Months have led to this point, and now the pool is nearly finished. It began with extensive design meetings between the custom-home and pool builders. During each step of the construction process, both contractors have inspected the site:
Grading and elevations? Check.
Steel and pre-gunite — the point of no return? Everything is on target.
So it’s gone through each phase. Now everything’s good to go, right? Wrong.
You still should take one last walk-through to inspect the property for problems you may have missed. This provides a final opportunity for the home builder to ask for repairs or alterations.
Then, to protect both contractors, a second walk-through should be completed with the homeowners before handing off the property.
During these inspections, the parties must examine all details, from the mechanical to the purely aesthetic.
Home builder and pool builder
The custom-home builder and pool builder must consider a number of factors when performing the final walk-through together.
The first is scheduling, says Deborah Malone, president of custom home builder J.P. Malone Construction Inc., based in Scottsdale, Ariz. Malone plans a walk-through with her subcontractors at least a week before her clients get a final look. This leaves enough time to identify and complete last-minute repairs before the homeowner sees the project.
“I don’t ream my trades in front of my clients, and my clients don’t know that there’s a problem,” Malone says.
This whole process begins three to four weeks before the home closes. That way, the home builder has plenty of time to make repairs or additions requested during the client walk-through.
The next thing to consider is documentation. Malone uses a form and checks off each item as she and the pool contractor go through the project. She lists what the pool builder has agreed to do, and when they’ll get paid.
Other contractors approach the walk-through less formally. When the builder team has a solid, long-term relationship and has collaborated closely throughout the project, they may not feel the need for documentation.
“A lot of it depends on the particular home builder,” says Jordan Clarkson, sales manager and designer at Pools by John Clarkson in Jacksonville, Fla.
In addition to going over the aquascape itself, the walk-through between the custom-home and pool builders should take into account those areas where the pool builder’s work stops and another contractor’s begins.
One area to think about is finishes. Does the pool builder’s deck flow nicely with another contractor’s patio or raised planter? If the pool builder didn’t handle the decking, make sure the deck installer added a joint with expansion material between the coping and decking.
It’s also recommended that you flood the decks during the walk-through to make sure they drain properly. See if dirty water from planters spills over into the pool or onto the deck.
Finally, don’t forget about plumbing or utility connections. Other contractors may handle hookups to the auto-fill system, heater, controls and other devices. They need to be dealt with properly, and the plumbing and gas lines should deliver the right flow.
Builder and customer
No matter how informal the walk-through may be between home and pool builders, one thing is certain: It must be done properly with the customer — and it must be documented.
This can be easy to overlook. But builders such as Michael Holland understand the value of a homeowner walk-through.
“Before, it was a he said/she said type of scenario whenever a problem came up,” notes the president of Holland Pools & Spas in Longwood, Fla. “This eliminates that kind of conflict.”
Walk-throughs also make homeowners accountable. Knowing it’s their last chance to ask for changes or repairs, they’ll pay closer attention to the project before signing off.
The final walk-through helps preserve everyone’s reputation, including the home builder’s. You want to leave the project knowing that the general contractor is glad he or she hired you.
Pool builders often handle their part of walk-throughs, especially if the homeowners are paying them directly. They have the most knowledge about the subject and will give the clients thorough tutorials on how to use the equipment.
Many pool contractors collect their last payment before plastering, so that’s often when they perform a final walk-through. That way, the homeowners feel more confident about handing over the payment, and the contractor can make changes without damaging the final finishes.
But some home builders may prefer to handle the customer walk-through themselves. In these cases, the pool builder may want to participate to field questions and concerns.
Regardless of who conducts the walk-through, insist on doing it face to face. Handling them over the phone rarely works because if a homeowner has an objection or wants a slight change, you can’t see what they see. If a correction is made and the customer still balks, you may not understand why.
Whether you’re doing the walk-through with the consumer or builder, it’s important to be thorough. Use a formal punch list with the homeowner. Check off each satisfactory item and note any agreed-upon repairs. Then have them sign it
Below are two key areas to inspect. First, the mechanical aspects:
- Automatic cover.
- In-floor cleaner.
- Chlorine feeder.
- Basic equipment.
Open and close the cover to verify that it works smoothly. When the cover closes, confirm that the waterfall cut-off switch stops the flow of water.
Note if the heads pop up and move the dirt in the right pattern, namely, toward the main drain.
Check the lights for proper amount of brightness and even illumination. Also, inspect any color-changing features to see that they work correctly.
Ensure that controllers are programmed and labeled properly. See if the air and water temperature sensors are correctly calibrated.
Fire up all pool and spa heaters to see that they function properly.
Examine the output to confirm that it’s adequate.
Make sure the pump and filter operate at the right pressure. Listen for noise coming from the pump.
Then look at aesthetic issues:
If rocks are involved, their placement should have been approved during construction. At the final walk-through, make sure there are no cracks in the boulders and that grout is properly hidden.
Check that the water flow is just right. Confirm that any laminar jets are free of turbulence and shoot in the right direction, and that sheet waterfalls are smooth and consistent.
The plaster and deck may not be completed, but check any finishes that are laid down, such as the tile line and retaining wall veneers. Make sure all materials are clean.