Hiring a helical pile installer can be complicated when you don’t know what to look for. We’ve put together this list of questions to help project managers better screen their contractors, and determine if they are capable, experienced, reliable and trustworthy potential partners.
Ask your potential contractor:
1. “Are you certified, insured and bonded?”
Making sure vendors are qualified and covered is the best way to safeguard your project from major delays and accidents. Removing liability is important for every contractor, but maintaining a high standard for safety is the best way to keep your project on-schedule and running smoothly. Your contractors’ first priority should be the wellbeing of job-site workers, so make sure they have all the right paperwork, before signing a contract.
2. “Do you guarantee your foundation with a warranty?”
If a helical pile foundation doesn’t measure-up to industry standards, at some point it will need to be repaired or replaced. A reputable, helical pile installer will always stand by their work, so if the warranty that comes with it seems suspect, walk away. If they do offer a guarantee, as do most CHANCE Certified Installers, read the fine print to avoid costly surprises down the road.
3. “Can you provide 3-4 client references we can talk to?”
Few things are as valuable to the vetting process as talking to recent, real-life customers. They’ll be able to give you unique perspective on contractor’s knowledge, expertise, communication and customer service. Obviously, be considerate of their time by having some questions ready, but listening carefully to their answers will often tell you all you need to know about your potential vendor.
4. “Do you have a helical pile project portfolio we can look at?”
A good list of successful projects will help you understand the depth of a contractor’s experience and the scope of their capabilities. Looking through photos of helical pile projects to find examples of jobs similar to yours can confirm that they’re able to do what they claim. You can also get a feel for their level of professionalism, their attention to detail and their ability to address unexpected challenges that inevitably come up.
5. “Do you have experience working on projects similar to ours?”
Each helical pile installation project is different, so it’s important to know that your contractor is capable of solving the issues unique to your project. If your helical pile installer is working with unfamiliar soil conditions or structure types and sizes they haven’t worked with before, chances are they are going to run into problems and that means scheduling delays. Avoid the stress and choose a helical pile installer whose track record includes projects like yours.
6. “Do you provide design-build services?”
Keeping the design and installation aspects of a job under one roof is a great way to streamline planning, execution, overall communication, and keep costs down. When unanticipated challenges come up, as they often do, a design-build firm can move much more quickly to resolve the problem and get the project back on track.
If your contractor is not a design-build firm, you’ll want to know who is designing the project, and go through this checklist with them as well. It’s also nice to know if the two companies have worked together before, and have successful joint-projects under their belts.
7. “What’s your safety track record and what on-site, safety procedures do you practice?”
Nothing grinds a job to-a-halt like accidents and injuries. Avoiding mishaps should be a primary concern for both you and your contractors. Definitely ask the contractor about relevant safety and training certifications. But it’s also essential to ask about the specific, on-site safety procedures they use to protect their crew and yours.
8. “Who manufactures your piles and who supplies them?”
The difference between high-grade and low-grade steel and concrete may not be obvious when the project is first completed, but good-quality materials can add decades to the life of a foundation and it’s superstructure. If a contractor’s bid is lower than the rest, they may be cutting corners by getting cheap, second grade steel from various parts of the world. Material quality is not the place to cut costs, so make sure you know exactly where your helical piles come from.
9. “Who will be our on-site supervisor and what is their experience with helical pile installation?”
Knowing that you have a full-time supervisor on-site and available at all times is mandatory for any major construction project. Beyond managing the day-to-day of a project, an experienced supervisor is critical to making good decisions, if and when things go wrong. During a helical pile installation, a capable manager needs to be in charge of communications, scheduling, materials, equipment malfunctions and everything that keeps the project running safely and smoothly.
10. “What information do you need from us to provide an accurate proposal for this project?”
Your contractor should be willing to have an open conversation about the details of your project and collect the information required to provide an accurate and responsible estimate for your work. If you don’t have specific information on hand, a good contractor will tell you and explain how to get it. A not-so-good contractor will provide a quote anyway and hit you with change orders later on.