How to find the right St. Louis-based pool builder for your new pool.

Following these steps will help lead you to the builder that’s right for you.

1. Why do you want a pool in the first place?

Though it may seem like a simple question, knowing the answer will help you narrow down your list of possibilities. So ask yourself, do you want the pool to be primarily used for entertainment or exercise? Or is it a little of both? Those two basic questions may help decide the shape of your pool, which can then help determine the kind that’s right for you.

2. What kind of pool do you want?

In-ground or above-ground? If you’re looking for an above-ground pool, it’s not a builder you need but rather an installer. If you want an in-ground pool, then you probably need to decide between fiberglass or gunite (concrete). There are advantages and disadvantages to all three methods as well as price implications to consider.

Vinyl is generally the cheapest price route and though initial costs may save you with your in-ground pool, costs of replacement and repairs can leave you questioning your decision several years down the line. Vinyl liners are easily damaged by sharp objects and on occasion, even falling tree branches. Fiberglass vs. concrete often depends on personal preference. The biggest advantage of concrete is its versatility – virtually any design of any size can be accomplished with concrete while with fiberglass, you’re limited to the type of shell that is available and there are definite size limitations to keep in mind. Fiberglass is cheaper to maintain over the long run and less time intensive as well. Still, the most popular preference in the St. Louis area continues to be gunite concrete construction.

3. Do you have the right space for a pool?

The size of your yard definitely has a lot to say about the size of your pool. But there are other considerations to factor in. The slope of your yard, how and where it drains and neighborhood zoning restrictions all come into play. Other factors like trees and the direction your pool will face all come into play. Generally, if you think you have the room, odds are good that you do.

4. What are your budget parameters?

You should have some sort of pre-determined budget set aside before you make any contact with builders. That budget should include not just the core amount for the pool but also include funds set aside for landscaping, fencing and on-going maintenance – all which come into play as part of becoming a new pool owner.

Vinyl pools are the cheapest available option in the $20,000-$30,000 price range.
Fiberglass pools are easy to install and maintain, making them a good alternative to vinyl in the $30,000 – $50,000 range.
Gunite concrete construction offers the most versatility regarding shape, size and overall long-term performance and remains the most preferred method of construction for high-end pools in the $50,000+ price range.

5. Start a list.

Now that you’ve narrowed down your options, you’ll have a little better search criteria. At that point, let Google be your friend, doing an online search of pool contractors in the St. Louis area that specialize in the kind of pool that meets your criteria. Ask your friends, family and any pool-owning neighbors as well about the builder that they used. You’ll quickly discover that by following these steps, you’ll have a significantly shorter list of candidates once you’ve done your homework.

6. See what others have to say.

There are a number of websites www.houzz.com, www.homeadvisor.com and angieslist.com that provide both ratings and reviews of St. Louis area based pool builders. The Better Business Bureau is another good source. Make sure you see how long the company has been in business and if they’ve always operated under the same name. You might even consider seeing if the pool company shows up in Missouri Casenet https://www.courts.mo.gov/casenet/cases/nameSearch.do If multiple customers have had legal issues with the company, that’s never a good sign. Of course, you’ll also want to visit the company’s website. Visit all those sites and you may find that your list will become even shorter.

7. Narrow down your list and then make contact.

Once you have your list down to about 3 or 4 potential builders, reach out for an interview and consultation. Schedule each one a day or two apart if possible, so that you can make an apples to apples comparison. Then wait until after you have met with each builder and carefully considered all your options before making a decision.

8. Get a written proposal of what will be done.

If a builder tells you he is going to give you “xyz” for free, have it written in your contract. Know exactly what you’re getting and make sure you ask if they perform service after the sale, too. Once you have proposals in hand, you’ll be able to make an informed decision.

9. Agree on a payment plan before signing.

When arranging payment, your new builder will lay out a payment plan. They’ll want a large percentage before they dig and additional percentages at each stage of construction. If possible, arrange it so that each payment is made AFTER each subsequent stage of construction. If they tell you they need 20% at tile and coping, tell them you will pay 20% when tile and coping is complete. You’ll want to negotiate giving them as small amount as possible before work begins and make sure the final payment (at least 10%) is not made until ALL WORK IS COMPLETE. Again, this should all be in your contract. You want to make sure they have strong motivation for keeping you satisfied and completing the job in a timely manner.

10. Know there will be issues along the way.

Even when everything seems to be in perfect order, you never know what may happen during the pool-building process – beginning with obtaining the permit. Weather, unforeseen issues encountered when digging out the foundation or other unexpected issues often pop up – but a good pool contractor will know how to resolve those issues and keep you in the loop every step of the way.

When it’s all said and done, you’ll be working with a great pool builder and will soon have a lifetime of memories waiting to be made. It’s a long process but in the end, it’s well worth it.