Last weekend, I was riding my bike through an upscale L.A. neighborhood, saw a sign for an open house and stopped to take a look.
The asking price was $1.4 million, and once inside the home I could see why. The place was huge with clean, contemporary lines, high-end materials and immaculate attention to design details. A massive sliding glass door (that I was told cost $15,000) led to the backyard, which prominently featured a perimeter-overflow pool — so prominently, in fact, that no matter where you were in the living room it was impossible not to see the pool smack in front of you.
Right away, I noticed two things.
1. From a design perspective, the pool was great. Its pleasing geometry echoed the shape of the home’s windows, and the dark stone deck and coping contrasted nicely with the house.
2. The white goods on the deck sat like blisters on that lovely, slate-colored stone.
I went outside to take a closer look. Once there, I could also see that the perimeter-overflow system was not overflowing, even though the pump was running — and quite loudly. I took a peek at the equipment pad and instantly felt deep pity for whoever had to service this pool. The area was tiny with a system almost impossible to access for anyone less flexible than Gumby.
“Isn’t this an incredible pool?” The Realtor asked. “And it’s brand new! They only finished it in February.”
I asked why the vanishing edge wasn’t working, and he explained that the water level was currently low. Completely possible, yes, and maybe not a problem. But it also made me wonder if the gutter system might be so noisy that the Realtor didn’t want prospective buyers to hear it. Or maybe the tolerances were too loose, creating an uneven flow of water.
I glanced from the tortuous equipment pad to the dry edges to the horrible white goods. “Do you know who the pool builder was?” I asked casually.
“Actually, the homeowner did it himself. He’s a general contractor.”
Now it all became clear. Believing that pools are not especially tricky, the homeowner likely subbed out the work to inexperienced tradespeople, who created a pretty, but problematic, installation.
The longer I’m at this job, the more I’m beginning to believe that we need a higher level of pool-specific licensing. Contractors who pass a test specific to pools and spas are not only much more qualified, but they also are more likely to take the process seriously. Building a pool is an important job requiring education and experience. It’s time for it to be treated that way.