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Concrete costs are determined by a strict calculated method, rather than a simple square foot price. Many times, a customer calls and asks “How much would it cost to install a new concrete driveway in front of my home… just give me your square foot price” It seems like it would make sense for a contractor to just throw out a number, but it’s not that simple. You should beware of any contractor that is willing to just throw out a number.



Well, here is an example scenario of dealing with unscrupulous contractors - after asking you a few questions over the phone, the contractor says “$7.50 a square foot”.  You say, “Great, come and give me a bid”. The contractor has just found out an idea of your budget.  Now, when that contractor comes to give you a bid he could say, “Well I didn’t realize you had this and that so… the price is actually $10.50 a foot”.



You could say no, but then this is when unscrupulous contractors can manipulate you. Now they are aware of exactly what you’re willing to pay for your concrete work and may lead you to believe that they are willing to cut their price in order to earn your business, when, in reality, they will cut the quality in order to increase their profits.

Equally unfortunate is if you accept an estimate for new concrete because it is within a ballpark price, without researching the contractor. It is prudent to receive two to three bids before you make any decisions. Price should NOT be the single deciding factor. Experience, Reputation, Quality of Work AND Price should ALL be combined when making a decision.

Pricing Variables

There are many variables that determine the cost to install a concrete work. Every job is unique, but basically the main variables are as follows:

1. First, the size of the project - what is the square footage?

2. Excavation - how much material will need to be moved and/or hauled away?

3. How much preparation is involved in order to make the concrete drain properly?

4. How much hand work is involved in installing the concrete where the equipment is unable to reach?

5. Accessibility to placement area, is a concrete pump required?

6. How far is the job site away from the concrete plant?

7. How many concrete mixer trucks will be needed so neither the work crew or truck drivers have to stand idle?


When a contractor supplies you with a quote, they’re factoring in the following: Mobilization, Preparation, Delivery Costs, Concrete Materials, Installation, and of course… their Profit.


Most contractors will factor in a mobilization fee, which is the amount of money it will cost to get the crew and equipment back and forth from a job sit. An average concrete installation crew runs between 4 and 8 members. It factors in the cost of transporting tools and equipment, the hourly wage of 4 to 8 crew members loading and unloading the equipment, as well as the cost of fuel to get to the job site. The bigger the job, the more the mobilization costs are spread out. The smaller the job, the less the mobilization cost are spread out. This is one factor that can make smaller jobs cost more per square foot than larger jobs. The more square footage being installed, the more the cost per square foot decreases.



Another cost factored into an estimate is the amount of preparation work that is involved. The most important aspect to a good installation job is proper drainage. You cannot have water running towards your home or into your garage, so making sure that the drainage is properly calculated is a very important in concrete work. Every job is unique and will require its own costs for preparation.


Decorative Concrete

Forming Materials, Rebar and Base-Rock are examples. If the project requires a sub-grade material to be installed prior to concrete installation, then this will be calculated by the amount of tons of base being installed or by the square feet and thickness of base being installed. The concrete mix portion will depend on the size of the project and the thickness of the concrete. There are no large volume discounts that contractors receive from their suppliers. All contractors pay the same price for their materials which are usually agreed upon with their suppliers at the beginning of each season.


driveway, walkway

When a contractor gives an estimate to install concrete work, they will need to determine the right amount of mixer trucks needed to deliver the mix. Too many trucks and contractors are paying truck drivers to wait for the concrete crew to unload, not enough trucks and the crew is getting paid to wait for the next load to arrive. It’s a balancing act and a mathematical calculation that is determined by the amount of concrete mix needed for the job, factored by the distance between project site and concrete plant. The further the project is away from the concrete plant, the more trucks that will be needed. The closer it is to the plant, the fewer trucks that are needed. Generally, the risk in this judgment falls to the contractor and will affect the contractor’s profit.


Decorative Concrete

When it comes to the actual installation of the job your contractor will need to determine how much handwork is involved, if any. If there are areas that heavy machinery cannot reach the preparation must be by hand, which could also take more time. The contractor will determine how much time it will take to install the concrete and finish it, as well as factor in usage fees for any rental equipment and tools.


The last part of the cost to install concrete is the profit to the contractor. This number is not only a calculation for profit but it is also a risk vs reward number. There is a considerable amount of risk concrete contractors take when running a concrete installation company. Contractors can lose money pretty quickly if something goes wrong. Broken down equipment, traffic jams, “no show” employees, weather, etc… all kinds of things can have an effect on the cost to the contactor. Concrete installation is seasonal work in most states so this number is also an offset for the winter months that the company produces little or no income for themselves, their employees and their businesses.


As you now understand, there are many variables that go into an estimate for concrete work. I hope this information benefits you and prepares you to ASK QUESTIONS and get the fair price and quality work you are seeking.

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