Finding the right contractor is the most essential part of building a swimming pool – or any other home improvement project, for that matter. Once you have at least a basic idea of what you want your new pool to look like, the next step is to start the search for a builder you can count on to pull it off. But how do you know who you can trust? The best way to evaluate inground pool builders is to talk to people who have worked with them in the past.
Most contractors have a list of references that they will be happy to provide to you on request. It’s vitally important that you check these references (at least some of them). An unscrupulous builder may have a reference list a mile long, but what good is that if it’s full of customers that are cherry picked or even nonexistent? Bad contractors count on you not checking those references.
When talking to the contractor’s former customers, don’t just leave it to them to give their opinion. To really get an idea of what the builder is like, ask for details. Here are some of the questions you might want to ask.
1. What work did the pool builder do for you?
Collect some details about the project to help you determine how relevant it is to your own situation. Here’s some of the information you should ask for:
- Date the work was performed
- Type of pool
- Type of decking
- Any extra or unusual features that were part of the installation
Ideally, you’re looking for a recent project that’s similar to the work you need done. If the work was done a long time ago, the quality of the pool builder’s work may have deteriorated since then (especially if they have to go back a long time to find happy customers). If the project is radically different than yours – a gunite pool vs a fiberglass one, for example – the person’s experience may not be all that relevant.
2. What was your overall impression of the builder?
Here’s where you get the person’s general opinion. Be sure to listen and let them expound at length if they want to – sometimes telling details come out when you give someone a chance to talk.
3. Did the contractor complete the work on schedule?
Swimming pool construction projects can get out of hand when deadlines start to slip. Make sure any inground pool builders you’re considering have a reputation for getting the job done on time.
4. Did the builder communicate effectively with you? Were there any unwelcome surprises?
Pool installation can be disruptive to your home life, especially if it’s a concrete pool that takes weeks of work to complete. It’s important for the builder to let you know how things are progressing at every step of the way.
5. Would you hire the pool builder again?
The bottom line question. The vast majority of the time, the answer will be yes (if not, the contractor is an idiot for putting this customer on the reference list). But is it a yes or a YES? The way the person answers this question should give you some idea of the customer’s enthusiasm for the builder. Besides, it’s a handy way to wrap up the conversation.
Processing the Information
Once you’ve gotten answers to these questions and any others you may have, you should have a good idea of whether you want to hire the pool builder or not. While it’s often recommended that you get estimates from three contractors, that doesn’t mean you have to choose one of them. If you find that none of the initial options inspires the confidence to move forward, you should contact another one – or better yet, three more.
This might seem like an arduous task, and it is. But considering what’s at stake – thousands of dollars of your money – it’s worth the effort. No one ever regrets spending too much time looking for a contractor, but there are plenty of people who regret rushing to a decision.