Here’s the scenario. You’ve sifted through all the information on the Internet on above ground swimming pools and have now bought one. Now it’s time to decide whether to build it yourself or hire someone to do the installation. With a mildly aching back and a less than enthusiastic spouse, you decide quickly that you want to get it installed. Now, what?
There aren’t many above ground swimming pool installers in the world, but they are out there and if you look well, you should find at least one or two that service your area. To help you find a guy, read my blog post on finding an above ground pool installer.
Are they Good Installer? Or are they a Bad Installer?
For the sake of this blog post, let’s assume that you have found more than one above ground swimming pool installer in your area. It can happen. Which one do you pick? Let’s play a game I call “matter, doesn’t matter”. Here’s a list of criteria people use when choosing a pool installer. I’ll let you know if it matters or doesn’t matter. OK, so it’s not really a game, but it’ll be fun.Criteria for Choosing a Good Pool Installer
Criteria for Choosing a Good Pool Installer
1. By price
Doesn’t matter – The price you pay for a pool installation can vary. As an example, here in Central Florida the base price to install a 24’ round above ground can range from $400 to $1000 with the going rate at about $700.
A good friend of mine and fellow installer charges $450 for a 24’ installation and he does excellent work. It’s hard to get him on the phone, but if you can successfully circumnavigate his less than average communication skills and get him to come out, he will do a nice job for cheap. I know of two other guys who charge $1000 and their work is what I would call “bad”. I’m not a fan of going with the cheapest guy anyway, but in the case of installing above grounds, price doesn’t matter.
2. Quality and feel of the installer’s website
Matters – It’s probably a good sign if the guy has a website to begin with, but if it is nice, well organized, and has good useful information, then that is good.
3. Installer is licensed
Doesn’t matter – I know some of you will disagree with me on this, but that doesn’t matter either. My opinion on this isn’t from any idealistic view of a protected society. It comes from real world long-term observation. Getting a license won’t teach you how to install a pool well. That has nothing to do with it as a matter of fact.
Being a licensed contractor won’t get you to stand behind your work much either. Whether a guy quickly comes back to fix something he did wrong or not is a question of his character and not his license. Now you can always file complaints with the state against license-holding contractors and some will then adhere to fixing the issue. However, some will not. As I see it though, it really doesn’t matter much because if it has come to that, you picked an installer with a license who didn’t stand behind his work. It still sucks hard for you, right?
And don’t forget that not having a license doesn’t make you a dirtbag. There are plenty of unlicensed pool installers who won’t sleep well until they can come back out and make their jobs right. Those are good guys.
4. Where the installer is located
Matters – Above ground pool installers sometimes have to travel to do their job. It’s not uncommon for a guy to go fifty or sixty miles away for an installation. They don’t want to, but if they want to eat, they have to cover a big area. It’s better if an installer is closer to you because if there is a problem (his fault or not), he’s more likely to take care of it faster if he’s close. Also, if you are not far from him, he won’t hit you with a travel charge.
5. How well the installer communicates
Matters – This is a big one. You can tell a lot about the character of a contractor by the way he communicates. Above ground pool installers get extremely busy during the summer. Chances are you won’t get him to answer the call during the day as he’ll be working, but he should call you back or text you in a timely manner. It’s a good sign too if his voicemail message is clear and coherent.
In the summer an installer’s time is valuable so he may not want to do a marathon convo with you about your installation. (Some potential customers have no regard for an installer’s time and will keep him on the phone for a really long time if they are allowed to.) It may be OK if he doesn’t want to spend more than ten minutes on the phone with you. If he knows what he is doing and you are serious about your installation, ten minutes are enough time to cover the installation details.
If an installer is too short with you, doesn’t at all get back to you, or wants to give you detailed excuses about his life being a struggle with baby daddy stories, then that could be a bad sign.
6. How knowledgeable is the installer
Matters – Above ground pools are not easy to install well. You can easily install them poorly, but to do it right, you need either a lot of time or a lot of knowledge. Installers don’t have a week to install your pool (unless they are trust fund babies who are installing pools only as part of their cross-fit routine) so they better know their stuff.
Ask the installer questions about the installation. How do they level the earth, how do they level the pool, and how do they set the liner are good questions to ask. See how comfortable he is in his explanations. See if he knows about the model pool that you have and ask if he likes that model. Get a feel for his installation knowledge.
7. How much experience does the installer have
Matters – I have built thousands of pools but there aren’t many “lifers” in the above ground pool installation business so don’t expect a ton of experience. I think a guy has a fair amount of experience if he has built a couple hundred above grounds. If he has assembled over 500, then he probably knows his stuff well. Caution: Oval pools require a lot more experience than round pools.
A Final Piece of Advice
Above ground pool installation is mainly all labor. There isn’t much upfront cost per job for installers as pools come fairly complete. For this reason, if an installer wants money up front, you should avoid doing business with him. He needs that upfront money to pay for things not related to your pool and that’s really bad!