Louisiana’s State Licensing Board for Contractors has tightened its licensing requirements for builders. In June, pool and spa builders in the Bayou State were notified that something of a loophole was eliminated. Since 2003, pools and spas could be built and repaired by companies with a home-improvement registration, which did not require tests in construction or business.

Some pool builders believed this allowance tightened competition by keeping the bar fairly low. “It’s hard for somebody who’s been doing things right to compete with somebody who only has to pay for a pickup truck,” said Charles Elfert, president of Pleasure Pools by Charles Elfert Inc. in Mandeville, La.

As of July 1, pool and spa contractors must hold the appropriate specified license for contracts exceeding $7,500, including materials and labor. To build on a residential property, contractors must hold a Residential Swimming Pool License. Contractors licensed to build homes can bid or contract a pool project, but must hire a contractor holding the Residential Swimming Pool License if they don’t possess one.

Building on a commercial site requires a commercial contractor’s license with one of three classifications: Building Construction; Swimming Pool; or Swimming Pools, Water Features and Fountains.

While the commercial classifications had existed, the residential pool subcategory has just been added, said Judy Dupuy, a board administrator with the licensing board.

The change went into effect July 1, but contractors have been granted a 60-day grace period to comply.

The licensing board took action because of an increase in workmanship complaints against unlicensed builders and home-improvement registrants. “We were seeing a lot of problems coming back before the board that we were having to handle by administrative hearing,” Dupuy said.

It isn’t yet known how this will affect builders in the state. Some builders there say that a small fraction of their competitors hold the appropriate licenses, with estimates as low as 25 percent.

Elfert welcomed the change. “There are a lot of people in the industry who don’t like licensing,” he said. “In my opinion, there should be some kind of minimum standard if you’re going to build a pool. Pools can be dangerous if not built correctly.”