Every time you speak with a potential builder for your fiberglass pool projectFiberglass Pools Wilmington NC, there are five very important things you must know before you buy. You are about to embark on a journey that will take you through treacherous waters. You are going to part with a whole lot of your well earned money, and give it to a guy who says he will be back soon and build you a swimming pool. Unless you have prior experience with this person, or know people he worked for before, you are really giving him your money and a lot of trust. Here are five things that will help you decide before you hand over the big bucks.
1. Does the Builder Have an Office with regular Business Hours?
Working out of his home is great for the builder – he saves on rent, office help, office furniture, business phones – it’s a great way to do business. But if you have a problem, let’s say a serious problem, like no-one has been working on your project for two weeks, how are you going to confront your builder and get some answers? Unless you can wait outside the office when the doors are opened, and walk into the place of business where your builder works, you are not going to get any answers until he is ready to speak with you. Being able to walk into an office and state, “I’m not leaving until I see the boss”, is very powerful ammunition.
You must deal with someone who has committed to the growth of their business, who has a place where they can be reached, and if necessary, where you can wait there until he shows up. But there is very little chance you are going to walk up to your builder’s home and knock on the door asking where the heck your pool crew has gone. By having a place of business, you level the playing field, and you have a place to go and discuss your project. If things go wrong, that will be a very important factor in getting some answers.
2. Does the builder have a Contractor’s License, Liability and Worker’s Compensation Insurance?
When I go into a customer’s home, the first thing I do without exception is present our General Contractor’s License, and our insurance certificates – you won’t even have to ask.
A General Contractor’s license permits us to do work on projects exceeding $30,000. We also have a Commercial General Contractor’s license, and we can do Commercial pool installations as well, and we have done many. Having a GC License, means I had to pass extensive examinations to prove I know what I am doing when I start to tear up your property, and it also means if I act outside the law, you will have recourse through the NC Licensing Board for General Contractors. They’re the Contractor police, and they are very good at shutting down the bad guys. Make sure you see the license.
Liability insurance, means that if we drive our excavator through your new garage wall, and take out the HVAC system as well, you will have a place to claim for damages. If I don’t have that insurance, you will have a very difficult time getting repairs made, and you are at risk. We carry $2,000,000 in liability insurance. Enough to fix your garage and then some. See the certificate and be certain it is current – it’s very important.
Worker’s compensation insurance protects you, the homeowner, from being held liable if someone is injured on your property. If a worker has an accident on your property and is injured, without worker’s compensation insurance in place, you could be sued and held liable for that person’s care. In a bad situation, or a serious injury, you might be responsible for paying a lot of money for someone’s care – for life. Worker’s Compensation Insurance is important – see the certificate and make certain it is current.
3. Who Will Actually Build the Pool?
I know this seems like a dumb question, but follow this through. I was working with a potential customer on a project and he mentioned another company had made a proposal. I knew very little about this new competitor, but I was determined to find out who they were. This is also a good how-to-research for potential fiberglass pool buyers and I will add it to my book.
First I looked at the address for the business and searched it on Google Maps – then I went to street view and saw….. someone’s home. OK – no office (x). Then I did a reverse search on the telephone number provided and saw it was registered to another business in a related to, but certainly not a pool business. (x) Then I searched under that name and found the same name for a pool company in another state, with the same phone number listed. (x) That’s 3 strikes – yer out!!
It is not uncommon for “builders” to hire other pool companies who are not competing, to build their pools for them. All they do is sell the project and collect the money. Be certain that the person doing the talking is the person doing the building. Check the license, right?
4. Accessibility and Communication Are Very Important – For Your Peace of Mind
Picture this. You walk into your yard on a Friday afternoon at 6:00 to see how the project is coming. You see that a leak has sprung in the plumbing for the pool, and the system is spewing water all over your rose garden. You don’t know how to shut things off, water is everywhere, the water level in the pool is dropping, and you know there was a water problem underneath when they first put in the pool. No problem, you dial the number for the office – they’re closed. OK – you dial the cell number for the contractor and you hear a message: “this customer’s mailbox is full. Please call back later.” Click.
This actually happened, and I got a call from the customer, who was desperate and called my cell number, from my card. She had my card because I had presented an offer for a pool project to her, but she had purchased a less expensive pool from someone else. She had no-one else to call.
I instructed her to look for a small rectangular box, probably grey or beige, near the pump. Open the box and look for a red lever at the bottom – underneath the clock. Push the lever to the left. Did the pump shut off? Yes. You’re welcome – glad I could help.
Any contractor worth his deposit, should give you his cell number, his home number and his Mom’s number if he must – if you cannot get in touch with your contractor at any reasonable time (or unreasonable time in an emergency), then what do you do?
Insist on unrestricted accessibility to your builder. The most important pool he will ever build is your pool, and you really don’t care where else he happens to be when you have a problem. That’s not unreasonable.
5. Will He Personally Visit Your Jobsite Regularly?
Often the person selling the pool, is the same person digging the hole and plumbing and levelling, and backfilling etc…. you get the picture. Although that scenario also poses big problems, not having the owner/lead man/supervisor on the job every day or so, can cause problems. We are very lucky to have a foreman, Mike, with 35 years of pool construction experience, and we depend on him to keep our projects moving forward and to maintain the very high standards we set for ourselves – good enough is NOT good enough. But when I walk on the jobsite, I see things others might not. I’m looking for trouble. I like to take our laser and check the level of the pool – it is always within our 1/2 inch tolerance, but I want to see for myself. I want to be certain there are no cigarette butts on the ground, or soda bottles lying around. I want to see that the safety fence is in place when we leave. Did we leave anything on the site that might cause problems for children – sharp tools or things that might fall? It sometimes makes the guys chuckle, but it also means there is no garbage left on the job, and everything is clean every day. It may seem like a small thing, but by involving myself with each job, I ensure that promises made are kept, and our standards are maintained. Sometimes it is the small things that make all the difference.
Five little tips, that might not seem too important, but will make a big difference if you insist they be followed.
One other single piece of advice I can give from many years of selling and building. When you are being courted – when someone wants your business – and your deposit – you are in the driver’s seat. You have control. Get things done when you have the power. Make the playing field as unlevel as you can, in your favor. After your deposit check clears the bank, you might move from being a King or a Queen, to being a customer. To some of us, Kings,Queens, and customers, are one and the same, but to others, they are completely unrelated. Remember the golden rule – whoever has the gold makes the rules.