A key to winning more asphalt paving business
By Jeff Winke
The Roman poet Ovid once said “Make the workmanship surpass the materials.” That was back in 43 BC, but that truism can easily apply to 2023. One has to wonder how quality was verified back then. Did the roadbuilder, for instance, stand behind the quality of the roads where oxen-pulled wagons tread? Did they offer the equivalent of a warranty on their results?
A quality asphalt paving contractor may feel that it’s understood that they will stand behind the quality of workmanship they provide, but may not explicitly say it out loud or have it in writing.
Yet, a workmanship warranty provides customers with the protection against workmanship or installation errors. This type of warranty generally covers about one year following the completion of the work.
“You should provide a one-year workmanship warranty on your asphalt pavement installs and materials,’ stated Brian Hall, territory manager with LeeBoy, Lincolnton, North Carolina. ‘Typically, you would also provide a one-year warranty from the equipment manufacturer as well. Building a relationship with your asphalt equipment supplier is critical because of this particular reason. Include this warranty item on your quotes to the customer in a line item on the bid.”
Hall added, “Include in the warranty verbiage that we are not responsible for ‘others’ damage such as oil leaked, fuel spills, and or any other damage unrelated to installation. Even call out ‘twist’ marks and power steering twist marks as well. SP 9.5 is a Sandy mix and it takes 365 days to cure. Point this out to the customers as well as sending them an ‘asphalt care sheet’ that explains all these different facets of asphalt maintenance.”
Depending on the state where the contractor is based and business is conducted, performance can be assessed differently.
“We offer a one-year workmanship warranty that adheres to common industry practices, stated Kristofer Love, owner of Love’s Asphalt Solutions, Scott, Louisiana. “The warranty covers any defects in our work caused by lack of quality applications as well as material failure due to lack of proper preparations of the worksite. All procedures and warranties will adhere to an industry standard. Any manufacture/material warranty will be transferred to the customer upon written request from the customer. NOTE: This is in part suggested from our company attorney who only practices in the state of Louisiana. Other states may have other requirements needed to be in regulatory compliance. I highly encourage seeking legal advice to ensure warranty isues are handled properly.”
It is important that the workmanship warranty matches up with any issues the client is expecting to be addressed through the paving and sealcoating work being completed.
“The warranty on your work should address the problem that your client is trying to solve,” stated Kyle Ascione, owner, Integrity Earth & Asphalt, LLC, Rapid City, Michigan.
“In the asphalt industry, it could be related to water/flooding issues, damaged asphalt, product durability, or quality craftsmanship. If the work that you completed does not solve the problem that you were called to solve, then it is your responsibility to make it right. That is what they paid for.”
With offering a workmanship warranty there is always the concern of How can you stand behind your work without being exploited? In response, Ascione said, “The only time anyone really gets exploited is when they DO NOT stand behind their work. In the client’s mind, they want to be in good hands. A lot of people are understanding that not everything is always perfect, and this should be brought to light during the estimating and bidding process. If you are willing to make something right, then there should be nothing to worry about. If someone just plain won’t be happy no matter what… chances are they planned on being that way before you ever started the job.”
Communicating with the customer is crucial to making certain a paving or sealcoating project is completed successfully. Over communicate. Don’t feel shy about repeating something.
“Having a well thought out and documented warranty page that is attached to every proposal but also explained on the front end prior to the customer buying your services is what works best for us,” stated Todd Eichholz, CEO of A&A Paving, Roselle, Illinois. “If you know of a particular issue that may arise, when bidding a project, communicate that to the client first and build trust and transparency. Let’s be honest, very few people read the ‘fine print’ and after the fact, when they are upset, telling them its spelled out on line 73 in tiny print is a sure way to lose a long term client.”
A warranty should be in writing.
“The simple answer to the question of should your workmanship warranty be in writing is a definitive ‘Yes!’ Eichholz said. ‘If it is not in writing, then it’s just hearsay and a ‘handshake deal.’ No good contract comes without paperwork, and no good warranty or guarantee of your involvement or obligation should come without one either. It just plain breeds confidence in you as a professional asphalt paver.”
Can offering a warranty on workmanship help the asphalt paving contractor gain more business?
“Customers like to feel that once a job is completed the contractor will be there when they need them,” Love said. “It’s a comfort feeling, when a client is comfortable and feels safe with their contractor, everyone associated will be comfortable with the contractor and they will gain more business by word of mouth alone.”
Hall offered a more measured response: “Offering a warranty is industry standard and it alone won’t get you more business. What brings more business is communication or even over communication with your customers and inviting them to be on the projects while you pave. The times that we did not have them on site while we paved have been the times that we have had issues. When you do a lot of ‘private jobs’ such as parking lot overlays, large driveways etc., which are projects that don’t have a set of drawings, and this is where they see the project vs the way we see it can be two different projects. You must ask the customer about not what they ‘want’ but what do they ’expect.’ These are two different things and it’s amazing how the customers react when you ask this. This helps in the warranty phase as well, because it’s clear what we are warranting as well as installing.”
Clearly good communication is crucial and, of course, the Ovid question of how can one best verify that quality workmanship was performed? A performance warranty can craft a strong solution.