Do some preliminary research
Before you even begin contacting pool companies and contractors, do some research. Ask friends and neighbors with pools about their experience with their contractor and if they’re happy with the results. It’s also a good idea to look around online, but be wary of phony testimonials and biased reviews.
Properly ask for references (and know how to use them)
Every pool contractor should have a list of references of previous (and hopefully satisfied) customers. But before you ask for that list, ask the contractor how many installations they completed last year. If they hand over a list with far fewer references than installations they claim, it’s not a great sign.
Contact the references, and possibly ask to visit a recent installation without the contractor present (but don’t be weird about it). Be sure to ask what type of pool was installed and when it was installed, if it was completed on time, and if payment was only requested for completed work. It’s also important to ask about any surprises they experienced and the contractor’s general professionalism and courtesy.
Do some digging
As you start to narrow down your list, it’s important to do a bit of a background check on the contractors you’re considering. Check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the company for unfinished work and other problems. One or two negative reviews is no biggie, but multiple, similar complaints is definitely a biggie.
You can also check to see if the contractor is a member of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (formerly the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals/National Swimming Pool Foundation). It is not a big deal if the contractor is not a member, but it’s a big plus if they are. PHTA members are certified pool professionals who adhere to a code of ethics.
Finally, stop by the brick-and-mortar business to see how they run things. If it’s disorganized, or otherwise not running smoothly, consider that a red flag. If there is no physical place of business, consider that a huge red flag that’s also on fire.
Go with your gut
Human intuition is a crazy thing. If you meet with a contractor and everything seems great on paper but something just feels off, it’s probably for good reason. Unfortunately, people can be deceptive, but we can help you sniff out sneaky contractors. Be wary of any of the following:
- Offering an unrealistically low estimate and/or pressuring for a quick decision. This is a big, expensive decision. If the estimate is considerably lower than other estimates and the contractor’s pressuring you to decide, go ahead and decide against that contractor.
- Asking for a large down payment, big early draws and/or small final draws. The standard for a down payment is around 10%, sometimes up to 20%. The draws should be fairly even throughout the project, and the final draw should be at least 10%. Too much up-front and you could lose money if the company folds; too little at the end and they can skip out without losing much money.
- Saying they can start right away. Good contractors have busy schedules. Starting right away could mean they don’t have many clients (which isn’t great) or they’re overbooking because they need money (which is very bad). It could also mean that they have a lot of manpower and run an efficient business (which is very good).
- New businesses aren’t necessarily bad, but try for one that’s been around for at least five years. Many pool companies fail early, and contractors with decades of industry experience routinely fold and re-open companies under different names simply because they’re not good businessmen.
If you’re thinking about adding some fun and sun to your life with a new swimming pool, this guide should help you sort through all the nonsense. We hope that you’ll consider Outdoor Living Pools for your installation. Give us a call at (614) 745-6254 and see what we can do for you!