A pool can be one of the most rewarding investments you can make. It will provide you, your family and friends with many hours of pleasant relaxation and exercise in the summer months. It will also add to the value of your home. As with any investment, you need to do your homework before taking the plunge! So, what should you look for in a pool? If built properly a pool can last for decades with little more than routine maintenance. But, if a pool is poorly constructed, it can be a headache of repeated repairs and lost swimming time. That's why it’s so important to hire the right company to build your pool. Never hire anyone who comes to your door unsolicite Choose someone with whom you initiated contact and have at least one meeting at the builder's office Explore the contractor's track record - ask to see a photo album of favourite projects Ask a contractor for the names and phone numbers of five satisfied customers - and call them Ask about the overall experience they had with this company Ask a builder for the names and phone numbers of suppliers - call them and find out if the contractor pays bills on time Ask who will be doing the actual work - the contractor's employees or subcontractors If the firm subcontracts some of the work - such as to a tile company - you will need to research both the tile firms’ reputation as well as determining who will be responsible if a tile falls off the pool two years from now Get all your bids in writing and compare them Make sure the bid specifies the materials to be used, including quantity, brand, size, color, etc Take the time to study and understand the contract TIPS FOR HIRING A SWIMMING POOL BUILDER You should make the first move. Never hire anyone who comes to your door unsolicited. Many fly-by-night pool contractors work out of the back of their pick-up trucks. Rather, choose someone with whom you initiated contact and schedule at least one meeting at the builder's office. Talk to no less than three different builders before you select one. Gut feeling is important here. Choose the person you feel most comfortable with and whose references pan out. Note that the size of a builder's Yellow Pages ad does not always correlate with his or her competence. Explore the contractor's track record. We recommend that you choose contractors with a minimum of ten years experience dedicated to building swimming pools. Ask to see a photo album of favorite projects. Ask a contractor for the names and phone numbers of five satisfied customers - and call them. Ask about the overall experience they had with this company and don't be shy to ask if anything went wrong. Work habits tend to carry over from one job to another. Questions should include: Was the project finished on time and within budget? Did the price change along the way? How easy was it to contact the contractor during the building process? Did the workers show up each day? You will want to talk to at least one family that has had its pool for three years or more, so you can ask about warranty problems, continuing service and pool quality. Check up on the contractor's business habits. Ask a builder for the names and phone numbers of suppliers. Call them and find out if the contractor pays bills on time. You can ask the same question of the builder's subcontractors. It wouldn't hurt to call your local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau to ask about complaints. If someone has gone to the trouble of filing one you can probably conclude that this is not the contractor for you. Consider hiring only members of nationally recognized trade associations. Organizations such as the National Spa and Pool Institute (NSPI) require a high degree of professionalism of their members. Ask contractors if they have received any design awards or industry recognition for their work. NSPI holds design awards every year, and trade magazines such as Pool & Spa News also single out builders whose work merits special attention. Ask who will be doing the actual work - the contractor's employees or subcontractors. When a pool company uses its own labour, the line of responsibility is clear. If the firm subcontracts some of the work, such as to a tile company, you will need to research both firms reputation as well as determining who will be responsible if a tile falls off the pool two years from now. Issues such as these should be resolved before the first patch of earth moves. Get all your bids in writing and then compare them. Make sure the bid specifies the materials to be used, including quantity, brand, size, color, etc. Don't forget to include the clean-up costs. Find out why the high bidder is the most costly and why the lowball bid is below the others. Did that company forget something or are they really the most efficient? The lowest bid is not always the best. All warranties offered by the contractor for labour and materials should be in writing. Also request the written warranties from all equipment manufacturers. Use your money to protect you. Never pay in cash, use only cheques or money orders. If a down payment is required never pay more than 20 percent of the estimated price or $3,000, whichever is lowest.Then link all your other payments to completed milestones. Pay only when each phase has been completed to your satisfaction.