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Scope out pool contractors earlier than leaping in

A swim in a garden pool is a great way to cool off on a hot Midwestern day. If you don’t have one and are not the home improvement guy, you may need to find a contractor to install your pool – and it’s important to do your homework before you take the plunge.

The Better Business Bureau received more than 1,800 complaints about pool entrepreneurs in the past year. Complaints range from customer service issues to non-performance of work or warranty claims.

A customer told BBB that a pool had leaked so badly that it had to be refilled every other day. The contractor made several attempts to fix the pool, but the homeowner still had issues that were not resolved.

Consumers need to think about how they and their family use a pool, weigh the costs, and decide which type will suit their budget and space. Swimming pools can require a significant investment, especially in-ground pools. They require frequent cleaning during the season and proper closing and opening at the end and beginning of a season.

BBB advises consumers:

• Obtain at least three offers and compare them. Make sure that the offers include the size of the pool and a detailed list of the materials included in the offer.

• Make sure that the contractor’s documents are in order. Ask for the contractor’s license and insurance certificates. If you have any questions, please contact the relevant admissions office.

• Ask for references and check them out.

• Review BBB business profiles to determine if a contractor is BBB accredited. Also check that the company has been the subject of complaints and that the complaints have been resolved.

• Find out who is doing the real work – the contractor’s or sub-contractor’s employees.

• Ask the contractor for deposit waivers after the project is complete. A deposit waiver shows whether suppliers and subcontractors have been paid.

• Find out whether the builder can carry out site and soil assessments for your property. Consider whether it will require grading or landscaping to complete a pool to your satisfaction.

• Ask about guarantees and whether the contractor will carry out maintenance and repair work after the pool is complete.

• Do not pay the entire amount in advance. Do not make the final payment until the work has been completed to your satisfaction.

If you need help, visit bbb.org or call 573-886-8965.

Michelle Gleba is the Mid-Missouri regional director for Better Business Bureau.