This is a great question and it is an easy answer. This requires a little leg work on your part but will save you time in the long run.
1: Call Diggers Hotline 1 (800) 242-8511 and file a locate request for your entire property. This will show any hidden underground utilities that may interfere with your pool project. If you do find utilities in the area you wanted to locate your pool this gives you the option to look into moving the utilites or choosing to forgo the project. Either way this is better to be doen before you meet with a potential pool contractor.
2: Contact Local Building Inspector. Its best to contact your local municipalities to obtain information on required setbacks and or fencing requirements in your area.
3: Contact Developer. If you are located in a subdivision that has restrictive covenants its best to find that out now before any further planning occurs. Most developers are pool friendly but some do have issues with fencing. Again this is the time to gather the info before you contact a pool builder
4: Gather Ideas: I always recomend searching online for project photos to help inspire your pool project. It is best to have a general idea of what you would like prior to meeting with a pool builder. This will help streamline the process once you begin interviewing pool builders.
5: Prepare to Interview Pool Builders. Prior to interviewing potential pool builders I recomned compliling a list of critical questions. When you are investing the kind of money it costs to build a pool it pays to be diligent and scrutinize every builders. Below is a list of questions we recomend asking your potential pool builder.
1: EXPERIENCE: Find out what the actual experience level is of every person involved with your pool project. Find out how and why they got into the pool industry. The owner, the sales person, the lead pool builder and all the workers. It is imperative to know the experience of each individual person. Far too often pool builders hide the lack of experience by combining experience of all their workers. I often see claims of 25-35 year experience when there are 5 or so employees with 5 or so years of experience. This may nto seem like a big deal but it is huge difference. There is no replacment for experience. The fanciest marketing and alluring websites wont cover up a lack of experience.
2: QUALIFICATIONS: Find out what qualifications each builder has. Are they just a company tht builds pools or are they commited to the industry and their clients. A commited pool company will have Industry Certifications such as the Certified Building Profesional designation. This is the equivalent of a masters degree in pool building and less that 250 pool builders in the entire country retain this title. The Certified Service Technician title indicates the ability of a pool company to service your pool after the sale.
3: REVIEWS: Read every review on facebook and google. While this is somewhat subjective, more likely than not online reviews are a good gauge of the potential pool builders. Review them closely beacuse some companies have their very own employees give good reviews. This is a pretty sad attempt to boost overall review ratings. Whats even worse is that some builders use paid reviewers as well. People who are not even their clients. While an important resource dont base your entire project on reviews.
4: BACK GROUND CHECK: Do a back ground check on the players of the company you are interviewing. Search the Wisconsin Better Business Burea Website for the company first, then the owner and its associates. I also recomend checking county court records for the company and the owners(s) as well. Look for a pattern of lawsuits against or potential bankruptcies or name changes. If an owner or key worker of a pool company has something more than divorce proceddings it may be a red flag and deserve more looking into. There are alot of fly by night pool builders in this area. Most notabley in Appleton WI and the Fox Valley area.
5: TESTIMONIALS: Testimonials are very important as well. What is better yet is a list of refferences or the best is the option to visit local pool projects to get an actual idea as to the quality of work. Pictures can be photoshopped, seeing the pool in person adds another level of comfort to potential pool buyers. It means the builder has nothing to be afraid of. Its easy to build a beautiful showroom with perfect pools but its another thing to have potential clients meet existing clients to get the dish first hand.
6: Schedule Interviews: Set up appointments with 3 of the best pool builders you felt comfortable with after doing your research. Please dont schedule them all on the same day. Although you are trying to get the best deal on your project, you also want to build a relationship with your potential builders. Afterall you wouldnt go on 3 dates in one night with all three people knowing about each other and expect a second date from any of them, now would you? The same can be said about any contractor you hire for anything. The more a contractor feels connected to you as a client the better service you will get. It is a 2 way street to a productive relationship for the duration of the time you own your pool.
7: Make sure the quotes are for comparable items: Different manufactures products carry different costs and differing qualities. So once you have the quotes make sure you are comparing apples to apples and not oranges.
8: Make your pick: At this point it is time to pick your builder and move into the design stage.
9: Design: Now that you are comfortable with your builder and his pricing it is time to begin designing your pool project. At this point a builder will require a contract to be signed along with a deposit or a builder may charge a specific fee for the design that can be deducted from the final cost of the project once a contract is signed. Either way a 3D renderring is not free. It takes a unique skill set to create a quality 3D Design using Pool Studio a software system taylored specifically for the pool industry. (Add link to design gallery)
10: Start Date: Once a design is agreed upon and any changes to the scope of the project are made it is now time to get the project on the books. Now it is just a waiting game until you can take that first plunge into your new pool.