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Professional Pool and Landscape Designer vs. Swimming Pool Salesmen

A thoughtfully integrated pool can have a great impact on the resale value of a property, its aesthetic quality, and also the enjoyment of the homeowners. However, when a homeowner is ready to add a feature pool to their property, they frequently run into a danger zone without even realizing it.

Many people have the misconception that qualified designers are only needed for extremely high-priced projects. In reality, every project needs a good designer. A good design ensures that you end up with a tastefully completed project. It can also help you get more value for your construction dollars and swimming pool cost.

This geometrically distinct home was stuck with a boring, arbitrary kidney shaped pool, but by integrating a patio and landscape design that amplified and stitched the shapes together, the two were reconciled.

This geometrically distinct home was stuck with a boring, arbitrary kidney shaped pool, but by integrating a patio and landscape design that amplified and stitched the shapes together, the two were reconciled.

You don’t want to get stuck with a run of the mill design, or one that is in poor taste. Find yourself a professional designer and then a builder, not just a pool salesman or a well-intentioned contractor. Any Joe with a pencil and paper can draw a “design” with a pile of rock waterfall at one end. But more cunning, 3D software is now available so that even entry-level sales people / contractors can prepare “sophisticated” looking 3D renderings. However, it takes someone with actual architectural design and artistic education and innate skills, along with construction experience, to design and build you a pool and landscaping that is appropriate, in keeping with the architectural style of your home, and something truly unique to your backyard.

Many are taken in by the pretty picture, wowed by a 3D presentation. As this example illustrates, don’t mistake the presentation itself for a good design.

Many are taken in by the pretty picture, wowed by a 3D presentation. As this example illustrates, don’t mistake the presentation itself for a good design.

Here is what you need to know in advance, so that you can confidently select your team, know what to look for when searching for professional pool designers and who to stay away from. Four questions follow that you should ask potential pool designers in order to weed out the imposters:

1) Have you had any architectural design experience or education? Find out where he/she went to school and what was the field of study? What credentials / continuing education have they accrued?

2) Have you actually built pools with your own hands at some point in your career? If he/she hasn’t, your design may end up being “gorgeous” on paper, but non-functional in reality, impractical to build or even a maintenance nightmare.

3) Do the pictures in your portfolio represent projects that you personally designed and built? Remember, he/she is the one drawing your pool. Pictures of pools that someone else at his/her company designed or built are irrelevant to your project if they lack judgment in selecting what’s appropriate for your project.

4) Will your company compensate you to be on site, from start to finish (for more than 5 minutes at a time) to supervise my project? Read on for an answer to this last question.

First of all, you need to know who you are dealing with whenever a pool / outdoor design salesman comes knocking at your door. There are basically four types of people who will try to sell you a pool and outdoor design. Here is a brief description of each:

Type 1: Salespeople. Salespeople are construction company representatives trained to make the sale, but possessing limited (if any) design or construction experience. Veteran salespeople are susceptible to doing the same old thing if they don’t educate themselves in the WHY of what they do, not just the how.

Type 2: Solo Designers. On one end of the spectrum, some designers can be sales reps with artistic ability, but possessing limited (if any) construction expertise. They typically do not have a construction team behind them, so you are on your own to implement. On the other end, some solo designers may well be certified as Landscape Architects! But without the field knowledge, the official stamp doesn’t mean they can overcome the challenge of bringing an artistic concept to reality. Additionally, many landscape architects are often specialized as horticulturalists, plant lovers first. This means they know the ins and outs of specific plants, but when it comes to organizing and composing your hardscape and pool scene on a spatially organized architectural level, this is a different skill set entirely. You have to have the layout first, and then the plants can be identified last.

Type 3: Solo Contractors. Contractors generally speaking are trades people with field experience, (which counts for a lot), but their recommendations can be short sighted because of overly specialized sensibilities and varying degrees of technical expertise when it comes to integrating their ideas into the big picture. Hence the age old battle between architectural designers AKA “visionary dreamers” and contractors with “practical know-how.” Most contractors that do design, endure it as a necessary evil, to get on with building, which is what they actually make money at.

Type 4: Designer Builder Team. These are specialists who have teamed up, and take personal pride and responsibility for mastering both design and the construction expertise necessary to build extraordinary projects. The designer builder team is the only one of four who has no limitations.

Most likely, the only one of the four types who will be able to answer “yes” to all of the questions is the designer builder team, where a talented designer is partnered with a talented contractor, because the skill sets to be exceptional at both seldom reside in just one person.

Most likely, the only one of the four types who will be able to answer “yes” to all of the questions is the designer builder team, where a talented designer is partnered with a talented contractor, because the skill sets to be exceptional at both seldom reside in just one person.

If you crave something spectacular for the funds you are willing to allocate, you need a team, starting with a designer that has the vision, ability, experience, education, and desire to build you your dream, and who is compensated to be on site as an integral part of the construction process – not just to sell you a pool and show up occasionally if at all. (You would think this is the way most are structured but in fact, many salespeople and solo designers are privately reprimanded by their “superiors” when they try to show up and “help” on their projects. One such company called it “meddling.” The reason? A salesperson is only making profits when they are out selling the next job, and they are complicating the construction process when they hang around on a job that is already sold!)

In contrast to the impersonal approach to customer service that production oriented companies take, consider the personalized service you will receive from ones where the designer is in constant contact with the builder, as an integral and valued part of your team. Both the designer and the builder will be thoroughly familiar with the design and construction plans and both of them will spend hours supervising your project, perfecting and building in special touches along the way.
If you have concerns, want to change something, or just feel the need to see how your pool is coming along, there is no need to call a scheduling coordinator. Just step out your back door and have a face-to-face chat with the designer or builder himself.
Finally, make sure to call the Registrar of Contractors and check on ALL of the companies you are considering. If a company doesn’t fix their mistakes, the Registrar will have a record of complaints against them. Reputable, professional pool designers and builders may make mistakes, but will always make sure to correct them.
So how does all of this bank the ROI you put into your project? Because throwing money and amenities at a project without a good plan is like banging randomly on a piano.

A well thought out design is like sheet music to a symphony, it is an organized intentional procession of notes, laid out with intention to evoke an emotional response, every time.

A well thought out design is like sheet music to a symphony, it is an organized intentional procession of notes, laid out with intention to evoke an emotional response, every time.

So when your swimming pool cost is offset by sheer delight, you will cheer the day you opted to go for working with a true qualified designer, and their builder team, even if the planning fee for design seemed like an expensive distraction from your goal. Like a beautiful work of art or delightfully composed musical score, you know you did right the moment the project is done, and so does everyone that comes by to partake.