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Six Deadly Pool Purchasing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
The six deadly pool purchasing mistakes are frequently made as a result of simply not being informed and knowing what questions to ask. Avoiding these mistakes could save you thousands of dollars and hours of heartache and frustration.
So you want to buy a pool but don’t know where to start? Perhaps knowing the common mistakes people make when purchasing a pool will help you start off on the right foot. Everyday, people get “duped” into buying the wrong pool, the wrong way, with no recourse or protection. These same people wind up being dissatisfied and even angry because their expectations weren’t met.
Throughout my long career in the pool industry, I have met many people who have made serious mistakes when they purchased their pool. Every year it seems as though I hear the same stories over and over. As a result of talking with scores of pool owners and through my own years of experience in the industry, I have concluded that there are six common mistakes that people make when purchasing a pool.
The Solution to Avoiding the
Six Deadly Pool Purchasing Mistakes is. . .
Ask the right questions! It’s simple. If you ask the right questions, you’ll uncover 90 percent of the potential problems that most pool purchasers commonly face. There’s always that 10 percent chance that something will happen that you couldn’t have foreseen; but, for the most part, you’ll be able to avoid almost any surprise.
However, if you’re like most other pool purchasers, you know so little about pools or pool construction that you don’t even know what questions to ask. That is why I wrote this special report just for you. After reading this report, you will be one of those few pool purchasers who “know what they’re talking about.”
The first questions you need to ask yourself when thinking about buying a pool are:
1. Why do I want a pool?
2. What will my family and I use the pool for?
3. Who is going to maintain the pool?
Why are these questions so important? Before you can decide “what” type of pool you want, you need to understand “why” you want a pool. Is it for family recreation, entertaining guests, physical therapy, exercise, personal recreation or just to “keep up with the Jones’?”
Knowing the answer to these questions will help you avoid the first deadly pool purchasing mistake, which is. . .
Not Designing Your Pool for its Intended Purpose
You might have heard the phrase, “Form follows function.” To know what type of pool you want, you need to know what you’ll be using it for. The type of pool you’ll select should depend on what you’ll be using it for.
More often than not, people considering the purchase of a pool have a specific purpose in mind. It is important to write this down and have it ready when you start to talk to pool builders.
For instance, if you are going to use your pool mostly for family entertainment, then you will want to include safety features such as gating or fencing that will control access to the pool. If your primary use is for entertainment, then you may consider mood lighting features with special landscaping features, such as waterfall features in and around the pool. If you want to build a pool for physical therapy or exercise, you might include a longer shallow area for swimming or perhaps built in spa jets in the seat, pull up bars, or even a smaller pool with swim jets.
The Myth of the Large Pool
An interesting phenomenon frequently happens when the majority of first-time pool buyers desire a large pool with a deep end and a diving board. After about a year of pool use, new owners discover that the deep end rarely gets used and the diving board becomes more of a safety hazard. Most of the games that are pla
yed by the kids are done in the shallow end and that’s where the adults spend 95 percent of their time. Because they decided to build a large pool with a deep end, only 35 percent of the pool gets utilized, resulting in unnecessary expense and low usage. It’s also important to consult with your insurance agent regarding increased premiums with diving boards.
Fencing is always an important element of your pool, not only for child safety but to provide a certain level of privacy. You may consider a retaining wall if your yard is on a slope so that you can step down to the pool, providing you more privacy. Many pool builders will try to talk you into elevating the level of your pool if your yard has a slope. Simply because there’s less dirt to remove, builders can cut trucking expenses. This can leave you with an inground pool that has an above ground look.
You should also have an understanding or vision of what you want your entire backyard to look like, not just your pool. Your pool should compliment your existing backyard and integrate with your intended landscaping goals, both now and in the future.
Here are some other points to consider when designing your pool:
1. Access – Ensure there is easy access to your pool from your house, restroom or entertainment area. You might want to consider how patios, decks or walkways are positioned to provide a safe and simple entrance and exit between your home and your pool.
2. Lines and Cables – Before settling on a location, you need to ensure that there are no electrical or telephone wires, sewer or septic lines or buried pipes.
3. Drainage – Water needs to drain away from the pool to avoid standing water or dirt and mud getting into the pool. This is especially important if you’re in a location that has a history of flooding.
4. Add-Ons – If you plan to install a diving board, spa, slide or waterfall, make sure that you plan for adequate deck space for each add-on.
5. Sheds – A common method of protecting equipment is to build an equipment shed close to the pool.
6. Sun vs Shade – The sun can help to keep your pool water warm; however, placing your pool under trees can result in a lot of extra maintenance.
7. Covenants – Find out if there are any subdivision covenants regarding the construction of pools.
To obtain a building permit, it is generally required to get a survey or plot plan of your entire property. In fact, you should already have one from when you bought your home. The survey will help you to decide where to locate your pool and any other accessories.
Make sure you schedule an initial on-site consultation so that your pools primary functions and activities are reflected in the design. Furthermore, an on-site consultation should urge you to consider the overall vision of what you want your backyard.
Choosing the Wrong Pool “Container”
There are three basic types of in-ground pools: concrete/gunite, fiberglass, and vinyl liner.
No matter what type of pool you choose, you will be required to perform a certain amount of maintenance. However, each type of pool provides its own maintenance challenges. It’s important to understand these challenges by pool type before you make your selection.
Concrete and gunite (a type of reinforced concrete) are the most common in-ground pool types because they have been on the market longer than the new, more efficient types of pools.
Concrete and gunite are sprayed over a framework of steel rods and wire mesh, then coated with plaster to give the pool a smooth, printable surface. Today, concrete and gunite pools are most commonly used for commercial and public swimming pools.
The nice thing about concrete and gunite pools is that you can virtually build them in any shape or form that you wish. Unfortunately, it is the most expensive of the three types of pools and it takes a long time to build.
Furthermore, concrete and gunite is porous, therefore providing small areas for algae and bacteria to grow. In addition, it can easily crack and chip with the change of the temperature and weather conditions, providing even more areas for algae and bacteria to grow. This is why concrete and gunite pools require the most maintenance of the three types of pools, costing $100 or more a month to maintain. It is also rough on the kids feet, and because kids will stay in the pool for extended length’s of time makes this extremely damaging to the skin.
Concrete and gunite pools require periodic annual or semi annual pool draining for cleaning purposes. When the pool is drained, the cracks in the concrete and gunite need to be repaired and the pool siding acid-washed and perhaps re plastered, if necessary. Acid washing is necessary every one to three years, depending on water condition. Acid washing does remove a layer of plaster or mar cite. Usually, after the second acid wash you can expect to re plaster the pool.
Vinyl Liner Pools
Vinyl liner pools use a high-density vinyl lining, offering a cosmetic textured pool surface. The lining is “seamed” together throughout the sides of the pool. Polymer or steel walls are bolted and fastened together on concrete flooring. The vinyl liner is spread over the floor and paneled walls and connected to the top of the walls by a vinyl rib at the outside edge of the liner.
The upfront cost of vinyl lined pools can be inexpensive when compared with concrete and gunite pools and take much less time to install. However, the maintenance on vinyl lined pools is high because the liner can be easily scratched or cut, especially if there will be toys or hard objects in the pool (even mechanical pool cleaners!). To repair a vinyl lined pool, you’ll need to replace the entire lining, which can cost from $1,500 to $3,900 or more depending on the time of the season for replacement.
Also, algae and bacteria tend to nest in the porous texture of the fabric and seams of the vinyl, requiring high amounts of chlorine to keep the pool clean. It’s kind of like a shower curtain that is exposed to moisture and heat on a consistent basis.
Severe problems can arise when algae starts to grow under a vinyl liner because it can start to eat the liner from the underside and is very difficult to treat. You can expect to pay up to $100 or more a month to maintain a vinyl liner pool.
In addition, heating costs will generally be higher, especially on steel wall construction. The only thing between the ground temperature of 57 degrees and the pool water is steel and vinyl. A polymer or plastic wall does reduce the cost of heating somewhat; but, it also adds considerable cost to the construction of the pool ($1,500 to $2,500 in some cases).
Fiberglass pools are made out of a seamless one-piece, pre-formed fiberglass container that is set in the ground and can be installed in less than five days. The fiberglass itself has a smooth, non-porous gel coat surface.
Although fiberglass pools have a wide range of sizes and shapes, and can be moved if you choose, you are restricted to those sizes and shapes that are offered, unlike a concrete or gunite pool. You’ll rarely find a fiberglass pool over sixteen feet in width because the come from the factory ready to install in one piece.
Fiberglass pools are appealing because they require much less maintenance than either of the other pool types. Fiberglass will not rip, tear, crack, chip or leak, providing a longer-lasting surface. Therefore, monthly maintenance costs are minimal. The durability of fiberglass is especially important if you live in a cold weather climate, or unstable soil, in which surface materials contract and expand. This is why concrete and gunite pools crack and chip.
Because a fiberglass is non-porous, algae and bacteria cannot stick to the surface. This reduces the amount of chlorine necessary to keep the pool clean to about one-fourth of the amount that other pools use, which can add up to large cost savings over time.
Fiberglass pools never require draining for cleaning, which is a huge chore. In addition, to clean the fiberglass surface, all you need to do is vacuum the bottom of the pool, which takes only 10-15 minutes a week. At first you might think that concrete/gunite pools are the most stable; however, fiberglass pools can flex about two feet without sustaining any damage and can safely withstand more external pressure than concrete/gunite pools.
However, there are huge distinctions between different fiberglass pools. (They are not all created equal.) Vinyl Ester resin is a must! This material is a bonding agent that helps hold the pool together. Vinyl Ester also prevents cobalting, which is a black or purple stain that forms from the outside in. It is a chemical reaction within the fiberglass itself. The stain can usually be removed but will continue to resurface. Make sure you see it in writing that the pool has Vinyl Ester. If it’s not advertised in print, chances are it doesn’t have it.
It’s also important to have some sort of vapor barrier in the fiberglass. Even though the gel coat or finish is smooth and non-porous, the back of the pool is without a vapor barrier. Fiberglass is a cloth that will absorb moisture from the ground. Moisture or even ground water will leach through the fiberglass causing blistering on the gel coat that is not usually covered by warranty.
You also want to make certain the pool is constructed with hand laid fiberglass as opposed to chopped glass. Hand laid fiberglass is much stronger and is built with full sheets of fiberglass cloth. Chopped glass fiberglass is a pudding-like substance with shreds of fiberglass usually sprayed or rolled on. Fortunately, because fiberglass pools are pre-built, you can see the pool prior to installation. Check out the finish beforehand. If it doesn’t look good out of the ground it won’t look good in the ground. Remember, water magnifies any flaws.
The technology in this industry is changing and evolving almost monthly, with recent introductions like the infusion of Carbon Fiber which adds extreme strength, and some pretty nice looking colors, this makes this worth a closer look than in the past.
Choosing the Wrong Developer
The worst mistake that a person buying a pool can do is choose the wrong developer to build the pool. There are many “fly-by-night” pool developers that use temporary workers to install pools,. Other developers employ installers (or subcontractors) that have virtually no experience with pool installation.
Pool developers consistently experience a high turnover with their staff so it’s a constant struggle to keep good, experienced people who have installed a lot of pools. There are also a lot of developers who will sell you a pool with no regard for how it will be integrated with your landscape and lifestyle.
Make sure the developer has a firm brick and mortar location and is not working out of his garage. Also, do not purchase a pool from the Internet. Take time to visit the location.
After narrowing it down to the top two or three builders, invest in the time to visit their location to look at their products and services. See how their staff treats you. (Remember, people who feel good about themselves produce good results).
This is the biggest investment of your life next to your home. Invest your time. Take the family on a fun day out to look at pools and builders. Stop for lunch. Slow down, take your time. Feel comfortable and investigate.
The following are several questions you can ask potential pool developers when you request a proposal or bid to build your pool.
1. Do you offer the type of pool container that I want (fiberglass, concrete/gunite, vinyl liner) and how much experience do you have with installing that type of pool?
Most pool builders specialize in one of the three types of pools. A builder that is an expert in installing concrete pools may not necessarily be an expert in installing fiberglass pools. Find out how many of the same type of pools the builder has installed. If you are having accessories such as a deck, spa or landscaping done with the same builder, make sure that they have done that type of work in the past with other clients.
2. What is the average experience of your installation staff or do you subcontract out the construction? Do you hire only licensed and bonded sub-contractors?
It isn’t uncommon to find a pool builder that uses subcontractors for the entire installation process. In this case, you need to consider the experience level of the subcontractors. A pool builder is only as good as the people doing the installation work. Preferably the builder will have his own staff, resulting in better quality control. However, if a subcontractor is used, make sure that they are licensed and bonded to protect you if things go wrong.
3. Are you certified by the National Spa and Pool Institute? What other trade organizations do you belong to?
The National Spa and Pool Institute (NSPI) is the association that supports the spa and pool industry. The NSPI has a “Certified Builder”course that teaches builders how to build high-quality pools using the latest techniques that meet specifications. Having the certification means that the builder has at least met some standard education requirements to do the job right and it shows the builder’s commitment to quality. This one question can weed out a fly-by-night builder from a reputable builder. If the builder belongs to the Better Business Bureau, a Chamber of Commerce, or even a Rotary Club, it demonstrates that the builder intends to be around for a long while.
4. Do you provide financing for the pool construction project?
Even if you have the money sitting in the bank or you plan to get it from a commercial lender, asking this question may result in some revealing information. If a builder provides financing, it means that they have been around long enough to build credit and a good reputation with the banks. It is advantageous to have options for financing the construction of your pool. Another benefit of financing your pool is that in-ground pool construction is considered a home improvement and the interest payment on your loan is tax deductible.
5. Can I speak with several of your past customers?
This is the killer question. The proof is in the pudding and if you can’t speak to a previous customer, it probably means that they don’t have one or that they are disgruntled. Run from a builder that can’t provide you with testimonials from prior satisfied customers.
The real test is talking to those customers yourself. Ask the builder if you can pick one or two from a list of 10 previous customers. This will ensure that you’ll be choosing a non-biased customer. Ask the customer, “I know that the builder does great work but all jobs have at least one or two things that didn’t go as planned. Can you tell me what were some things that didn’t meet your expectations?” This question will get the customer off the fence.
6. To what extent is the owner involved in the daily operations of the business?
If the owner of the business isn’t 100 percent involved in the business, it doesn’t mean that you write them off but you should find out how the business is being managed. Quality usually has a direct correlation to the level of involvement by the owner of the business.
7. Can the builder present a certificate of insurance to prove that they are fully insured?
Ask the builder about any liability and compensation insurance he may carry to protect you in the event of an accident during the construction of the pool. There’s nothing worse than getting into a situation in which things didn’t go as planned and not having recourse for receiving compensation because of damages. Every reputable builder should be fully insured. Period.
If you ask and don’t receive a copy of worker’s compensation and liability insurance, don’t use the builder. You may even go as far as to call the agent listed to verify that their insurance is in force. Finally, remember worker’s compensation protects people. Liability protects property. You need to have both.
Other things you might consider are the builder’s credit rating and you may want to check county records for lawsuits.
8. Does the builder offer in-home design services?
Many good builders will offer in-home design services that will not only save you money but also demonstrate the builder’s experience and expertise.
9. If there is damage to my yard or landscaping, will you repair it?
It is imperative that you set your expectations up front during the interview process with the builder, especially when it comes to damage. Many pool buyers are surprised when they see the amount of damage to their yard that takes place during a pool installation.
However, there is such a thing as excess damage due to negligence on the part of the builder. Make sure you address this right up front and that it gets into your contract. Some pool builders aren’t willing to take on the risk of paying for yard damage.
10. What are the electrical and plumbing requirements and who will perform them?
Your pool builder should know about existing electrical, plumbing, zoning, building and grading requirements. It’s important to test the knowledge of your builder. Even if you don’t know the answers yourself, you’ll have an idea whether they have a good grasp on the requirements.
By the way, never allow a pool builder to force you to take a permit out in your name. It should always be in the builder’s…
11. What type of maintenance training will I receive upon completion of the pool?
Upon completion of pool installation, your pool builder should provide you with training, including: equipment maintenance training; chemical and cleaning training; winterizing training; and safety training. These topics will be crucial to the longevity of your pool.
12. How long will the construction take and when can you start?
Even if a pool builder is good and you feel comfortable with their skills and ability, their schedule needs to sync with your schedule. A good pool builder will most likely be booked, so you may want to start the search process early in the season or reset your expectations as to when the pool can be installed.
Never choose a pool or a builder based strictly on schedule. Make your choice on the quality of both the product and the builder. A high-quality builder will never sacrifice quality for speed. Remember, if you are a first time pool buyer, another couple of months won’t hurt you. Stay focused on quality.
13. What is the cost and how much do you require as a deposit?
Ultimately, your pool needs to fit your budget. You should ask for a proposal only from builders that you feel comfortable with and meet your minimum requirements. Although it varies from builder to builder, 2 percent to 5 percent down is an acceptable amount to ask as a deposit. If a builder asks for an amount greater than 10 percent down, it’s time to end the interview. Also, make sure you examine the down payment schedule and make sure the builder explains it to you.
Good References are Important
Overall, asking this series of questions will help you get a feel for who may be the best choice to build your pool. Remember, good references are important because they are based on past experience rather than a right answer to an interview question. Call local building departments, call the state, and call the Better Business Bureau. A good builder’s reputation will precede them.
Not Getting a Full Understanding of Your Pool Contract and Warranty
It is certainly a deadly mistake not getting a full understanding of your pool contract and warranty. As Ross Perot once said, “The devil is in the details.” Pool contracts and warranties can be deceptive if they are not read carefully and if you don’t ask enough questions.
Parts of a pool usually included in the warranty are:
1. Structural – Structural integrity of walls, reinforcements and concrete.
2. Equipment – Equipment such as filters, skimmers, pumps and heaters.
3. Plumbing – Materials and workmanship on electrical, gas, piping and pool plumbing.
Generally speaking, most pool buyers get surprised when something goes wrong because they didn’t take the time to understand the details of what is included in the warranty and more importantly, what is NOT included in the warranty. Try to make sure your pump, filter and heater are from the same manufacturer. That way you have one warranty that covers your main equipment. Plus, most pool companies will not stock repair parts from multiple manufacturers. Things like discoloration in fiberglass and vinyl liner pools are usually not covered because the color of the walls have a lot to do with how you’ve maintained the pool and the chemical balance of the pool water. Chipped concrete or gunite are not usually warranted because that’s the nature of concrete when exposed to the elements.
When purchasing a vinyl liner pool, you need to be cautious about what’s included in the warranty for the liner. Is it just the seams or is it the entire liner? Most vinyl liner pool builders stress the warranty on the seam, but the seam never goes bad. What frequently goes bad is the vinyl lining, not the structural walls or the seam.
Who’s Warranting What?
Understand who warranties what. For instance, who warranties the pump and filter? The manufacturer or the dealer? Who do you contact to report problems? Do they have a toll-free number? Who comes out to fix the problem? In some cases, each individual manufacturer will warranty each separate piece of equipment and will have different service providers fixing the problem. There’s rarely a one-stop solution for pool warranties and service.
Read the warranty carefully with the builder and ask questions. Ask what is not warranted and why. After you’ve seen a couple of warranties side by side, the questions will become much easier.
Focusing on Upfront Cost Rather than Cost of Ownership
Because in-ground pools can cost up to $40,000 and more, most pool buyers are concerned about the upfront price and pay little attention to daily operational costs. Purchasing a pool that requires little maintenance will usually be the cheapest deal in the long run. Pools that don’t require a lot of chemicals, cleaning, resurfacing or replacement parts will cost less over the life of the pool.
Additional costs of required basic equipment can surprise some pool buyers. Equipment such as filter systems, steps or ladders, and skimmers for surface cleaning are considered essential.
Many pool owners install heating equipment and pool-side decking of concrete or wood. Pool covers are often used to keep water clean and retain heat when the pool is not in use. If used properly, these covers can be a wise energy-saving investment.
Falling for Slimy Sales Gimmicks
Once you have decided to build a swimming pool, there is a natural excitement and eagerness to have it installed as soon as possible. This is often the point at which unwary buyers can get into hot water because dishonest salespeople and builders will be quick to take advantage of the situation.
Keep in mind that the late spring and early summer months can bring these unscrupulous people into communities where home swimming pools are popular. Attractive advertisements can turn up, offering deals that seem too good to turn down. Here are some warning signs that signal “Buyer Beware!”
1. Salespeople who tell you an advertised pool they offer “on sale” is not worth having and then try to switch you to a more expensive model. This is called “Bait and Switch” and is a tactic that is often used in the retail world.
2. Salespeople who use the ploy of offering a reduced price on the basis your pool will be used as a model.
3. Salespeople who pressure you into signing a contract. Remember: no reputable builder and no authorized representative of a reputable builder will rush you into signing any agreement or contract at any time.
4. Never get talked into taking out the “Building Permit” yourself or in your own name. The contractor should do this. Always make sure that the contract clearly states that the pool builder is required to hire only licensed and bonded “subcontractors.”
5. If the pool builder will not do an on-site initial visit, be alerted to the possibility of a hard sale. Chances are, the builder does not understand or care to understand your requirements.
Purchasing a pool can be a scary experience, especially for those first timers who haven’t been through the process. There are a myriad of items to consider… pool type, maintenance, warranties, contracts, liability, plumbing, landscaping, electricity, drainage, restrictions, accessories, and so on. It’s no wonder many pool buyers make mistakes that end up costing them hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.
With the information in this special report, you will be able to avoid many of the most common mistakes people make when purchasing a pool. It will equip you with the ability and know-how to ask smart questions that will result in helping you find the right pool for you and your family.
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