Decide on the type of pool you’d like before reaching out to pool contractors.
Come up with a list of at least three pool contractors, then vet them.
Make sure all pool contractors are licensed and fully insured.
Ask to speak with their references to check the quality of their work.
Ask for detailed written bids and contracts.
Swimming vigorous laps, hosting pool parties, gazing out at clear blue water from your bedroom window—you’ve been dreaming of installing a pool or replacing your pool liner for years. But before you make this sizable investment, you’ll need to find the right contractor. The stakes are quite high, since putting in a pool costs between $17,700–$46,200 on average, according to HomeAdvisor, and involves permitting, engineering, landscaping design, and more. Read on for tips on how to handle the swimming pool bidding process the right way, so you end up with the pool you want without the headaches you don’t.
Decide What You Want
Before reaching out to local swimming pool installers, you and your family should figure out what type of pool you’d like. Consider size, functionality, and design. To leave room for a yard, a small- to medium-sized pool might be in order. If you’ll use your pool primarily for lap swimming, make sure it has a long enough lap lane. If small children will regularly splash around, you’ll likely want a very shallow section. If you have a sleekly-designed home, an infinity edge pool might complement its architecture.
Compile and Vet Contractors
Ask nearby friends and family for pool contractor recommendations and read online ratings and reviews. Then call each contractor and ask for the following:
Their website and business address
Proof that they’re licensed (licensing requirements differ by municipality)
Proof of personal and property damage liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance, including how much protection their plans provide
Proof that all their subcontractors are licensed, bonded, and insured. To be extra safe, also check your homeowners insurance to see what your policy covers. Don’t take any shortcuts here—after all, if a worker gets injured, you could be responsible for paying their medical bills or damages.
Cleared background and criminal history. Find out how you and your family will be able to recognize authorized workers, whether it’s specific uniforms, nametags, or business vehicles.
At least three references for work completed
When contacting references, ask the following questions:
Did the contractor install their pool in a timely fashion?
Is their pool working properly?
Was their project on budget?
Were there any complications with the installation? Were they satisfied with how the contractor dealt with them?
Did the contractor come back for any needed repairs, like replacing the pool liner?
Schedule Free Consultations
Choose at least three companies. Then, schedule free in-person consults with each of them. During each appointment, the contractor should listen to your goals, measure and survey your site, and provide some initial recommendations. You can also ask them questions such as the following:
What size pool do you suggest for my property?
Which type of pool liner do you recommend for my climate and needs?
Which extra features do you think would be worth it for my family?
Ask for Detailed, Written Swimming Pool Bids
Ask all three contractors for equivalent bids, so you can compare apples to apples. The bids should be detailed and written, spelling out exactly what contractors will provide and how much it will cost. Look for the following pieces of information:
What’s the itemized cost of the pool project?
What is the projected time frame for completion?
How will they access the pool site?
How will they protect your property and land from damage? If there are damages, how will they remedy them?
Will they remove any landscaping? If so, will they replace it?
If your municipality requires fencing, will they include it? If they need to remove existing fencing, will they put it back?
Which types of filtration equipment and plaster will they install?
What excavation work is included? And how will they adjust the price if they discover issues during digging?
What grading and landscaping work is included?
What will they do if the project takes longer than expected?
What does their warranty or guarantee cover?
Will they be available for maintenance later, like replacing a pool liner?
What do you need to cover in terms of maintenance and repair?
Inquire About Payment
Know that most reputable pool contractors will ask you to pay a deposit—no more than a third of the projected total cost. Then, you’ll make incremental payments as the contractor hits agreed-upon milestones. A sample draw schedule might include five in total, including the initial deposit; liner; plumbing; tile; plaster; equipment; and final payment.
Review Swimming Pool Bids
Compare prices, but don’t necessarily choose the company with the lowest price. When reviewing the bids, check the fine print and consider the contractors’ detailed offerings. Don’t forget the following:
Do all three contractors provide similar guarantees?
Do their estimated project time frames differ?
Will each contractor deal with your concerns similarly?
Hire a Contractor
Hire your chosen pool contractor, and then work with them to finalize the pool plan, making sure to agree on all the details and costs. Then work with them to finalize the pool plan, making sure to agree on all the details and costs. Finally, ask for a written contract, which should lay out the full project terms and the responsibilities of the contractor and homeowner. Look for the following:
All pool materials
Utility runs and hook-ups
Installed equipment (such as pumps, filter, and heater)
Cleaning and water sanitation systems
Decking type and amount
All contact information
Sign the Contract and Begin
Sign the contract and make the initial payment by check or credit card. After signing, the contractor should provide you with a complete set of detailed scale drawings. Once the project begins, ask for a lien release or waiver as each subcontractor completes their work. This will indicate they’ve received full payment, so they won’t be able to put a lien on your property.