From Craig Stevenson, Owner

Talk of our industry can sometimes lead first time pool buyers to be very nervous about hiring and proceeding with a construction project when they hear of other homeowner’s bad experiences with one company or another. As in any industry, there are plenty of good pool companies and a few who ruin it for the rest of us by being downright awful. Here, we try in every way to not make the same mistake twice, to learn something new that helps us get better every day and I believe that 99% of our previous clients would not hesitate to hire us again. In my time in this industry I have learned many ways in which we can help promote good experiences for our clients, and I have also learned that in some situations there is nothing we can do, but maybe some things our clients could have done, to prevent the occasional not-so-great experience. Below, I will offer my advice to you, the pool buyer, to consider the things you can control in order to help yourself have a good experience whether you choose to hire my company or any other.

Pool Buyer Advice
Timing of your project
This is a big one to consider. Have you been to Disney World in summer? Or Six Flags? Or, have you walked in to a popular restaurant without reservations on a Saturday night at 7:00? There are times when certain industries have an imbalance of supply / demand. Set your expectations accordingly and consider building in cooler seasons prior to summer instead of building when the industry is at its peak season.
The tale of two pools
Both similar in size and materials, both started on the same week, both completed on the same week. One owner commented, “I love my pool but getting through the construction part was very stressful; it took too long, the backyard looked like a wreck, and there was dirt and dust everywhere and it just looked way too messy for way too long.” The other owner told me, “That was the best construction experience we ever had. It went so quickly, the yard was so clean and the crews didn’t leave trash all over the place as we have seen before. We can’t believe how easy it was.” The difference between these projects? Nothing more than this simple difference – PERSPECTIVE! The owner who felt it took too long and was too messy had never built a pool or any other major construction project previously. This was the third pool for the other owner who felt that it was a great experience.
Details
Have you ever seen the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry remodels his kitchen and the contractor asks him about every little detail until it drives Jerry crazy and he yells, “Just make a decision on your own and finish my kitchen!”? I have had clients who have seen their flagstone coping installed and have then requested us to remove any triangle pieces and install all rectangles. I have had clients who have seen their flagstone coping installed and have then requested us to remove rectangle pieces and install triangles. I have had clients ask us to bring in sandy loam to cover the natural clay soil around the pool after we were done because “grass won’t grow in that [existing clay soil]”. I have had a client ask us to vacuum up the sandy loam we brought in to the yard after we were done because “grass won’t grow in that [sandy loam]”. Yes, we actually used a vacuum cleaner in a client’s yard. I could go on but I will assume you get the picture with these examples. And I say to these phenomena: to each, their own. Usually we hear from the client in these situations, “I don’t know why they did this, but….” It is neither possible nor reasonable for a contractor to ask you about every minor technique or scenario. Consider any detail that might be important to you and let us know. We are here to help and we do review any option that is normally in question, but please understand that what you might consider normal may be completely opposite from the last client.
Life’s particularly stressful times
Think about putting off your pool plans for another year. I have noticed a pattern from those clients who have expressed the greatest amount of frustration with the construction process. That is, they almost always admit to having factors that make that time particularly bad for taking on a construction project. I have heard things like, “My wife will be having a baby next month and I am starting a new job that requires me to work a lot of hours right now” and, “My father just passed away and mom is coming to live with us and she is not in good health.” We could feel the stress they had in their lives at the time and we could see how bad the timing was for them to be going through the installation process. Of course we did all we could to help, but the fact is they did not have a good experience and there was little we could realistically do to change that. Don’t rush the pool. Wait until it is a good time for you and your family to have fun with the installation.
Common Sense
Finally, I would suggest using your common sense when choosing a pool builder. The lowest price usually means the lowest quality and service. Everyone wants a great deal of course. But if one pool company is 20% less than your other quotes for what seems to be the same general design details, chances are you are not getting the same quality, customer service, stability in the company you are choosing, energy efficiency, etc. In my experience most companies are within 5% of each other when the exact details are compared. Here at Custom Outdoor Trends, we generally net around 10% profit. A company that is routinely 15% lower on the same details will not stay in business. Check the BBB for low complaints. Understand that across all businesses some online complaints and accolades are fake or may have been posted by a customer who had unrealistic expectations. And in general trust your instincts. Choose a pool builder you feel comfortable with. In the end, a thousand dollar premium or a thousand dollar discount is not what matters. A good feeling through the installation and a good relationship with your builder should be your focus.
I hope this helps those homeowners looking for their first pool in particular. I think most of these points are figured out organically once a person has built a pool or two, but for the first time buyer, choosing the right builder and the right time to build can be a daunting task. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.