Disclaimer: I am not a legal professional. I’m giving my thoughts and perspective as a consumer who has been through this. I realize many of the struggles we had with installing our pool could have been addressed upfront. Pool contractors are also not lawyers. They found a contract form on the internet or paid an attorney to draft something when they opened their business. In most cases it is highly unlikely that the document you are about to sign covers everything it should. Contracts define expectations and allocate risks. They also specify remedies if something doesn’t go right. If the contract is going to hold the project together we better put some time into understanding it.
You finally decided to get a pool! You have a quote. Now sign the contract and lets get started! Right?
Hold on! First off you are about to spend a LOT of money. In ground pools are NOT cheap. If you are uncomfortable with the amount in your quote and have no additional financial reserves prior to starting you might want to rethink your decision. Most pool contracts are not “all-inclusive” and there are many things that
will be needed after your project is done. Just a few things that might not be included…
Blasting or excavation if the contractor hits bedrock while digging. If the digging uncovers a natural spring there is also going to be all sorts of trouble.
Backfilling with rock and dirt. Retaining walls. Setting your yard back in order. Possible accidental damage to your home or utility lines. Maybe even damage to a neighbor’s property.
I’d recommend a minimum reserve of at least 20 to 25% in addition to the purchase price of the contract if you can’t conceive of any risks. If you can, I’d budget even more.
Additionally there are a lot of things you don’t know yet. Saving money now may cost you a lot in the future. You need to look at the long term costs here. You are about to add some items to your house that run 24×7 365 days a year. Performance and efficiency will matter. Also those items will be subjected to harsh sunlight, heat & cold, snow & rain. Again, we had better get this right!
So do your research, check references, get several quotes. You will learn a lot.
Once you decide on a contractor and the options you want you will probably need to sign a “Pool Order”
The Pool Order states all the specific options you are planning to buy in the contract.
Type of Pool, (Fiberglass, Gunite, vinyl liner).
Just a few considerations: Shell Color, Pumps, Filtration, Salt or chemistry system, Lights, skimmers, return jets, drains, Heaters, auto fill, and water features like deck jets & bubblers & tanning ledges, covers, and accessories.
Other details that will matter…Pool deck, (concrete, wood, pavers), additional landscaping water features (large rocks, walls, fountains, waterfalls, pergolas, fire pits, grilling areas or kitchens, outdoor lighting), coping and tile details.
Structural & code considerations – special excavation, demolition, retaining walls, permitting, electrical, deck drainage, & fence, stairs, and additional concrete pads. Did I mention you might have a crane dangling the entire pool over your house for a few moments depending on the logistics?
The money part…once you determine what you are going to buy, the contractor should provide you with a payment schedule that is mutually fair and agreeable. It should define some specific deliverables that need to be completed prior to you making a payment for work.
Generally this should be split up into a down payment to get the project started. The contractor will use this money to begin to order materials (like your pool shell) and schedule resources.
Next you pay a nice chunk when the shell is delivered.
another payment as the shell is “set” and the backfill is added.
Any structural elements like a back wall will probably be installed and paid next
Any major features
Deck poured or set in place
Punch list and turnover
As a suggestion, negotiate to have as much as possible due later in the project. This helps keep the contractor incentivized to keep focused on your project and getting it done.
Throughout the project you may find additional items you want to add to your project. The contractor should provide a detailed amendment or addendum / change order to the contract. This should spell out the adds or deletes, difference in cost and when it is payable. This should be signed by both parties and you need to get a copy with both signatures for your records. It is fair and reasonable to ask for this right after you discuss and agree on a change.
Remember, a pool should not be looked at as a financial investment or it will quickly become a disappointment. Pools are a luxury item to be enjoyed by you, your family & friends, and will provide decades of lasting memories, exercise, and relaxation.
Happy pool hunting.