Phillips: Contractor reference list helps with results

Phillips: Contractor reference list helps with results

May 22nd, 2010 by Ellen Phillips in Business Ellen Phillips

Yep, the weather's getting ready for swimming pool time, and our warm southern region is ideal for a backyard setting. Last week's query by the gentleman who asked about pool contractors gave me an opportunity to check if these specific providers' qualifications differ from the norm and how to discover the best names.

* First, talk to other owners to obtain references. Just as with other types of services, friends or family, trade associations you find online or even community pool managers can offer suggestions. Strolling through the Yellow Pages is not a good idea.

* Once you've the names of three or more contractors, verify each license to make sure it's issued in the name given to you from a referral and, additionally, be sure it's current and active. In fact, when dealing with a pool company, it's wise to check that the registration also lists this particular business.

* Gather references. Ask the contractor for a list; one current cus-

tomer and one for whom he's completed work is best. (I normally ask for the past year's worth.) When you speak with a reference, don't just ask if he or she is happy with the contractor. Check on the subcontractors and all employees.

* Now you're ready to bid out the job. Most consumer groups say it's important to get at least three bids to make the best comparisons.

* Before you sign the contract (and allowing for inclement weather), insert a clause somewhere to set a maximum time for completion. You want to be their only customer until the job is through.

* And just like any other contracting work, do not ever pay these folks upfront. Write an initial check for a 20 percent deposit, write another 30 percent check mid-way through, and upon completion and to your satisfaction, write a check for the remainder.

Never pay cash and, also, don't pay extra for any supplies they may need during construction.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business. E-mail her at