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Backyard Expectations

How to plan an awesome outdoor retreat

By John Petrocelli

Photo_Structure2Installing a backyard pool gives you the freedom to vacation—every day—without the hassle of packing for a long commute. In fact, today’s backyards can be equipped with all the amenities you would find at any five-star resort, including pools, hot tubs, open-air dining areas, fire-pits, barbecues, fireplaces, entertainment centres (e.g. TVs and music), along with outdoor furnishings.

Although pool ownership can be rewarding in this sense, for some the initial purchase and construction process can be daunting—that is, if you are not properly prepared. If you are thinking about installing a pool and/or complete backyard entertainment centre, this article will give you an idea about what to expect. With the right information, this could be one of the most rewarding investments you will ever make for your family’s health and happiness.

How to find the right builder

Gone are the days of using the telephone book to see which companies have the biggest advertisements. The combination of more resources (i.e. the Internet) and a larger number of companies to choose from has changed the way you make your purchase decisions. Rather than visiting multiple pool builders, the Internet allows you to do most of your research prior to meeting with the company you feel most comfortable with.

Blogs or chat forums can also be a good resource as many neighbourhoods have online groups where they discuss a variety of subjects, including good and bad experiences with organizations or companies they have dealt with. Many pool company websites will also contain reviews from past clients who were satisfied with the quality, service, and overall experience. Additionally, there are several websites that provide online reviews and rank pool builders based on the scores they receive from previous clients.

Another place where you can find a reputable pool builder is through the Pool & Hot Tub Council of Canada (PHTCC). It represents the interests of the top pool companies in Canada which abide by a code of ethics and conform to the highest standards of workmanship and service. Employees of member companies also meet strict business criteria (i.e. have adequate liability insurance and worker’s compensation coverage).

Industry manufacturers can be another good resource. Some of these companies even have links to professional or certified builders who install their products. These builders must meet a certain criteria before they are listed on supplier websites. In fact, some even require a project inspection and proper technical training before they are listed.

Pools, Spas & Patios is another good resource. The magazine’s ‘Backyard Service Finder’ not only offers a way to find a pool builder in your area, but also provides other great ideas for your backyard in terms of pool styles, finishes, decking, and landscaping. Finally, one of the best sources is a personal referral from someone you know. If they had a good or bad experience with a particular company, they will likely tell you all about it.

No matter how you research or narrow down a prospective builder, keep in mind you are essentially buying the company, not just the pool. That said, it is always best to deal with a pool builder that has been in business for a long time as this indicates they are reputable. You do not want to roll the dice with a company that has only been in business for one or two years with only a few pools under their belt.

Last, but not least, make sure the company is properly insured. The average pool builder should have a minimum of $5 million in general liability insurance coverage, while larger companies should carry more than $20 million in commercial general liability coverage. A builder should have adequate insurance to reflect his/her exposure to their specific circumstances and risks. If an accident should happen and the builder is underinsured, and the claim exceeds their coverage, you will likely be next on the hook.

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