How to choose a pool contractor
The quick answer
Reputation – look for word-of-mouth recommendations, read through online forums and check contractor websites for testimonials. Get at least three references you can check from each potential contractor.
Experience – look for an owner-managed company that has been in business for a long time and retains long-term and well-trained staff.
Guarantees – ask to see proof of general liability insurance, workers' compensation and written warranties.
Realistic pricing – be wary of very high or very low bids or demands for large upfront payments.
Aim to hire a well-established, qualified, competitively-priced contractor with a great reputation.
Still here? Great! Read on for more information on how to choose a swimming pool contractor.
The most important decision you make about your swimming pool is your first one: the contractor you hire to install it. The right contractor will walk you through all your other installation decisions, and make sure you get the pool you want.
The good news is that it's not that tough to find the right contractor. But you will need to do some research.
There are four important items you need to consider:
The fastest way to put together a good list of potential contactors is to ask your friends and neighbours.
Let people know you're looking for a pool installer. Do you have friends with pools? Ask them about their contractors. Gather as much word-of-mouth information as you can.
Follow up by searching for information online and checking out the websites of pool companies in your area. Look for online testimonials and mention of industry and consumer awards. Be aware of small (or new) companies that have an unusually large number of reviews, or a disproportionate number of perfect reviews. Some companies pad their sites with fake reviews.
Get at least three references from each potential contractor. Include references from clients whose installations presented some problems so you can ask about how the problems were solved.
One of the most reliable indicators of a great contractor is longevity. Focusing on companies that have been around for a long time is the best way to weed out fly-by-nighters.
Frank Blanchet, President of Betz Pools, advises new buyers to "choose a company that has been in business for a long time and has maintained a great reputation. There are a lot of start-up companies in this business that won't be around in a few years. Aim to go with proven expertise and a contractor who will be around for any future needs you may have." Betz is proud to run an award-winning company that has been installing pools for 80 years.
Ask about the experience of the staff. "You want a company with long-term experienced employees who care about being the best in the business," says Mario Blanchet of Betz Pools. "These are the guys who will offer competitive pricing, multi-year warranties and year-round service."
Is the company a full-service company? Look for a company that has experience designing and building pools and spas, plus installing landscaping, outdoor kitchens, cabanas, night lighting, etc. Many companies employ in-house design staff to help create a comprehensive vision for not only a beautiful pool, but also a stunning surrounding landscape.
"It's best to choose a company that understands the concept of a complete backyard lifestyle," says Marc Luff of Betz Pools. "It really goes beyond just installing your pool."
An experienced company will be able to provide most of its services in-house but will also have solid connections to specialized trades.
Marc Luff explains, "We know our sub-contractors well and know they can often provide the best value for our clients. Our overhead is lower because we only pay them when they are needed and we don't have to invest in specialized equipment. But what it really comes down to is getting professionals to do their specialized work so our clients get higher quality work."
Ask to see proof of any potential contractor's general liability insurance ($1 million minimum) and proof of workers' compensation. Good contractors also provide clearly written warranties and provide service for their products well after installation is complete.
"Clients should look for companies that operate year round and should expect personal service and 24-hour emergency support from them," says Marc Luff. "Keep in mind that larger well-established companies often have closer and more efficient relationships with manufacturers. And that means they can deliver better service when needed."
Ask to see samples of the contractor's work. Look for top quality finishes and equipment. Familiarize yourself with the basics around what to expect and ask about the products the contractor uses. For example, if you're getting a concrete pool, ask if the contractor uses a dry gunite or wet shotcrete process. Dry gunite provides a superior concrete product.
Look for a good contractor who can do the job for a reasonable price. Be wary of bids that appear unusually high or low. These could be a sign of inexperience, or a company that is desperate for the next job. Demands for large upfront payments may be a warning of financial difficulty.
Finally, different contractors rarely include the same quality of components or finishes in their bids, so look very closely at exactly what is included. That is the only way to assess the true value of a proposal.
Looking for reliable information on pool installation? Feel free to get in touch.
Surfing the Internet is a good start. But your single most important step for pool information is to contact a certified pool professional to make sure you get the custom advice you need.