10 Tips to Getting Your Dream Backyard

by Pool Builders on 12-26-2009 in Articles

1. To find a builder start with a recommendation of a friend, family member, or neighbor. They are more likely to give an honest evaluation of their experience with a builder. Seek out at least 3 bids from general and swimming pool contractors for the same pool design you can find the best on trade listings like SwimmingPoolMagazine.com. Make sure the contractor has experience building the type of pool you are looking for, most contractors would be delighted to take you to some of their installations and show off their work. When comparing estimates, it is easy to miss some of the details e.g. material composition of the build, pumps, filters, etc. For price comparison make sure you're comparing apples to apples. Ask your contractor to provide a potty on the premise during the construction, finding the temporary potty behind the most convenient tree after the completion of the project is unacceptable. Accessories including water features, cleaners, sanitation systems, & lighting can account for large separation in price.

2. Hire only licensed contractors. In South Carolina, contractor bids are required for bids over $5,000 in commercial work. Most in ground personal pools will begin at $30,000. A certified contractor is one that has passed the testing required to build a quality product. You should ask for the following when engaging a bid; what is the contractor's SC license number, you can check on llr.state.sc.us/pol.asp for current licensing. Will the contractor produce evidence of worker's comp and insure you with their liability insurance during the construction. Some purported builders have a business license but not a contractor's license, if they are not listed on the LLR website as an active contractor, find another builder.

3. Payment schedules should be revealed during the bid process. A contractor that requires an extremely large down payment should give you reason for pause. Here in South Carolina the law does not mandate the amount that a contractor can charge for down payment, most states do have legislation in place to limit it. Use your judgment on a reasonable percentage to total contract amount. Because of the nature of building a pool or backyard project, the builder will have a draw schedule in their contract. These progress payments ensure that the project continues without disruption, know exactly when the payments are due and pay them promptly when the work is completed.

4. Ask the contractor for at least three references. Ask the reference how their experience was with the builder, including the warranty and customer service work after the conclusion of the build. Ask the referral if they would have done anything different during their project, it may give you some insight on things you might want to incorporate in your contract.

5. Determine if the contractor has complaints levied against them. Any building contractor will have some complaints, but if they are all resolved then the contractor is worth keeping as a candidate. You can interrogate the BBB for your area or Google the contractor's company name and the word complaints. You might be surprised with what you find.

6. When you receive the contract have someone else (preferably a lawyer) read the contract. Get everything in writing and ensure it is consistent with what you and the contractor agreed upon. If you sign the contract and make a down payment, you still have a three day right to cancel in South Carolina. You might want to consider making the down payment via credit card as it is easier to get your money back through them. Note: your contractor may impose a finance charge to cover the credit card transaction.

7. Once you have selected a contractor keep an open dialogue with them. Meet the people that are responsible for the actual supervision of the construction, it may not be the builder themselves. When issues do arise that may give you reason for concern, call the builder and let them know your observation. Correcting a problem later in the cycle is always more expensive and can delay the completion of the project. If you have agreed to a completion date for the project meet with the builder on the milestones (typically draw schedule dates) to ensure satisfactory progress.

8. In most counties, the contractor is responsible for the permitting and initiating required inspections. Once the contractor delivers the permit, display it in a prominent place so the inspector can see it on their visits. In many counties in South Carolina, a barrier or fence permit is required in conjunction with a construction permit. Some contractors will ask you to pull the barrier permit; others may pull it for you. Either way, the final inspection cannot be completed prior to passing the barrier inspection. A fence that complies with county standards will limit your liability and insurance rates. Your insurance company may require the fence even if the county you live in may not.

9. Swimming pool construction can last from 2 weeks to months depending on the scope of the project. It is best to inspect what you expect during the entire process. There is a tendency for home owners to change their minds about certain aspects of the project after it has begun. Have an open dialogue about any changes with the contractor about any additional cost, project delay, and impact to the existing contract. If the change is agreed upon, the contractor should produce a contract change order outlining all the agreed conditions. Expect to pay for changes when they are agreed to and not added to the balance of the contract.

10. Safety for your family and friends around the pool ensures everyone will have fun. Always have a set of safety rules and follow them. Invest in the appropriate safety equipment, water safety course, and CPR course. The Virginia Graeme Baker Act has changed the pool building industry and today drains installed in your pool and spa will meet the standard for preventing entrapment. The pool without drains is another option for the homeowner concerned for the safety of the people using the pool, ask your builder about this design.

Having the back yard of your dreams requires a competent contractor and a host of ideas from the homeowner. Keeping the points above in mind, your project will avoid some of the pitfalls that have landed many people in court over unfulfilled expectations. A very good source for ideas and information is http://poolandpatio.about.com/, Lisa Hallett Taylor is a great resource for you. Good luck with your project!

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