If you want to do it that way then you have to have clear examples of the type, style, size, finishes and equipment you want.
The market is competitive so there isn't much room for gouging. Get several bids and visit their previous builds, talk to their customers...etc. If their pricing is off the charts, the other bids will show that.
ooooooh this is tricky. The builder couldn’t possibly know what you are looking for without a price ceiling. But then again if it’s a big enough project they can hide $30k in fluff charges and it would be hard to know. Heck just a grotto/waterfall/jumping rock thingy could be 10s of thousands.
My build was simple. Just a rectangle pool and equipment. My lifelong friend was my fence guy and a friend of a lifelong friend was going to do my patio. Comparing the pool only part was real easy, apples to apples. One PB stood out with much better equipment and build quality. It was the most expensive upfront but we would clearly be getting what we paid for. The others had bare bones basic and every last little detail was an ‘upgrade’ that would have matched or exceeded our chosen bid in the end.
I used pool studio to design my pool. I initially had 3 builders out for bids. When asked, I told them my budget was 85k. When they asked for ideas on how I wanted the pool to look, I showed them my design on the computer. They said the design would work and asked me to email them the file so I did. Within a week I had 3 bids..they were all 85k.
I decided to call a fourth builder who came out. When asked what my budget was, I showed the salesman my design from pool studio and asked him to bid me on my design and to let you know. I never told him my budget. Within days, I received my bid of 59k. Just my experience
Another example. I had a pool/spa built in 2014. Told the builder my budget was 40k. He drew a design in front of me and said “$43k”. We agreed on 40k. I paid and it was awesome.
Moved to a new construction home in 2017. My next door neighbor wanted a pool. I showed him pics of my previous pool. He wanted his pool just like my previous pool. I gave him my previous builders info. They came out, neighbor showed the builder pics of my pool and asked for something similar. My neighbor told him his budget was $75. A few days later they show him their rendering on pool studio. Neighbor said it looked very similar as my previous pool. Price...$80k. I felt bad for recommending them. He went with someone else for less.
Maybe try to narrow down a design you want and just ask “How much to build this?” Hope it works out for you pal.
Allen' s reference is excellent. The trick is to figure out what you want and can afford, then pre-qualify bidders then competitively bid using a fair process. If you have no earthly idea what fits your budget then sure, sit down with one or more potential bidders to get a general idea or do some online research for your area. But avoid accidentally working your way into a sole source contract. Competitive bidding with a fair process is usually the best process to find the best value for you. It's important to remember your selection of a bidder is more complex than price. Best practice in contracting will have you doing most of the decisions about your high level scope before you start getting competitive pricing and you'll need to find the right bidders. For this you want recent references, backlog, experience in your area, and "fit". Fit means this is a builder that builds your size and style of pool. You don't want to go too far out of his "sweet spot". You also need to get to know the PB and become confident you can work with him. Pool construction is complex. Expect there will be at least a few little things that go wrong and be confident you can work together to solve them.
So at a high level here are the steps:
Develop a scope of work
Obtain competitive proposals from 3-5 bidders (ideal but not always possible)
Evaluate objectively and then negotiate final price with top 2 (or 3). Make sure you cover optional add-ons so you have prices in the competitive phase. You'll do some final design that will have price impact after you select the winner.
Finalize a contract that is clear and fair to both parties (this often requires some changes to the base document offered by the PB since it's written by his lawyer for him, not you). The contract should clearly outline at least: both parties obligations to each other, contain a clear scope of work, specifications, clear warranty provisions, clear performance test tied to final payment.
It is important to simplify your role, One GC doing all the work is best for most new pool owners. If you try to split the work you own the interfaces between the different parties and the cost/schedule impacts to them.
The pool will cost whatever your budget is and then some....do you go to the car dealer, and suggest to the salesman that you have a 100k to spend? What do you think is going to happen? Just bid the pool you want, to multiple builders....having just finished an OB build, it must be scary trusting someone to create what you want, it’s a lot of money...
First bid by a company I do favor through recommendations and overall attitude toward quality after talking. Still need to figure some things out. Like the opening they show of the lanai is actually screened in, and the door that is in the middle swings out. I dont think there is enough space, I will measure today and spray it out to see what it looks like.
I am pretty happy with everything else. I would like a 6' pool, or even entertaining the idea of a 3'-5'-3', but the budget is about all we can comfortably do. Same with pool deck size.
For some reason FL pool builders like to put ins mall cartridge filters. Get at least a C200S filter if not a C3030 filter. You will need to clean it less and it will clog less frequently if you have algae issues.
We recommend a SWG be sized at least 2X your pool gallons. I doubt your pool is less than 7,000 gallons. Get at least a T-9 cell speced for 25,000 gallons.
How many skimmers? Get 2 skimmers.
Get an overflow drain installed. It will be handy to keep the pool from overflowing when you get hit with a big storm.
What will be the source for your pool autofill water? Municipal water? Well water? Does the water contain high calcium or metals?
You don't want a vacuum line. They are the worst type of cleaner. Get a robot cleaner or a pressure powered cleaner.
3' is too shallow. You cannot do a full crawl stroke without scraping your knuckles on the bottom
We also need to talk about the 5' as well. Hold a tape measure up to you and your wife. Where does it hit y'all? On me (5'5" female) it hits right under my nose NOT fun........too shallow to jump in and too deep to walk in. My thoughts are if you cannot go to 6' then make the whole pool 4'5".
I also have my worries about is being a tad shallow on both ends. The 3'-5'-3' may work for us, this is a relax/fun pool. No one is swimming laps. Unfortunately that is our comfortable budget. Going to get a few more estimates as I am not sure we can get that number down. The wife wants the spa, otherwise the pool could be much bigger, along with my pockets.
I work at a resort taking care of 500k gallons of swimable water, plus the water fountain features. So I am not too worried about some of the things like a filter not being oversized. If I can save a few bucks there I will, but I do understand where you are coming from.