By Mat Jobe
Building an inground pool involves a lot of decisions, but none more important than selecting a builder. All your careful planning can go out the window if your swimming pool contractor is incompetent, irresponsible, or worst of all, unethical. It goes without saying that you should call at least three builders to get estimates. But how do you choose which pool contractors to contact, and which to ultimately choose? Here are some tips.
Know anyone in the neighborhood who has an inground pool? If so, ask them about their experience – most pool owners are more than willing to talk about it. They may be able to steer you toward – or away from – a particular contractor.
If you live in a larger city, you may also be able to find recommendations from internet forums and consumer websites. Be cautious of these, however, as they’re easily manipulated.
If a contractor is eager to give you a long list of references, that’s a good sign. The more happy customers a builder can point to, the less likely it is that they’re staged or cherry picked. If there are a lot of references, you probably won’t check all of them, but you should randomly pick a few to call (don’t just call the first three, but pick from different parts of the list). If it’s a smaller list, that doesn’t necessarily disqualify the contractor, but you might want to ask some probing questions to make sure the references are on the up-and-up. Some things to ask:
- When did the contractor perform work for you? If the references are mostly older, that could indicate cherry picking.
- What type of pool did the contractor install? If you’re installing a fiberglass pool, you’ll be particularly interested in what the reference has to say if he also had a fiberglass pool installed.
- Did the contractor complete the work on time, and only ask for payment for completed work?
- Were there any surprises?
- Were the builders courteous and considerate of your needs while onsite?
Do a Background Check
If you’re seriously considering a contractor, it’s time to take your investigation to a new level by looking at records relating to the business. Your first stop should be the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the contractor. For a small fee, you can also get a report from ContractorCheck that includes an overall contractor rating and lots of details about the builder’s business operations. Finally, you should look into your state’s regulations on swimming pool construction and make sure the contractor is properly certified.
Listen to Your Gut
First impressions are often wrong, but don’t bet tens of thousands of dollars on it. If something about a particular swimming pool contractor doesn’t seem right, then that’s reason enough for caution. Some red flags to look out for:
- Offering an unrealistically low estimate
- Pressuring you to make a decision quickly
- Pushing you toward getting financing through the pool company or an associated business
- Asking for payment in cash
- Asking for a large amount of money upfront
- General lack of professionalism in appearance or behavior
Before signing with a pool contractor, be sure to visit the builder’s place of business. How a builder manages its office and conducts routine day-to-day business is often instructive of how they perform on the job. And if the contractor doesn’t have a place of business? Well, that’s another red flag.
Protecting Your Investment
You’ve probably heard the horror stories about pool construction gone wrong. Behind every one of these stories is a bad swimming pool contractor. While the unexpected can and often does happen when undertaking such a large project, an experienced professional can usually handle it without missing a beat. If you have a pay a little extra to get a swimming pool contractor you feel comfortable with, then that’s the price well worth paying.