There are about 500 unfinished pools in the DFW area that received their permits in 2020 according to the City of Dallas. Do a Google search for “unfinished pools in the US,” and you’ll see that incomplete pool projects are a nationwide problem. Too many homeowners are shelling out big bucks and ending up with a hole in the ground, abandoned by some shoddy contractor they trusted.
The swimming pool industry is booming and is projected to keep rising for the foreseeable future. That’s great news for long-time industry professionals but could spell trouble for the less-than-savvy consumer. Hundreds of inexperienced builders and outright frauds are hoping to cash in on the boom to make a quick buck. But fear not! Below are seven questions to ask your pool builder before you sign a contract so that you know you are in good hands.
Before anything else you’ll want to find out how many years your potential pool builder has in the industry. Experience is key when it comes to solving problems that could delay or halt your project. An inexperienced contractor will likely meet with hang-ups that could cause them to abandon your project. An experienced pool builder prepares for the unexpected and will carry builder general liability insurance to help protect your property for one million dollars in damages or more.
Experienced pool builders stand by their work and will provide a warranty to cover your new pool. A good warranty will provide lifetime coverage for the pool’s structure to the original owner of the pool. The warranty is usually voided if the property is sold. Pool equipment such as pumps and filters should be covered for at least one year, though some warranties can go for up to three years. If your pool builder doesn’t provide a warranty, or if they act like it’s not something they normally do, consider that a huge red flag.
Though technically two questions, they amount to the same thing: social proof. An established pool company will have reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, or any number of sites and directories. They may not have a perfect five-star rating, but their rating should be somewhere between four and five stars. Be sure to focus on the most recent reviews. It’s also important to ask for personal recommendations. A good pool builder will have no problem providing them.
Here is where homeowners can really get burned. If you ask nothing else, make sure you ask this question before signing anything. If your contractor is asking for half upfront before breaking ground, run the other way. Many unsuspecting homeowners make this mistake and end up with a $60,000 hole in the ground. There’s often no recourse as the fraud contractor will likely duck your calls and file for bankruptcy. Below is an example of a balanced payment schedule from a real, professional pool builder:
5% upon execution of contract
30% at first day of excavation
30% at installation of gunite or shotcrete
30% after coping & electric or deck pour, whichever comes first
10% prior to installation of plaster
The numbers you’re given don’t have to be identical to this example, but they should be close. No matter what, and we can’t stress this enough, never pay a large sum of money upfront.
This one is not so cut and dry. There are many factors that contribute to completion time. Weather can play the largest role, especially in Texas. A few rainy days can set your project back a week or more. A string of bad weather can add months. The scope of your project matters, too. For the sake of this question, let’s assume there has been little to no bad weather or other external factors. In this case, it’s not unreasonable to expect a completed standard pool in 10 to 12 weeks. Larger, more extravagant projects will obviously take longer. In any case, completion time needs to be discussed with your contractor so that expectations are clear. You don’t want to be in a situation where your contractor isn’t showing up when scheduled, isn’t communicating, and is always giving excuses on why there’s been no progress for weeks at a time.
Pool equipment such as pumps, heaters, filters, and lights aren’t always easy to get. There’s no guarantee that these items will be readily available when your project starts. An experienced pool builder knows this and will usually keep them in stock. They will not need to chase equipment down, which can cause significant delays. Even if your pool builder has no issue gathering the equipment you need, keep in mind that having equipment in stock is a good sign that your builder knows what they are doing.
One of the most exciting steps in the pool building process is picking the materials that will turn your project into a work of art. Some pool builders make clients run from place to place looking at various materials at different locations and times. A well-established pool builder sees the value in providing a one-stop-shop showroom experience. While the lack of a showroom isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, having one speaks volumes to the health of your contractor’s business. And you only want the best when it comes to your home.
Adding a pool to your backyard is a huge investment, both to your property and your happiness. The last thing you want to do is take chances. Any pool builder worth their salt will be happy to answer these questions, and will do so confidently. If your builder seems uncomfortable with these questions or provides answers you are not happy with, do not sign a contract. Take your time and find a pool contractor that won’t turn your dream backyard oasis into another sad statistic.