Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part article series based on speaker presentations from the 2014 Concrete Polishing Luncheon and Forum that took place at World of Concrete. The theme was “No good deed should go unpaid: how to set accurate bids, and get paid for work that wasn’t in the contract documents.” To watch the speaker presentations and view sample documents and forms, visit the Concrete Surfaces section of our Video page.

Polished concrete contractors often must transform someone else’s work into a finished project that requires final owner approval. You’re typically dealing with existing slabs, with no control over what was done to them before you came onto the job. You may also find yourself responsible for things that weren’t part of the bid. If that happens, the project may cost you money.

“When you start that grinder, that job is yours. You’ve inherited every problem with that floor,” says Harry Gressette, a 20-plus-year concrete industry veteran and owner of polishing company Ardor Solutions in Goose Creek, S.C. “That’s going to dictate whether you get paid or not, no matter if it was the finisher’s or the G.C.’s mistake.”

However, there are ways to minimize the impact of unknown problems and even build them into your bid. They all start with having clear conversations with the customer and conducting a thorough preconstruction evaluation.

Set realistic expectations

“Make sure you’re paying attention at the front of jobs, so you don’t end up holding costs at the back end,” says David Padgett, president of Polished Concrete Solutions in Norris, Tenn., and chairman of the International Polished Concrete Institute.

Listen to the customer. Padgett stresses the importance of ensuring that customer expectations are realistic, and polished concrete is a good fit for customer needs. Be prepared to point out any problem areas, offer solutions that may offset costs, and discuss the costs of additional options.

Make sure that your own expectations are realistic. Do the math to determine if you can complete job tasks within the preferred time frame. Assess the slab to ensure it is within specifications for a polished concrete floor treatment. Gressette uses surface profile meters to evaluate slabs and floors. “We can walk in, scratch the surface, and know between the floor hardness level and scratch of surface what our results will be.”

Don’t be afraid to walk away from a job if you decide the job isn’t profitable or the floor is outside specs, say both Padgett and Gressette.