WHAT TO ASK
Whether you’re contacting a waterproofing company after a flood or simply being prepared, knowing which questions to ask is absolutely crucial. It will help you filter out the disreputable companies, gain a consensus on the best options for you, and potentially even save you money overall.
This guide will walk you through the questions you should be asking any waterproofing companies, as well as the types of answers you should be expecting.
Here are the important questions to ask:
1. ARE YOU LICENSED, BONDED, AND INSURED?
This should be one of the first questions you ask on the phone when you first make contact with a waterproofing company. Not only should you ask whether they have licenses, bonds, and insurance policies, but you should make sure to ask about them.
If a company is unlicensed (and therefore breaking the law) it’s likely that they are unbonded and insured. If something goes wrong on your project, you’ll be the one on the hook for the total cost, and you’ll have little help for compensation.
In response to this question, the information you are looking for is:
The specific license required depends on your state, so check the Department of Business/Professional Regulation. Generally, however, if your home is two stories or fewer, a company can have a:
For larger buildings or commercial properties, a general contractor’s license is required. Ideally, you should also determine whether a company is registered with the state or certified by the state. Again, depending on specific state requirements, the former can allow only work in particular cities, whereas certification is state-wide.
A bonded company is one that has purchased a ‘surety bond.’ This is a form of insurance policy designed to protect a homeowner; if a company fails to finish the job to a required standard, the bond will provide compensation to the homeowner – pending arbitration by a state contractor’s board.
Like a bond, the purpose of insurance is to provide protection for both homeowners and companies in case something goes wrong. The most basic form of insurance a company should have is a General Liability Policy. However, waterproofing companies may have some more specific forms of insurance, such as Pollution Liability Insurance, which covers future damage caused by mold.
2. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN BUSINESS?
In general, the longer a company has been in business, the better. This means that they are more likely to be experienced in whatever the specific requirements of your home.
Moreover, since a lot of waterproofing is designed to last for a long time, it’s good to know that the systems the company has installed have remained in place. Longevity is not essential, but it is reassuring.
3. CAN YOU PROVIDE REFERENCES?
Any reputable company will be able to provide one or two references for previous customers you can connect with. Generally, you should ask to see references from customers who had similar work to your own specific case. If a company is unwilling to provide references, that’s a major red flag.
When you speak to the references provided, ask them the following questions:
Although the instinct is to speak to recent customers, ideally you should ask for references from those who worked with the company 5-10 years previously. This will give the greatest indication of the long-term success of the company’s work.
4. WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF THE WATER PROBLEM?
It’s fundamental when it comes to finding a long-term solution to the problem that any waterproofing company is able to accurately diagnose the cause of the problem. Give the representative a tour of your home and the area around it to see if they can ascertain what the problem is.
Some of the more common problems are:
In this instance, it’s usually best to have two or more different companies survey your home. If all of them attribute the same cause, you can be fairly confident that’s the issue. If they differ, then be sure to ask how and why they reached their conclusions. Make sure you have a consensus before you proceed with any work.
5. WHAT SOLUTIONS DO YOU RECOMMEND?
This is where companies really show their quality. Disreputable companies will only offer short-term solutions; reliable ones will make suggestions that last 10+ years. The goal is to solve the waterproofing problem forever, not to use a patchwork solution that will require more work in a few years. You may be looking for a short-term fix, but this will lead to larger issues in the future.
Often, waterproofing involves multiple solutions, such as landscape regrading as well as the use of a waterproof membrane.
Although you should be cautious about approving work – particularly if it’s expensive – a multi-solution approach is often the best long-term solution.
6. HOW MUCH WILL EACH OPTION COST?
Obviously, this will be the most important question you end up asking. If the company has given you multiple options, you should look to get a price for every permutation. Across the country as a whole, the average cost of waterproofing a basement ranges from $1,920 to $6,320, so you should be expecting a quote somewhere in this range.
You should aim to get quotes from at least three companies before choosing which one to work with.
7. IS THERE A WAY TO REDUCE THE COST?
A reputable company will be willing to tell you ways that you can help get the cost down – perhaps through getting insurance to cover some of the cost, using different materials, or by doing some of the work yourself.
However, they should also make you aware of the potential limitations of cutting corners, such as needing to replace cheaper materials more quickly and so on.
8. WHAT WILL BE THE DISRUPTION TO MY HOME?
The nature of waterproofing is such that it can be very disruptive to your home. For example, if you require an external membrane or drainage system installed around your home, then it is likely that you will need to excavate the entire perimeter of your house. Naturally, this is extremely disruptive to your day-to-day living in terms of noise, access, and general inconvenience.
Interior waterproofing is sometimes less disruptive, although if you require the installation of a sump pump or interior French drain, for example, this also may involve excavation, and therefore disruption.
Planning for disruption in advance will ensure you are better informed and better prepared. You can also consider less disruptive options (again, ask the company what they recommend). However, sometimes a little disruption now is better than a lot of disruption in the long term.
9. HOW LONG WILL THE PROJECT TAKE?
This is obviously related to the previous question. The length of time your project will take is directly proportional to cost. You should also be aware that projects often run over time. When speaking to previous clients of the company, you should be sure to ask whether their projects lasted longer than anticipated.
As a rough guide to the duration of the most common projects, see the figures below. Of course, the actual length of time will be contingent upon your specific requirements.
|External Excavation||2-14 days|
|Internal Dewatering System||2-5 days|
|Crack Injection||2-3 hours|
|Sump Pump Installation||2-4 hours|
|Basement Underpining||7-21 days|
|Backwater Valve||1-5 days|
|Basement Lowering||21 days|
|Floor Slab Replacement||7-21 days|
10. WHAT TYPE OF WARRANTY DO YOU OFFER?
This is a question that a lot of people forget; however, it can end up saving a lot of money if you don’t. Moreover, as a general rule of thumb, the longer the warranty, the better the company. A warranty will cover you if any of the work undertaken turns out to be faulty, or if any of the materials used do not last as long as advertised.
Be sure to get a certificate of warranty signed by the company in advance of any work. If something goes wrong in the time period covered by the warranty, the company will be responsible for repairing it at no additional cost to you.
This could literally save you thousands of dollars. If a company doesn’t offer a warranty, or it is a short warranty (less than a year), you should opt to go with a different provider.
However, in general, for something as fundamental as ensuring the structural integrity of your home, it’s usually better to spend the money to get a professional in to do the work.