Due to its mild temperatures, winter in Arizona is the perfect time to work on outdoor renovation projects. Pool remodels, hardscape and landscaping are some of the most common areas that are redone and revitalized so they are ready for the warmer months ahead.
As you may know, I previously featured my family’s personal residence interior remodel before COVID and some of the considerations for embarking on a major “gut” remodel. To learn more about that project, you can catch up on: An Insider’s Guide for Surviving a Luxury Remodel. Today, I will discuss my recently completed pool and hardscape remodel project and lessons learned during the process. Many of the tips and pointers I described during my indoor remodel are relevant to a major outdoor project, especially what to look for in hiring a contractor and how to prepare for success.
One area of concern now, that was not an issue for my pre-COVID project, is the current supply chain crisis and availability of labor and materials.
As I will discuss in more detail, this is definitely an issue with all types of remodeling projects in 2021 and moving into 2022, but fortunately, I was able to secure materials and find a suitable contractor for my project.
Some friends and colleagues have not been so lucky with their remodeling projects and have expressed frustration that my success was directly related to having experience and resources in the development and the construction industry. This is true to some extent and having a network of contractors and industry knowledge is certainly helpful, but anyone can benefit from basic due diligence and research before starting a project. Also, I did not have direct knowledge of pool remodeling (as opposed to new construction) and learned from my mistakes as well.
After doing your research, ensure you are on the same page as your preferred contractor.
The first threshold issue you’ll encounter before starting a renovation project is determining if your preferred contractor can perform within a mutually agreed timeframe and at a budget that is reasonable for the scope of the work. I reached out to several contractors who work for my team on new construction projects and quickly realized that they would not be able to help on my personal residence. There is too much demand for new pool construction right now to entice them to work on a lower-margin remodeling project.
My options at that point seemed bleak, but I found a company that worked in my neighborhood servicing pools and advertised remodel work as well. This seemed like a good fit since they are in a niche between the small pool service company and the new build contractors. As mentioned above, due diligence is a skill that anyone can acquire and after asking for references and multiple interviews, I decided the company I found would be a good fit for the project.
In a supply chain constrained world, having a strong knowledge of pricing and product availability is key to setting realistic timeframes and budgets.
Surprisingly, as a lawyer, my main concern when it comes to hiring a contractor is not the contract or legal issues (although these are important) but whether the contractor has a solid grasp of his numbers and can easily quote a project and provide options for various budget levels. This tells me that they are busy enough to have the most current pricing committed to memory and understand their margins and how to price subcontractors. Additionally, being flexible to source alternatives to materials that may be back-ordered for many months can keep a project on schedule. While this is not a perfect indicator of success, it has helped me in the past.
Your due diligence goes beyond selecting the right contractor.
Once the materials are sourced and the timeframes are set, homeowners should properly prepare for the project and not expect the contractor to look after every detail. This is especially true when it comes to the logistics regarding keeping the worksite clean, maintaining relations with neighbors (and HOA if necessary) as well as ensuring the availability of water, power, and property access are sufficient.
It may seem obvious that a pool remodel project will need sufficient water supply for the various stages of work, such as the filling of a drained pool. What might not be as obvious is the water pressure required for installing the new Pebble Tec surface as well as other tasks. I learned this the hard way after realizing my closest hose bib that provided the most pressure was incorrectly tied into the water leveler in the pool and when the leveler in the pool was shut down during draining, it disabled the hose bib as well. Also, many homes in Arizona use soft water systems that have dedicated hard water bibs for landscaping and this was the case for me as well. It is not advisable to use soft water for a pool remodel.
Securing 150-foot hoses to reach the pool from the only available hard water bib was less than ideal; if I had taken the time to sort this issue out ahead of time, it would have saved time and money. This was not a major issue in the context of what can go wrong in a project but emphasizes the importance of securing necessary utilities and available accesses. Such is the case with electric outlets and making sure that you will not trip breakers when multiple higher wattage construction tools are used. One of the easiest ways to delay your project completion is to have a subcontractor leave the site for the day once a breaker is tripped and there’s no one available to reset it.
At first glance, it would appear that an outdoor project would be easier from the standpoint of cleanup and mess than working an indoor remodel.
This is true since it is not practical to use a garden hose or power washer to clean inside your house (as tempting as it might be) if you have ever dealt with dust from grinding concrete or removing flooring. However, since an outdoor project isn’t as big a concern for dust and other debris, there is less preparation done to mitigate these issues and you might find yourself cleaning up and replacing granite stone and landscaping that is the victim of the copious amounts of dust that are produced from cutting outdoor tiles and jack-hammering out old Pebble Tec coating from your pool.
When determining the budget for a project, it is important to add the repair and replacement cost of existing materials that may be impacted by the construction. In my case, this was several tons of new granite and plants for the landscaping as well as pressure washing and sealing existing pavers and reseeding damaged grass from the side yard access damaged from wheel barrels and other equipment.
It seems like everyone is anxious to remodel their existing homes due to the lack of inventory of homes available to buy as well as the rapid rise in new and existing home pricing.
These renovation projects, whether indoor or outdoor, can still be done successfully in the current environment with proper preparation. Those who are willing to take a more proactive approach to manage their project or are able to hire professionals to help them find the right resources will find success. Please feel free to contact us for more information on the current real estate market or to discuss your own situation and whether remodeling, buying or building new makes sense for your own circumstances.