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Thread: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

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    Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    I am a worrier. Period. I know that. We just signed on the loan for the pool, so we have the financing. Now comes the hard part - decisions. Reading horror story after horror story literally feeds this line of worry. A pool is not a car where if you have some problems, you get it running and trade it in (hopefully for an upgrade). We are planning an 18x36 free form liner pool with a tanning ledge. No other bells and whistles (just won't fit in the budget).

    Our yard has a slope which concerns me. Adding a retaining wall can drive up the cost but I don't want it "built up" on the low side and then put in for the ground to settle. Neither have come and taken measurements yet. (Yet they are both drawing me specs - how in the heck does THAT work?)

    We have narrowed our PB down to two. One is a local contractor. He did a friend's pool and it is gorgeous. She has had it 6 years with zero issue. He has done about 30 pools; mainly a residential builder. He installs Fox pools with Pentair equipment and I don't know how to explain how he does the plumbing, but there are no joints. He "heats" the pipe and curves it around the pool (no, not flex pipe - I asked). He didn't seem to knowledgeable on tanning ledge (said he would have to check) and I think he plans to just put a fiberglass tanning ledge as an attachment. Says he can cut the slope enough to make the ground level, cut the side and lay the decking in a way that will handle drainage. He does NOT have a contractor's license. But he seems meticulous, has been a builder for years and years, seems to have a good rep, and says he has never been sued. LLC is in good standing.

    Other choice is a professional PB and that is all he does. Has put in 2000 pools in 30 years. Kafko pool with Hayward equipment. Says he is licensed and bonded but cannot find a contractor's license listed for him on the state.gov website. Will build a custom tile tanning ledge with bubblers (have seen pics of custom stone/rock work and it is beautiful). He didn't seem concerned with the slope - also said he could cut it out and that a retaining wall would not be necessary. Have found good reviews - one or two neutrals - no negatives. He put in a pool for another friend - wife LOVES it and says they were great (it is a gorgeous pool)/husband says they nickel and dimed them to death and he would never use them (I know - get EVERYTHING in writing). He seemed kind of lackadaisical, almost amused, by my questions. I wasn't sure whether to take it as, "I've done this 2000 times so I know what I'm doing" or "I am telling you the answer you are looking for." Again - a worrier - may have read too much into it. LLC has been "revoked."

    I literally had a 7 page questionnaire about structure, electric, plumbing, equipment, etc. PB 1 couldn't answer some of my questions (have to get back with me) - PB 2 actually filled it out.

    From day to day, I go back and forth over which one I am leaning toward. Is that normal? If so, why does ANYONE put themselves through the agony of pool building?

    I have never owned a pool but from my understanding (correct me if I'm wrong), that as long as the installation is done correctly, the majority of problems incurred are owner related (not maintaining pool/equipment) or manufacturer problems with equipment. It is all that pesky stuff under the ground that I want to make sure is DONE RIGHT.

    Should that freak me out that neither seem to have a contractor's license? Both claim to carry liability insurance/worker's comp/etc. (I know - I will get copies). Both are working on drawings for the description I have given but have not seen either yet, nor do do have final bid from either.

    Do you see red flags or green lights?

    Should I just buy a kiddie pool at WalMart and use the loan to remodel the house and put myself out of this misery?

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    Patrick_B's Avatar
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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    No, not if you want a real pool.

    Welcome to the forum.

    So overall, I like the first guy's attitude, but yes red flags on both. I don't get the warm and fuzzy about his assurance on the drainage. It sounds like you need a retaining wall, but handling slope should be nothing for a qualified PB. If #1 doesn't do pools primarily, what else does he do? Why no Liscense? From what you say, I don't like the attitude of #2. He should welcome and understand your questions. If he has a problem with you asking, then move on.

    Why is it that these two are you narrowed down choices? Are they the best you are left with in your market? If they are, go see pools they built five or more years ago AND pools built recently, then at some point talk to the owners without the builders around. You'll find out what they used to do, and how they operate now. This is a big tell on quality and how they handle their projects. Ask for all the references they are willing to give. The guy with 2000 under his belt should offer more than you'd ever care to look at. The newer one should offer enough old and new he is proud of to satisfy you. Ask your friends what issues they have had after completion, and how those were handled after they were paid. These things will be very telling as well.

    One thing I will stress is to find out what their contract draw schedules are no matter who you choose, these or others. This is also a big tell. Ask what their norm is and see what they say. The absolute bare minimum is 10%, but I wouldn't like less than 15, and 20+ is a whole lot better. Mine's std draw was 25% and it was one reason we chose him. Very few will walk away from that portion, and it speaks to what they will deliver. Yes I had issues, but I always knew I had some leverage at the end. In our final selection of PB's we had one who had 5% as final draw and we cut him off as soon as he said that.

    Lastly, I urge you to read a lot here before you decide on things, and ask questions if you have them. Lots of us have been through this and learned. Research everything on materials, and equipment and whatever you can digest here. Most importantly, try not to get frustrated more than you can help. It's an interesting process and in the end, it's worth all your efforts. It will try you, but the results can be fantastic. Afer all, this is supposed to be for fun right?

    Good luck, and let us know how it goes.
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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    PB 1 is primarily a residential home builder with his own construction business. That is what puzzles me about why he doesn't have a contractor's license. Perhaps he works under someone else's? He said I may need a retaining wall but until he came and measured, he could not tell for sure. He thought visually he might be able to level it out. I like the way le does his plumbing and he said he does most of the work - he only subcontracts the dig. He said he will be here 90% of the time and estimated 4-6 weeks, weather permitting. He said he could do some initial building processes now but many things must wait for warmer temps. As a contractor, not sure poll will be priority if he has houses to build a question I plan to ask.

    PB 2 answered every single question - sat in my living room and literally filled out 7 pages of questions. Has invited me to come watch them put in a pool. When I say he seemed amused, he flat told me that in 30 years he had never filled out a list of questions or been asked so many questions before. (I am a thorough researcher.). He said a retaining wall was not necessary just by looking. Said my electrical was fine without looking at the breaker box. Neither seem to want to give me advise (both have a "you tell me what you want" attitude) but he did suggest putting the pool at an angle for drainage and avoid the retaining wall. I have called every other day with some new question and he has calld back and answered. I have his price list so I know what is included, type f equipment and cost. Not sure how much it will be with extra decking. He only puts in one pool at a time and is at the job 100%..he is the owner. Won't start until Mar 1 but can be done in two weeks, weather permitting. Both expect 40-50% down and then various levels of payment down to ton percent at final. Says it can be dne 2-3 weeks, weather permitting.

    Neither feel pushy. Both are willing to put in the time to measure and draft, give me a visual idea for total cost. Neither have bad reps and I have heard no horror stries on either we met with a third when has quite a negative rep, had alcohol on his breath, and we know he has a few pending lawsuits. He was pushy. He was out quickly. We are limited in choice in our area.

    I don't want a slap dash job that will be disaster waiting, but I also don't want to sign a contract and be later told, "oh, we didn't expect this but you must do this or that. " They both service, maintaine and repair pools here so no worry they would disappear.

    When I get the final specs and bid, I will make a list of pros and cons and go from there. I have insisted on 2" piping and am currently researching panels, construction methods, plumbing and electrical, and the different types of equipment each offers as part of their basic pool,package.

    Scary but exciting. The money is here so I am in no hurry to lock into anything I have time to question and second guess.

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    Mod Squad tim5055's Avatar
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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    First thing is call your city/county and ask what permits are required. A pool isn't the same as a bathroom remodel that you can hide. Most jurisdictions do ariel photography yearly looking for things like pools and room additions. No permit on file gets you a visit from the folks who figure your property taxes (the main reason they do it) and the building inspectors. No permit/no inspection can = a red flag on the house. Some even go to the extent of suspending the certificate of occupancy meaning a disconnect from utilities.

    Now, while you are talking to them ask about licenses. Some jurisdictions have no licence requirements for pool builders. There are differences in those that do require licensed trades. Some are at the state level, some at the county/city level. Believe it or not the building department and their inspectors are there to help you and protect your family.

    Any contract you sign should require permits and inspections.

    The final draw should hold back more than 10%.
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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    We went with our gut on who we wanted to work with and it all worked out. Have they given you prices yet? If not, did you just get an open line of credit for the financing? It is a huge decision and nothing wrong with asking them questions. Nothing is perfect or will go perfect but if you go with the person who you think you will work best with and will work best with you, then when problems arise it is that much easier.
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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    You are totally right to question everything, its a large amount of coin you are spending so your satisfaction should be the PB's first concern. PB#2 in my opinion seems the way to go.

    If your house is new construction or failry new he probably knows the box can handle the electrical load. (suprised he did not check box)

    We have a tanning ledge with lighted bubblers and love it.

    Taking on a project of this size that will last for 4-6 (or more) months you will experience a rollercoaster of emotions. Your backyard will look like a bomb went off, I was so frustrated at times when progressed slowed but in the end it all came together. Problems will occur as with any project of this size make sure you and PB are on the same page.

    Congrats on your decision, hope this helps and looking forward to the build pics!
    Completed 38'X21' IG Free form pool approx 18.5K gallons, sports pool w/spa and tanning shelf 3.5-5.5 ft. Jandy Cartridge Filter, Jandy stealth pumps, Jandy LXi Heater, I aqualink, Inline chlorinator. Click to see My Pool Build

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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    Our house was built in 2004.

    We did a home equity line of credit loan. It has a limit but no payment until we draw on it so not in a rush. That is part of why I worry - we do have a budget and I don't want big added expenses that should have been accounted for beforehand. PB 2 has specs drawn out and is meeting with us today to go over and, I hope, give final bid. I am not a builder but I don't understand how he could have specs without any measurements?

    I will check in licensing requirements. We are in county so we don't need permit or fencing.

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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    This sure brings back memories of that pre-contract phase of excitement and nervousness! But having found TFP 6 months before signing a contract made it all manageable for us. My first recommendation is to consider a donation to the site. The information you will gain from it is literally priceless. We did need a retaining wall due to our slope. In fact, the slope was such that the hardscape around the pool itself defined the project. So we ended up going with a landscape company as the GC. They subbed out the pool work to one guy who they use exclusively. That PB also works on his own but I was glad to have the oversight of our unbelievable knowledgeable and wiling to answer a million questions landscape company owner. But the actual contract (actually 2 - one for pool and one for hardscape - decking and wall/steps) were with the landscape company. It was a bit of an unusual arrangement from what I've seen on here but worked well. Looking at landscape companies could end up yielding an under the radar pool builder. Our cost was 2/3rds pool/autocover/accessories and 1/3rd decking/retaining wall - none of which was insignificant.

    On the slope issue and whether you need a retaining wall, you should be able to do some measuring and math (and perhaps a gut feel if you are of that mind) to see if YOU think you need one. Then that can be compared to what the PB's say. I had a 6' drop over 35' run (width of pool and decking - flat space). I estimated that I'd need a 3' wall and that the pool would be able to be out of the ground about 3'. That's almost exactly what ended up happening. The wall is only 2 1/2' tall though because as the ground was sloping down to get to the pool area (separated from the house) they increased the grade for the last 3' or so and dropped the ground level about 6", thus reducing the height of the wall by 6" over a 65' long run. If you look at our Pool Build thread in my signature, you'll see some very interesting pictures of dealing with our slope. Page 1 doesn't show the full extent of the cut, but by page 2, they had cut back into the hill far enough for the decking on the upper side. On the downhill side, if you have decking, it will need to be supported by piers for something else to avoid settling - a huge concern of mine. We will have zero settling because of how they engineered our bulwark which supports the far side decking. About 3/4 of the spoils from the dig were used on the downhill side to grade it back down to the existing level. The remaining were distributed in an area farther down the property.

    On equipment, as long as they are selecting equipment up to snuff (which you should run by the group here), within the major manufacturers lines, you will not likely have any issues. Hayward, Pentair and Jandy are all very popular here with no clear victor among them from what people seem to report. That said, many will have their individual thoughts and one manufacturer may have a better solution for you, but in all likelihood, any will be just fine. Be sure to have every model number of every piece of equipment, diving board, light, etc. documented in the contract - regardless of how much the PB may comment that it's not necessary or they've never done it before.

    Best of luck and try not to stress so much. You are taking the correct approach and it will serve you well.
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    Mod Squad kimkats's Avatar
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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    Oh fun! Another build we get to help with!

    I LOVE helping others spend their money! LOL

    Please let us know what you need and someone should be able to help you out!

    In fact go ahead and take some pics of your yard and let us look at it!

    Kim
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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    How can they pull permits without a license? Or be bonded?
    Both sound shady unless licenses aren't required where you're at.
    The guy who claims 2000 pools is probably lying. Do the math. That's s lot of pools. How could he give any attention to that many pools?
    Be careful. It's a lot of money on the line and something that will change your yard/ life forever.
    Just an opinion...

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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    Had a former contractor who is a friend come look. We have about a 3' drop in slope from the far corner of where the deep end will be to the corresponding near corner of the shallow end. We plan for the deep end of the pool to be on the high end of the slope - which he said was good bc you have to dig out more for the deep end. Not sure if I am making sense.

    PB 2 came today with a drawing. I love the shape and where he plans the tanning ledge. A couple of disappointments - he had the deep in the middle. I think that was a misunderstanding bc of some step placements and he said that was easily fixed. He did not have the extra decking figured in and I kept trying to nail him down on how much extra sq footage it would be with what I wanted vs what is included. I ended up where I started - trying to figure the cost myself. He said he has a contractor's license but when I told him he is not listed on the state.gov website it became, "I better have a license. If my wife let that lapse I will be angry. I will get back with you on that." His license number is not listed on the copy of the blank contract. Not sure this matters, but it was just a hand drawn picture that included nothing about slope or placement or angle. I will try to take pics of yard tomorrow and post but my daughter is in homecoming tomorrow and it has been a hectic week.

    He said he will do it without a retaining wall. He will dig out 1 1/2 to 2 feet on the high end and build up a foot on the low end - using the excavated dirt. When I asked about settling, he said it will be fine, he will pack it down, and he will use gravel as backfill and gravel doesn't settle. He plans to slope the decking and the ground around it for drainage.

    We have a 20x20 pad of concrete this will be adjacent to and someday want to build a pergola upon. He said he can connect the pool decking to it with a walkway. Says it won't need steps but will have about a one foot gradual slope. When he left, our buddy had us stand on the corner of the pad and showed us that cutting out two feet and building up that foot would have about 1 1/2 foot drop to that pad and he could not see how it wouldn't need at least one step.

    Then he let us know that in AR any work over $2000 requires a contractor's license.

    County says no, we need no permits. They did not know if pool builders need any kind of license nor did they know who to contact. Tax dollars working hard, right there.

    PB 2 does not have a contractor's license either. Asked him last night and he immediately admitted no.

    (Sigh)

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    Mod Squad kimkats's Avatar
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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    Hugs! Start asking around to find some more PB. Both of these sound like trouble waiting to happen.

    Kim
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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    image.jpg

    Hope this attaches. This is what he brought.

    2000 pools/35 years = 57 pools/year

    Hmmm.....

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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    yeah, that's more than 1 a week with no breaks. not even possible...
    -Jimbo- My pool was full of dirt and trees. Now it's full of water and children!
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    Mod Squad kimkats's Avatar
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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    I am NOT impressed! That drawing is about an unprofessional as you can get. No scale, no depths, no details.

    Run away to a different pool builder.

    Kim
    TFP Moderator 33x52 round AG 25,600 gals Sand Filter 1.5hp Pump - 2 Speed, SLAM, Pool School, Recommended Levels, Recommended Chemicals, Pool Math, Chlorine/CYA Chart, TF-100 Test Kit

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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    I was in your shoes a little bit a year ago. Was on a bit of a budget, have a vinyl lined inground pool. While this forum is great and helpful, most of the pools posted here are far out oy my price point, so it was hard to relate. I will only share a few things that your story made me think of.

    If you are worried about the contractor, ask for a few references, and just call those people. Of course he is going to pick the best references, but you can be creative with questions. Maybe something like how was "the pool build" different than what you had been told before. Something that invites honest answers without immediately asking something blatant like how did the PB screw you over.

    I have no idea what your backyard looks like, but when i look at the sketch, the first thing that I see is a concrete deck with no usable space. There is no room anywhere to put a couple for lounge chairs for example. People will congregate in certain areas, shallow end, near the steps, where the sun faces. So make sure that you have enough concrete to allow people to pass each other. Looking at just that picture, if someone is sitting on the edge of the pool with their feet in it, it will be hard for anyone to walk around them

    My vinyl pool, which is 20x40 oval has a sun deck built into the top step. Hard to describe but I will try. You can now get concrete stairs and have the vinyl liner cut so that the liner just goes over the concrete. This in instead of the traditional fiberglass insert steps. The top stair is 6 feet deep by 9 feet wide, and acts as a fantastic sun deck. The downside of using the steps is that you have to have the sun deck depth the height of the top step or the next lower step. This is not my pool but is an example.
    http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/73...d5a02bf364.jpg
    I did this because it was a nice cost saving feature for me.

    Where I live the ground is very dense, lots of rocks and very much clay. I put the shallow end of the pool on the high side of the hill because that was closest to my house, and logically you enter the pool at the steps, and I wanted the step to be closest to the house. They built up the dirt around the deep end, but the deep end sat on dirt that was not fill. They put the concrete on some fill, but honestly with our dirt and the compaction they did, I am not worried. I would not have allowed the pool floor to be on fill.

    Speaking of stairs, I see that the pool has two sets of stairs. Good in theory, but will the traffic flow honestly justify the cost of the second stairs. I know that the steps collect more debris in my pool than anything as they sort of break up the circulation a bit, so I would not want a second set.

    Something my PB told me that I ultimately agree strongly with. You can go with a free form pool, and interest to your back yard with its shape. Or, you can go with a traditional oval shape, and interest with the shape of the concrete deck around it and landscaping / retaining walls around the pool, which is what we ultimately did. It costs more to build the freeform pool than a traditional rectangle or oval, as the kits cost more.
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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    Here is an image of the pool we went with to give you an idea of what I am referring to if you find it helpful at all. The pool is actually an oval. It looks slightly like a kidney shape due to the panorama mode on my camera
    2014-08-09 15.48.25 (Medium).jpg
    IG W/Vinyl Liner Oval 18x40, 21K gal, Oval 3'-8'
    Pentair Intelliflo VS Pump, Sand Filter

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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    Quote Originally Posted by vpace74 View Post
    image.jpg

    Hope this attaches. This is what he brought.

    2000 pools/35 years = 57 pools/year

    Hmmm.....

    This drawing and your research reminds me a lot of what BeaderBiker's (Eva's) thread started with. She even posted a napkin one of the builders sent to her with their quote. Glad you are doing your due diligence.
    http://www.troublefreepool.com/threa...ool-bid-please
    http://www.troublefreepool.com/threa...na-Build-is-ON!!!

    -Karen
    Last edited by RangerBob; 01-16-2015 at 10:40 AM. Reason: adding additional thread
    New in 2017, will update

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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    Presenting an alternate viewpoint...I will say I think the drawing looks pretty nice though it isn't what you wanted and doesn't have all the details. Not all PB's (and people in general) are tech savvy providing wham-bam graphics, etc. but that doesn't mean they can't build a very nice pool. They are different skill sets. It may just mean that you need to create the documentation that gets both of you on the same page. If you're not interested in that approach, then another PB may be a better choice.
    18'x38' Rectangle (3'-8 1/2' deep w/ diving board) - 27K gal. w/ gray plaster
    Hayward equipment (cartridge filter, 2-speed pump, SWCG, automation) View Our Build
    Coverstar automatic pool cover | StoneMakers concrete retaining wall and decking
    Spring 2013 Build | Dolphin Active 20 robot cleaner | Support TFP!

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    Re: Very Nervous Newbie Needing Advice!

    Quote Originally Posted by kimkats View Post
    I am NOT impressed! That drawing is about an unprofessional as you can get. No scale, no depths, no details.
    Run away to a different pool builder.
    Kim
    I respectfully and strongly disagree. It's a prelim drawing for a visual. It has to start somewhere and a hand drawing is fine for a start and certainly no reason to exclude a builder.

    OP: I lean toward #2 for experience level, and likelihood of his focus versus #1. I encourage you to go see a build and whatever else he will show you. With a 40-50% down which is UNUSUALLY high, I would insist more on the final draw. That is a lot to ask for up front, especially from a veteran builder. Get prices/specs from both and see where that goes. Do follow up with what I suggested in my first post and it will help you decide. After spec and pricing it may be an easier choice between the two, but check out all you can for the best objectivity.
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