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HomeAdvisor's Guide to Hiring a Swimming Pool Contractor

Whether you are installing a new pool, repairing an existing pool, or having some maintenance done, it is best to find a licensed professional to do the job. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, but it is still recommended that you use a licensed, bonded, and insured pool professional.

For some major repairs, a contractor’s license is required for legal reasons. Check with your state licensing board to ascertain which licenses are required for the type of work you need done. Then, check the license of your pool professional to be sure everything is in order. As a general rule, check the following for any pool contractor or maintenance service:

Swimming Pool Maintenance Companies - What To Look For

Since pool companies run the gamut from local one-man operations to nationwide companies, it can be difficult to decide which type is best. On one hand, national swimming pool services may offer discounted rates for maintenance. However, national companies often have high turnover rates. Why should you care? You want a professional, well-trained technician to work on your pool. If repairs are needed, pool technicians are basically chemists, engineers, and plumbers all rolled into one. It is unlikely that a new employee of a national pool company will be able to provide the same level of service as a more seasoned pro.

On the other hand, a local pool company may not have the manpower to provide the kind of service you require. So, when talking with a pool company representative, it may be a good idea to ask how many technicians are available. This will help you determine if the company can really meet your needs.

In addition to finding out the staffing situation of your pool company, here are a few other things to consider:

  • If the technician says that replacement parts are needed, find out exactly what parts are needed and where the technician will acquire them. Accept only new parts for your pool. Do not be reluctant to ask to see the part that was replaced, as well as the part that will be installed.
  • Ask your technician the specific names of the chemicals to be used in your pool, as well as where the technician will get them. Ask for a detailed price list, and then compare prices for the same chemicals online. A small markup is standard practice and somewhat expected, but a substantial difference in chemical prices may indicate that your technician is not as honest as you would like.
  • Be sure you fully understand the service plan offered by your pool company. Find out exactly what is covered in a standard maintenance plan. Compare service plans between different companies, as there is often a wide discrepancy in the services covered.
  • If your plan states when maintenance will be performed, check to see if that schedule is truly being followed. If you are not home when the technician comes to service your pool, ask for a ticket to be left for you with the date and time of the visit, as well as any services that were performed and any chemicals or parts that were used.
  • Confirm the policy of your pool company regarding charges associated with chemical services. Many companies charge a flat rate for chemicals. If this is the case, there should be no additional charge for chemicals unless they must be ordered to handle a specific problem with your pool.
  • Ask for references of current customers. Follow through by calling the customers and asking any questions you have about their experience with the company.
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Common Swimming Pool Repairs

Though there are many issues that may arise with pool ownership, some repairs are more common than others. Here is a short list of the most common swimming pool repairs and their associated costs:

  • Rips or tears in the vinyl liner: If the tear is minor, you may be able to fix it yourself with a patch kit designed for the job for around $20. If the tear is more extensive or if you prefer a professional to handle it, expect to pay around $200 for a repair, or substantially more for a replacement if the tear cannot be repaired.
  • Cracks in the fiberglass liner: This is usually a job for a pro because it requires a complete resurfacing of your liner. Costs for this repair average about $300, barring complications.
  • Leaks in the pool itself: If you can find the source of the leak, you may be able to repair it yourself. However, it can be a difficult process, and you may prefer to leave the job of finding and repairing the leak to a professional. Although $350 is an average cost for leak repair, it is important to note that a harder-to-find leak may cost more.
  • Leaks in pool plumbing: Leaks around the filter and pump system of the pool generally call for a professional. Depending on where the leak is, repairs may involve extensive digging. In some cases, the pool plumbing must be completely replaced. Costs for this vary. Be sure to get an estimate before this work is done.
  • Pump troubles: If your pump motor needs to be replaced, expect to pay $550-$800 for repair.
  • Cracks in concrete or gunite: In general, cracks less than ¼ inch wide and shorter than 2 feet long can be repaired. Your pool may require resurfacing if there are significant cracks in the concrete or gunite. Resurfacing starts at around $6,000, but costs can be much more for certain finishes and pool sizes.
  • Pool filter issues: Changing your filter’s paper cartridge annually for a cost of approximately $85 will help protect your filter from damage. If your filter itself needs to be replaced, the average cost is about $600.
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Swimming Pool Installation

Before calling a pool contractor for an estimate, there are some basic things you need to decide. Here are a few:

  • Do you want an above ground pool, or an in-ground pool?
    • What size pool will you be purchasing? A purely recreational pool needs a large shallow area, whereas a pool for swimming laps requires a long, straight section with parallel ends. Figuring out appropriate dimensions depends largely on deciding how your pool will be used.
    • What depth pool do you want? Do you want a pool with a uniform depth or a pool with a sloped floor? Do you need additional depth for diving? What about a very shallow wading section for children?
    • What shape will your pool be? Simple shapes usually work best in residential settings, because they complement landscaping. Since some contractors price based on perimeter of the pool, curved pools generally cost less than do rectangular ones.
    • Where will your pool be located? Take into account surrounding trees and landscaping. Allow room for a deck or paved area surrounding the entire pool. Include a seating area as well, as it is likely you will be spending some time poolside.
    • Which pool chemicals will you use, and where can they be safely stored? Some chemicals are eco-friendly, while others may be harmful to children, pets, or the environment. Educating yourself about chemical safety is an important part of becoming a pool owner.
  • What type of fencing will you use around your pool for the safety of children and pets?
    • How will your climate conditions affect your pool choices? People living in colder climates might want to add an enclosure and a heater to their pool to prolong the swimming season. Windy areas or areas with lots of trees may necessitate a pool cover to protect your pool from debris.
  • Will you be adding extras like a hot tub to your pool area?
  • What can you realistically afford, initially and for long term maintenance costs?

Some considerations differ depending on the type of pool installation you choose.

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Above-Ground Pool Installation

  • Your municipality or homeowners association may require special permits for above-ground pool installation.
  • Proper preparation of the land under and around your pool is required. The land must be clear of sod and perfectly level.
  • Above-ground pools can cause water to gather in your yard if your pool does not have adequate drainage.
  • Manufacturer’s instructions must be followed exactly to avoid voiding the warranty for the pool.
  • Proper decking and fencing must be erected to meet local codes and ensure safety. 
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In-ground Pool Installation

  • Permits must be obtained from your local municipality prior to installation.
  • Since major excavation is required, it is essential to locate any electrical, gas, or sewer lines before digging.
  • The pool area and surrounding land must be cleared and leveled.
  • Depending on your pool materials, concrete must be poured or other materials must be installed for your pool walls and floor.
  • The pool must be plumbed carefully to avoid costly repairs or re-plumbing at a later date.
  • Your pool surface must be appropriately sealed and finished.
  • Decking and fencing must be installed to ensure safety. 
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Questions to Ask Your Pool Company

  • Are you licensed, bonded, and insured?
  • Can you provide a written, itemized estimate that includes material costs, labor costs, and an estimate of the time to begin and end the project?
  • What type of guarantee and warranty do you offer?
  • What will you charge to perform regular maintenance? How often will maintenance be done?
  • Will any follow-up work be required? If so, when will it be done and at what cost?
  • Do I need any additional accessories for my pool? Do you provide them?
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Owning a Pool: What You Should Know

If you have never owned a pool before, there is a dizzying list of terms that might be confusing at first. Here are a few terms you should be familiar with when you talk with your contractor:

  • Chlorination: The process of adding chlorine to your pool to disinfect water from harmful bacteria
  • pH balance: The safe range of pH levels within your pool
  • Skimming: The process of drawing water and floating debris in the water flow from the surface without causing flow restriction
  • Air-relief valve: A valve located at the top of a filter tank for relieving the pressure inside the filter
  • Sweeping: The process of cleaning the pool surface with a suction device to remove debris
  • Algaecides: Chemicals designed to kill, prevent, and control algae
  • Balancers: Chemicals designed to prevent corrosion and staining
  • Bromide and bromine: Common disinfectants for a pool
  • Chemical feeder: Dispensary that releases chemicals into a pool at a predetermined rate
  • Chlorine neutralizer: A chemical that makes chlorine harmless
  • Diverter valve: A plumbing fitting used to redirect the flow of water
  • Drain: A plumbing fitting installed on the suction side of the pump which aids circulation and filtration
  • Gunite: A mixture of cement and sand sprayed onto supported surfaces to build a pool
  • Vinyl liner: The vinyl membrane which acts as the container to hold pool water
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DIY Pool Repairs

Many small pool repairs can be done as DIY projects. Here are a few of the repairs you can do, along with their associated costs:

  • Patching a vinyl pool liner: $13-$24 for a vinyl patch kit. Follow kit instructions for best results.
  • Cloudy Water: $25-$80 for a testing kit. Follow pool manufacturer’s instructions for any chemicals that need to be added to correct water issues found. A dirty filter can be replaced for around $85.
  • Patching plaster in a gunite pool: $20-$70 for a plaster repair kit, depending on amount of filler needed. Follow kit instructions for best results.

Knowledge is Power

Since a pool is a major investment, it is wise to choose the right pool company for the job, do some maintenance yourself, and have regularly scheduled maintenance appointments as well. Following these basic guidelines, you can enjoy your pool for a long time to come.

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