It doesn’t matter what area of the country you are in. Above-ground pool installers are hard to find. Finding a good installer is even harder.
So, how can you tell if the guy you’re talking to will do a good job on the pool you have in boxes in your garage?
In most cases, above-ground pool owners are lucky to find any degree of pool installer. How to determine if one is good may come down to only a feeling, but communicating well, easily answering any question you have, being reasonably priced, and maintaining a schedule well are very good signs.
WHY ARE GOOD ABOVE-GROUND POOL INSTALLERS HARD TO FIND
In truth, it may be hard to find anyone to come and perform needed things at your house. But certain professions have more and better contractors than others.
It’s easier to find good contractors in trades like plumbing and electricity. This is for the reasons like every structure has plumbing and electricity, these trades have different levels of certification (journeymen, masters) for their workers, and very strict building codes determining the quality of their work.
Above-ground pool installers don’t have much of any of that. A guy learns to install pools just by getting a job as a helper, then he eventually learns enough to be able to go out and install himself.
Some guys will start installing their own pools way before they should. And this usually means bad things for the people they build pools for until they get more experience.
To make matters worse, the business of installing above-ground pools is very seasonal. This means it will chase away a lot of potentially good long-term installers who want to have the same type of work all year long.
As an example, I am an installer in Central Florida. Here, the swim season is longer, but even with that, I make eighty percent of my income during just the five months of summer.
Even though the money is good enough, it’s hard to have to be super aggressive only during the busy season (In my earlier years, I would work 100+ days in the row at times) doing all you can do and then work drops off to just about nothing over the winter.
Trucks and machinery, storage, workers’ bills, and my bills come all year regardless of it being a seasonal business. Legitimate workers and tradesmen get tired of that quick and usually move on to something year around.
This leaves the above-ground pool business constantly short of good and well-experienced installers.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR BEFORE DECIDING TO GO WITH A CERTAIN ABOVE-GROUND POOL INSTALLER
1. Speedy communication
During the off-season, you’ll have no problem getting a pool installer on the phone or by text. During the summer is a different story all together.
It may be OK for an installer to not answer your initial call, but he should call or text you back at least within the same day.
Continued communication should be prompt as well. If your guy was attentive until he got you on the schedule, then you couldn’t get him to respond very well after that is not a good sign.
2. Clear communication
If this is your first time getting a pool installed, you may have a hard time knowing what to ask about or expect. This can result in you having a harder time getting your questions across and that’s normal.
The installer talks about above-ground pools and installing them all day long, so he should be able to clearly explain his answers and describe well his points regarding the agreement and job.
3. Clearly communicates the job, what’s entailed, and the cost
This is a big one! Most people will be disappointed or unhappy with an installer’s work because they didn’t clearly know about something that was an extra cost or not done or included with the job.
A quality and experienced installer have more than likely been a part of poor and miscommunication in the past, so he knows that clear detail on what’s to be done, what’s not included, and exactly how much the cost is and then could be if something is different is imperative.
Personally, I prefer to do all of my correspondence via text instead of on the phone. This is so everything said is clearly written and available on the text thread.
With a phone conversation, something can be heard that wasn’t said. With text, the proof is kept and therefore easy to review by both parties. It’s the way to go for sure.
4 The cost to do the job shouldn’t be way too much
In my 36 years of being an installer of above-ground pools, I have seen some pool guys grossly overcharge for work. In most cases, this means the installer is lacking either in knowledge, integrity, or reality.
To give an example, I once did a liner change for a lady. For her job, my price was $400. (This was in the 2000s btw). She almost didn’t go with me because she thought my price was too cheap.
When she told me that, I laughed a little and said it wasn’t. I told her the job would take me about three hours total and I had nothing to buy. It was just a labor job. I told her that the other pool guys I know may charge even less for this job and to be assured that I was charging her within the going rate.
She said ok and then explained to me that the guy who changed her liner about four years prior had charged her $2200 for the same job.
After saying “WOW!” I asked her who it was since I know most of the pool installers in my area. She told me who and it was a guy I knew of. He had been an installer for about five years at that point, which meant it was his first year as a pool guy when he did this lady’s job for $2200.
When I changed the liner, there were definite signs that the liner change prior wasn’t a very good install.
In many cases, you get what you pay for, but not always.
If you discover that the price you are getting quoted is outrageous compared to other information you got on pricing, this could be a red flag.
A price on the high side but within range is one thing. I ridiculously high price is a different story.
5. The cost of the job shouldn’t be way too cheap
This is a very common sign of a poor installer.
Everyone likes a deal. I know I do. But if an installer does a terrible job installing your pool, how good of a deal was it?
What’s most common here is that the guy will never show up. He’ll keep putting you off until you realize he’s never coming.
As a seasoned, established, quality installer, I love it when I give someone a price and they tell me that they have a guy that will do it for half that. Many will ask if I can match the price.
Side rant: In regards to people asking me to do the job for less than the price I give them.
If I were a Persian rug seller in Bangladesh, then I can understand and respect the (extremely inefficient) process of negotiation with the sale. I once bought a small silk rug while in Cambodia. The price started at over $2000. Thirty minutes later, I walked out with it under my arm and paid $450 for it. That’s just how they do business there and in other places in the world.
I’m a construction worker in America though. Here, were give you a price and you say yes or no. That’s all. We don’t inflate the price knowing you’ll be working it down. Here, we give you the real price, then you say yes, then the deal is done. Period.
End of side rant
If you got prices of about $1500 for an install and some guy comes along who isn’t a friend or anything and quotes you $600, do yourself a favor and pass on it. When the dust clears and your job is done, it’ll have taken much longer and probably cost you more than $1500 total.
6. All of your questions are easily answered
A good pool installer is going to know what he is doing. This is demonstrated by having a proper and accurate answer to all of your install-related questions.
If you feel like the installer is struggling to answer questions or maybe making stuff up just to look knowledgeable, that’s not a good sign.
7. He can give you a fairly definite install date
Guys who install above-ground pools on a serious level have got to stay on top of their scheduling. As mentioned earlier, this is a seasonal business. Being lax about when you get work done just won’t cut it when you make your whole year’s income during a single season.
Weather conditions and labor/help issues can always postpone a job. For the most part though, your installer should keep his schedule.
THINGS TO ASK ABOUT OR FIND OUT ABOUT A GOOD ABOVE-GROUND POOL INSTALLER
In reality, there is no full-proof way to tell if a guy is a good pool installer before he does the work. Some guys are just much better with confidence and words than they are with a shovel.
There are a couple of things to ask or look for that may help steer you in the right direction though.
8. Has installed at least 500 pools
In my job as a pool installer, I usually use just one other guy to do most jobs. For me, a helper needs to get about one hundred pool installs under his belt before he can be good at the “helper” or outside portion of the installation.
To be able to do a complete install on your own requires considerably more than that. In my opinion, at about 500 installs, you should be able to install at least a round-shaped pool well.
9 Has the right equipment
I have known some really good installers that didn’t use any machinery. But I’ve been installing for 36 years and all of those guys are long gone.
A good installer nowadays will have at least a good running sod cutter. He will also have good hand tools, good cordless, screw guns, and a good truck.
10. Finding him by word of mouth
This may be the biggest tell for a good installer. I love it when someone that I installed a pool for refers me.
With that, potential customers have a job to look at and a former customer to talk to. That makes the job of that person deciding on using me a lot easier.
So, if you have a direct referral, then that’s the way to go.
11. Has a nice or informative website
This is not a guarantee, but finding good information on the installer’s website may be a tell that he knows what he is doing.
Clear pricing and what is entailed with each job is also a good sign. This could mean that the installer is good at communicating. Plus, you can hold what is said on his site to him.
12. Doesn’t ask for money upfront
This should go without saying, but every year I hear stories of people giving installers money up front, then it not going well.
Installing most above-ground pools takes only one day and doesn’t require much in the way of expenses. There is no reason a guy should need money upfront.
Sometimes if I’m doing a dig for a big pool, I will separate the dig charge from the pool assembly, but not often. Even with that, I don’t collect any money for the dig until the dig is done.
Some guys are slick. If he starts telling you personal woes about his life, remember that you are not his friend. And he isn’t your friend. Don’t give him any money until the job is done.
13. He wants to get the job done
If the installer has this lax attitude about getting your installation done, then that is a red flag.
This is a seasonal business of assembling something that comes in boxes. There is only so much “artistry” to this job. It’s not a lifestyle. It doesn’t come together better if you build it during a full moon while wearing loose white clothing.
You want someone as motivated to get the job done as you are.
14. A pool store recommends him
This is not a guarantee, but it’s a good sign. Some pool stores will give out anyone’s number that comes by and hands them a stack of business cards. That is until they get some negative feedback.
If the pool store sells above ground pools and uses this installer for their installs, that’s an even better sign. Still not a guarantee though.