The Quarter 3 edition of AQ Magazine featured an Ask the Expert column from Jack Manilla, President and CEO of Portofino Pools. Manilla provided readers with advice on getting into the pool renovation business. To accompany the column, AQ created a web exclusive companion that allowed Manilla to share tips for retailers to pass along to customers looking to do pool renovations.
Here’s an abbreviated version of Manilla’s tip sheet for those of you who are venturing forward with a pool renovation or renovations. Be sure to check out the article in full at AQTheMagazine.com:
Whether you plan to restore, refinish, or remodel, your pool improvement project may require the services of a specialized renovation pool contractor. A renovation pool contractor understands, and has experience working with a wide variety of existing pool conditions, equipment, and materials. Some key points are as follows:
- A pool renovation contractor is different from a pool builder.
- A pool renovation contractor specializes in existing pools.
- A pool builder specializes in building new pools.
Though both types of pool contractors may well be talented and highly respected, the basic thought processes and skills of builders versus renovation contractors is vastly different. Your project may cost thousands of dollars, so choosing a qualified, experienced, skilled renovation pool contractor is very important.
Ask questions of your friends, relatives, co-workers and local building inspectors. Your research should include what has to be done, the best ways to do the work and the types of materials that may be used and their cost.
It is usually a good idea to ask at least two or three contractors to estimate the costs of your project. This is normally a free service and it helps you to prepare a final contract. Make sure that the proposals clearly detail in writing the full scope of the work, the types of the materials that will be used, and the total cost of the project and cost of various options you may be considering. Make sure any additional costs are clearly stated such as any required drawings, permits, and taxes.
Normally, the costs of a project are set at a fixed price. In a fixed price, the contractor promises to do the work specified at a certain cost. If you decide to make any changes once the job begins, these changes should also be prepared in writing—the same as the original agreement—and agreed to with the contractor separately. If you are borrowing money for the job, it is a good idea to discuss the proposal costs with the bank or lender.
Fraud is a growing problem. Here are some things to look out for:
- A contractor claiming “We’ve just done a job nearby and have some material left over, so we can do the job for half the price.”
- A post office address with no street address or a business address located in a residential area. This may not be a true business location (even a street address should be checked), or a phone number that is just an answering service. If you need to get the contractor back after the job is done, will you be able to find them?
- High pressure sales tactics
- No website
- Refusal to give you a complete detailed written estimate or their contractor’s license number
- Request a current certificate of insurance from the contractor for workers’ compensation and general liability coverage
- Refusal to furnish these documents may indicate the contractor does not have the coverage required by law and you may be liable for hospital charges, medical claims and inability to work financial claims made by workers injured on your property
- Check recent jobs, customers and local references of the contractor
Once you have agreed on a price with a contractor, get it all in writing. An agreement should be written and explicit in every detail. It should include:
- Specifications - A detailed description of all the work to be performed. Pool coatings should be an average ½” thick. Low price is often a signal that corners are being cut to lower the price. Some only provide a skim coat of ¼” or less and proper preparation is often short cut. Short time warranties often are a signal of this.
- Finishes/Materials - A list of the materials to be used which defines textures, brands, colors, sizes, and models.
- Price - The total dollar amount of the contract, labor and material.
- Tax, Permit, Miscellaneous Costs - Are these included in the total job cost?
- Payment Schedule - Modest deposit with payments due as materials are ordered and based on the work progress.
- Caution - Be very cautious about a contractor who demands a large payment up front (50 percent or more) before work is started.
- Professional/Licensed Contractors - Are accustomed to modest good faith deposits, with payment schedules based on work progress, and final payment when the work is completed and the job site is given a final clean up.
- Document - Write into the agreement any side promises made by the salesperson/contractor. Small things not included may not get done and cause you a lot of stress at the end of the job.
- County Permits - Never apply for a building permit for the contractor. The contractor that asks you to do so is hiding something. The contractor may not have the proper insurance or license.
- Permit Posting - When a building permit is required, it must be posted on the property before work begins.
- Notice of Commencement - Must also be posted on the property before the work begins. This is required only when a permit is required.
- Job Schedule - The planned start work and estimated completion dates should be included.
- Warranty - Does it include labor, parts, materials, and equipment and for what time period.
- Cleanup - This item is often neglected, but it should be considered especially if a good deal of debris will be generated. This service often costs $500 to $1,000 or more depending on the job.
Visit APSP.org for more information on pool renovations, and use the APSP’s member locator to find a professional in your area.