Choosing the right pool contractor is the first step to the backyard swimming pool you’ve always dreamed of owning. There are so many things to consider, so how do you know when you’ve found the right contractor? It’s a simple process, really, but one that can change your entire experience.
How do you choose a pool contractor without finding yourself on the short end of the stick? One of the best ways to select a pool contractor without getting burned is by checking out the company’s previous work in the form of references. Ask the sales person how many pools were installed the previous year, then ask for last year’s reference list. The answer can be illuminating.
Customer satisfaction is only the first step in finding the right contractor, as so many factors can affect whether the company is the best one for you. However, this satisfaction can also show you the contractor’s integrity and character. From the style of pool you want, to the materials used to build it, to the customer service offered, every company is different.
Ascertaining the Contractor’s Integrity and Reputation
The best way to check out a new contractor is by examining the company’s references, but you shouldn’t settle for the bare minimum offered. This is the opportunity for you to recognize whether or not this company will do the work you require and exceed the standards.
Remember, you are interviewing them for a job opportunity, not the other way around.
Asking the contractor for a list of references requires more than merely requesting the information. For example, if you simply ask for references, you have no way of knowing how old the references are, which makes it difficult to ascertain relevance.
Start by checking how many pools were installed the previous year, though be aware that some contractors will inflate the numbers to appear more successful. Next, ask to see the reference list from that year.
If only half of the customers were willing to be references, then the company has a roughly fifty percent success rate.
Asking for references directly from the company representative also allows you to see the company’s willingness to comply with a basic request.
If the representative hesitates or tells you that they are unable to provide you with that information, then you should step back and think about whether this is really the company for you.
Marcus Sheridan of River Pools and Spas says that if “…A contractor refuses to give you the references you request, just walk away.” He adds, “By taking this step, you just may save major stress, headache, and money.”
Call the references, and speak to them directly about how their experiences with the company went, whether they felt listened to, what was the most enjoyable part of the experience, and what was the least.
Some additional questions are how the contractor handled the challenges faced and whether or not the customer would choose that company again.
Transparency and honesty are the first signs of a company that will do a fantastic job on your new pool.
Reading reviews online is another option, as well as checking social media, but this should be intended to help narrow down your list to companies you’d like to speak to in person.
Before you can check that you have an honest contractor, there are a few additional things for you to consider.
The Pool Buyer’s Checklist
While the references are the point where you can give a firm ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to continue with the company, there are a number of factors to consider just to get you to that spot.
Each one of these can be used as a screening process, and you have to be willing to walk away from a contractor secure in the knowledge that the job must be done right, or not at all.
Know Your Reasons
Your reasons behind your decision to install a pool can help you avoid any sales traps. Going by the adage that function dictates form, your reasons for having a pool go hand in hand with style of pool you will choose.
If you are choosing a pool primarily for entertainment, you may want to add mood lighting and specialty features as well as a spa. If it’s for family fun, then you will be looking at adding more safety features, such as a gate that completely surrounds the pool, and possibly making it a deeper pool.
Don’t just think about the short term reasons, but consider the pool in a year’s time. Will you still want that diving board next year? What about a really deep end for diving?
An interesting but little known fact of pools is that people spend less time in the deep end, so you may find it more responsible to keep the pool slightly shallower.
Some questions to consider are:
- What will the pool be used for?
- What type of pool do you want?
- What is the average age of the pool users?
- What is most important to you about the pool?
- What is your true budget?
Decide on the Type of Pool You Want
Do you want a basic, in-ground pool? Perhaps a lap pool is more your style. Deciding on the pool you want to have in your yard will help you find a pool builder who can make it happen.
Robert Douglas, of Certified Leak Protection, recommends settling on a pool type before shopping for a contractor, because “Materials can affect the price, and not all contractors may be experienced in the exact type of pool you would like to add to your home.”
Look at what the pool company has done in the past, and compare that to what you want in a pool. While a competent contractor can and should be flexible in what they’re capable of building, if all the pools on display are variations of the same theme and it’s not your vision, perhaps you need to continue shopping.
If a pool company attempts to change your mind, or is unable to visualize any future challenges, then you definitely need to carefully review their references.
Knowing what type of pool you want also helps you decide on a budget.
Settle On a Budget
Have you ever been in a situation where the sales representative has continually pushed for you to go for increasingly expensive options? Having a budget can help you avoid those situations, though it can act as an early warning signal.
If the sales rep or company doesn’t respect your knowledge of your own finances, then this tells you that you may need to rethink the company. Those who are only pushing for a sale will talk to you about going to the next level constantly, and brush your concerns away as unimportant.
Because ‘You want to have the best, don’t you?’
Well, yes, but the best that you can afford is preferable.
This constant pushing also displays a lack of respect that will only compound as the work begins, and will lead to more and more stress and a bigger headache. Also be sure to include the price of any fencing or landscaping in your budget, and know exactly how much is intended for each area of the yard.
Ensure the Company Has a Certified Pool Contractor
While this step would ideally happen during screening and references, it is an essential one to check before any work begins. The company itself cannot have a CPB certificate, rather, one of the contractors in the company would have taken the extra schooling to become certified.
Too often, contractors and contractors can be found working without a proper building certification, and while the work done can be excellent, you are not protected if an issue does occur. Certified pool builders can also assess situations and better plan to reduce any swimming hazards that may be unique to your set up or location.
If the company claims to be certified, ask to see the certification to ensure it’s the correct one for the job and the state. Before putting down as much money as this is likely to be, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Visit the Showroom
The showroom is the best way for you to examine the work that will be done before anything changes in your yard.
If you were unsure of what, exactly, you were looking for before, then a showroom can help you refine your search while also giving you insight into the character of the employees and the company itself.
A visit to the showroom gives you the chance to speak to more of the employees, and also gives you the opportunity to evaluate their knowledge and professionalism.
If and when any problems arise, these will be the people handling it, and the ones you will be dealing with as well. If you walk out of the showroom with confidence in those people, then you are on the right track.
Having a showroom is also an excellent indicator of the company’s permanence and stability within the community.
This shows a willingness to invest in the area, and that the company won’t simply disappear and leave you with a huge hole in your back yard.
Is The Contractor Part of Any State or Local Groups?
Being a part of the Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, or even a local Rotary club can help you determine the company’s permanence and commitment to the community.
This is particularly helpful for those businesses that are still too small or too new to have a proper showroom.
The Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau should also be willing to provide a character reference for the company, if you should ask for one.
Is There a Warranty?
Does the swimming pool contractor offer a warranty for their work? If not, this is your cue to leave.
A warranty is the contractor’s guarantee of their own work, and one should definitely be included in any contract. However, the length of the warranty can offer insight into the company’s capability and reliability.
A one year warranty is insufficient as this is not enough time for natural wear and tear or the weather to do any damage. Though if the workmanship or quality of the materials were poor, then you would certainly get your money’s worth.
Instead, a five year warranty shows that the swimming pool contractor believes in the quality of their work and is also willing to help you deal with thing if extreme weather conditions occur.
Don’t forget to thoroughly read your warranty, as this is your chance to raise concerns or questions, because if the warranty doesn’t cover a few basics, then this is another sign you need to get out.
A good warranty will cover the pool itself, leaks in the pipes and plumbing caused by the ground settling, and structural cracks in the patio. It should be noted that different pools will have different warranties extended by different people.
A fiberglass pool has two warranties, one from the installer and one from the manufacturer. A concrete pool will only have a single warranty from the swimming pool contractor, while a vinyl pool will have several, one from the contractor, plus one each for all the individual parts.
It’s a good idea to check each one to ensure that the parts have a similar lifetime, as it would be awkward if your pipes are guaranteed for five years but the joints are only guaranteed for one.
Examine the Yard Before Accepting a Final Quote
One of the ways that a customer may find themselves getting burned is with unforeseen costs due to the pool installation or building issues. If the proposed location for the pool is difficult to get to, or requires specialized equipment, then a cost is added.
Existing services may need to be relocated, but these are all reasonable and expected challenges. However, with enough of those additions you can find yourself paying far more than initially thought.
The contractor should see the property before giving you a quote, and there should be some securities in place so that the contractor cannot keep adding costs.
For example, the contractor should be able to tell you up front the kind of equipment needed to excavate your yard, and an established business may even be able to give you an estimate.
Ten to fifteen percent over budget is a reasonable expectation, but if the contractor keeps trying to push you to go higher than that, thank them and leave. Reputable companies say that having the pool cost twenty percent of the house’s value is a reasonable expectation.
Take Your Time
Take your time making any decisions. Thoroughly read over the information given, and any contracts before you sign. Don’t sign with the first company you talk to just because everything sounds fantastic.
A swimming pool is a permanent structure, there’s no reason or need to rush things and potentially botch the job because of it.
Instead, you want to make sure to shop around, have a list of questions that you ask each contractor, and compare the answers. Don’t forget to ask about any challenges the company has run into in the past, and how it was handled.
Any company that says they have never run into challenges is lying. Every contractor knows that there’s only so much that can be planned for, and that unexpected things always appear once work has begun.
Keep notes, particularly once you’ve settled on a contractor, as omissions to contracts can be expected. If you’ve chosen a quality contractor with a good reputation, then these omissions will be accidental and quickly fixed with no fuss.
Understand yours and the company’s rights and responsibilities, who is responsible for what, and know exactly what’s included in the contract.
Is all the work necessary to complete the project included in my contract?
The proposal should specify the materials to be used and the exact type of pool and equipment that’s meant to be installed. Read everything thoroughly before signing, and you want to make sure that all the points you have discussed have been included.
Are pool maintenance services offered?
Nobody will know your new pool like the contractors who installed it, and if they also offer maintenance then you should seriously think adding this to the contract. Having professionals to clean and maintain the pool will ensure that it remains at peak performance and condition, so if the company doesn’t, consider asking them to recommend another company to you.
Do the sales representatives display impatience or irritation when you ask questions?
Impatience, or the implication that you are incompetent for not understanding them is a very good reason to not hire a contractor. Any sales person worth the name can break down a concept and explain it to anyone. If the person is unable, it displays a lack of understanding or knowledge on their part that may indicate an issue with the entire company.