Hiring the right basement waterproofing contractor is an important decision, especially if you want the job done right the first time. Too often customers end up with a problem which needs to be fixed every couple of months or so. There is no such thing as a reoccurring basement leak; just one that has never been fixed properly. You can make your basement waterproofing a onetime call if you ask the basement waterproofing and foundation company to the top 5 questions below. Make sure you get multiple estimates and grade each company accordingly.
1. How does your company waterproof a basement?
How does your company waterproof a basement – it seems like an elementary question that should end with, “we get the water out and keep it from coming back”. The truth is, basement waterproofing isn’t that simple and this question is the most important one you will ask. There are many different ways to waterproof a basement, and based on your needs it’s important to know how a company intends to handle your problem.
Some companies will seal interior cracks to keep water out, some companies will fill in exterior cracks to keep water from coming in and a few companies are licensed general contractors who are capable of using any method necessary to stop your leak today and keep it from coming back in the future. Each of these three companies can and will say that they do basement waterproofing, but even on the surface, you can see that they’re different.
The most common and cheapest are companies who seal the inside cracks to keep water from flowing into your basement. This seems like a good idea, but if you haven’t sealed the exterior then water will still enter the property to rot your cement walls and unsettle your foundation. That damage could be irreversible and lead to a major construction job in the future. If the damage to your foundation becomes bad enough and unsettles the entire house it could be condemned by your county until repairs are completed.
The second practice has to do with sealing the inside cracks and the exterior cracks to keep water from making it into the basement. This is much better than the first option and happens to be a very good standard way of fixing basement waterproofing as long as the leak is small and located in one area.
The best case scenario is if the basement waterproofing company you call also happens to be a state certified general contractor. This certification lets you know that the state in which they operate agrees with their competency. It also lets you know t that they’re licensed, bonded and insured to undertake any measure necessary to secure your home from water damage. The first two types of waterproofing companies cannot assess the grading issue on the exterior that might be leading to water setting at your foundation. They also can’t repair your basement walls and foundation after it’s been damaged by water. In both cases, hiring a general contractor who specializes in foundation repair would be the best solution to ending the problem and making sure it doesn’t come back.
2. How many years have you been in business?
Longevity isn’t a perfect indicator of how good someone is at basement waterproofing, but it does give you fair baseline of the company’s competency. Being in business for 10 years is hard, but by no means is it impossible – even if you’re bad at your job. 20 years in business shows competency and real passion for the work. Once you get to 30-40 years that’s literally a lifetime and it underscores that’s it’s not just work or a business for someone. At that point, the work becomes a part of who they truly are.
As to how it might relate to your situation, make sure you ask about your specific problem and if they have experience fixing it. Ask them about the first time they tried to address the problem, find out if it was successful and ask if you can talk to someone who has had this specific service performed on their home. With any luck you’ll get the name of a client who has had the service 20 years ago – that’s a great sign. Another good question to ask is, how long have you used the process you recommend for my basement issue?
3. Are you licensed, bonded and insured?
Before you let anyone start working on your home please find out if they’re licensed, bonded, insured. Also, don’t just take their word for it, ask them to provide documentation and use the internet to verify that all of their paperwork is up to date. Having all three of these do not mean that the company performing your basement waterproofing service is going to do a great job, but it will allow you to hold them and the people who have given them coverage accountable. For the license they have to attend classes and pass test that the state in which they operate uses to certify that they are competent enough to do work on your home. The bond protects you if the contractor fails to complete the job and it keeps subcontractors from putting a lean on your home if the contractor fails to pay them for work they performed. The insurance protects you if the basement waterproofing company damages your property while they’re trying to fix it and if someone gets hurt or killed while working on your property.
4. Can you provide at least 5 references?
The best indicator of a job well done is a glowing recommendation from people who have had to live with a basement waterproofing company’s work for at least a year. If a basement waterproofing company can’t find at least three people to say they’re great at their job, you should probably run. Make sure you call recent customers and those who have had work done many years ago. This range of referrals allows you to understand how things are when work is newly completed and how the company’s work holds up over time.
Another great reference you can use to evaluate a company is a professional affiliation. An organization like the Better Business Bureau is a good indicator, because they require companies to stay in good standing with their customers. If someone overcharges a customer or doesn’t do a satisfactory job of providing service, a claim can be filed and the Better Business Bureau will negatively impact the rating until the customer is satisfied within reason. The neutral reporting websites like Google+ and Yelp allow people who have interacted with the company to explain their personal experience. Be warned that these reviews, both positive and negative are not a perfect indicator because they are not moderated by the websites.
5. How many customers have you serviced?
It’s important to know if the company you’re hiring sees basement waterproofing and foundation repair as a fulltime occupation or as an afterthought to their other construction services. Also ask the company how many waterproofing repairs they perform per week – the number should be more than 3 on a really rainy week and at least 3,000 throughout their career. The amount is so important because you don’t want a contractor trying to figure out how to fix your basement while they’re using your money. This is how “overruns” and “change orders” happen; you might be familiar with these terms from home improvement shows on HGTV and other networks. Those words are code for, “I didn’t know how much this would cost, I underbid the projects and I had to call in a real professional, but I also have to mark this up and make a profit off of you as well”. Don’t be a victim of a company’s inexperience; make sure your basement waterproofing and foundation specialist does this kind of work – everyday.