How To Pick Your Builder
Wimberley Pools & Spas wants you to know as much as you can about your swimming pool purchase before you sign a contract with us, or anyone else. We want you to be delighted with your pool – now and in the years to come. Your ultimate pool happiness all starts with the selections that you are about to make. We hope that this brochure gives you the guidance and information that you need in order to make the best decision possible. We wish you many years of healthy enjoyment in your new swimming pool.
The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) is the international trade association for the swimming pool and spa/hot tub industry. With more than 5,000 members across the U.S. and world, APSP represents all facets of the industry, including manufacturers, retailers, and supply firms, in addition to builders.
When choosing a pool builder, you should look for the ASPA logo. ASPA members adhere to stringent business ethics and have access to nationally recognized construction standards.
Armed with the knowledge of what ASPA is and the benefits to you of choosing a builder who is a ASPA member, we suggest interviewing prospective builders, asking them a series of questions to determine their technical knowledge and ability, their business stability and experience, their professional reputation and credibility, and their commitment to customer satisfaction.
Following is a list of 14 questions that will help you make the best choice.
1. Where Is The Pool Builder’s Place Of Business?
A pool builder’s mobility is often a key factor in establishing whether or not he is reputable. So, you should do some investigative research. For example, if he lives in a van or RV, he can leave in a blink of an eye with your money. A builder with this kind of maximum mobility can be a bad choice. Common sense dictates that a builder operating his business from a motel apartment is also a potential risk.
Look for a pool builder who has a long-term lease for office space in a commercial building, or owns his own property. Also, check if he/she owns their own home. A pool builder with strong ties to the community isn’t as much of a flight risk. An established builder cannot get out of town quickly, and more importantly does not intend to do so. A well known builder is also more likely to have the financial resources to take care of things if there is a problem with your pool that was unforeseen.
Your main reward for choosing a pool builder who is “stable” and not “mobile”? When you inquire as to when he is going to begin construction (after paying 15% to 30% down) you won’t hear a seventeen word recording that has stopped hearts all over the country: “I’m sorry, that number is no longer in service and there is no list for that company”.
2. Does The Pool Builder Have A Showroom?
A showroom gives you an open forum to view the products that the pool builder has to offer before signing a contract. This helps to establish the company’s credibility. When you visit a pool builder’s place of business or showroom, it puts responsibility on him/her to represent the products and craftsmanship in a fair and honest fashion. Obviously, maintaining a place of business is more expensive than carrying around a picture book of his “projects” but, at the same time, it reduces the mobility factor.
Pool builders who demonstrate what they can do in their own place of business or showroom, show they are serious about maintaining good quality work and a good reputation. That is not to say that a reputable pool builder cannot demonstrate his craft and workmanship in a less formal setting. For instance, you can ask him to arrange a meeting at a home where he has built a pool. This provides you with a reference and an opportunity to talk directly to a pool owner who has worked with him. Remember: a customer-oriented pool builder is more than two guys, a shovel, and a pick-up truck.
3. How Many Years Has The Pool Builder Been In Business Under Their Present Name?
The rule of thumb is that if a pool builder has been in business less than three years, forget it. Why risk your home and your financial investment?
Be safe and only seek out a pool builder who has been in business for a minimum of three years. The more pools a professional builder has installed during those years, the better for you – it’s called experience. It also provides you with ample opportunity for references and establishes a track record for you to research!
4. How Many Projects Has The Pool Builder Installed That Qualify His Company To Build Your Pool?
This is just the first attempt to ferret out the inexperienced, inept, or blatantly dishonest pool builder. The important thing to do is get a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers for those of whom the builder claims to have done work for, and then check them out as references. This extra effort will pay off when it comes time to make your final decision on a inground pool professional. A professional pool builder will be more than willing to give you the information.
5. Has The Pool Builder, His Partners, The Owners, Or Officers Of The Company Gone Out Of Business Or Declared Bankruptcy?
This is an easy question to answer. Those who have not will respond with resounding “NO”. Those who have won’t tell you. You won’t hear from them again.
6. What Bank Does The Pool Builder Do Business With?
As you may know, the banking industry is in almost constant fluctuation. Another important thing to find out, is the bank where the inground pool builder currently does business, how long the builder has been with this bank, and the names of other banks where he has had accounts since doing business. However, take into account that a builder could have changed banks due to changes in bank ownership or bank policies. But, ask the question – it’s another step to ensure that you are protected.
7. Are Checks Made Payable To A Business Account Or To A Personal Account?
When a company name and the principal’s name are the same, it can be difficult to discern business bank accounts. However, there are some telltale signs that will help establish a pool builder’s credibility.
For example, if the pool builder’s name is Johnny Smith, you want to ensure that he isn’t looking for the check to be made out to”Johnny Smith”. Be wary if it is, since he could go to your bank and cash the check and avoid paying any state or federal income taxes. This breaks the bylaws of the IRS and ultimately you might be held accountable should they decide to perform an audit.
If you write a check to a company that is incorporated (“Inc.”), or has the principal’s name as part of the company name (e.g. “Johnny Smith Pool Construction Co.”), the bank has to deposit the check into the pool builder’s checking account and it has to go onto his books.
8. What Insurance Company Represents The Pool Builder For General And Personal Liability? What Are The Limits?
A pool builder may show you a policy, but that does not mean that policy is active. You should request a “Certificate of Insurance”. It can only be sent out by the insurance company and will confirm coverage. A professional pool builder will provide you with a contact at the insurance company to verify their policy.
The “Certificate of Insurance” sets the parameters of the policy by detailing the limits of it and the expiration date of the policy. However, if the pool builder misses the monthly premium payment, the policy will expire sooner. The insurance company is supposed to notify the policyholder if it expires.
Unfortunately, this is not always done and some people, who think they have insurance, really do not. The key thing to remember is when a pool builder goes out of business, all of the pools he has “half-built” are no longer insured!
9. Are The Pool Builder’s Subcontractors Covered By General Liability Insurance?
A subcontractor is someone who is not an employee of the pool builder. He could be a plumber, laborer, electrician, or gunite shooter. A professional pool builder requires that all subcontractors carry liability insurance, and the pool builder will keep track of the insurance certificates of their subcontractors. If the certificate is not on file when he has his yearly insurance audit, then he is required to pay all of the uninsured subcontractors’ insurance premiums.
10. Will The Pool Builder’s Insurance Company Send You A Certificate Of Insurance?
They won’t send you a certificate unless you request it. It has to come directly from the insurance company to you, in order to guarantee that the policy is valid. A professional pool builder will provide you with a contact at the insurance company. A dishonest pool builder will just shows you his copy, which could have altered policy dates.
11. Does The Pool Builder Belong To Any Trade Or Business Organizations? If So, Which Ones.
If a pool builder belongs to a trade association, this does not ensure competency or trustworthiness, but, at the least, shows that the pool builder has some kind of interest in his own industry.
Even if the pool builder isn’t active in the organization, he still would receive information on a regular basis about activities and programs the association has for its members. As indicated in the front of this brochure, the primary organization for pool builders is the ASAP.
Although ASAP has incorporated a code of ethics in its membership criteria, it has no authority to intervene in disputes between a pool builder and customer. The only one who can protect your investment is you, and you must never sign a contract until you are 100% certain of the decision that you are making. If you are not sure, and sign anyway, you may loss a tremendous amount of capital and have nothing to show for it.
12. Have The Pool Builder Give You The Names Of At Least One Supplier With Whom He Has Done Business For A Minimum Of Three Years.
Another important reference is from the suppliers that the builder has used. Suppliers who get paid by a pool builder will be more than happy to let you know it.
After they tell you, there’s only one more precaution to take: do business ONLY with someone who pays his bills. If the pool builder doesn’t pay the suppliers bills, the homeowner gets taken again (they probably paid the pool builder in advance and he may have used the money elsewhere) since suppliers can file liens against the property where the materials were delivered.
13. Will The Pool Builder Furnish Lien Waivers From Vendors And Subcontractors To Prove They Have Been Paid?
A lien waiver is a receipt showing that a specific or unspecific amount has been paid and that the vendor has no lien rights against the home. A vendor or subcontractor can only file liens against the residence they deliver to or work on.
Unwary pool buyers can have liens filed against their homes for sometimes thousands of dollars more than they should have. When a bad pool builder goes bankrupt, which he ultimately will, who is held responsible (again)?
But when your pool is complete, you should have compiled lien waivers from all vendors and subcontractors to prove you don’t have to pay them again. The point is that a lien waiver is the only legal insurance that you don’t have to pay twice. A professional pool builder will provide lien waivers for all the materials used for your pool – no questions asked.
14. Will The Pool Builder Furnish A List Of Everyone Who Has Lien Rights On Your Pool?
YOU should know everyone who is working on your pool. This way, you will know who has lien rights. You should also know who’s wandering around your house at any given time.
Having a pool built can be an exciting time for you and your family. We hope this booklet has provided you with useful information to make the process an enjoyable and easy experience. Some of these questions are tough and not every pool builder will achieve all of the rigorous standards we have outlined for you. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad pool builders or are unscrupulous. They may be excellent builders. But it’s going to take some work on your part to do the research and the references and probe the pool builder for all the information you need to make the best decision for you and your family.
At Wimberley Pools & Spas, we can provide all the aforementioned documentation, a great reputation, and some of the best pool installation experts. Contact us today for an inground pool consultation!