A PoolSolutions Guest Tip

Selecting a Pool Contractor

by Scott Cruikshank of Great American Pools / PoolRepair.com

We've recently had two large pool builders go belly-up in Central Florida, both leaving over one hundred uncompleted pools.

Bankruptcy is rarely a matter of a healthy business suddenly closing its doors, and these slides were painfully long and obvious. In both cases, senior construction managers were replaced with college kids whose unfortunate job it was to please the bean counters in the office and turn a deaf ear to the customer. The failures came as no surprise to the suppliers, employees and sub contractors who received late checks, bad checks and finally no checks at all.

Pool companies run hot and cold; no builder is consistent year in and year out. The pool you get from a builder will reflect his current financial and mental stability. None of the victims I talked to, or who were interviewed by the media, had thought to check on the current status of these long established, heavily advertised firms. Not one had even called the Better Business Bureau. "Who knew? They built my last pool twelve years ago. We never thought to check."

Before you sign a contract, a careful consumer might call a tile wholesaler, pool surfacing materials, concrete and PVC supplier. You won't get the person you want the first time, but dealers know who's supplying whom. A personal visit is always better, but most people will tell you in general terms if the company's in trouble. No wholesaler likes to 'rat out' a bad customer, but no one wants to be identified with a problem builder.

All builders supply a list of references and it's amazing how many people accept the list and never call anyone on it. I was listed as a reference by one builder that I had three liens against and no one ever called me. One coatings contractor advertising in our TV section named several well- known commercial pools in the area and his entire 'happy customers' list had filed lawsuits against him for shoddy workmanship.

Ask for three names of people in your area whose pools are more than two years old. Call the customer and ask for a convenient time to come by. Trust me, homeowners love to show off their pool. They're also delighted to share their opinion on the builders scheduling, warranty and finish work. Take a good look at their pool. Don't offend the host, but is this what you want in your backyard?

A prudent buyer might carry this one step further and visit several of the contractor's pool construction sites. Take a careful look at the site; is it neat and well organized or carelessly strewn with debris? Does it reflect the pride of craftsmen or the flippant attitude of day workers?

If you're lucky enough to find a sub crew on one of these jobs, you can take your own measure of worker attitude. You'll also find they can be sources of fairly reliable information; including other, lower- profile contractors they do work for who might be building a better pool for the same, or less money.  

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