As a former pool builder I have personally built over 100 swimming pools in the Metro Atlanta area. I know longer build pools and I never will build pools again. The only reason I mention this fact is because I want you to understand that I am not trying to sell you anything. I am just sharing my knowledge in an effort to help others make better decisions during the swimming pool purchasing process.
Building a swimming pool is a big decision. In this article I will cover the 6 most important things you need to know before buying a swimming pool. I will also be creating a video series covering these same topics one at a time on youtube. So let’s get started.
Know the Difference Between Vinyl, Fiberglass, and Gunite
The three major types of pools are vinyl, fiberglass, and gunite. The pool equipement and all the bells and whistles you add onto the pool are the same for all three pool types above the waterline! The only differences in the three types of pools is the way the pool basin or shell is constructed while building a swimming pool.
Vinyl pools are generally the least expensive swimming pools to build. The drawback of a vinyl swimming pool is the fact that the vinyl pool liner which keeps the water from leaking out of the pool will experience significant color fading within the first two years unless your pool is equipped with a no salt no chlorine pool system. Even salt systems will bleach out pool liners quickly. Your pool liner will need to be replaced every 10 years (roughly) at a cost of around $3000.
Another drawback of a vinyl pool is a false public perception of lower quality which may adversly effect valuation to the home. The truth is that vinyl pool kits have improved in quality exponentially in the past 15 years and the overall longevity of a vinyl pool is now easily comparable to the longevity of a gunite pool shell.
Fiberglass pools are built using a pre-molded fiberglass shell that is delivered to your home on an 18 wheeler and deposited into your backyard using a crane. These pools can last a long time but you have to hire someone who has a lot of experience building fiberglass pools. The specifications of the excavation are precise and need to be implemented almost perfectly in order to prevent shifting of the shell years later. These pools have become increasingly difficult to sell because the cost of a high quality shell is now so high that a new fiberglass pool costs about the same as a new gunite pool. Unlike a gunite pool, however, fiberglass pools are not very customizable. You just pick your shape and depth based on the premade shells available from the manufacturer.
Gunite Pools are built out of concrete. A gun is usually used (hence the name “gunite”) to apply a specially prepared concrete mix to the bottom and walls of the pool shell. By the way, it is not pronounced “goonite” although I still get a kick out hearing people say it that way. Gunite pools are made and shaped by hand onsite which means they are highly customizeable. There are also many plaster finishes available for the underwater portion of the shell of the pool such as pebble plaster, quartz plaster, and of course the ever popular crystal bay glass bead plaster mixes. Gunite pools have a false public perception of lasting longer and being less expensive to maintain. For example, you may get 15 years out of your plaster job (as opposed to 10 years out of your pool liner) but it may cost two or three times more money to have the pool replastered than it does to have the pool liner replaced. Nevertheless, the public perception is there so if home value is a concern of yours you may want to go with a gunite pool to protect your investment down the road.
Acknowledge That You Know Nothing About Building Pools BEFORE SIGNING
Here is a list of a few things customers have said to me during construction of their pools followed by a short discussion each.
“I googled ‘how to build a pool’ and I think you are doing it wrong! “
The obvious question is “Why on earth did you hire a pool company to build your pool if you wanted it built by someone you found on google? There are slight differences in the way pool companies build pools. Just make sure you hire a reputable and experienced pool comany and then LET THEM DO THEIR JOB!
“My friend is an engineer and he says you can’t build a pool the way you are building it.”
Any time an “engineer” offers a friend advice on how to build a pool they are almost always wrong. I think the title “engineer” gives people a false sense of capabilities. If he is that good at building pools you should have hired him to build the pool for you. He does not have to warranty the pool so he has no incentive to put any thought into his recommendation. To test your friends confidence have him meet with you and the pool builder on site while you listen to the discussion. Believe me…the engineer has failed to think of a ton of issues regarding your pool build and your pro builder will be happy to tell him what those issues are.
“I spoke with one of your competitors and they think you are building the pool wrong.”
Ya think!? What did you think they were going to say? Oh yes, my competition is incredibly good at building pools. Come on now!
Know How Much Stress is Involved
Building a pool is one of the most stressful events you will ever have to endure. I am not overexagerating. I am personal friends with many pool builders and the stories are always consistent. Customers literally lose their minds during the construction process.
It’s not the customer’s fault by the way. There is some kind of psychological effect that happens when your back yard is destroyed in order to build a pool. I hypothesize that the stress arises because of a complete disconnect between what a customer percieves the construction process to be and reality. Add to this mismatch between perception and reality the fact that the customer can look out their window every day and see a huge mud puddle for week after week all sorts of questions and cognitive dissonace develop.
“Why aren’t they working today? It was raining yesterday but not today? If I was building the pool I would do it a differebt way. Why isn’t a manager on site watching every move of their workers? How could they trust their crew so much? My life is over! The pool will never be finished. I’m going to lose everything!!!”
Chill out. Your pool will be finished and will be beautiful just like every pool your pool company has built in the past. Try to keep control of your thoughts. If you did your homework before hiring your pool company the chances are extremely high that you will love the finished product. Just try to relax.
Do Not Take Over as Project Manager
If you feel the need to start directing the work crew on when to come to work, when to take off, when it’s raining too hard, when it’s too cold, when it’s too hot, when the crew should take lunch, asking questions about the details of pool construction while the crew is trying to work, calling the crew chief constantly to let him know about detailed jobsite conditions, there are only two things that will happen:
- Your pool will not be built as well as it could be.
- Your pool will not be finsihed on time.
It’s also possible the pool company will not warranty parts of the pool project that you managed…check the contract!
Do Not Ask Other Pool Builders to Review Your Pool Builders Work in Progress
Want to start a fight? Want to wait an extra year for your project to be finished? Just invite a competitor over to evaluate your pool builder’s work in progress. Once again, if you aren’t confident in a company’s ability to build your pool then don’t hire them in the first place!
Your Project Will Never EVER Go As Planned
Any builder who has built more than 10 pools knows this. There are so many variables effecting your construction plan that it is impossible to guarantee a plan will go flawlessly. Bad weather, mean inspectors, unruly neighbors, ancient burial sites, unknown trash pits, soft soil, solid rock, and a million other things can put your job on hold. The estimated date of completion is just that. If it rains for one full month it will take at least an extra month to finish your pool.
Fear the Lowest Price like that Bathroom Scene in Psycho
The lowest priced pool builder will not be in business for much longer. I have seen this happen so many times it is amazing to me. I have personally had employees quit working for me to go start their own pool construction company. “You’re charging $40,000 for most of your pools. I know I could build them for $20,000 so I’m going to sell them at $30,000 and make a killing”.
When they come back a year later because they are bankrupt and need their old job back I let them in on little secret. My cost to build the pool is $35,000…not $20,000.
I have seen so many good people get burned by unintentional consequences of low priced swimming pools. The margins on swimming pools are very small. Don’t get greedy. Hire the builder with mid range pricing.