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Swimming Pool Designers vs Swimming Pool Contractors—Who Should You Hire?

Once you decide to install a new swimming pool in your backyard, you’re setting into motion a series of steps. The very first step of any pool construction is deciding who will design your swimming pool and who will build it. This may seem simple, but there are actually multiple ways you can go with this process.

Just like not all designers are also great contractors, not every great contractor makes a great designer. Sure, having the same company both build and design your pool may be great for convenience. And if you work with the right people, they may even do a great job. However, there are cons to delegating the design and build process all to one company.

If you’re wondering whether or not to choose a company that can do it all, or separate the design and build process, we have the insight you need. Read on to learn the pros and cons between hiring a swimming pool designer vs a swimming pool contractor to design and build your brand new swimming pool.

Swimming Pool Contractors & Designers

As mentioned, many people love to look for a one stop solution to their new pool process. This means finding a contractor you love who can take you from point A to point B, or in this case, design to installation.

In reality, most swimming contractors offer the opportunity to do both. And this can be a great solution for many people. If you find the right company, there are a lot of pros to an all-in-one process.

Pros of Hiring a Design/Build Company

  1. You’re going straight to the source.

What does this mean? This means from the beginning, you are working with the individuals who will see you all the way through the process. Because the designers are also the contractors, you have one contact who can provide you answers, information, etc.. You eliminate the possibility of playing phone tags when there is only one number for you to call.

  1. You can control building costs more efficiently.

When it only takes one call to keep you in the loop, it can be much easier for you as the homeowner to keep an eye on things. This means that, from the beginning, you have full transparency on how much your evolving design will cost. As your contractor designs your pool, they will be able to tell you exactly how much each additional feature will cost you. They will be able to clue you in to the expense of items such as upgraded tile, different types of coping, and more. This will prevent sticker shot of your project being quoted by outside contractors after a separate designer has put your wishlist together.

  1. Guaranteed to build what they design.

When you do all steps of the swimming pool process through one company, you can take comfort in knowing they are only going to design you a pool that they are fully able to build. You won’t run the risk of falling in love with the idea of a water feature or tanning ledge that will never come to fruition. A lot of homeowners find comfort in the guaranteed stability of this transaction, and we don’t blame them. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting your hopes up on a design that will never go through to construction.

Cons of Hiring a Design/Build Company

  1. Designs, skills, and services are limited to what the company provides.

While sticking with one company through the entire process can be comforting, this comfort comes at the cost of higher levels of flexibility. Your finished pool design will be limited to what the contractor knows they can build. If you are looking for a particular feature or style, you need to make sure that the specific contractor you engage with is able to meet those expectations.

  1. Pool contractors are focused on the pool—not the rest of your space.

Swimming pool contractors can be excellent swimming pool designers. However, that is typically where their experience ends. This can be frustrating if you are looking to create a cohesive outdoor living space. When you have one segment of your yard designed separately, especially a feature as big as a swimming pool, this can create issues in the fluidity of the design as a whole. While your new swimming pool might be beautiful, it might not match the rest of the design of your outdoor living space. This can be frustrating.

  1. Pool contractors may have limited design ability.

To reiterate, we do believe that many pool contractors can do a great job of designing pools as well. But that is not a universal truth. Sometimes builders are great at building, but their design experience is limited. This can lead to you being presented with recycled or poorly thought out designs. And if you’re going to spend the large amount of money to have a new swimming pool installed in your backyard, we think you should be getting a design that is made with your unique space and needs considered.

Freelance Swimming Pool Designers

On the other side of the coin, you have the option of hiring a freelance designer to design your swimming pool. This means engaging with a designer who will listen to what you are looking for, consider the design of the rest of your space, and then design the project. Most designers will take all factors into account, including materials, lifestyle, and any unique conditions present in your space.

This can be a great choice for many people, especially those who are looking for a more personalized approach. Of course, it is not the right decision for everyone.

Pros of Hiring Freelance Swimming Pool Designers

  1. You get a more holistic design approach.

If one of the drawbacks of hiring a contractor to design your space is too narrow a focus, then freelance swimming pool designers can solve this problem. Designers, unlike swimming pool contractors, are first and foremost concerned with how all aspects of a space interact. Unlike swimming pool contractors, they will look at every part of your backyard and design a pool that fits with all other aspects of the space. This means taking into account your backyard’s landscaping, hardscaping, or other natural features. The final result is a swimming pool that feels like it was always part of your space, rather than running the risk of installing something that looks like an afterlook, or awkward addition.

  1. You can shop out install costs.

When you work with a design/build team, what you see is what you get. The company will design you a pool, and quote you the rate for that design. This is not the case for working with freelance designers. In this process, freelance designers often have many industry contacts. This means they can shop out your design to figure out not only who will give you the best deal, but also who is the best fit for your particular project. Different contractors have different strengths, and designers know this. You are paying a lot for a new pool—it makes sense to have the best people for your specific project on board to build it.

  1. Many designers will project manage and protect your best interests.

If you’re not interested in the stress of keeping constant tabs on the progress of your project, you’re not alone. The idea of constantly checking in with builders, scheduling demolition, construction, and every other part of the process can be overwhelming. This is why many designers will offer to project manage the process of the installation after the design is accepted. This isn’t a universal practice, but it is offered by many freelancers for an additional or included rate.

Cons of Hiring a Freelance Swimming Pool Designer

  1. The process may take longer.

One of the biggest drawbacks to freelance designers is that working with multiple parties can draw out this process. This is because it takes time for a designer to shop out contractors and confirm the best fit for each step of your project. The delay is not usually too significant, and many people find the wait worth it for the finished project.

  1. The designer may not have a personal relationship with the builder.

While great freelance designers have a large network of industry professionals, it may not be the case for all of them. Especially if you are working with a remote designer, your designer may not have a personal relationship with your pool builder. This can make communication tricky. For the best results, try to find a freelancer who is local to your area, and familiar with the industry around you. This can save you time and headaches down the road.

  1. Onboarding a designer may raise the project costs.

The biggest drawback for many when it comes to hiring a freelancer is simply the extra cost involved. At the end of the day, hiring a designer as well as a contracting team to build your pool is usually going to cost more than an all in one experience. However, most of the time in outdoor living you get what you pay for. If you are willing to spend some extra cash for a more personalized swimming pool, then it might be worth it to take the leap.

  1. You can still run into limitations.

While you are unlikely to have as many limitations as you would with a design/build company, you are still going to be limited in some regards. Meaning, no matter who you go with, your design will be limited to your designer's experience and interests. This is why shopping around, knowing what you want, and finding the right fit for your design style is so important. If you love modern design, don’t choose a designer or contractor who specializes in more organic or rustic looking pools, and vice versa.

Ultimately, it is up to you to choose between a freelance designer and a contractor to design your new swimming pool. Who you go with will depend on your budget, how customized you want your new pool to be, and how well you know the industry in your area. No single solution is best for every person.

To find the best swimming pool contractor near you, read our article covering everything you should know before making your choice.

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