There is no question that the outside of a home is just as important as the inside of a home. Unfortunately, it is the outside of a home that is often the most neglected. Those with wooden fixtures outside, such as patios and porches, do not treat them correctly and so they are left to rot and soon need to be replaced. Wooden steps often also meet the same fate. A good alternative to both is to choose a stone or concrete patio, walkway or steps. Not only do concrete and stone require considerably less care (if any!) but they can also be equally as attractive and fitting for your home.
Before you consider personally taking on the project yourself, you may want to think about hiring a contractor for the job. Yes, this means a bit more expense on your part, but it also means that it will be a job well done. If you choose a contractor, you will want to be sure to do one as soon as possible. Any good contractors have great references, and as a result are booked up far in advance. Here are some things that a good contractor should be able to provide you with prior to the job:
Once the interview is completed, DO be sure to check up on their references. Just because they gave you a name and a number does not mean that they are providing you with good references. You will also want to check their stated certification(s) and credentials. Lastly, be sure to compare every contractor that you interview. Do not just settle for the cheapest one, either; find the one that will do the best job.
Before the project takes place, you will want to take some precautions. If there are any obstacles in the area or in the way, such as toys, children or pets, be sure to remove them. You will also want to be sure that you provide an initial payment of a pre-determined and agreed upon amount, and be sure that you know just how many crew members will be involved in the set up.
Once the project has begun, you should not interfere with their work. Keep clear of the area, and b sure that dogs, children and curious neighbors stay out of the way as well.
When the project is complete, prepare to celebrate! Be sure to inspect the work done to be sure that it meets your expectations, and be sure that any promised clean-up has been completed to your satisfaction (you do not want to be left with a huge clean up!). Once you are happy with their work, certainly pay them for their work!
Some things to be aware of is that a contractor may very well ask you to be a positive referral for them. Though you are by no means obligated, remember that this is their livelihood and, just as you checked with the other references provided, they depend upon their clients to help them with a 30 second phone call. They will also probably want to take pictures of the job that they completed, and may want to put up a small, unobtrusive sign on your property to advertise their services. Again, this is entirely up to you, but if you are satisfied with the contractor's work it is nice to repay the favor.