—Helpful tips, practical realities, and how payments can impact construction progress
—Updated July 13, 2018
When it comes to building a new swimming pool, one subject can be a bit touchy: money.
However, it’s a topic that’s better dealt with up front so everyone knows what to expect.
The good news is that if you are signing a contract with a reputable pool builder, the document should clearly outline the total cost of your concrete (gunite/shotcrete) pool, as well as your payment schedule. These written terms should include phased payments that dovetail with key construction phases such as excavation, gunite application, decking, and plaster.
Typically, you will have a down payment and several additional payments throughout the construction process. In different regions of the country, the total number of payments will vary; in some areas, they will be set in accordance with applicable state regulations.
You should also receive details on acceptable methods of payment, to whom checks should be made out, and to which individuals you should give the payments. A few pool builders accept credit cards for certain portions of payments, such as equipment purchases.
Your contract should also specify terms for any unanticipated construction obstacles—a variety of backyard conditions can impact the building process.
For example, in some locations of the country, underground rock may be present in a portion of local backyards. In cases where a builder hits rock during excavation, special equipment, labor, and time will be needed to break it up and remove it. Such a feat incurs an expense. The rate—usually by the hour—should this need arise, ought to be noted in advance on your payment terms.
Additional considerations when paying your pool builder
Be wary of anyone from your pool company, or of any subcontractor, who asks for a cash payment. They may use a ploy, such as claiming a cash payment will enable them to give you a discount. Now, if you are dealing directly with the company owner, an exception here is okay.
If your swimming pool is financed, be sure you understand how the payments will work. The checks from lenders vary in how they are disbursed: If the lender’s check is made payable to you alone, the common practice is for you to deposit the check, and then write your own check to your builder.
If the check is made payable to both you and your builder, then you would endorse the appropriate check at each phase of construction and give it to the contractor.
Prompt payments are vital to your pool-construction timeline. They will help your builder achieve smooth project scheduling and logistics coordination, such as ordering materials. And when everything goes as planned, it’s a win-win for everyone.
What happens when swimming pool payments are late?
So, are there consequences of if your pool builder does not receive payments per the contract schedule? The bottom line is this: Probably. Regardless of who builds your pool, payment delays can prolong the time until your project is finished. Like most home-improvement contractors—virtually all pool builders will stop work if payments do not arrive according to the established timetable.
For example, on plaster day, pool builders typically require a payment. However, if the scheduled payment is not available when the crew shows up to apply the pool’s new interior surface, most builders will pull the crew off the job.
And for some phases, even if payment is made a day late, that initial one-day delay may have a lasting impact. It can easily create a domino effect. Here’s why: Typically, builders must reschedule the postponed work phase around their other projects that are already on the calendar.
In some cases, this reschedule will be quick; in others, the new date will be further out—potentially throwing off your completion timeline by a number of days—even weeks.
You pool builder may never be able to recoup the time lost from the construction process. And even if your contract specifies a completion date, your contract likely states that the builder will not be responsible for missing the target.
Why? Because construction-industry practice—as included in most project contracts—is that building delays due to missed payments do not count toward the total working days allowed for completion.
Another impact of a late payment: For some pool construction phases, it can trigger an additional charge. For example, a plaster crew arrives on your job site. However, for whatever reason, you do not have a check ready. So your builder pulls the crew off the job. Your contract may contain a provision that allows your builder to recoup some of his losses by charging you a “pull-off” fee.
The good news: Pool contracts should protect you and your money
For pool buyers, the upside to all of this is that a professional swimming pool contract will include a payment schedule that safeguards customers. A reputable pool builder will not seek money from you without delivering on each of their commitments outlined in the terms.
Unfortunately, some homeowners have been burned by shady pool companies that try to grind most of the contract amount from them in advance. Well-meaning, but financially unstable builders may resort to this kind of tactic if their business is desperate for quick cash flow.
However, a financially solid builder will have no reason to engage in such a tactic. And their contract should illustrate a commitment to fair, appropriate, legal payment schedules that coincide with construction milestones.
When you follow the payment schedule, your builder is legally obligated to complete work as outlined the contract. Then, with both parties holding up their end of the bargain, you will soon be enjoying your new backyard resort!