POOL PROJECT DELAYS: Ahh, the part of a pool project that no one wants to think about. Once you find a pool builder and sign a contract the excitement and anxiousness to get that first swim-in, builds with each passing day. That is why when your pool project gets delayed it can be a major letdown and lead to tension between you and your pool builder. In this article, I am going to break down some of the most common reasons that pool projects get delayed and to give some advice to those waiting for their pool to be built.
#1 WEATHER: The most common delay for any outdoor project is the weather. I know this shouldn't even need to be covered but we will dive into this topic quickly. Rain, if its raining more than likely your pool builder cannot work on your pool that day. Sensitive equipment that is not waterproof is used (lasers levels) during the build process that just can't be used in the rain. Secondly, if heavy equipment is used while its raining your yard will get damaged quite heavily which will lead to more work to correct later. Third, if it rains hard enough and the soil is saturated enough it may take a few days to dry out to the point where heavy equipment or dump trucks can be driven on the ground without getting stuck and or causing more harm than good to the job site. So if it rains you may not only lose the day that it rains but a day or 2 after until things dry out. Weather is the biggest and most unpredictable part of project planning. There is no way for a pool builder to control it. All that can be done is to make the best of it and move on as soon as things are dry enough. A weather delay on one project will affect all the proceeding projects as well. So as disappointing as a weather delay can be this is something out of the control of the pool builder.
#2 CHANGE ORDERS: Our second most common delay is last-minute changes to the pool project by clients. At Pool Pros we do our best to avoid this by planning ahead and detailing our scope of work and what may or may not need to be completed by either the client or other contractors that are part of the project prior to our start date. Sometimes however things happen and clients change their minds and want to add more work to the project last minute which is ok, but this will almost always add to delays in subsequent projects. If your pool is one of those subsequent projects this can be very disappointing, to say the least. At Pool Pros, we don't recommend last-minute changes. Especially with the difficulty in obtaining pool-related supplies due to product shortages that are still plaguing the industry. What used to be a quick change order can sometimes add weeks to a project just waiting on supplies to come in. So my advice as a pool builder is to be as sure as you can that you have exactly what you want picked out when you sign on the line for your pool contract.
#3 PRODUCT SHORTAGES: This has been and still is a huge problem for pool builders. This year was a perfect example. At Pool Pros we ordered all of the equipment we would need for all of our pools in 2022 July of 2021 and as of the time I write this, we still don't have all the products in stock. In fact, we have a pool in Fond Du Lac WI that still does not have the Pentair Intellichem System for it with no certain date for delivery. Needless to say, the client is not happy and neither are we. We take what we do very seriously and extended delays like this are not good for the pool builder or the pool owner. We have tried to stem the tide by ordering supplies nearly a year in advance to no avail. It's not only pool products but concrete and pavers as well. New regulations put in place by the current regime have created a large shortage of the key ingredients used in concrete mixes. In the past, we could order concrete a few days ahead of time but now it is weeks and the largest concrete supplier in the Fox Valley has told us they don't know if they can provide concrete without at least 3 weeks' notice. Pavers are in short supply too. Pavers are made of concrete so the same key ingredient that is scarce for concrete-ready mix plants is causing short supplies of pre-cast pavers. Pool Pumps, Salt Systems, and Automation are the biggest items that are still not in stock at key distributors. These delays are infuriating at times but pool builders are at the mercy of Manufacturers and suppliers. These shortages are predicted to be around until the year 2025. The good news is that things will slowly get better but not return to a "normal" status until then. Until then as a pool builder, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We do everything we can to ensure we have what we need in stock on time but since Covid hit it hasn't always worked out the way we had hoped for.
#4 LABOR SHORTAGES: This is a problem that has plagued most American businesses since the pandemic started. It seems as though large numbers of people have just left the workforce. Building pools isn't easy work either. So at times, it is difficult to field a crew to efficiently complete projects. At Pool Pros we have been very fortunate to have added several key new employees to our staff to allow this to not be a problem. However, a Covid outbreak in a small business could shut things down for up to 2 weeks which can add to delays to pool projects as well. This can be very frustrating for pool owners as well.
#5 EQUIPMENT BREAKDOWN: While not very common, the equipment can break down at any time no matter how well-maintained it is. Hydraulic hoses, track on an excavator, fuel pumps, tensioners, etc always seems to malfunction at the worst possible times. Repairs can be quick or can take weeks. At Pool Pros we had a dump truck break down and the dealership could not get the parts to repair it for 6 weeks. So all we could do is work around it and shift gears. We did lose time on the job site because of it though. Freak things happen and when equipment breaks down this may add to delays. If it is a core piece of equipment that a builder only has 1 of it could throw things off for some time. Luckily in most cases, rental equipment may be available to allow your builder to get after it in short order.
#6 PERMITTING DELAYS: If you are required to obtain building permits for your project we recommend doing it right away, don't wait until the night before. In most cases getting a pool building permit takes a few minutes and costs around $35.00. In some cases, though you may need a variance or special permits from the local municipality and the county which take more time a have a few more hoops to jump through. If there is no permit for the project your pool builder will not be able to start the project. Not having the proper permits may lead to your project getting pushed to the end of the schedule or rescheduled until you can pull the proper permits and may also end up in additional costs for the delay in the project. So my advice is to obtain your pool permits the same day you sign your contract with the pool builder.
#6 CLIENT OR OTHER CONTRACTOR NOT COMPLETING NECESSARY WORK PRIOR TO STARTING OF POOL PROJECT: This is a big one. A lot of our clients are pretty handy or know someone who is handy so at times in an effort to help the client reduce costs we allow them to have portions of the larger project completed by themselves or other contractors that they hire directly. For instance, we recently had a project in Suamico where the client was to have a large area dug out, graded, and a retaining wall installed prior to the start of the project. The client did not get this work done and we were forced to work around it which wasn't bad but here is where his lack of experience could have gotten him hurt. We excavated the pool and installed the base to then set the pool on the following Monday. The client decided to drive a large skid steer next to an open hole for the pool (after he was told not to). The client got too close to the hole and caused the wall of the excavation to collapse in on our freshly graded clean stone pool base. We then had to dig this out by hand and bring in fresh new clean stone to ensure the base was level and free of debris. This lead to a delay in the project and subsequent projects. We have also had an issue on a recent pool in FonD Du Lac where the client hired an electrician to wire up the pool equipment and automation system. This electrician did not show up when we made a scheduled appointment to show him what needed to be done. We spent over 4 hours of time and he was a no-show. He then wired the automation incorrectly and did not provide the proper breakers for the panel. This led to several delays and could have been dangerous had it not been caught. Ultimately the wiring had to be corrected by someone else which lead to additional costs and delays to this project and subsequent projects. The moral of this story is to avoid delays in your project be certain to have everything ready and completed properly that is needed before the start of the pool project to ensure there are no delays or added costs to the project.
Hopefully, this article helped provide realistic expectations in regard to what to expect with the starting point of your pool project. Typically a pool builder will give you a rough time period for your pool project to be started and completed, but prepare yourself for delays and they could be substantial. Many of these potential pool project delays are out of the control of your pool builder. If they are like me they lose sleep over things like this. Please cut them some slack and remember that no one wants your pool completed more than your pool builder. Lastly, do not plan a pool party until your pool is completed.