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Pool Construction Terror

We wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts on your upcoming pool installation and the contract you will be entering into or may have already committed to. Lori & I have had opportunities to be involved with pool contractors on several pool installations, and recently two pools here in the Valley.

We would like to offer you some words of caution and wisdom when dealing with any pool company.

First and foremost, get EVERYTHING in writing, right down to the smallest wire nut and screw to be installed! Second, do not accept time line commitments FROM ANYONE but the "construction superintendent" or the "construction foreman"!

Most pool companies have open-ended time line contracts. For example, the pool companies contract might say something like, " a minimum of 45 days from day of excavation should be allowed to complete the pool" There is no finite time given for completion of the pool in this language. This means that the construction time is open ended with no provisions for the buyer to insure completion in a timely manner. It would be advisable that you negotiate with your pool contractor to define a "not to exceed" build "time line", baring any acts of God that would prohibit compliance with the negotiated "time line". If you do not nail this aspect of the pool construction down in the beginning, you could find yourself faced with an extremely exasperating situation during construction. It is extremely rare that a sales person or even a sales manager can commit to any kind of time line. The homeowner should only accept scheduling time line commitments, for every aspect of the construction, from the job superintendent and/or his construction foreman, no one else!

Make sure the time lines are defined specifically in terms of business days or calendar days. What criteria sets a day as a business day? Are weekday holiday's business days? What criteria defines a holiday? Make sure the time lines are defined as to when they officially begin, i.e. does this time line have it's birth at the start of the objective or the end of the objective. For example you may be told, " we will begin digging your pool in 14 days". Is that 14 days from the day you signed the contract? Is that 14 days from the date the permit is acquired? Is that 14 days from the day the sales person turns the contract into the production department? Does 14 days refer to 14 business days or calendar days? Each of these variations leaves huge gaps in time line compliance and could leave you at the mercy of the prime pool contractor.

Generally, each phase of pool construction takes no more than 1 day, and on rare occasions 2 days, to complete unless the pool is a particularly complex design or laden with exotic custom features.

For example:

  1.           acquire the permit, 2 to 3 days;

  2.           layout the pool on the ground, 1 day;

  3.           excavation, one day-2 days max;

  4.           plumbing instillation, 1 day;

  5.           steel rebar placement, 1 day;

  6.           electrical installation, 1 day;

  7.           city pre-shotcrete inspection, depends on how backed up the city inspector is. DO NOT LET THE CONTRACTOR SHOTCRETE YOUR POOL WITHOUT YOU VERFIFYING AN ACCEPTED CITY INSPECTION OF THE REBAR PLACEMENT!;

  8.           shotcrete placement,1 day;

  9.           curing of shotcrete, 1 to 2 days;

  10.           kool deck forming and pouring 1 to 2 days;

  11.           tile installation, 1 day;

  12.           clean up and removal of pool construction debris, 1 day;

  13.           fence replacement, if applicable, 1 day;

  14.           city pre plaster inspection, depends on how backed up the city inspector is. DO NOT LET THE CONTRACTOR PROCEED ON YOUR POOL WITHOUT YOU VERFIFYING AN ACCEPTED CITY INSPECTION;

  15.           plaster application, 1 day-2 days max.

If any unusual lag-time develops, between these processes, you should contact your prime pool contractor immediately and have those reasons for the delay defined, in writing. Your prime pool contractor should identify a projected solution and time frame for those solutions to be met. You can begin to see why it is important to nail down the "end window time line" for construction during the onset of your negotiations with the pool contractor.

"Sub contractors" to the prime contractor perform nearly every phase of the pool construction. It is not unusual for time lapses of several days to transpire before the homeowner realizes that their construction project has been stalled. It is important to understand that all too often, prime pool contractors exercise little or no control over the acts of their sub contractors. The non-compliant sub contractor often impinges time line commitments scheduled by the prime pool contractors. While some or most of these sub contractor delays are uncontrollable by the prime pool contractor, it is extremely important that you define your expectations of the "prime pool contractor to homeowner" communication, relative to schedule delays, when these delays occur.

Make sure you have a written definition of "a tidy job/construction site". Have the prime pool contractor define a "reasonably safe and secure" job site. Another very important issue for you to investigate and review is written evidence of the type of insurance the prime pool contractor has in place to protect the homeowner if there is an accidental injury, maiming or death on the job site. Often, the prime pool contractors insurance is at minimum compliant with state and local requirements, leaving the homeowners personal homeowners policy to be activated to cover such injuries, maiming or death. Check with your insurance company and ask them to direct you to the written portion of your homeowners liability policy that speaks to coverage during construction on your property by a third party, i.e. the prime pool contractor. Ask the prime pool contractor for a copy of their insurance policy. If you are refused a copy of that policy, there may be a problem with the amount and type of coverage.

Many city and county ordinances do not require the job site to be "safety secured". That means, that

there may be no requirement mandated, with regard to safety issues on the property by the municipality, having authority over the job site. For example, construction begins on the swimming pool and a heavy rain ensues and places 18 inches or more water in the bottom of the pool. Now, a wandering child falls into the pool and drowns. Or someone, adult or child wanders, inquisitively, onto the job site trips over a piece of debris, falls and impales themselves on a piece of rebar that is sticking up from the soil. Who is to be sued? Our suggestions is for the homeowner to have a "construction barrier addendum" written into your contract, demanding that the job site be secured by the prime pool contractor, with standards of the industry. These standards are defined by OSHA and are readily available to all contractors and sub contractors.

The municipality, having authority over the permits and construction on the job site will require the prime pool contractor to supply a complete set of professional drawings, prior to issuing a permit to begin construction/excavation. It is likely the contract, between the pool company and the homeowner, will state "Pool Specifications" where reference is made to a set of engineered construction plans, building permits and lien releases, public liability and negligent property damage and workman's compensation insurance. Be certain that, at a minimum, these items are noted. It is the homeowners right and responsibility to demand evidence of all of these items. A SKETCH, DRAWN BY THE SALES PERSON IS NOT COMPLIANT WITH WHAT THE MUNICAPALITY, HAVING AUTHORITY OVER ISSUING THE PERMIT FOR CONSTRUCTION OF THE POOL, IS GOING TO REVIEW BEFORE APPROVING A PERMIT FOR YOUR POOL. You should approve all official, professional drawings with your signature or initials on those specific drawings. Those drawings will show specific details of the requirements and placement of rebar, plumbing, electrical, drainage, decking and set-back requirements as governed by the municipality, having authority over codes compliance where the construction is taking place.

In Arizona the Registrar of Contractors (ROC) protects homeowners from design additions or alterations to the homeowner's residence, both inside and outside, which would deprive the homeowner of a legal and code compliant benefit currently in place. For example: Assume the homeowner is currently using an outside receptacle. Now the homeowner wants to have a pool installed but the pool is laid out without regard to the location of the receptacle. Assume current municipal codes require the receptacle to be a minimum of 10 feet from waters edge, but the design and layout of the pool places the receptacle inside that minimum distance. If this condition was not defined in the initial contract, and agreed to by the homeowner, the prime pool contractor is responsible for relocating that receptacle at the expense of the prime pool contractor. It is unacceptable and not allowed, for the prime pool contractor or his sub contractors to simply eliminate or cap off the receptacle. To do so deprives the homeowner of a pre existing benefit he enjoyed prior to construction of the pool.

Please be sure to use caution when you enter into the construction phase and when you make that final commitment between you and the prime pool contractor. If there is anything we can do to help you with your plans, be sure to drop us a note. We are, truly only a mouse click away.

Bye for now,

Lori & "G-II"

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