did mine, I got four or five quotes. N-1 of them clustered within 10% of each other, and one was a factor of 2 lower. That one, coincidentally or not, came from a company without a street address - just a cell phone number.
     
  6. Jun 22, 2008 #5
    For a good driveway that will last you need at least 12 inches, although 18 inches is better of granular A subbase compacted to at least 98% proctor. 2 layers of asphalt a minimum 0f 2 inches thick each, although a 2inch and a 3 inch layer is better (after compaction). This should last as a driveway, with occasional maintenance for at least 30 years. costs a few bucks, lasts long time.
     
  7. Jun 22, 2008 #6
    what kind of driveway are you putting in (concrete, asphalt, brick, rock, etc)?

    anything special? curves, special requests (colored, borders)?

    is there a driveway there already? (new, or does the old one need to be taken out?)

    how big (sq. ft.)?

    how many contractors are there in the area?
     
  8. Jun 22, 2008 #7

    DaveC426913

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    I'm just having ashphalt put in.
    The driveway is 1600 sq.ft. I share it with my neighbour.
    There were no special requests discussed.
    They will be removing the existing ashphalt.

    The two quotes were $4500 and $2800.

    The lower one is only going to leave the driveway fallow for 1-3 weeks, the higher one is going to leave it fallow for 6 weeks.
    The lower one is going to lay 3" of ashphalt.

    OK, so my first crack at questions:

    Is this the total cost including labour and materials?
    Where do you get your ashphalt? (Do you have your own plant)?
    Do you do "granular A subbase compacted to at least 98% proctor"? (whatever that is)
    How deep is your subbase?
    How thick a layer of gravel?
    How thick a lyaer of ashphalt? How many layers?
    What do you offer in the way of returns if I have complaints? (how can I phrase this?)
     
  9. Jun 22, 2008 #8

    Evo

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    Get references from both companies of customers that have had the driveways in for several years and compare. Check the better business bureau for complaints.

    How long has each been in business?

    Do you get a guarantee?
     
  10. Jun 22, 2008 #9

    DaveC426913

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    Actually, I've got references and recos from both. Both are well-established and well-known in my area and have done many driveways around here.
     
  11. Jun 22, 2008 #10

    Evo

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    I would flat out ask the sales person of each why one is so low and one is so high. You're the buyer and they expect to be questioned. Just listen carefully to see if they give solid answers.
     
  12. Jun 23, 2008 #11
    :biggrin:
     
  13. Jun 23, 2008 #12

    BobG

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    "My neighbor has a circular driveway... he can't get out. "
    Steven Wright

    "I'm not a public figure at all. I don't really go out a lot to places where there are people like those who sit at the bottom of your driveway."
    Catherine Keener
     
  14. Jun 23, 2008 #13

    Moonbear

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    So, let's see, one is going to take twice as long to get the job done, doing nothing during that time, and leaving you without a driveway, yet is charging more?

    I'd ask for an itemized list of the materials they are including in the cost, labor costs, how many people will be on the crew to do the job, and what equipment rentals/fueling is included in the quote. One could be skimping on materials, or one might be paying their crew better wages/insurance, one might own all their own equipment while the other has to rent some of it by the day or hour (I'd lean toward the one who owns their own equipment if that makes a difference...it could sway the cost either way, depending on what equipment it is...might make it cheaper to have bought it outright rather than continually renting, or may make it more expensive to be paying out the loans for the equipment purchase...but, if they own their own equipment, no delays on the job waiting for rentals to be available).

    The other thing to check is their math that they aren't over-ordering materials. If the one that is more expensive tells you it's going to be two layers of asphalt 2" deep each, and has the square footage of your driveway figured out, you can check that the cubic yards of asphalt they're going to use adds up (there should be SOME excess to account for spills, and rough estimates of driveway size that could be slightly off), but you don't want it to be a whole 'nother driveway's worth of excess). Otherwise, you might be paying for the contractor's brother-in-law's driveway too, or some such.

    A few other things to consider. Check that the lower priced one is a binding quote...if they need more materials or it takes longer to do, the price isn't going to start going up? In other words, when you have a finished driveway, all you're handing them is a check for $3000, and they won't be tacking on extras that didn't go into the quote?

    Are you in a remote location or have a particularly difficult driveway to access? The higher quote could be from someone who for some reason doesn't really want to do the job you have...maybe too far from other customers that it's difficult to get out your way without losing a lot of travel time, maybe something as simple as worrying you or your wife will have a conniption fit if flower beds alongside the driveway are damaged and don't want to deal with it? Sometimes contractors who don't really want a particular job for any number of reasons but don't want to piss off people by refusing the work outright will just give an exorbitant quote that will make it worth whatever hassle they are anticipating if they end up taking the job.

    Or, the higher priced one might be anticipating rising costs of the raw materials, or has already been hit by some of those costs on prior jobs, and rising fuel costs, and is building in a buffer or even trying to make up for losses by raising prices. Check with both that if cost of materials go up between now and when they do the job, who eats it? Some contractors give estimates that fix the cost of labor, but only estimate materials, and if the materials costs go up, you're going to pay the higher price. Others give you more of a fixed price for everything, so if materials costs go up, they absorb that expense but if they go down, they reap more profit, and may give a higher estimate so they know they can make a profit even if materials go up.

    So, as Evo suggested, I'd ask them flat out to explain everything in their quotes because you have two that are so wildly different from one another.

    And, if you have references of people who have had driveways done by both, find some of the oldest ones (ask about ones done 5 years ago) and drive around seeing what they look like now.
     
  15. Jun 23, 2008 #14

    DaveC426913

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    All good ideas, I'm building a list.

    One thing that several people have suggested is to ask what their labour rates or material rates are. It seems to me though, that I don't care. It seems to me that all I need to do is compare the services I'm getting versus the cost I'm paying. If they pay their labour extra or materials are more, well that's their problem; I'm basing my decision on features alone.

    Or am I missing something?
     
  16. Jun 23, 2008 #15

    DaveC426913

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    Yes, this is what I intend to do. But I want to ensure that I am prepared with a list of things to ask about and I'm the one leading the comparision. If I leave it to them, they'll surely leave out stuff and then I won't be able to compare.


    I just noticed that the cheaper one is only going to "add gravel where necessary", which I think may be inadequate.

    Yes. Longer is better. A driveway subbase needs time to settle. Some people I've talked to say even 6 weeks isn't long enough.
     
  17. Jun 23, 2008 #16

    Moonbear

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    You do care, because you're making them spell out how they've arrived at the number they're giving you, and you want to make sure there won't be hidden surprises later. If the materials costs differ, you want to know if it's because one is paying through the nose from a more expensive supplier, or if the other is going to skimp on materials and leave you with a thinner, less durable driveway. Are they both using the same quality of materials? I don't know if asphalt is like concrete where there are different grades and qualities, or if asphalt is asphalt.

    But, yes, differences like you found in "gravel as needed" vs a full layer of gravel base would be important, and that's where looking at the details matter.

    As for differences in labor costs, that can go either way. Someone who pays their crews more might be getting in the more experienced, higher quality workers while the one paying peanuts might have a different crew every week, or might have a less reliable crew if they aren't very motivated to work for those peanuts when something better comes along. On the other hand, those costs could be higher because their crew is just slower and less efficient, or because the boss's son is on the crew and getting paid way better than the rest of them.

    Basically, the point of asking for the details is that you find out if they really thought about the details or just slapped together a price that may either fall short of actual costs leading them to cut corners, or is way overpriced. It'll also help you understand just what they're doing along the way so you can spot problems. If you're supposed to have a 4 man crew show up and work 4 hours putting down gravel and compacting it, and only two guys show up with a dump truck and shovels and quickly spread some gravel around and are done in two hours without compacting anything, you'll know to call up and ask when they're coming back to finish compacting the gravel or why they didn't do it. That's also why it's important to find out if you have just an estimate or a binding quote. If it's an estimate and they are coming in low, the actual price could wind up higher if they haven't factored in things the other contractor already included. Using your "gravel as needed" example, if it turns out that means they cover the whole driveway, is that price fixed based on the estimate they'd be filling in a few holes, or are you going to pay more if it covers the whole drive. And what is the difference in that part of the estimates? If you have the details, you can see where the differences are coming from in the two prices and decide which is better going to suit your needs. It also gives you points to discuss and adjust so you get the quality you desire in the end. If you know one is only including gravel in spots, you can ask how much extra it is to do a full layer of gravel if you'd prefer that, and see if it's still a better price than the one that already factored that in.
     
  18. Jun 23, 2008 #17
    Why does it take so long? 4 to 6 weeks for what? 2 hours with a 5 ton vibrating roller and the a gravel will be as compact as it will ever get. Around here it takes less than half a day to do a proper job from start to finish.....
     
  19. Jun 23, 2008 #18

    turbo

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    When I had my driveway quoted, I specified that they had to use the same mix that they would use for a road-way, with decent sized aggregate, not just any old sidewalk mix. Sidewalk mix is made with sand so it can be extruded with curb-formers, and it not what I wanted in my driveway.

    As for the "as needed" gravel, that is not a good idea. The materials in the base need to be consistent and contiguous, so that it will react the same to changes in temperature, moisture, freezing, etc. Expect cracking to occur at the junctures of pre-existing base and the "as needed" fill if the materials differ in physical characteristics.
     
  20. Jun 23, 2008 #19
    If they both have been around for a while and have done a few, like you said, I'd go look at some drives that are 4-5 years old (not just the 'brand' new ones) by both and talk to the owners to see how happy they are.

    Why asphalt and not concrete?

    Is the shared drive going right up next to both foundations?

    When I had my concrete drive put in, I had the concrete put in with a very slight 'V' shape across the width, so that the water would flow toward the center of the drive and the grade would then take it toward the street.
     
  21. Jun 24, 2008 #20

    DaveC426913

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    My understanding is that settling is important.

    Perhaps guidelines vary by climate. I'm in Canada. Frost line is about 3.5feet, growing zone 6a.
     
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