I have been mostly lurking around here, trying to gather information (and drooling over these pool builds!)
We have been in our house in Orange County, CA for 2 years now. It has an existing inground spa, but my husband and I are looking to add a pool with covered patio and firepit. Our last house in FL had a pool that was put in by the previous owner, and my husband misses being able to hang out in the pool with a beer, and watch the outdoor tv. So this is the first time we would be doing a pool build.
I have met with some companies that were rated well from the BBB and/or yelp, Angie's list, Houzz, and a couple of recommendations from posting on my community's online bulletin board asking for recommendations. So far I have seen:
-PB #1 showed us a preliminary 3d design on his laptop, detailed quote, emailed us a 2d image from the rendering as well as excel spreadsheet for figuring cost.
-PB #2 provided and left us with a 2d plan, fairly detailed quote. Said would provide 3d drawing upon signing with them.
-PB #3 showed us a rough plan, and left us with a very rough, undetailed estimate. I only have my scribbled drawing from when he showed us his plan. Has been resistant to sending us a drawing we can keep and review, and is resistant to even giving us names/numbers of references. (He was the lowest and seemed desperate, he is out just based on how shady he seems to be.)
-PB #4 provided 2d plan, not as detailed as PB#2, a couple of references in our community, fairly detailed quote
-PB #5 gave us the name of the design firm he recommended, said he would only talk to us once we had a plan from a designer.
-PB #6, got the name from someone in our community who is finishing up a build with them. PB and homeowner invited me to see what they've done (gorgeous!) and came out with his plumber to do detailed measurements. Waiting for drawing & estimate.
-PB #7, came out to see what we had in our yard, then recommended contacting design firm (same one as PB#5) for plan, they would give us credit for cost of design if we went with them. Essentially wasted 1.5 hours of my life just chatting up a storm, wish he would have said that was how he worked rather than met with us first.
The design firm that was recommended to us was highly rated on Houzz, and would charge $2k+ for a design, which would take 6-10 weeks start to finish. (for just the design!) They have elaborate 3d designs and "flythroughs," which apparently give you a really good feel for how the completed project will work. The reason PB#7 recommended him over others was the fact that my husband really wants no part in all the planning for this, he just wants a finished product in our backyard, AND he travels a lot, so the pool designs can all be viewed remotely and at his convenience.
Part of me thinks it's better to spring for the designer, then take that design to bid out. Otherwise we may not be comparing apples to apples, when it comes to pool size/shape/volume, etc.
What do most people do? Is it really worth paying for an outside designer to come up with something we love?
Sorry this post is so long, just very confused, and with how much this is all going to cost, I want to be sure I'm going about this the right way!