10 Questions to Ask and Their Red Flag Answers

Choosing the right pool builder isn’t as easy as going with the company, or even your best friend’s recommendation. Some people are in it just for the money and may not have all of the necessary qualifications to properly install your pool. But how do you know? Trying to determine the right contractor can be difficult. We’ve set up a list of questions to ask and some potential red flags to look for when choosing your contractor.

Question 1: Can you please provide me with referrals from previous customers?

This is an important question to ask. Understanding how the contractor treated their customers from the customer’s perspective will help you get a better look at what you are going to be dealing with. No projects are without their issues, so make sure to ask the previous customers how the contractor treated them when those issues arose. Also, ask for a variety of references. Try to see if they can give you one from the past, one who just recently had their pool done, and maybe a customer who is currently using their services.

Red Flag #1: If they cannot provide you with references or if their references do not have the best things to say.

A company or contractor that cannot provide you with referrals is akin to someone not having references when applying to a new job. It just doesn’t look good. It also could potentially mean that they are not great at what they do. Customers who are happy with the work that the contractor accomplished should be willing to be a reference for that contractor.

Question 2: What are your certifications?

A person who is CBP, Certified Building Professional, has been through rigorous testing and is held to a high standard. They are committed to upholding these standards and providing the customer with the best pool service on the market. Pool builders may also be PHTA certified, which is a certification that comes from the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance, a nationally recognized organization that trains and certifies pool and spa builders to ensure quality standards. When you meet with a contractor, ensure that they are certified. If you are going through a company, make sure that they have a certified pool builder on staff. Don’t be afraid to ask for qualifications!

Red Flag #2: If they are not certified.

Obviously not being certified or qualified to do a job is a pretty big deal. You wouldn’t want a random person “fixing” your car without knowing that they were a trained mechanic. It’s the same for your pool. Someone qualified is going to understand your needs and how to properly build and install your pool. This will save you time and money, in the short and long run.

Question 3: Are you aware of the promises that your sales team made, and can you back them up?

Sometimes the sales team will promise a lot. Sometimes, the contractor doesn’t even know about it. If the company is working in tandem, then the pool builder should be able to back up the claim and warranty that the company promised you in the initial sale. (Make sure you have a copy of the promises and claims that the salesforce made when you were initially pool shopping).

Red Flag #3: The contractor cannot back up the sales claim or seems hesitant about it.

I’m not going to promise that all contractors and pool builders are going to know exactly what their sales team promised you, but they should at least have an idea of the main warranties and contracts that the company uses. For example, if the company promises a 5 – year warranty that guarantees that your vinyl will not leak to most customers, then your contractor should know about that and be able to back up that guarantee. If your pool builder does not understand the sale terms and does not feel confident being able to produce what was promised, you may need to look elsewhere.

Question 4: Are you covered if something should happen?

Ask to see a copy of their Liability Insurance, Worker’s Comp Insurance, and their Contractor’s license. If they are true professionals, they should have all three of these things. Having Liability Insurance and Worker’s Comp insurance is vitally important. If something should happen on your property and the contractor is injured, the Liability and Worker’s Comp Insurance should cover the expenses.

Red Flag #4: The contractor does not have Liability Insurance, Worker’s Comp Insurance, and a Contractor’s license.

There are quite a few dangers if your contractor does not have these documents. All of these are legally binding and protect you and the contractor if something should happen.

A Contractor’s License shows that the contractor has gone through training and testing to receive their license. In North Carolina, builders are required to have a Contractor’s License if they are working on a project of $30,000 or more or completing any electrical, plumbing, and HVAC projects. Regardless of how much your pool installation costs, having a certified and licensed contractor will make for a better and more secure experience.

Liability and Worker’s Comp Insurance are vital for anyone in the public service industry, especially when dealing with heavy machinery and construction equipment. Accidents happen, and people get hurt. Liability and Worker’s Comp Insurance guarantee that if the contractor is injured on the job, he will be taken care of. Unfortunately, without this insurance in place, the contractor falls under your personal Homeowner’s Insurance policy. Most homeowner’s insurance policies do not protect workers who service residential properties. Therefore, if an accident occurred on your property, you would be fiscally responsible for the injured worker. Double-check your homeowner’s insurance before installing a pool, and absolutely make sure that your contractor has Liability and Worker’s Comp Insurance.

Question 5: Do you take on projects of my size?

Sometimes there are great contractors out there, but they just don’t work on a project of your size. Make sure when you meet with the contractor, you are upfront about how big, or small, of a project this is. Most licensed contractors in North Carolina can work on projects over $30,000 in value, but that doesn’t mean they feel comfortable with it.

Red Flag #5: The contractor does not work with projects of your size or they don’t seem too confident.

Intuition is key in a lot of job interviews, and this is no different. Be upfront with your contractor about what you want and how big your project is. Hopefully, they will be honest with you and let you know if they don’t work on projects of that size. If you’re not convinced of their answer, ask to see photos of other pools they have worked on. You could even ask for references from customers that have pools that are a similar size and value to the one you want. If they have done something similar, they should be able to give you a good reference.

Question #6: How many other projects are they overseeing at the same time?

Some contractors will be working on multiple pool installation projects at a similar time, especially in the busier seasons. It’s important to know upfront how many other projects they will be working on. This will give you an idea of how quickly they can install your pool and how readily available they will be to answer your phone calls.

Red Flag #6: Having too many or too few installations during peak season.

Most pool installers don’t have a ton of installations in the fall and winter, so if you’re building your pool in December, don’t panic if your contractor doesn’t have a ton of jobs. Peak season tends to be the spring and summer, and some contractors get slammed with business at this time.

If your contractor does not have many builds in the summer, it may be a cause of concern. This could be a sign of poor customer service or a lackluster job. It could also mean that you beat the masses, so make sure to check those customer referrals.

Likewise, too many jobs on the contractor’s plate could be potentially frustrating. Their attention may be split in an unfocused manner, which could lead to small, but detrimental, mistakes. While this may not be a reason to not hire the contractor, you may want to think about when you are scheduling your pool build.

Question #7: How long have you worked with the subcontractors that you use?

While we would like to believe that all of the hard labor will be done by highly-skilled professionals, the reality is that most contractors use sub-contractors for this type of work. Some subcontractors are quite skilled. Some are even licensed or working on becoming licensed contractors, but that is not true for all of them. You want to make sure that your contractor knows his subcontractors well and has worked with them on multiple projects in the past. Your contractor should be able to vouch for their ability.

Also, ask if the subcontractors have their own insurance coverage or if they are covered under the contractor’s insurance. As stated above, everyone must be insured in case something happens.

Red Flag #7: The contractor doesn’t know their subcontractors

If the contractor cannot vouch or verify for their subcontractors, it could be a problem. Your contractor is your contact and quality control liaison. You want your pool builder to have a good working relationship with their subcontractors and know and understand their skills. Not knowing their subcontractors may result in shabby work or workplace “drama” that may slow down the installation of your pool.

Question #8: Can you obtain all required permits?

Honestly, you shouldn’t have to ask this question. A good pool builder will offer to obtain all of the required permits for you before building your pool. If not, go ahead and ask. Legally, you cannot begin construction without those permits. Once your contractor has received all necessary permits, ask to see them and make sure that everything is in order.

Red Flag #8: Your contractor will not obtain the permits or your contractor does not know what permits to obtain

If your contractor is truly a licensed professional, they should know what permits to obtain to make your backyard retreat a reality. To obtain a residential swimming pool permit in North Carolina, all plans must be submitted to the city of your residence. Your contractor should know how to properly fill out the application, and, should also know if any additional permits are needed (i.e., electrical or plumbing).

Issues arise when permits are not gathered. This could put you in a legal battle with the city. If your contractor does not know what permits to get or how to obtain those permits, you may want to find another contractor.

Question #9: Do you offer a workmanship warranty?

A lot of pool salesforces will offer specific warranties to go along with the pool and the pool equipment. “We offer a structural warranty of 20 years!” or “We promise that our water pump will keep pumping for 5 years! We’re so sure of that, that we offer a 5 – year warranty!” While warranty language is an entirely different topic, these warranties that are offered are for the products themselves and do not usually cover the work that is needed to enact said warranty.

A workmanship warranty is an indication of how confident the builder is in his craftsmanship and quality of installation. It will cover issues such as plumbing leaks, leaks in the fitting of the pool, or structural settlement of the pool or patio. Most of these do not manifest until after a year of pool ownership, so it’s important to find a contractor who offers more than a 1 – year workmanship warranty, which is the industry standard.

Red Flag #9: The contractor does not offer a workmanship warranty.

Do not work with a contractor that does not offer a workmanship warranty. It shows that they are not confident in their installation ability and means that if something happens to your pool, you will be putting up the money for it to be fixed. It also is an indicator that the company does not want your lifetime business. Pools are a lifetime investment. No matter how perfect your installation is, 25 years down the road you will probably need some wear and tear repair. You want to find a company, and a contractor, you can trust and come back to over and over again. Not offering a workmanship warranty discourages long-term commitment and they are not a contractor you want to work with.

Question #10: How much experience do you have installing _____________ type of pool? Can you tell me about some of your past experiences?

This is not an essential question to ask, but it may be enlightening. You may get a chance to see your contractor’s personality and then determine if you can work with that type of person. Most of the time you can tell if someone is passionate about what they do by the stories they tell and how excited they get to share their experiences. This is also a good chance for you to ask, in an indirect way, if they even install the type of pool you want. Some contractors only work with specific materials and types of pools. If you want an inground fiberglass pool, and they only install above-ground pools, it’s better to find that out upfront.

Red Flag #10: If the contractor dodges the question.

Not all people are super chatty, and some don’t particularly like sharing stories, but someone who is passionate about what they do and has confidence in their service should be able to provide you with at least one experience related to the pool you want to build. They should absolutely be able to tell you how long they have been installing pools. Your pool installer is your first point of contact and they are going to be completing a very expensive project for you. You want to make sure that you trust them.

Additional Advice:

After you’ve sat down with your pool builder and asked them these questions, there is still one more thing to consider. Your instincts.

Trust your instincts and your gut reaction. These can tell you a lot about a person, and ultimately, you want to feel confident in who you hire. If the contractor makes you uncomfortable or you just don’t get a “good vibe”, look for someone else. It doesn’t necessarily mean that builders aren’t great at what they do, they might just not have been the right fit for you, and that’s okay.

Meet some different contractors. Take your time making a final decision and trust yourself.