Pool Builders in S-east PA

sdemjsully5August 8, 2012

Hi All.

Trying to make an informed decision, and we've seen several pool builders here in Southeast PA. Would appreciate any comments...good or bad...on any of the builders I list. We're looking at a 550 Sq Ft gunite pool, with a sun shelf (60 sq ft) and rock waterfall (3'D x 5'L x 3'H).

1. Sylvan (best price, and design consultant has been the most informative of all the companies)

2. Ted's Pools

3. Swift Pools

4. JMK Pools

5. Blue Diamond

Thanks all.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A brief follow-up:

1. Sylvan quote ($45K) includes 830 sq ft of dyed concrete patio and 220 linear feet of fencing; Polaris; natural gas heater; swim out (instead of ladder) in deep end Fusion Mineral filter. A/S says they use 1/2 rebar.

2. Ted's: waiting on proposal.

3. Swift: $47K for vinyl pool (720 sq ft), grecian L. Includes 3 foot coping/patio, heat pump and metal shelf. $62K for gunite pool (similar shape/features).

4. Waiting in proposal.

5. Waiting on proposal.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 12:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Do not use Sylvan. Friends of ours just did and they came way over budget and took very long to complete. Plus I've heard other horror stories about them. Thats the reason we didn't interview them. We are waiting back from JMK too and and have already heard from Carlton, CC Pools (vinyl) and Aqua Sun. Where are you located? We are looking into the same sized pool but with a spa. We are still weighing options.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 5:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm going through the same decision right now (I'm in MD). A/S as well gave us a very good price and on the surface we really liked them, but after reading million of horror stories on them around the net, I doubt we'll be choosing them. I just home some folks on here can chime in in my thread with some suggestions...

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 9:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Live in SE PA (Exton) and had Anthony and Sylvan pool built 2 years ago. For what it's worth, we couldn't have been more pleased. Maybe it helped that the pool designer is my neighbor but everything ran very smooth. No complaints whatsoever with the process and now, we're swimming in the pool every day. It was a 28K gallon gunite pool with attached spa.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 9:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

@ferkityferk: we're in West Grove. We've heard many bad things about Carlton and Blue Haven (sub out all work, crews difficult to work with, etc). Friends of ours had the opposite A/S experience (they built their pool 4 yrs ago, and had a great experience with them). Considering Sylvan's size, it's not surprising to see complaints about them, especially since they're a national company. Our research has been extensive, and from what we can tell, the vast majority of their complaints come from well out of this area (sure, there are a few here and there, but you get that for almost any company).

We're looking to do a split-season build: do most this Fall, and the rest in early spring (want to avoid closing/opening costs for the winter/spring, respectively, since we'll only get a couple of weeks, if that, out of the pool this fall).

Still waiting on Ted's, but have a nagging feeling that they'll be out of our range.

@BoSox: who was your design consultant? Also...did you go with salt water, or the mineral system?

Thanks all.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 9:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Tim Clark was the designer. We went with the mineral system, but only b/c I didn't know better at the time. I don't even use it anymore. I'd suggest a salt water chlorine generator. I'll likely be adding one next time I have a few extra bucks.

I know of a 3 other pools they've built in my area recently (neighbor, in-laws and friends) and everyone was pleased with the outcome. As noted by somebody else above, most of the complaints I read about A&S came from other areas.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 10:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


We're debating between the Fusion mineral system, salt-water and ozone. Every company we've met with has told us that ozone is too new, and not yet fully vetted. Also, we've heard that while salt is good, it hasn't been around for long enough to see possible long-term effects (pitting on the decking/patio, corrosion, etc), since salt is a corrosive material.

The comment about A/S complaints came from me...it was pretty tedious, but we went through each complaint we could find and most seemed to be in the Southwest, and many appeared to be from the types of people who will never be pleased, no matter what.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Just curious, did you get a quote from Blue Haven? How was their pricing comparatively? Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 10:26AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

@hockyruls: Flyers fan? ;)

Did not get a BH quote. They're a franchise, and while they are good in some areas, in my area, they seem to be awful.

Have not heard anything back from Ted's (we met with them last Tuesday)...odd. JMK came back to us with a ball park estimate using the A/S configuration & options ($47K...but this does not include a fence or an enlarged patio...just 3' of decking).

We've come across a few other A/S customers in our area, and all are happy (both with the install and service post-install). We're leaning in this direction, but whatever we do, we will decide this week.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 9:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ozone and salt have been around a very long time. Not vetted?

Ozone for a residential pool isn't needed. Its main purpose is for commercial pools with large bather loads. Residential pools may have an occasional heavy bather load but that can be handled with a bit of unscented Clorox. I can buy a lot of Clorox for the cost of an ozone production system, not to mention the costs for replacing bulbs and parts and the labor for that ozone system.

Salt cells have about 50 years of pool history, where they began in Australia. Newer construction methods and materials keep any corrosion from electrolysis (not salt) from happening. Ever seen a rusty salt shaker? Me neither. Soft and porous stone has issues but hard stone, concrete, and brick coping do not.

Chlorine kills and oxidizes, Minerals can kill some things and not others and is always slower, AFAIK, than chlorine. Therefore, mineralizers and ionizers are rendered useless since what they are intended for is already killed by the chlorine. While they can augment your chlorine, they can't reduce the levels needed for sanitation of the water. Adding them, IMHO, is a waste of your money.


    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 9:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Just relaying what we've heard from several PBs (ozone vetting). As for salt history, I should have been clearer what we've been told by PBs: the corrosive effects haven't been clearly established here in the States...and our research has shown that to be true.

One thing I'm not going to do with our pool is use household cleaning agents (bleach, baking soda, etc). We'll get a sanitizing system that we can count on to do the job.

While minerals won't reduce the quantity of chlorine needed, doesn't their presence soften the water? Everything I've read indicates this.

As for using a SWCG system, while we like the idea of using an alternative method of chlorinating the pool, we're mostly concerned with killing our landscape and corrosion. Yes, you're correct, we never see a rusty salt shaker...but we also never soak the salt shaker in water and leave it on the table. No doubt rust would appear in this scenario...and that's what we want to avoid.

Bottom line for us: we really didn't want something that was just full-on chlorine...we wanted something that offered us an alternative to that, and thought that a SWCG system might be just the thing.

Thanks again.


    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 9:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

@sdemjsully...Currently a Devils fan here in Central NJ, courtesy of my son! But I grew up in the Philly area and still follow the Flyers, courtesy of my dad!!

Thanks for the pool info.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 4:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

@sdemjsully...one more quick question...one of my neighbors up here used BH - PA and was very happy with them. Any input from folks in your area?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 6:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Have you looked at Monogram Custom Pools?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 7:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The softer and more porous stones can easily be vetted with a simple scratch test in an inconspicuous spot with a nail. White scratches equal a fail with the exception of poured or stamped concrete. Gray or nothing equals a pass.

While modern materials and practices will keep electrolysis induced corrosion at bay, Winter, and its wide temperature swings, is still the biggest problem for the stones that fail. Every Spring, I find these pools have a ring of chips from stone that should not have been selected for the coping. The salt cell was off the whole time and the pools are covered. The only thing that could cause this is the temperature changes we experience.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 4:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

@hockyruls: research into BH in my area (Southern Chester County) showed that their reputation (service, sub-out everything) was poor. Loads of complaints in my area.

@sceadu: First company we contacted. Tony is great, and we would like to have had Monogram build our pool, but his company is too far away from us. He's been very open to giving me his impartial thoughts/feedback, and has been very helpful, so I'd definitely recommend Monogram for anyone in the Quakertown/Allentown area.

Scott...have you seen this issue with brick coping and concrete decking? On the topic of pool covers, we're debating getting just a regular cover versus a firm fitted one...with the main criteria being that it can (not that we'd test it as such) support someone walking on it. Any thoughts?

Thanks all.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 8:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Some brick coping is not freeze rated so yes, it can chip chunks. It should not be sold here in our area. Reputable dealers are a must.

I have never seen concrete have issues related to temperature changes or corrosion. Shrinkage and settlement cracks can happen in any environment.

A tarp cover with water bags holding it down will not hold a person.

Safety covers must meet specific standards or they aren't a safety cover. While your feet may get wet, they won't collapse.

Spring loaded covers deemed non-safe will generally hold you and a snow load if they are installed by a skilled person but if there are opposed eye bolts used between two rock faces, for example, less tension may occur and the additional slack may make for too large a space between the rock face or wall and the cover's edge and let someone slip between.

There are also height requirements that can't be exceeded since the water supports the cover when a load is on it. For example, a safety cover is attached to a pool and the pool looses all or most of its water. A 6" snow load can cause the straps and springs to let go and the cover falls in. Lets say only 5" fall and you someone walks across. If that's the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, that person is in a world of trouble.

I have seen some solid covers that rest on the water and are attached to anchors with Bungy like rubber straps or just straps with springs that are near the perimeter. If they get a pin hole in the middle, the cover pump that is normally removing rain water can pump pool water out. Unmonitored, this is disastrous as these covers tend to weigh a lot and can't support themselves.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 9:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

@sdemjsully5: Thanks for your input.

@poolguynj: What is an alternative to brick coping? Or are you just saying if you use brick coping, that it should be freeze-rated? Thx!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 11:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There's poured in place concrete, hard stone that passes the scratch test, and coping brick that can be used for coping, or a canter levered concrete where the decking and bond beam are separated by a thin membrane so each can expand and contract independently.

Coping bricks should be freeze rated to not crack or chip in small chunks.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 11:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Umm, if you don't want to use bleach what are you going to use to sanitize your pool for the first month of a new pool when you can't add salt yet? Also what will you do when you need to shock because having a salt water chlorine generator doesn't mean you won't ever have to shock? Also what if the pool store tells you to add baking soda (mine did), what will you do then if you want to avoid "household cleaning agents"?

A guy I work with told me one of his inlaws has a mineral system and his wife's hair is always green. Maybe she likes for it to match the color of her pool water. Also, adding minerals makes hard water not soft. Water softening systems remove these metal and calcium ions and replace with sodium. So you likely confused this with adding salt, which doesn't soften water because there is no ion exchange, but does make the water "feel" soft.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 7:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Update on the proposals, as we just received a bid from Ted's Pools. JMK gave a rought estimate of $47K (patio and fencing not included). So, it's coming down to two builders: Sylvan and Ted's Pools.

Ted's quote (for 634 sq ft pool)...$57K


� 634 sq ft; � inch rebar throughout (6"x12" in deep end, 4x12 in transition, 12x12 in shallow end)
� Two top returns and two floor returns (no floor drains, use two Turbo skimmers)
� 40 sq ft sun shelf
� Coping: cantilever, brushed concrete
� Approx. 800 sq ft patio (brushed concrete, not dyed)
� Pebble Tec finish (this is a $5,600 option, and is included in the above price)
� 3 LED lights
� � HP Sta-Rite pump (DEV filter)
� Sanitization: bromine with reduced chlorine feeder
� Polaris 360
� Fencing EXTRA
� Heater (Sta-Rite 400K BTU) NOT included ($3,598 option)

We're looking to make a decision in the next couple of days, so any thoughts/comments are appreciated.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 10:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm sure you have read all about bromine but I thought I would post this in case you hadn't:


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 7:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

@bpricedo: thanks for the link.

Actually, we just started researching bromine, as Ted's Pools is the only PB we've spoken to that said they install a bromine feeder in all of their pools. We weren't even aware that this was an option.

Ted's is also the only PB that said they would build the pool without a floor drain, as they feel it's a safety issue.

So, all things considered (cost, sanitizing efficiency, ease of use, etc), what would be the best choice for a sanitizing system?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 7:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Bromine is better than chlorine for hot tubs, not pools, AFAIK. Bromine tabs are more expensive than chlorine and because the equivalent killing and oxidation power is at a higher level and that it doesn't have a stabilizer available like CYA does for chlorine, a pool's set of demands on bromine is higher, making it more costly.

Bromine tabs are useful in that the bromine released is more resistant to heat and that combined bromine still has some (not much but that's more than combined chlorine has) sanitizing teeth to it. Since tubs have covers and are smaller, the filter cycle is often temperature based but still a lot shorter than a pool filter's, so only a few 1" tabs will be needed (not a big cost per week item, relatively speaking).

Bromine is easier on most cover's foam inserts and their wrap compared to chlorine and ozone. Wood tubs do prefer ozone and being lightly shocked with lithium hypochlorite after use and periodically with a somewhat higher dose

At the present time, I like chlorine for pools and bromine for portable hot tubs. If technology changes things for the better, I am sure we will hear about it.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 9:26AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The consensus seems to be the salt chlorine generator is the easiest. That's what I am going with but my pool is still 2 weeks from completion so I don't have real world experience to share yet. But for the first 30 days and when you need to shock, you may have to add chlorine and bleach is the easiest and cheapest way to do this without adding excess CYA or other chems. You can add CYA initially with chlorine tabs or by itself. My pool will have a tab feeder (it was included and doesn't save anything to omit it)but that should only be used initially and when my CYA is where it should be, it will be retired for the most part.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 11:20AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

OK...starting to swing over to the salt side. What are good systems to use? Think our builder might have the Fusion All-in-One Salt Water system (with minerals), but I'm assuming that I can use this without the mineral cartridge, right?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 2:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am getting a Pool Pilot but there are several systems that are well thought of from reading about it. I am getting the Pool Pilot, number 1, cause that's what my builder uses (ha) it is more expensive initially but the cells are cheaper and it has some other unique features. The Intellichlor is just about as expensive replacing the cell as it is to buy it initially.

Have you been to trouble free pool forum? They have a pool school that you should read and a specific forum about SWCGs. Also the pool forum has some very knowledgable pool chemistry guys there as well.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:01AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
hot tub evaporation rate in cold
Ok, newbie here to pool and hot tub ownership. We have...
Baffled by my pool- peeling skim coat?
Hi all! My in ground concrete pool is leaking... I...
pool filter leak; newbies buying the house
We have a contract on a house with a pool. The pool...
Concerns about quartzscape plaster on new build
Yea, our newly constructed pool was plastered with...
Regular Pool Cover or Automatic Cover?
Although our pool project is getting pricier every...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™