How to pick a pool builder


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For most of us, building a pool fulfills a bit of a personal dream. We have visions of spending the summer in the backyard with friends and family, cooking hamburgers on the grill, enjoying a few drinks and just enjoying ourselves. Unfortunately, that dream can become a nightmare if you don't choose the right pool builder.

The right builder can help you achieve your goals and make a backyard pool, spa, or kitchen that fits your needs and your budget and can be enjoyed for years to come. The wrong builder can cost you time, money, and rob you of your dream. With a little investigating and diligence on your part, you can minimize the chance of getting ripped off and left holding the bill.

Before choosing a builder, you first need to determine what type of pool you would like to build. The type of pool you build will be based on several factors such as personal taste, geographic location, and budget.

Begin by finding out what type of pools builders in your area are building. Are they predominantly in ground, above ground, gunite, fiberglass, etc? Determine which is suitable for your area, and what type suits your lifestyle and budget. I think one of the best questions you can ask other pool owners, is "If you were starting over, what would you have done differently?" Learn from other peoples experience and mistakes. In my case, I wish I had wired in extra lighting around the side of my pool and in my landscaping. Sure, I can do it now but it will cost more and be more trouble than if I had done it during my build.

Once you know the type of pool you want, you can begin to look at designs. Look at the websites of any pool company that builds your type of pool. You'll quickly realize that there are many ways to design a pool. The more you view, the more you will find what works best for you.

Next you'll want to get a basic understanding of pool equipment. You don't have to be an expert, but you should know the pros and cons of various pieces of equipment. Do you want a DE (diatomaceous earth) filter, cartridge filter, or something else? Will you chlorinate your pool with a simple feeder or maybe a saltwater chlorine generator? The list goes on, but you get the point. By having some understanding of what the equipment options are, you will be better prepared to ask the right questions of prospective builders.

Now you need to develop a list of potential builders. Start with any personal references from friends and family who have built pools. A reference from someone you already know and trust is a great place to start. You can also drive around your area and look for gunite trucks or any other tell tale signs outside a house where a pool build is underway. Don't be afraid to knock on the door and ask the owner how things are going and how they feel about their builder.

Once you have a list of builders, start to narrow them down. Check your list against the Better Business Bureau ( Find out how long they have been in business. You don't want to be the guinea pig for a new builder. Let a few other people have that luxury. You want someone who has been around awhile and is likely to be around in the future. The last thing you want to do is find yourself with a big hole in your backyard and a builder who has skipped town - it happens all the time!

The BBB will also tell you how many complaints a builder has had. You don't necessarily have rule out a company because they have had a few complaints. Anyone who has been in business for awhile, in any field of construction, is bound to have some complaints. The BBB will let you know how many of those complaints were resolved. Unresolved complaints should serve as a red flag. If you are considering a builder with some complaints, ask them about the complaints. Find out how they were resolved and see if you can get the contact information of the customers. A pool build is kind of like a wedding. They rarely go off without a hitch. The biggest difference between a good builder and a poor one is how they deal with their mistakes.

Once you have narrowed your list to between 3 and 5 builders, start making appointments. Schedule each one a day or two apart so that you can make an apples to apples comparison. Each company will have it's pros and cons and they will each have their own unique sales pitch. Some of them will make your pool design by hand on a piece of graph paper and others will have elaborate computer software to do the job. Either method is fine. They will also have their own preferences on equipment. Some may rave about ionic purification while another may tell you it's bunk and that a standard chlorine feeder is all you'll ever need - others still, will prefer a saltwater chlorine generator. This is where all your research will come in. You'll already have a working knowledge so you won't be so easily impressed with a good sales pitch. Remember, just because a builder may prefer a certain method, or brand, does not mean they can't or won't build to YOUR specifications. You are the customer!

A good salesperson will try to match your needs to your budget and come up with something that fits both. They may also open your eyes to new possibilities you had not considered. I recommend going online and doing some research after each meeting to verify any new information and get others opinions.

This next statement is important. DO NOT SIGN A CONTRACT DURING YOUR FIRST APPOINTMENT. Should I say that again? DO NOT SIGN A CONTRACT DURING YOUR FIRST APPOINTMENT. Wait until after you have met with each builder and carefully considered all your options. You may find that builder number three put together a better package than builder one, but you may just be more comfortable with builder one. If that is the case, make a second appointment and give any of the builders you liked a second chance to compete on price and benefits. Don't be afraid to haggle and ask for some free upgrades.

Another of life's lessons that I hope we have all already learned is get it in writing. If a builder tells you he is going to give you "xyz" for free, have him write it in your contract. Your salesman may not be with that company next week. You want proof of what was promised.

Finally, when arranging payment, the builder will layout a payment plan. They'll want a large percentage before they dig and additional percentages at each stage of construction. If possible, arrange it so that each payment is made AFTER each subsequent stage of construction. If they tell you they need 20% at tile and coping, tell them you will pay 20% when tile and coping is complete. You'll want to negotiate giving them as small amount as possible before work begins and make sure the final payment (at least 10%) is not made until ALL WORK IS COMPLETE. Again, this should all be in your contract. You want to make sure they have strong motivation for keeping you satisfied and completing the job in a timely manner.

Don't forget to ask lots of questions and learn as much as you can before even meeting with a builder.

And please, when you do build, come back here and share your experience so that others can learn from your success.


Well-known member
Mar 28, 2007
You give some very good advice.

I might add a couple of thoughts. Be sure to inspect several pools your prospective builder has constructed, note carefully the quality of workmanship.
Are all the sides corners and ends neatly finished. The grout joints even and the tiles cut square. Be picky after all it is your money.

A good builder will be proud of his work and very willing to show it off. If the prospective builder hesitates or stalls when asked about seeing his work it is time to find another builder.

If possible don't buy a pool with a new home. The builder usually has to kick back a portion of the costs to the home builder and this will cause them to cut corners(my wife insisted that the pool be done with the house and that was a HUGE mistake). Since the Pool Builder is paid at closing, good luck getting him to give any after contract service, he has been paid so he is not interested.
Hold out as much as possible on the end so to give an incentive to get the job done. There is no better leverage than money.

Cliff s

[SeanB: I am sure many will find your forum quite helpful]


LifeTime Supporter
Mar 28, 2007
Murrieta, CA
Another tip that I would suggest:

If possible, ask your presale questions via email. That way you have a paper trail and there is less risk of miscommunication. If you do have verbal agreements, you can also ask the PB to confirm the details (as you understand them) via email.

It sounds a little impersonal, but it's especially useful if you're busy and don't want to wait around for the salesperson to call you back between sales calls. A good salesperson turns off his cell phone during a sales call, so he'll typically be difficult to reach.


LifeTime Supporter
May 4, 2007
The best advice I can give is from personal experience and all experiences are different. I thought I did my homework because I followed all the tips above.

1. Get it in writing. All of it. Write a spec sheet and have them sign as part of contract.
2. Heed all warnings
3. Check local permit records to get information on pools that were built by your builder and check references on that list that they did not give you.
4. There are going to be bumps in the road, you need to be flexible but do not break. My mistake was I let things slide on smaller issues.

My pool build went very well. The things that went extremely well was that I interviewed 12-14 PBs and the one I went with was a last minute referral from a baby fence contractor. I have the luxury of living in Miami where there are hundreds of Pool Builders. I compared apples to apples and choose the best value (not the cheapest). I new what I wanted and what was not that important to me.

Now the things that could of gone better. I assumed all the little details. Example, all the refrences that I visited had neat equipment pads, I assumed mine will be the same. My pad sticks out 8 ft from the wall and it could of been arranged sideways consuming only 4 ft and all my electrical run was not burried as in the other homes. I have a conduit running 50ft on my exterior wall. I tried to resolve small issues with the subcontractors and I should of just dealt with my PB.

On a scale from 1-100 my satisfaction level with my PB is probably a 96. I don't think I would of been totally satisfied with any other PB.