The right pool contractor can offer fun in the sun or BIG $ problems...
Yes, it's going to be a big-dollar investment, but it is also going to be a major project that requires the right expertise. There are lots of pool horror stories here in Texas, so the focus of this article is that you don't become one of them.
With the construction explosion here in Texas, all of the really good pool contractors have more business than they can handle. Those that are so-so are also busy and due to very high demand, the not-so-good are busy too. So, how do you find one of the really good ones?
Because this is going to be a major investment, some serious research on your part can pay both huge dividends and avoid costly mistakes.
Here's your checklist:
1) Check Out Pool Contractor Reviews
When it comes to reviews, there are three things that count, 1) a high star rating, 2) the number of reviews and 3) owner responsiveness. Let's consider these one at a time. You want someone with a 5-star or a 4+ star rating. There is too much of your money at stake to be dipping below a 4-star contractor. DON'T DO IT!
Next, the number of reviews. If there are just a few reviews, it's probably just friends and family or they're very new in the business. It could also be a poorly run business that doesn't know how important reviews actually are. Always compare potential pool contractors for the number of reviews as well as their star rating.
Finally, owner responsiveness. Look first at the 1-star and 2-star reviews first. Is there a pattern that emerges such as people complaining about the same things? Does the pool contractor answer each of the reviews and attempt to satisfy his customers? That's good business practice and if they're not answering their reviews, how are they going to respond to you if you have an issue?
2) Check with your HOA and Neighbors
Typically, if you have an HOA they have been involved in pool approvals and can let you know what pool contractors are the most popular and offer recommendations. You can also talk with your neighbors directly if they have pools and indirectly via Nextdoor where you'll certainly get some opinions when asking who a recommended pool contractor might be. Drive around your area and see where they are installing pools. It also wouldn't hurt to knock on a door or two and see how happy they are so far.
3) Get At Least Three References
Make the phone calls and check them out. Write down your questions ahead of time so that you can ask consistent questions of each person that you talk to. A couple of good questions might be, a) "Would you use this pool contractor if you built another house?" or b) "Would you recommend this pool contractor to your friends or neighbors?"
4) Make Some On-Site Visits
Have your potential pool contractor take you to a few of his customers so that you can see his work. A side benefit may be that you get some ideas from those visits for your own pool. Ask how long it has been installed and if there were any issues during the installation or afterward. If there were issues, look into how were they handled.
5) Talk With Some Sub-Contractors
Most pool contractors use several sub-contractors, so you'll want to know who they are. Ask how long have they been working with these subs and the status of the relationship. This is especially important for the plaster sub. Another thing to bear in mind is to ask is if they have a warranty on their work and if so, ask for how long.
6) Get the Contract Right
This is really important. The pool work will be done in phases, where the pool contractor will need to be paying his subs. Several things can cause issues, notably the weather. While your pool contractor can't control the weather, they need to control their subs to get the pool done in the time that they promised. I suggest that you stage the payments so that you maintain leverage throughout the pool building process. Once you've paid in full, you've lost almost all of your leverage.
There should be a certain percentage with the signing, then at some major steps of the pool building process, leave a substantial portion of the contracted price to be paid after completion. This is absolutely critical and you'll be very glad that you did this. So much so, that if your pool contractor won't agree to that, you need to find a new pool contractor. There are too many stories out there of unfinished pools where things were not done that were already paid for.
So there you have it, six steps to a successful pool build. Enjoy your new pool!