So after many months of research and deliberation you’ve decided to invest in a swimming pool. You will have your own reasons for the purchase, whether a large pool for years of fun-filled summer days with the family and a lifetime of memories, a smaller plunge pool with swim jets for fitness, or to add a focal point to your backyard landscaping. Whatever your reasons an in-ground pool is a huge purchase for many homeowners, so of course you want to make sure you end up with the pool that’s right for your needs. After all, unlike many other purchases, a swimming pool cannot be simply “returned” or exchanged if you’re unhappy with the result. This is why it’s so important to take your time shopping around for a new pool and carefully weighing your options before you decide to take the plunge!
Pool Builder Checklist
If you are on the cusp of deciding on which pool builder to go with but can’t quite decide, here are ten key questions you should ask of any prospective pool builder before you consider hiring them for the job.
1. How Long Have You Been in Business?
Start by finding out about the pool builder’s experience; ask how long they’ve been in business under their current name. Unfortunately, some less-than-reputable companies out there will simply change names if and when they run into financial trouble or receive bad feedback from customers. Therefore, the longer the pool builder has been in business, the better. It’s also imperative that they are a member of the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of Victoria (SPASA) as this shows a commitment to upholding the values and code of ethics imposed on members.
Also, make sure that the company you hire for your pool building job is one that does the work themselves rather than contracting out other workers.
2. Can I Speak With Past Customers?
Don’t be afraid to ask the pool builder for references. Also ask how many pools they have completed over the life of their business, how many pools have they completed this past year and of those recent ones, how many would be happy to give references? Reputable builders will be proud to give you details of past customers. Speak to them about their experiences and the quality of workmanship. If you get the chance to speak with references, be sure to ask the following:
- Was it a pleasant experience working with the builder?
- What pool option and accessories did you opt for?
- Did the builder have the experience to overcome unforeseen problems?
- Would you do anything differently?
- Would you use the pool builder again?
3. What’s Included and What Costs Extra?
Any reputable company should come out to your home and perform an obligation free site inspection before giving you any kind of quote for your project. Be wary of any pool builder that refuses a site inspection as it is an integral part of formulating a quote. Being on site allows a representative to measure your proposed area and advise on placement, levels and effective methods of installation. Any potential problems that may arise during the inspection should be handled by the representative via phone calls to experts such as senior installers, engineers, or construction managers. The site inspection is also an ideal time for the representative to meet the client and their family. A pool will be an extension of the family, a place where many hours are spent together, therefore it is imperative that the pool meets the needs of the family in terms of current and future needs, pool design and pool use. Some pool companies attempt to save money and time by skipping the physical site inspection, favouring instead to create quotes utilising technology such as Google Earth. How can you be offered a transparent and honest quote for a pool that meets the needs of your family or the uniqueness of your property if a representative never sets foot on your land?
Soil tests are usually only conducted if there are concerns about your land, but are a requirement for certain pools due to the nature of their construction. There are other specific costs that need to be included in any pool quote though, items such as ‘overburden’ that covers all earthworks costs in relation to the pool, ‘boxing’, where one end of the pool is above natural ground level and may require timber boxing for the installation of the concrete, obstructions such as gas and electricity lines, sewer and storm water pipes, rock removal, cave-ins and tipping fees. Site access can have a bearing on cost. Inaccessible backyards or awkward access can add time and money to the excavation and building process as concrete trucks and cranes need specific access.
4. What’s Your Proposed Timeline?
Many traditional pools can take some time to build, but you should always have a general idea of the construction timeline for your pool. Before you sign any kind of contract, then, make sure you’ve received a proposed timeline for your project and that it works with your schedule. While it is rare that a company can guarantee your pool will be done by a certain date (especially with unpredictable weather), you should have a general idea of when each stage of the project will be done. Quality pool builders are in high demand, and coupled with unforeseen delays in gaining permit approvals and the completion of progress payments may be the only speed humps to what should be a smooth process.
5. How Can I Customise My Pool?
Your pool is a major purchase that you’ll be living with for many years to come, so make sure it’s exactly what you want it to be by customising it where possible. Take some time to inquire with a potential pool builder about the types of customisation options available. For example, you might want to consider a custom lighting package to transform your pool at night, or you may want to explore unique shapes and sizes for your new pool that include safety steps or wading areas for little ones. Just make sure that your builder is confident in completing whatever it is you have in mind before moving forward.
6. Where Will The Pool Be Located?
Having a pool builder show up and start digging a hole without forward planning will only end in tears. Solid planning with regards to pool location is paramount. During the site inspection and planning stage, a quality pool builder should make you aware of the best location for your pool, taking into account local council laws, existing utility pipes and cabling, water run-off, and how much yard can be covered with pool and decking. Your builder should also advise you on pool orientation based on sun and wind exposure and the ease of access for swimmers. A pool will also need to look aesthetically pleasing, which leads us to…
7. What About Landscaping?
If you want a monstrosity that you draw the blinds to avoid seeing, any pool builder should do. But if you want a pool that is the star of your backyard then you want to select a pool builder with experience. Most pool owners will spend more time admiring their new pool from afar, as opposed to swimming in it, so it needs to be an enjoyable feature all year round. Allow your pool to be an extension of your indoor style so it flows naturally out into the yard. Landscaping should integrate the pool into your current design so it appears to have been there forever. If you wish to break your pool area and landscaping away from the home’s design, consider having a changing landscape that leads gradually into the new. Ask your pool builder if they do landscaping or can at least provide the names of reputable landscapers they are happy to work with.
8. What Pool Design?
Rectangular and square will be the limited choice from most pool builders, but others will offer fluid pool designs in almost any shape that will ensure you find the perfect one. Again, you should select something that complements the design elements and architecture of your home. If your home already contains lots of edges, such as eaves and straight pathways, you should stick with a straight edged pool. If your home and garden contains curves, a kidney shaped or round pool may suit best.
9. What About Maintenance?
Nobody likes doing maintenance, regardless of it being a pool or not. No pool is completely maintenance free, but thankfully technology has eased the burden. A choice of multi-speed pumps, in floor pool cleaning systems, Ionisers for water purification, and automatic sanitisers will all make your life easier. Speak to your builder about the options you have for automated maintenance. Some pool interiors also have inherent maintenance benefits, such as an Aqualux interior that is resistant to algae.
10. What’s My Warranty?
Warranties vary between the types of pool chosen. You need to clarify in writing with the builder the terms of your warranty. Ensure you ask:
- What specific items does the pool builder’s warranty cover?
- What is the duration of the warranty?
- What is the process for making a warranty claim?
Some pools, such as fibreglass ones, don’t react well to being drained. This can lead to damage and the costs associated with replacing the water and making garden repairs if works need to be conducted.
Fibreglass pools often come with a ‘split responsibility’ guarantee that are a confusing mix of responsibilities between manufacturer and client, client and installer, or manufacturer and pool installer. Concrete pools are commonly backed by a 6 year 9 month structural warranty with an interior warranty that varies between types; 2 year for tiled and 5-7 years for rendered. Pre-engineered pools are often backed by lengthy 10 year structural warranties and 10 year pool interior warranties.