It’s currently my thirty-seventh year of installing above ground swimming pools. In all that time, it has always been hard for people to find any pool installer, let alone a good one.
THE HISTORY OF THE POOL INSTALLER
In the eighties when I started, there was no internet. The options for buying an above ground pool was going through a big mail-order/department store chain like Sears or Montgomery Ward, answering a pool ad and having a guy come out to your house and sell you one, or (if you were lucky and had one close) you would go to a local store that specialized in selling above ground pools.
Back then, it was probably easier overall to find an installer as two out of those three above purchase options would have guys available for installation. If you bought from Sears or Wards though, you would have to find an installer and that was tough. In reality, pools in the eighties (and before) were easier to install plus it was a more physical world thirty years ago. Most people then who bought a pool would install it themselves.
In the eighties and even the early nineties, having your above ground pool installed was more of a luxury than it is now. Thirty years ago, the average American male worked a physical job and knew how to do stuff. I remember more than 50% of all above grounds bought were self-installed.
The newer generations now don’t know how to do much. I mean, they are just a youtube video and a trip to a Home Depot away to be able to DIY it, but most don’t. They don’t because they aren’t accustomed to doing things beyond what they know. In the eighties and before, most guys changed their own oil, mowed their own lawns, and when they bought something for their house, they would install it themselves.
Currently, I roughly estimate that about twenty-five percent of the people who get an above ground pool (excluding the cheaper Index/Coleman type) will install it themselves. And honestly, I think that’s an impressive average considering how sedentary we are as a civilization AND that today’s above ground pools are harder to install.
THE INTERNET CHANGED EVERYTHING
I remember well the first time I installed a pool that someone bought on the internet. A guy called me to install a pool he bought, so when I came out to do the job, he took me to his garage where there was a pallet with a bunch of boxes shrink-wrapped together. It was the pool. “Where did you get that”, I asked him.
“I got it online”, he answered.
“So, you bought it without looking at one first? And you paid for it before it got here?”
“Yep”, he said very matter of factly. I was shocked that someone would buy something that cost so much over the internet and without seeing it. By the end of that summer, I was installing internet bought pools on a fairly regular basis. The trend of buying online caught on surprisingly fast.
Currently, I estimate that somewhere between seventy and eighty percent of above ground swimming pools are purchased online. This is mainly because you can get a comparable pool package for much less, which is good. The bad part though is finding an installer.
Local brick and mortar above ground pool stores will either have an in-house installation or have a couple of independent guys (like me) that they can use to get their product installed. The retailers that install in-house is very convenient for the pool buyer, but you will pay for that. And in some cases, you will pay a lot for that.
With all the above-ground pools being purchased through the internet, you can guess that independent installers are in demand.
THE PROFILE OF THE AVERAGE ABOVE GROUND POOL INSTALLER
To find a local above ground pool installer, it might be helpful to know who you are looking for.
I guess the first description I want to give is negative. Most above ground installers are not the best guys in the world. A lot of them are dirtbags. They get into the business of installing pools because it starts out as just manual labor and requires no experience. Also, installers need helpers pretty badly during a short time of the year, so we can’t be too picky.
Installers will often pay their helpers daily and in cash which also can attract the less responsible types. After a guy is a helper for a season or two, he may decide to install himself. Now, you have an installer with only enough experience to be just slightly better than a good DIYer.
The money that installers can make is pretty good, but it really just seems good as it’s only seasonal. This means that most guys who get into the business that are hard-working and legit will only do it for a few years before moving on to something year around. The dirtbag installers won’t last either because they make too much money too fast and it messes up their lives.
The business of installing above ground pools is bi-polar. Most of the year, he is eager to do work and will accommodate many circumstances and timeframes just to get the job. Then the season comes and sometimes overnight it goes from kissing ass to get work, to everyone kissing his ass to come do the job. Then maybe just as fast as it came, the season ends and now he is back to doing whatever to get work.
Imagine going from being an unattractive troll to suddenly being the hot chick and then back to the troll again every year. I’ve got to say that this will do something to a guy’s work ethic. And it’ll make them a little nuts.
I bring this up because the same guy can go from easy to get a hold of and deal with to hard to find and uncompromising in the span of a week. This contrast also spills over into whether or not you can find an installer. When busy, they don’t advertise or contact any pool stores or even call you back.
So, I’m a pool installer and not a dirtbag, been doing it for more than thirty years, and have a relatively high degree of integrity considering the job, so not all pool guys are dirtbags. Also, I have known a couple of guys who have installed for 10 plus year spans and are also good people. Most everyone else though were more like the above description.
Now that you know what kind of guy you are looking for to install your pool, you can now not expect much of a structured, business-like guy. Consider now how you would find a guy like that to do some work for you.
FINALLY, NINE WAYS TO FIND AN ABOVE GROUND POOL INSTALLER
NOTE: If you have a soft-sided (Intex/Coleman) type above ground pool needing to be installed, you may not find anyone to install it. Most professional pool installers do not install them.
Craigslist may not be what it used to be, but you can still find good pool installers there. It now costs five dollars to post a classified on there, so there will be fewer guys than before. I remember when they started charging and for a while didn’t post an add because of it. Then I came to my senses and now advertise as an installer during the offseason. (There’s no reason for me to post an ad during the busy season)
2 Local or online classifieds
Classifieds are kind of a thing of the past, but you can still get lucky and find an installer there. Some installers will opt to post a classified because it’s usually free and takes no time. And again, don’t expect an installer to re-post his ad during the busy season. He will be too busy to have time or add to the chaos of more people needing his service.
Some of those online classifieds will last a long time, so you may find an installer’s ad even if it’s in the middle of summer and he posted in the offseason.
3 Do a Google search for local installers
Search “above ground pool installers or installation” plus your city, town, or county should do the trick. Any above-ground pool installer with a website that is somewhat close to you should show up on the first or second page of a search like that. Here’s a nationwide list of installers.
If you live way out in the country, then try that same search with whatever big city is closest to you. If an installer pops up and is even a hundred miles away, contact him anyway. There aren’t many of us, so we will travel far at times for a job. Especially if it’s during the offseason.
4 Local pool stores
It doesn’t matter if a pool store is mainly for in-ground pools. They may still have a number for an above ground installer. I have a couple of stores in my area that give out my number even though they don’t sell anything for above grounds. All pools need and use chemicals, so even though you are getting an above ground, you still may go to them for chemical supplies.
5 Above ground pool stores
Most above ground pool stores aren’t like a traditional pool store. They instead sell things like pool tables and hot tubs. And even though you didn’t buy your pool from them, they may still give out the number of an independent installer or a guy who is an in-house installer for them but wants weekend side jobs. Definitely worth a shot to ask.
6 Facebook marketplace
FB Marketplace has become a legitimate replacement for what Craigslist used to be. There are two ways an installer can advertise there. He can pay for an ad as a business OR he can act like he is selling a pool and say he is an installer in that ad for free. Look for both.
If you are desperate for an installer, you could also ask all the people on there selling a used above ground. They may have a guy lined up to take their used pool down and knows how to re-install it.
7 Facebook groups or Internet forums
Join Above Ground Swimming Pools Group on Facebook and/or one like it. It’s a great place to find an installer in your area by asking other above ground pool owners.
Internet forums are definitely more “hit or miss”, but worth trying. Personally, forums annoy me as most are not easy to navigate and the information is usually too old to matter.
8 Ask local people you know who have an above ground pool
Do you know anyone who has an above ground pool? Know anyone who knows anyone that has one? Do what you can to ask people in your social circles who have pools who installed for them. A lot of people find me that way.
9 Ask internet above ground pool retailers
Most people buy things on the internet without talking to anyone. They just point and click and buy and in a day or two, Amazon is at your door. That’s not as common when buying a pool though.
When the average person buys an above ground pool package online, they call and talk to a person. Sure, they do all the research beforehand for days, months, or years with internet research, but when they pull the trigger to buy a pool, they will call it in. The internet above ground pool sites that are legit all have people there to answer the phone and take your order. A lot of those internet salespeople may know of an installer in your area.
I have a few sites that give out my number for installation even though I have never talked to anyone there or am affiliated with them. It’s worth a shot.
THE BEST TIME TO FIND AN ABOVE GROUND POOL INSTALLER? DURING THE OFF SEASON
If you read the beginning of this article, then you know why it’s easiest and best to look for and find an above-ground installer during the offseason. Remember that above ground swimming pool installation is a very seasonal business. Installers will advertise, market, answer the phone, and accommodate things like difficult jobs and longer distances when they are hungry for work.
If you don’t want your pool installed UNTIL the summer season, that’s ok. You still want to find the pool installer during the offseason. You may not need him for months, but you’ll at least have his number when the time comes.