Selecting the right pool company to design and build the swimming pool you’ve always wanted is a big decision and probably the most pivotal one you’ll make in the whole process. Choose the wrong pool company, and you could end up dealing with more than your fair share of wasted time and unforeseen costs.

The Search Begins

Depending on your situation, there are probably a few places you could start your search, but the most efficient is the Web. Having word-of-mouth referrals is fantastic, but you’ll want to do some amount of vetting for yourself even on those referrals. So, the Web is great not only for starting cold but also for doing research on referrals you already have.

Try a search for “Pool Companies Phoenix” or whatever city you live in. Of course, you’ll get pages and pages of search results, but it’s worth your time to look at numerous companies’ websites. You’ll be able to not only see who is out there but what is out there in terms of the types and styles of pools available.

Once you know the type of pool you want, you’ll want to narrow your search to builders who specialize in that process. Next, you’ll want to decide what style of pool you want and look for contractors who can accomplish your vision. Some builders are better than others at pulling off custom designs, so it’s best to look for a company that is clearly comfortable with custom builds and not just the standard traditional styles or package pools. They should also address the whole process from planning, budgeting, and financing to design, excavation, demolition, and construction to successful operation.

As your list of candidates gets even narrower, go back to their websites’ portfolios. How much emphasis do they place on custom designs? How extensive and varied is their portfolio? Are they giving you a lot of options, and can they provide examples of having implemented all of those options?

Read Reputable Reviews

In addition to company websites, online reviews can be a helpful tool. Online reviews should be taken with a grain of salt though. While they can offer useful insight, be aware that they are not always from unbiased sources. Some review aggregators even accept payments from businesses to show more good reviews than bad.

Check different builders’ standing with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) too. It would be wise to ensure the builders you look at are rated favorably by the BBB and that they have been in business for several years. You want an experienced, established pool company in good professional standing for your project.

Meet and Greet

Once you have narrowed down your list of candidates significantly, you’ll want to start meeting with them and getting estimates. Reputable pool builders will set an appointment with you to either come to your residence or for you to come to their office or design center. Once you’ve discussed with them everything you want to do, they can draw up a detailed estimate for you.

Once you have several estimates, you will want to compare them. You might be surprised at how much they vary, so be sure that the estimates you compare are for the same scope of work. You should be wary of extremely low estimates relative to the average. An extremely low estimate could indicate the the builder may not know what he is doing or that he is liable to cut corners.

In the end, trust your gut when selecting your builder. You’ve done thorough research, so a combination of that and your best judgment will likely net you a competent and honest pool builder.

Watch for these red flags with your current or potential pool contractor:

  • Pool company has no office location or showroom
  • No company website or website lacks information and photos
  • Few or no references
  • Pool company doesn’t show up on time or keep appointments early on in the process
  • Vague or very limited warranties
  • Builder asks for a large amount of money up front
  • Bid seems too good to be true
  • Explanations about work being done seem fishy or vague
  • Evasiveness or trying to cover up mistakes
  • No proof of liability insurance
  • Incomplete details on the plan or design

Before moving forward on that beautiful swimming pool you’ve fantasized about installing for ages, it’s imperative to meet with and obtain quotes from several pool builders.

Otherwise, you may not be getting the best deal (which doesn’t necessarily mean the lowest cost — be sure to think through quality of craftsmanship, design expertise, warranties, customer service, etc.). And in order to know if you’re receiving the best value, you’ll need a full understanding of the price tag — including what is and is not covered. Be sure to look for the same items across the board, as you meet with prospective pool builders, to ensure you’re comparing apples to apples. While many companies are above board and truly want you to understand the contract you’re signing, others may try to gloss over charges or downplay fees in an effort to win your business.

Dirt Hauling

Obviously, a large hole will need to be dug out in your backyard to make room for your new pool — but where does all that dirt go? Your options include spreading some or all of it around your yard and/or hauling it off your property to be disposed of. Make sure you discuss which option works best for your situation and that it’s accounted for clearly in your proposal.

Retaining Walls

Your new pool or deck may require the structural support and yard drainage retaining walls can provide. A quick way to assess: If your yard slopes, it most likely needs them; if your yard is reasonably flat, it may still need them. And retaining walls can be very pricey. Make sure your pool builder understands the landscape and includes this cost in the estimate — if you don’t end up needing it, you’ll recoup some money, which is better than not including it and finding out it later.

Electrical

Pumps, lighting, additional outlets, salt chlorine generators, hot tubs, automatic covers and heat pumps — what do these all have in common? Sure, they all make owning and maintaining a pool so much more convenient, but they also run on electricity. Some pool builders will include electrical work in their bid, and others invoice it separately because the work involved varies greatly from one project to the next. While either approach is fine, it’s important to pay attention to those details when comparing bids.

Fencing

Whether or not you have young children isn’t the only consideration for deciding to install or forego a fence — it may be required by your city or state and/or your insurance company. Your pool builder should be familiar with local legislation and guide you toward the appropriate solution, including any associated costs in their quote.

Paving Materials

If you’re building a pool, chances are you’d also like a nice patio area on which to place your lounge chairs, patio furniture and grill. If that’s the case, it’s imperative to discuss your options ahead of time, including whether it will require additional concrete or materials such as tile or travertine. Either way, make sure your pool builder includes your preference in their bid.

Landscaping

It’s likely that this construction project could damage and even ruin a portion of your current landscaping, including grass, flower beds, and sprinkler heads. Also, if your main entrance to and from the construction site is your driveway, the sheer weight of the bulldozers and other heavy equipment could crack or damage it. Be prepared for this chaos and anticipate extra costs to seed or replace grass and repair or replace your driveway. You may also want to consider investing in more extensive landscaping such as decorative plants and rocks around your deck and pool to further enhance your new space.

Nobody likes financial surprises midway through a construction project. Once you know to look for or inquire about the aforementioned items on the proposals from your list of prospective pool builders, it will be much easier to envision your true cost for the project and plan your budget accordingly.

Nobody wants to think about splashing around in a green pool — ew, algae! But that’s not the kind of green we’re talking about here. Instead, green means eco-friendly and energy efficient. And that’s music to most homeowners’ ears when it comes to ongoing costs of a maintaining a swimming pool. Be sure to ask your pool company about the following options if you’d like to save the planet and your wallet:

Solar Covers

Solar covers come with many benefits, including minimizing evaporation, keeping out debris, and reducing chemical consumption. But they also help heat your pool water. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, solar pool covers can reduce pool heating costs by 50% to 70% and reduce the amount of water that needs to be added to a pool by 30% to 50%. Furthermore, they can reduce the pool’s chemical use by 35% to 60%.

Pool Placement

If you’re building a new pool, talk with your pool company about the best location in your backyard for it. Keep in mind the path of the sun changes by season. The more sun it receives, the warmer it will stay; the more shade it receives, the cooler it will be. Shade often comes from nearby trees, which will shed debris into your pool and require more frequent cleanings certain times of the year.

Pump Smart

If your pump has seen better days, now is the right time to ask your pool company to recommend an energy-efficient pump that is rated for the size of your pool (hint: you want the smallest size pump you can get away with for your pool). Some states also offer homeowners rebates and tax incentives for purchasing energy-efficient pool appliances. Combining a new, energy-efficient pump with variable speed operation  can save pool owners as much as 75% of their original pumping bill.

Heaters

If you’ve decided to install a heater to extend your pool season, there are three options to discuss with your pool company to determine which best meets your needs: solar, gas and heat pump. Solar typically lasts longer than gas and heat pump pool heaters but will cost more upfront. Gas is most efficient when heating a pool for short periods of time and can maintain your desired temperature regardless of the weather. Heat pumps use electricity to capture heat and move it around, but do not actually generate heat. They often cost more than gas, but typically last longer and have lower annual operating costs. Heat pumps and solar will not offer year round swimming but rather extend the swim season.

Timers

Automatic timers, which your pool company can install, can help ensure your pumps and heaters are running efficiently without requiring you to spend all day turning on and off equipment. And if your electric company offers savings for off-peak-hours usage, set the timer to run during that time period for additional savings.

Water Temperature

Comfortable pool water temperatures typically range from 78°F to 82°F. Keeping in mind that the energy consumption for each degree rise in temperature will cost 10% to 30% more in energy costs will help you decide where you want that thermometer to read. If you won’t be using the pool for several days or longer, be sure to turn the temperature down or the heater the heater off entirely — it’s a myth that it takes more energy to heat a pool back up than you save by lowering the temperature or turning off the heater.

It’s one thing to install a functional swimming pool to help get you through the long, hot summer. It’s another thing entirely to build a true backyard oasis — one where you can experience tranquility, refreshment and luxury to replenish your mind, body and soul. That’s why it’s important to look beyond the basics when planning the design of your new pool and inquire about the bells and whistles that can transform your space into a resort-style retreat.

Here are 8 fun water features that pool builders offer:

1) Scuppers

A scupper — an opening in the pool wall through which water drains — can be made from a variety of stone or metal materials, depending on the aesthetic you want, and incorporated in many different ways. Try this versatile option in stone for a classic look and feel or copper for a modern expression that incorporates the colors of the desert environment.

2) Vanishing Edges

Also referred to as a disappearing edge or an infinity edge, this feature is where the edge merges into the next body of water and creates a visual effect of “vanishing.” This common element found at many luxury resorts can create a dramatic atmosphere right in your own backyard. This feature is excellent for yards that have elevation changes.

3) Water Spout and Column

Similar to a faucet, water spouts offer an adjustable flow depending on the amount of water you want running into your pool. Whether you would like a quiet trickle to add ambiance to an intimate evening or a roaring gush of water for the kids to play in, the choice is yours. Ask your pool builder about adding accompanying columns to provide an elegant Roman feel.

4) Fountains

Another way to add visual and auditory interest to your pool area is with flowing water. Just listening to or watching water trickle from a fountain provides a calming effect reminiscent of your favorite spa. Fountains are fully customizable, from stone fish or copper dolphins that send a sparkling arc of water into the pool to less whimsical options, such as tiered designs.

5) Natural Rock Waterfall

Natural rock waterfalls are popular water features because they can fit into almost any landscape and pool size and are a seamless way to incorporate the natural rocks of the desert landscape into your pool environment. This feature can be placed as a focal point for your swimming pool or created more modestly to simply blend into the background, and its soothing sounds will make your hectic day seem far away. 

6) Waterfall Grotto

Looking to create a little romance and intrigue in your backyard? Consider building a grotto hidden behind a sheet of refreshing water. It’s the perfect choice for adding a shady reprieve from the sun, or a nook of privacy and solitude reminiscent of being on your own little island in the Caribbean.

7) Stone Spillway

Long chutes that provide a controlled release of water from a larger body of water, spillways are typically found on a levee or dam. However, placed in your pool area, a spillway makes for a stunning surprise. For instance, your spa could double as a water feature, with the stacked side of the spa forming a dazzling spillway. Be sure to ask your pool builder about creative ways to design spillways between your spa and swimming pool.

8) Sheer Descent

When water falls vertically or almost vertically down a straight wall, that feature is called a sheer descent. The resulting effect can be created to happen in a subtle fashion, or in an incredibly dramatic way. The walls can be made from a variety of stone or other materials, and can be designed straight or curved to fit geometric or custom pool shapes — the options are endless.

https://vimeo.com/175313055

As you enter the planning and design phase of creating your dream backyard, make sure to discuss your wish list with your pool builder or ask for their suggestions. Choosing a few of these special design elements will elevate your environment and create the true backyard paradise you desire.

Additional Resources:

5 Signs Of A Good Pool Builder

Backyard Designs: Fire Pit vs Fireplace

Let’s face it; fire is something we humans have been gathering around for ages. It’s warmth, and bright snaps of flame and loud crackles is what makes it easy for us to gather around for what seems like hours.

But, how do you create that far-off woodsy-wonderland camp, or deliver the comfort of nestling by the living room fireplace? Let’s talk tips for understanding a fire pit or fireplace build in your backyard design, and how to create a hardscape environment that keeps everyone returning.

What Is A Hardscape?

In theory, a hardscape is the best way to extend the use of your pool, creating a truly inviting gathering space for your friends and family. Whether this means by deck, patio, or pavilion is entirely up to you however, a fire pit or fireplace can be part of an overall pool structure to create a pleasing aesthetic.

Fire Pit

Unless you’re waking from a coma, or reading this from a warmer demographic void of fire pits, then you understand how popular these backyard gathering spots have become.

Arizona Backyard Design Fire Pit

Backyard Fire Pit

Burning either wood or gas, fire pits can be created with a variety of elements including, but not limited to: decorative flagstone, pavers, or brick, and finally, glass and decorative rock as a welcomed addition of color and mystique.

It doesn’t matter the time of year (Unless it’s Summer in Arizona), anytime is a great time to enjoy company around the fire, and a fire pit is both aesthetically and sustainably welcoming when paired with an arrangement of other backyard elements.

Fireplace

Bring the atmosphere and intimacy of an indoor gathering by adding a fireplace to your backyard setting. Like the fire pit, a fireplace creates an outdoor living room, extending your entertaining capabilities to a seasonal operation.

Arizona Backyard Design Fireplace

Backyard Fireplace

Building materials vary however, stone remains an exciting element for helping a fireplace stand out from the rest of your design. Paired with a seating element, a fireplace adds romance to your pool and patio, and don’t fret: there are both wood and gas burning options.

Another popular option that pairs well with many kitchens are fireplaces, or wood-burning stoves which, we’ve covered here. (Insert Link: Backyard Designs: Outdoor Kitchens). Where is this link?

What’s Best For My Backyard Design?

Every backyard design is unique; are we working around an outdoor kitchen, or building up against a structured wall? How will the fire work around a pool or spa? How will we accommodate all of my family and friends while staying within our budget?

When it boils down to it, you have to ask yourself the setting you’re attempting to create and the functionality of said space. Beyond choosing between fire pit or fireplace, the process of placing a hardscape relies heavily on your aspirations for the space as a whole.

We welcome everyone to visit our design centers, meet our team of designers to learn about the process of adding a hardscape to your backyard setting, and explore options for making your space a fiery-success.

California Pools & Landscape is excited to offer our customers competitive and comprehensive pool and landscape finance programs to accommodate your backyard project.

We have 10 year secured pool loans available with rates as low as 7.5% as well as 15 year secured pool loans starting at 8.25%. Our specific  lenders will loan up to 120% – 130% loan-to-value so little to no equity is required for these programs.

Typically, a maximum loan amount is $60,000. We also have a 8 year unsecured personal line of credit with a rate of 9.90%. This program is not tied to the home and offers an affordable alternative to a secured second mortgage loan.

For example, payments on a $25,000 loan can range approximately between $243 – $297 with secured pool loans or $378 for and unsecured loan. Most all pool loan programs require at least a 700 credit score as well as a 40-42% debt to income ratio that includes the pool payment.

The first step in the finance process is to fill out our quick secure online application located at https://www.calpool.com/funding/. Please feel free to call our finance manager, Nicole Shoppach, at 480-756-7085 if you would like to discuss our finance programs in more detail.

We are excited to help you finance your backyard dreams!

Updated 1/25/2017*

SUMMER ISN’T CANCELLED!

Get ahead of the heat and ready for your summer staycation! We are offering 100% online consultations—from design and financing to selecting colors and materials, you can design your new backyard from the comfort of your couch. With innovative 3-D modeling, we can bring your backyard to life virtually. There is no better time than now to invest in your home and lifestyle!