New Pool Build in Northeast. Need Advice

cutter2010May 3, 2010

First off, this forum has provided me with a wealth of info for a new pool we are looking to build this summer. Thanks so much for the info.

We are in the final stages of negotiation with three companies in Massachusetts and would love anyone's feedback on:

1) Feedback on 3 Pool Builders in Mass

2) What are the gotchas?

3) Do we really need the extras?


1) Pool Builders in Mass


We've received quotes and proposals and narrowed down our choice to the following three companies. We've been happy with all three so looking for any inside info. Pricewise everyone has been about the same except EP which has been higher.

- Pools by Andrews

- Environmental Pools

- South Shore Gunite


2) What are the gotchas?


Additionally, what are the "gotchas" we should be looking for when getting quotes that could make the difference in our decision? Extra electrical, # of returns, cleaning system, etc


QUOTE EXAMPLE - Approx 40K w Spa


Pavers/Stamped Concrete, Fence not included (all about $12SF for Stamped and $14-15 for pavers)


18 x 38 pool  3 to 8 Ft depth  Shape : Custom

 Computer Aided Designed - Engineered Plans and Specifications

 Swimming Pool Construction and Electrical permits

 Excavation, Layout and wood Forming of Pool - 2 days Included

 2 loads gravel

 Safety Main Drain with Hydrostatic Relief Valve

 Engineered Concrete 12" Gunite "Bond Beam "construction to meet or exceed city/town codes

 Cantilever Style Coping Edge INcluded

 One (1) 6" band of Frost proof tile - standard set to choose

 3 Step Grand Stair Entry with 1ea 4 ft of bench

 6 x 18"deep end seating benches

 White Plaster Interior Pool Finish

 Sta-Rite Modular Filter and Sta-Rite Pump

 2 ea Surface Skimmers and required returns

 Weatherproof Time clocks  Intermatic

 Electrical Bonding and Equipment Wiring up to 60ft from existing adequate power Source.

 Complete hookup of all waterlines from filter to pool including hose bib at pump

 One (1) MDX Anti Entrapment Dual Suction Breaker main Drain - Pentair SVRS variable speed pump - meets new Federally Mandated anti entrapment safety code

 2ea. 500 Watt Underwater SAM Light (100 ft cord) with conduit and deck Box

 Deluxe Cleaning tools  Hand Leaf skimmer , 16 telescopic pole, 18" nylon brush, Vacuum head, Test kit and thermometer, Safety ropes and floats

 Full Pool and equipment instructions

 Written "Lifetime Structural Warranty"


 8ft Diameter 8 Jets Spa with Step, light, bench, Floor Bubblers  MDX Anti-entrapment Safety Main Drain . Meets all ANSI Safety Codes.

 Sta Rite 400K Heater for pool and spa

 Extra electrical is about $700


3) Do we really need the extras?


These extras drive up the costs. DO WE REALLY NEED?

 Salt Purification System - $ 1800.00. Worth it?

 PCC 200 Cleaning and Circulation System - $ 4800.00. Shouldn't the pump move around the water from a heat perspective?

 Pebbletec -$3600+. Won't the standard gunite be OK?

Thanks so much

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Check with the township engineer about the prevalent soil conditions first! If he suggests getting a soils engineer, do it! Better to know ahead of time of any special considerations you may need to deal with that will cost you.

Get a completed by date with penalties for failure.

Check references. Check the subs too!

Have the contract checked by an attorney 1st!

Make them spell out the size rebar, spacing, and floor/wall thickness. How much extra rebar for the bond beam?

If they hit rock or a high water table during the dig? Make them spell it out.

It's a paver deck, how/why are they quoting a canterlevered coping? Get matching coping to the pavers.

3 steps might be a bit high for Grand Parents and other older guests.

Is 60' for the electrical and bonding sufficient? $700 for additional Electrical? What additional?

But 100' to the deck box for the lights? They come with shorter cords at substantial savings.

I smell up charge.

SAMs aren't 500 watts. Go with two Intellibrites. They last longer and have better color dispersement.

You'll need an SDX to go with the MDX. They can be tied together. No single points of suction below the water line.. The spa will need an MDX and SDX also.

Make sure the vac head is rectangular and has wheels. If it has brushes, it's meant for liners. Make them break it down fully as to what they are providing you. A liner vac head is useless in a gunite pool.

Expect to buy a much better water testing kit. The will give you a phenol red pH and OTO test kit. You will need to know more about your pool's chem levels than pH and Total chlorine.

Intellichlor with an EasyTouch controller is about as much installed as the want just for the salt cell. Call him on it. EasyTouch will make your life easier when it comes to controlling and scheduling the pump speeds and times, lights, salt cell, and spa. An iS10 spa side controller and wireless controller.

A Pentair Legend cleaner instead of the floor system. Costs a lot less, is easy to use, is durable, is easier and less costly to winterize and the cost savings can go elsewhere in the budget. The Easy Touch can control it too.

If you want deep heat, have them install valves so the return flow can be sent to the drains.

Gunite is the shell, white plaster is the standard finish that makes the shell water tight. Expect about 10 years of life from it. The PebbleTec U/G will last at least twice that, more like 3 or 4 times that. Make sure it specifies PebbleTec and not Pebble finish. That seems a bit low for a PebbleTec u/g. If it is, jump on it.

Is there a ladder or swim out on the deep end?


    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 5:32PM
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Can't answer on the specs except to say that my pebble tec in MA 10 years ago was 3K (20X40 pool) so that is a good in NC for smaller pool it was 13K! The white plaster will stain and you will probably regret not upgrading. We loved our PT pool...have gray plaster here and are happy with that too.

My next door neighbors in MA used Env. Pools. They got a good pool, and were happy, but the construction was very, very drawn out...several months. You would be wise to get completion dates w/penalties if you use them.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 10:23PM
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Wow, some great info. Thanks. Will discuss w PBs one by one but your great answers brings up a few more questions.

* As an alternative to the PCC2000 system, do you think it's worth it to get 10 floor heads installed instead at a cost of $2600 to distribute heat? Or save the money and rely on the pumps and auto cleaner?

* Are two pumps even necessary? What if I had two main drains instead? One of the three builders is recommending this route that eliminates the need for a single SVRS (and the second pump)

* Asking the PB about the EasyTouch. Been wondering how I was gonna control all this stuff.

* Intellibrites. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 1:26PM
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Plumb the drains to they can be valved at the equipment pad to become returns when deep heat is desired.

Having the SVRS in the Intelliflo is still a good idea, even with dual drains. Some communities require it too.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 5:28PM
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I looked at the same 3 companies. I went with Andrews. Environmental's references weren't the greatest. South Shore and Andrews came out about the same, but Andrews upgraded me to pavers for the same price. That was the deciding factor for me. South Shore quoted a 5 year warranty on all the equipment versus the standard 1-3 year manufacturer's warranty. I was more interestedin the pavers.

Andrews recommends the PV3 in-floor system. Still trying to find out exactly what the difference is between that and the PCC2000. My quote for the PV3 is $3300. I'm getting it mostly to recirculate the water from the bottom. If it gets most of the dirt in the pool, so much the better. We have a big tree in the neighbor's yard, so we'll get lots of leaves. I don't expect any in floor system to handle it all, so I will supplement with another cleaning system.

I'm also plumbing for a separate pump for a Polaris, but I'm not going to get one right away. My sister is a fanatic about her pool and she loves their dolphin advantage robot. I will probably get one instead of the Polaris, but I wanted to do the plumbing just in case.

I'm still debating on the variable speed pump. With a 1.5hp pump, I'll get about 120gpm. I can turn my whole pool over in about 3 hours. I'm waiting to see what flow rate the PV3 system needs to do a good cleaning job. If it's high enough, I'll probably stick with the single speed pump and run it occasionally throughout the day. Otherwise, I may go to a variable speed and run it longer but slower.

I am also going with LED lights. I want to match the colors with my Laminar water features, so I want them both from the same manufacturer. I haven't decided on Pentair versus Jandy yet.

We'll have a dual main drain, so Andrews says I don't need an SVRS.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 5:24PM
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Boy the economy is really helping you. We had Andrews do a pool in 2008, and we spent about 75K by the time it was done with no spa!
The pool they built is beautiful, but it was a bit of a stressful time during the build, although, I think Andrews may be the best of the bunch when it comes to the whole process. A neighbor used Environmental and they plumbed the spa wrong and they are stuck with it. We also got a quote from South Shore, and just didn't like the salesman. Ferrari would have built a nice pool for us too, but the seemed handle their subs differently. Andrews said they use no subs, but they really do, they just report to Andrews, and Andrews keeps a close eye on what they do. Turns out their subs were great.
The big worry for us was how much extra $ we could spend if they hit ledge. You don't know what is under your lawn. We totally lucked out, we just knew there was going to be ledge, but when they hit it, we just decided to flip the design of the pool - deep end to the shallow end, and they kept digging, No extra $ for dynamite or rock splitting. We got exposed aggregate decking which we love. We also did the Pebble tec, and love it. We have a little waterfall. We have the salt generating system, and a Polaris. Jerrith fencing surrounds the pool. We have an electric heater. Things I would change if I could:
1. Add a pool filling jet from our well, rather than dragging the hose over when the water level drops due to summer evaporation.
2. Deeper and wider deep end with a diving rock. Even though they tell you not to do this because of safety/insurance issues, guests and kids just assume the pool is deep enough for diving, and they dive off the side.
3. LED color changing lights. It would look so great at night.
4. Even though we paid extra for a significantly larger deck surround, I wish it was even bigger. You spend a lot of time there, and it feels smaller than it is.
I can't think of more now. I don't know how to post pictures, but I could email you one.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 8:46AM
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jfitz0807 and emh8, thanks for the Andrews comments. We've been really happy with them so far. We're hoping to make the final decision tonight/tomorrow as we get in the final proposals.

In negotiating w Andrews, what would you say we should look out for when doing the final contract? Any language we should add? Any extra we should push for? WOuld love to know this over the next 24 hours.

I think we'll do the LED lights also. Andrews says the same thing about not needing an SVRS because they do two drains.

EMH, would love to see you pics. Feel free to email me via my profile.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 11:42AM
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Where in Mass are you located? You are welcome to come see our pool and equipment in Southern NH. You might consider Quality Pools in Nashua. They were slow too but the quality of the pool was good. I think you have to stay on top of all of these pool builders to be sure you get what you want when you want it.

Here are some other things to give thought to:

1) Make sure you give thought to where you want the equipment pad
2) Test out how hot those pavers/stamped concrete get on a hot day.
3) We get a full 6 months out of our pool by having it covered. We did opt for an auto-cover as well and happy we did.
4) We like the salt water chlorine generation system - less maintenance - easy to maintain sanitation at good level
5) Oversize cartridge filter has resulted in not having to clean the cartridges mid season and they have lasted two seasons so far
6) Auto-fill is a nice option that also minimizes care/maintenance
7) Add more lights if you can swing it.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 9:25PM
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OK, the decisions has been made after a crazy few weeks of negotiation among all three. Signed today with South Shore Gunite.

Any of the the three could have had our business over the last 7 days as we thought all were able. Andrews had great reviews from folks in our area and Environment came in strong with initial design and its backyard architect.

But South Shore gave the greatest mix of offerings. The deal breaker was SSG's 5 year warranty which gives us piece of mind. Basically, everything is covered. The others agreed to match but I question whether they could really do that as SSG has the process down and does everything in house. Andrews and Environment sub a lot of stuff....especially Andrews. SSG also services it's pools which gives them more of an incentive to make you happy. Environmental does this also.

Re pricing, trying to compare apples to apples is virtually impossible with these guys if you have never built a pool before. Some include electrical, others don't. Some allow for water, some don't, etc. Thank god for this forum for educating me on some of the things to look for. We got all three close and ended up going with the company we felt most comfortable with.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2010 at 11:02PM
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Hi -we're just starting the process again and are interested in using South Shore (we had gone through this whole thing a few years ago and they were by far our favorite though we didn't end up building then). Since our pool size/design is exactly what you have listed above, I am wondering if that quote was from South Shore and what if anything did you negotiate the last week (did they come down in any of the above)? This seems like a great price for this size pool - and we'd love to hear how the process is going for you. Did they start on time? The designer will be coming out later this week to talk to us - so any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 5:29PM
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westma. The process of choosing a PB can be challanging because they all sell something a little different and agressively sell against one another. They also play the shell game with pricing.

We are just startin our PB now. Digging Monday with fingers crossed.

Permits came in last week and we are documenting the build at:

The above specs above were actually from another vendor. Our updated specs are in our PB link

If you are looking for an amazing design, SSG probably isn't the fit. We saw alot better designs from Environment and Andrews during the proposal stage but have yet to see that vison from SSG. Most of the design comes from me using powerpoint and a basic 3D image from SSG. We've been a bit disappointed about that but we're hoping SSG is everything their references say----quality. They also have a great warranty and do all their own work without subs. We'll see once the build starts.

Yes, we did some negotiating and having other quotes helped. But it's a shell game with any of these guys.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 4:22PM
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Thanks for this - we went through the same thing 5 years ago and were amazed at the differences in pricing from various companies. We just like it that South Shore doesn't subcontract and is able to do the patio if we want them to. Good to think about the issues with the design as we move forward.

The pricing seems more competitive than it was 5 years ago - I don't think a lot of people are building pools right now (especially as they can all get right out to start once the permitting is done). We're meeting with one of the designers next week.

Can't wait to see your pool build - thanks for posting the other link and pictures there.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 6:13PM
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Just following up on the pool build.

We just finished this past weekend when the pool opened. SSG was everything we had hoped in terms of quality. The crews were professional, management was great, the timing was efficient and we know we got a great quality pool build. They did all the work themselves and didn't subcontract anything except the electric.

There only thing we ran into revolved around after-the-fact change requests. SSG is definately not on the cheaper/reasonable side when it comes to additions. Recommend negotiating as much in advance on afterthought items like water fall features, additional backfill, etc.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 4:13PM
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Hi Cutter 2010,

I am almost ready to sign with a pool builder. I have it narrowed down to South Shore Gunite and Doherty Pool & Spa. I live in Wrentham ,MA.

Right now I feel like I could just flip a coin. It's so hard to compare and I believe either one would probably build a good pool.

Could you give me some feedback on SSG? Are you happy with the Pool and overall end result? Was the pool building process ok? Any regrets? Of course, any additional advice or information or opinions would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

Doug (buzz2)

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 5:29PM
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If you still have it available, would you mind sending me that spreadsheet you talked about in your post?

Thank you.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 5:45PM
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