10 Questions You Should Ask Your Pool Builder Before Signing The Contract:
(Award 10 points for each question answered to your satisfaction)
#1. Where is your office?
Make a tour of your prospective builder’s office. This will tell you a lot about his financial stability, and the time and care he takes in organizing and running his business. If he does not have an office, he is not committed to service and his stability is questionable.
#2. Do you have a Louisiana State Contractor’s License?
The state of Louisiana requires a license for every construction contract that is $50,000 or over. The state also enforces the builder’s responsibility to carry insurance. If your builder does not have a Louisiana State Contractor’s License, it is doubtful that he is committed to being around for a long time. Ask for a copy of the license and call the State Contractor’s Licensing Board for verification.
#3. How long have you been in business under the same name?
We see ads all of the time where a first year pool builder claims to have10, 15, even 30 years experience. You have to ask, “experience at what?” If the builder has less than 5 years of documented swimming pool construction experience, you are taking a chance with your money. Just because an individual has sold pools, or performed some phase of pool construction, this does not qualify him as an experienced pool builder.
#4. Do you have any form of formal training or certification of your ability?
The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (A.P.S.P) offers training and certification programs that are available to all pool builders. The certification they offer to pool builders is called the “Certified Building Professional” or C.B.P. To have this certification, one must pass an exam that covers all phases of pool construction, design, and safety. If your builder has not taken the time to acquire this certification, you might ask him why.
#5. Do you have a service department?
The “one-polers” as we call them, usually do quite well in the beginning. They have little or no overhead and, in many cases, they can offer excellent service “in the beginning.” As the number of pools they complete grows, however, it becomes impossible to offer any service at all. They are too wrapped up in completing the jobs they are on. A separate service department offering repairs, warranty service, and cleaning service puts the builder in a position to offer all of his clients excellent service after the sale. Would you buy a car from a dealer who had no service department?
#6. What organizations do you belong to?
Organizations like Aquatech, the Better Business Bureau, the Home Builder’s Association, the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, and others almost insure that you are dealing with a creditable and honest individual, who is also civic minded, and cares about his community and his industry. These organizations do a good job of keeping the builder informed and in-tune with current standards, and acquaints him with the other business leaders in the community.
#7. What type of swimming pool equipment do you use and what is the basis for your selection?
We see many of our competitors who use equipment manufactured by 3 or 4 different companies. In most cases, the basis for their selection is price. If your builder is not willing to pay a little extra for a better piece of mechanical equipment, you might question how he is saving money in other areas. Usually builders approach a project with a certain “mind-set”. Is their motive to give you the least and make the highest percentage of profit, or are they willing to spend a little more on each line item to make your product better? Doing this sometimes makes a good company less competitive price-wise, but as the saying goes “you usually get what you pay for.”
#8. Can you explain your hydraulic plan for this pool?
It may surprise you that many builders you will encounter will place their surface skimmers, return jets, and suction points randomly, with no pre-conceived plan of operation. I have seen many expensive pools with “dead spots” that have no circulation, due to the builder’s attempt to save a little money by not installing an extra skimmer or an extra jet. Water should circulate around the pool in a circular manner with all of the jets pushing together to bring floating debris to a strategically located surface skimmer. If your builder has not thought of how he is going to circulate your water efficiently, or if his circulation plan is illogical, you had better find another builder. Skimmers and jets are hard to install after the fact.
#9. How will you disinfect the water in this pool?
Over the past 14 years, salt chlorination has proven itself time and time again to be superior to any other disinfection method. Many builders will not offer it, not because it is not effective, but because it is more expensive than the cheap “dime-store” product they offer. Electronic Salt Chlorinators cost two to three times what the typical ozone generator or mineral sanitizer cost. Plus, the salt chlorinator requires installation and service. Here again, we must look at the intent of the builder. If he can save $1,000 on the purchase of a device that you believe is equal, his profit is enhanced at your expense.
#10. Can you give me a list of 50 business or professional people you have worked for over the past 10 years?
Business and professional people generally know what is happening in the business community. A company that has the ability to satisfy and maintain cordial relations with these clients has the capability and experience to satisfy you also. Ask for references.
For those of you who choose to disregard this advice, and to make your choice solely on the basis of price, I offer you the following quote from John Ruskin:
“It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money, that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought is incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot. It can’t be done. If you are to deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better”
“There is hardly anything in the world that someone can’t make a little worse, and sell a little cheaper, and those who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.”