Prepare Yourself For Your Dream Pool; Questions for Yourself and Your Pool Builder

When getting a pool built or installed it’s wise to do some homework before hand so you’re well informed. There’s always the chance that something unforeseeable can happen during a pool build, but many problems can be prevented by, simply, asking a couple of questions before you get started. Below are some things to consider and discuss with potential pool builders to prevent future problems or misconceptions.

What is My Dream Pool?

Determine the type of pool that you want: aesthetics, location, and budget

Take some time to look around your yard and determine the location that best fits for you and your backyard. After, look at that location from inside your house, from the patio, and from the future pool location. Think of the view you’ll have of the pool and from whithin the pool. Don’t forget to consider privacy; do you want your neighbors have a view from their backyard? After, look at some pools that have already been built. Whether it be online or in person, look at the shape, size and landscaping of pools that catch your attention. Knowing what you like, and considering the space in which it will occupy helps drastically with the outcome of your pool build. Make sure to plan where you want planters, what type of tile/ stone, extra features such as water slides, scuppers, waterfalls etc. Having this on paper will keep your build on track with the budget and provide a better looking, better functioning pool.

Discuss the main purpose of the pool and write it down.

When speaking with pool builders and looking different options it’s easy to loose track of what you had originally planned. Having written documents to refer back is important so you accomplish the specifics you laid out in the beginning. This keeps everyone on the same page and makes sure the pool build is moving in the right direction.

Get some basic pool equipment knowledge

Equipment knowledge is key when planning a new pool build. For instance, having the right type of filter will keep your pool sparkling clear, but the wrong one for your location, can leave you with cloudy water. Another factor to consider is local codes regarding pool equipment. Some codes require the use of certain types of heaters, pumps and filters. A good pool builder will advise you to make the right choice, but a bit of searching on your own will ensure you make the right choice. For more information regarding pool equipment, our blog is a great resource. Take some time to look around and check our articles on pool pumps, filters, salt water systems, heaters and pool lighting.

How to Find the Perfect Pool Builder

Ask Your Neighbors, Friends and Family for Recommendations

It sounds simple, but word of mouth can be one of the more helpful ways to find a great pool builder. More than likely, neighbors, friends and family won’t “steer you wrong” when looking for a big purchase, such as a pool. Next time your out of the house, take a look at the pools you see when visiting friends and loved ones. If you see a pool you are attracted to, ask about their experience with their pool builder. When looking for recommendations, try and find people who live in the same areas as you and have pools that have been there for at least a couple of years. Different areas can require different pool knowledge and problematic issues don’t usually come up right away with a new pool build. Stick to these guidelines and you’ll be sure to make a good decision.

Take some Time and Look at a Couple of Websites

Taking a moment to check out a pool builder’s website is a great way to see what kind of a company yo’ll potentially do business with. When looking around ask yourself:

  • Does the pool builders style align with what I want?
    It’s possible to find a great pool builder that doesn’t necessarily jive with your style. If there is a builder that you are really interested in that doesn’t display the type of style you want, reach out to them and ask for example of something similar. The builder might have done something similar that you like. Don’t assume that they understand your vision, ask for some sort of visual representation to show they are aligned with your goals.
  • Does there website look nice? Is it updated?
    A great looking website will show you what kind of business owner they are. A well designed website means the owner is invested in the company and they care about their appearance. A business that cares about their appearance will most likely be one that cares about their pools and outcomes.
  • Does this business post reviews and commments?
    Comments and reviews are a great way to know that a company cares about their clients. Look at the good and bad reviews. Bad is not always negative. Check to see how they handled the situation and if the customer was pleased. Many times pool builds will come across a couple of “hang-ups” along the way.

Does the Pool Builder have a Physical Address or a Brick and Mortar Store?

Not having a brick and mortar store doesn’t mean the pool builder is a terrible builder and having one doesn’t mean they are trustworthy, but not having a place of business should require pool owners to dig a bit deeper. For instance, a pool builder without a physical address can pack up and move from community to community without harming their reputation. This is not the same for local pool builders who stay within the community. Finding a pool builder with a permanent place in the community and good reputation is the best place to start, but not necessary.

Visit the Pool Builder’s Office or Showroom

Taking some time to drive to the pool builders office and talk to the staff is in your best interest. Ask yourself, do they seem interested and knowledgeable? Am I getting a good feeling from them? If not, move on. Remember, if a problem or issue arises, they will be the people who you will be working with to solve that problem.

Are You Really the Pool Builder for Me?

Ask for References

Any reputable pool builder will have past customer experiences that will be accessible. Make sure you get, not only recent references, but past references as well. Since you will be using your pool for years to come and not just the next couple of years, it’s critical to get references of customers who had pools built 5, 7 or 10 years ago to predict how your pool will hold up over time. Call references and, if possible, ask owners about two problems that occurred and how the builder went about fixing them. Did they take care of the issue quickly? Did they ensure the problem was fixed? Did they follow through with their promises?

Are you a member of the BBB?

References are important, but getting a birds eye view of past business is just as important. Any experienced pool builder will have plenty of reviews, telling you they are safe to do business with or one you should avoid entirely. Looking up the pool builder reputation using the Better Business Bureau will give you a better understanding of how they operate.

Have you or your partners ever declared bankruptcy or gone out of business? How long has the current business owners been operating under their current name?

Always make sure to check on the history and past transactions of your pool builder before moving forward. Some pool builders can make it a habit to declare bankruptcy and go out of business, leaving work unfinished, then opening another business without consequence. Past bankruptcies, in addition to being a young company, should throw up huge red flags for future pool owners.

How many pools have your built in my area?

Different types of pools work better or worse in different climates and good builders will know this. For instance. in freezing temperatures concrete or gunite can become problematic due tothe expansion of freezing water, causing structural and plumbing damage. Always check to see if the pool builder has been doing business in your area for good amount of time to ensure they know what they are doing.

How many pools like mine have you built?

You’ll want to make sure your pool builder has past experience installing the type of pool that your considering. Just because they have built a several fiberglass pools does not mean they have the expertise of a seasoned concrete/gunite builder.

What are the existing requirements for electrical, plumbing, zoning and grading and who will be performing each?

This may sound weird, but asking this will show if the builder is well prepared and has a good grasp on what is required for the job. A good pool builder will have a general idea of the requirements of your area and the person or company in charge of each. If the builder is un-confident, it can show a lack of knowledge and experience in your area, which can be a red flag.

Does the pool builder have employees that will be working for them, and if so, do they have workers compensation for all employees?

Pool businesses can have a high turnover for employees, so you’ll want to make sure their employer is taking care of them. This is for good reason, benefits and steady pay keeps workers with the company for longer periods which, in turn, produces more experience in any given field. Ask for a copy of the general liability and worker’s compensation documentation. This protects the company and the home owner. Worse case scenario for the homeowner; if they do not carry the liability and something goes wrong, home owners can be liable.

Do you use a subcontractors, and if so, are they licensed and bonded to protect you if things go wrong?

Sub-contracting work out to another company is not uncommon, but you will want to make sure the company the work is being contracted out to is fully licensed and bonded. This will make things much smoother in the event something goes wrong. The last thing you want is some disagreement between the builder and subcontractor that holds the progress of your pool build hostage.

Can you show me copies of lien wavers showing sub-contractors and vendors have been paid for past work?

There is nothing wrong with pool builders who sub-contract out work to other companies. Having said that, any sign of non-payment can be a bad sign for a future pool owner. If vendors or sub-contractors have not been paid, you may want to re-consider doing business with them. If a pool owner decides to avoid payment and disappears, home owners can be left with the bill. If you cannot receive copies for past payments, ask for the number and names of at least three vendors or sub-contractors they have done business with in the last two years. Any unpaid vendors or sub-contractors will likely let you know if they have not yet received payment for past business.

Can I see your Dunn and Bradstreet Report?

The Dun & Bradstreet Report is a document showing the credit of the business. A bad rating shows irresponsibility within the pool builder, which can mean bad news for you in the future. Unpaid workers or business that is sub-contracted is not a good sign.

How Much Will My Dream Pool Cost?

Ask your pool builder to document any agreements made on paper

Unfortunately we can’t rely on the word of everyone. In the event that a pool builder promises something, get it in writing. We cannot stress this enough. Think back to little agreements you’ve made with friends and family. Now think of times you’ve forgot about the original terms or forgot completely. The point is that nobody is perfect and it’s easy to forget or mis- communicate, even with people you see everyday. Having agreements made on paper, prevents this type of mis-communication down the road, making the pool building process easier. At the end of the day, this is a business transaction and there should be no hesitation or ill will on the side of the pool builder for putting anything on paper.

Ask the builder about their “Draw Schedule” for payment

Pool builders commonly ask for payment of your pool build in installments, but a lump sum payed to a pool builder early in the pool build can cause issues. The problem is this can make it tempting to abandon a pool build if the builder runs into cash flow problems. A common rule of thumb for builders is to collect no more than two thirds the amount at the time of cement or gunite. Anything more combined with additional red flags should be avoided.

Can I get an itemized breakdown of all parts, materials, labor costs and services?

An itemized breakdown of parts, materials and services is reasonable with any type of agreement or job where payment is going to be made. Remember that this is a business transaction and should be considered as such. Having everything on paper is in everyone’s best interest. This protects you and the pool builder. During the pool build it’s easy to lose track of the initial agreement if it’s not on paper. Having a written breakdown, settles any disagreement by simply referring back to the original document.

Ask if you can pay each installment after work is done. ie. When gunite is installed pay afterward

The builder will usually ask for an upfront deposit to start and take installment as the project progresses. Asking a pool builder to except payment for installments after work has been done can motivate builders to do good work and allow for a well maintained build schedule. Keep in mind some builders will not do this and it does not mean they wont do a great job.

Will I make checks payable to personal or business account?

This may not seem like a big deal but, checks made out to a single person can be cashed at your bank, off of your account. This can be done to avoid taxes and save money. If the IRS does find out about this, the home owner can be held liable for the unpaid taxes. So how do your protect yourself? Make checks out to the business. Checks payable to a business have to be deposited in the business account, which reduces the likelihood that the builder will avoid taxes or run off with your money.

Is all necessary work in my contract?

Some builders will leave out additional costs, such as patio and rock costs. A good pool builder will have an idea of whether he will hit rock or clay when digging and account for this. If a builder does not account for either you could receive unexpected costs associated with your pool build. This is especially important if you have a tight budget. The more cost you can account for upfront, the better.

Protect Yourself

Ask what back fill will be used

Having the right material to back fill your pool is important. If the material does not drain well, added pressure can be applied to your pool, causing cracking or bowing. This can even cause your pool to begin to rise out of the ground. Different areas and climates call for different back filling techniques. For example, cold temperatures will want to have good drainage or built-up water can freeze, expand and cause damage to your pool. Do your research and talk to your pool builder, then come to an agreement on the back fill sediment best for your area.

If there are any damages to the yard or landscaping will you repair them?

Many times pool owners are shocked at the condition of their yard during a pool build. Some pool builders will not replace the worn grass or damaged landscaping around your backyard. It’s important to ask your pool builder what damages they repair after work is done. Keep in mind, pool builders who are willing to replace damage are less likely to be careless in their approach when building your pool.

Can you show me a certificate of insurance to prove your fully insured in the incident that things don’t go as planned?

Building a pool is a big job with the potential for things to go wrong. It’s always a good idea to make sure your protected in the event that something doesn’t go as planned. This protects, not only you, but the pool builder as well. Any reputable pool builder will have the proper insurance to protect himself and the homeowner during the construction process.

What kind of warranty is offered and who will service it?

Warranties are only as good as your pool builder or the manufacturer that constructed your fiberglass or vinyl liner. Make sure you do research on your pool builder and manufacturer if you have not done so already. You will want to see how long they have been in business for to make sure they’ll be around to service your pool. When reading your warranties, take some time to really look at the document in detail. Look for items covered and any requirements needed. Below are things to consider when looking at your pool warranty.

  • Fiberglass pools will have two kinds of warranties
    The two warranties are structural and gel coat finish warranties. Make sure to look at both.
  • Check to see what’s covered if buying a vinyl lined pool.
    Many of the vinyl liner warranties cover the seams on then liner, but only replace them if there is an immediate problem.
  • Gunite or concrete pools will not have a manufacturer warranty, but should have a workmanship warranty covering various things.
    Workmanship Warranties should cover major issues, such as: plumbing leaks, leaks in pool fittings and structural movement or settling of pool/patio. Ask who will service the warranty and for how long. Many times, problems can arise after temperature changes occur in the winter. It’s good to know your warranty covers you for more than a single year in the event that temperature changes damage your pool. Some builders will even offer lifetime warranties with their pools.
For more information or if you have any past experiences that you’d like to share regarding new pool builds. Leave a comment below or reach out to me directly at [email protected].
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When Kevin’s not enjoying the water himself he’s engaging himself in the wide world of pool and spa knowledge which he passes on to our customers through producing content for our blogs and website. Outside of the pool world you can find him enjoying life with friends, family and his off the wall dog Brixton.