Selecting A Pool Builder
Many of us see building a pool as realizing a personal dream that we have for ourselves and our families enjoyment. We see ourselves spending summers in the backyard with family and friends, cooking on the grill, enjoying our favorite beverages and ourselves. Sadly, that dream can become a real nightmare if you choose the wrong pool builder. However, with a little investigating and diligence on your part, you can minimize the chance of your dream turning into that nightmare.
The first step before choosing a builder is to determine which type of pool you would like to build. Your pool type will be based on several factors such as personal taste, your location and existing home style, and budget.
Start by finding out what type of pool builders in your area are building, and what they offer. What do they specialize in; are they builders of in-ground, above ground, gunite, or fiberglass? Once you determine which is suitable for your area, your lifestyle and budget, you will be able to narrow down the list of who will build your pool.
When you know the type of pool you want, you can then start to look at designs and options. Start by looking at websites of pool companies that build your type of pool, and you’ll quickly realize that there are many ways to design a pool! The more you view, and the more time you spend on this portion of the process, the more you will find what works best for you.
After you have completed this education, you’ll want to get a basic understanding of the pool equipment needed. While you do not have to be an expert, you should know the pros and cons of the various pieces of equipment that will be used. How will you filter your pool? Do you want a DE (diatomaceous earth) filter, cartridge filter, or sand filter? Did you know that you have options for each of these filters in size and functionability? Will you chlorinate your pool with a tablet feeder, ozone, injection system (Roll-A-Chem or Stenner pump) a Liquidator (LQ) or perhaps a salt water chlorine generator (SWCG)? While the list goes on, you are starting to get the point. Once you have some basic understanding of what the equipment options are, you will be better prepared to ask the right questions to prospective builders and let them know that you have done your homework. This tends to make them take a bit more time in explaining why they use what they use, and also to let them know that you have a real interest in your pool and have taken the time to educate yourself.
You will now want to develop a list of the potential builders you will want to consider. First, start with any personal references from friends or family you know who have built pools. You might also drive around your area and look for pool company signs or other telltale signs outside a house where a pool is being built. While you may not feel real comfortable at first, don’t be afraid to knock on the door and ask the owner how things are going with their builder. Most people are more than happy to talk about their new pool and may even ask you back to take a look at the progress!
After you’ve compiled your list of builders, start to narrow them down to the real serious contenders. A good practice is to check your list with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if there are any open complaints, how long they have been in business, and if they resolve any issues in a timely manner. Look for someone who has been building or in the industry for quite a while and who is likely to be around in the future. Just because the company may be new doesn’t mean that yours is the first pool they will build! You may find a company that has many years of experienced tradesman who have joined forces from other companies and are now starting their own company. Oftentimes these companies can offer a real bargain, as they are just starting and are looking to make a great impression and get referrals. If you have done your homework, you may find that these companies are as good, and sometime better, than existing companies. A new company or an established one, the last thing you want to do is find yourself with a big hole in your backyard and a builder who has skipped town-unfortunately, an all too common occurrence. Again, this is where doing your homework comes into play, so do not scrimp on this portion of your quest.
While the BBB will tell you how many complaints a builder has, you don’t have to rule a company out just because they have had a few complaints. As with anyone who has been in business for some time, it is possible to have some complaints. The BBB will let you know how many of those complaints were resolved, and any unresolved complaints should serve as a red flag. The best thing to do if you are considering a builder with some complaints is to ask them about the complaints and allow them to explain them to you. Ask how they were resolved and if you can contact the customers and speak with them as well. Pool builds, like any construction project, is a series of events, each integrated, and they rarely go off without a hitch. The biggest difference between a good builder and a poor builder is how they deal with these events as they unfold, especially the problem ones. Very rarely does a project of large scope, such as a pool, go as smoothly as you or the builder would like, so understand that it may not be a completely smooth process! In addition to how well your pool builder handles these problems is how you handle it. Cool heads always prevail, so if you both work towards a common goal it will go smoother for everyone.
Once you have narrowed your list down to the builders you would like to consider, make some appointments for them to come out and visit with you. Try not to schedule the appointments too close to each other, in case one runs longer than expected. While pool builders have to be “friendly competitors” with each other, you may not want them in your yard at the same time! Each company will have their own pros and cons, they will also each have their own unique angle and version of why they should build your pool. You will find that some of them will design your pool by hand on a piece of graph paper, while others may have cutting edge computer software to do the job and and give you a different perspective. Either way of getting the rendition of the pool you will want built is fine, and as they will have a preference for drawing techniques, they will also have their own preferences on equipment. Some might tell you about ozone purification, while another may tell you that a standard chlorine feeder is what they suggest, and others may prefer a salt water chlorine generator. This is where all your earlier research will come in handy, as you’ll already have a working knowledge of this equipment and won’t be quite so easily impressed with a good sales pitch. Never lose faith that just because a builder may prefer a certain product or brand, that it does not mean they can’t or won’t build to your specifications. In the end, they want to get the job, but you are the customer! Unless your ideas are a compromise to the integrity of the product, you have every right to provide a list of the features you would like integrated into your pool build.
Probably the most important advice we can give you is to never sign a contract during your first appointment. We know that you are excited, but please wait until after you have met with all of the builders you are considering and have carefully considered all of your options. Do not be afraid to ask the builder to change anything that you are not happy with. You might even ask for a better price, or share pricing from one of the other builders on your list and see if your favorite will match it give you a piece of equipment or other special consideration if he is higher priced. Always remember that the highest price is not always the best builder, and the lowest price may not be the worst! We’ve said it before (several times!); do your homework before inviting any builder to your home!
Another huge part of this process is to get it in writing. If a builder tells you he is going to do anything for “free”, make sure it is written into your contract. The salesman may not be with that company next week, and the builder may “forget” that he offered you this, so you want proof of what was promised. Verbal commitments do not stand up in court, so protect yourself, and the builder, by having everything in writing.
Once you have agreed on a builder, design and price, the builder will provide a progress payment plan. Many states do not allow for a down payment, or may have limits on how much can be accepted prior to starting the job, so make sure that your contractor follows your states rules. Typically these are progress payments, and each payment is made after a certain stage of construction (excavation or gunite, for example) is completed. If you are told that you need to pay 20% at tile and coping, that means that you will pay 20% when the tile and coping work is completed. This is often dictated by contract law, and you will want to make sure the final payment (typically 10%) is not made until all work is completed. Again, this should all be in your contract, as you want to make sure they are motivated to continue to progress and keep you satisfied, all while completing the job in a timely manner.
Don’t feel bad about asking lots of questions-and learn as much as you can-before meeting with a builder. This is an exciting addition to your home; one which you will live with for a very long time, and you want to be as informed as possible. The builder will appreciate your willingness to learn about your new addition, and will most likely work a bit harder to ensure your happiness.
Take your time, learn a bit and enjoy the process. For some, this will be the first, or the last, pool they build. For others this may just be the next one in a series of pools. Either way, it is the pool that you are now building for your family, and it is something that will be creating memories for many years to come!