If a South Carolina legislator has his way, residential pool builders will be subject to the same state requirements as commercial pool builders.

John L. Scott Jr. (D-District 19) plans to propose a bill during the state’s next legislative session that would create new regulations for residential pool builders.

The bill was motivated by the experience of a constituent who spent tens of thousands of dollars only to end up with an unfinished pool and the unpleasant discovery that her contractor was not licensed.

If passed, it would be a clear switch from current practices. Currently, South Carolina has no statewide licensing or construction requirements for residential pool builders.

“Anyone can come in and build whatever type of pool they want,” said Shawn Clarke, who is manager of water supply and recreational waters permitting for the Department of Health and Environmental Control , which oversees commercial swimming pools. 

Counties may have some requirements, but those vary, too. Some localities only ask for a business license to pull a permit for a pool, while others may require a licensed electrician or licensed gas fitter to handle the electrical work or heat pump installation. “Some don’t have any regulations or inspections,” said Jim Ridge, recreational waters compliance coordinator at DHEC.

However, it’s a different world for commercial builders. Anyone who wants to construct a commercial pool in South Carolina has to be licensed as a general contractor with a specialty swimming pool subclassification, the levels of which vary on the dollar amount of the pool.

A state licensing requirement for residential pool builders sounds great to Don Miller, manager of Miller Pools in Chapin, S.C. He and his sons own the business, which typically builds approximately 15 high-end pools per year.

As a licensed commercial pool builder who also does residential projects, Miller thinks stricter rules would be better for the industry. “There’s too much deadwood out there,” he said. “People go work with someone for two weeks, and then they go out on their own. … These clowns go out there and don’t even have insurance.”

He thinks the additional requirements also would be better for homeowners. “We clean up too many messes,” Miller said. “I get one to two calls a week from [people who have hired] fly-by-nighters. It’s a crying shame.”