realtors but that is not true. The best place for pool inspectors to get business is from home inspectors. A lot of home inspectors do not want to do pools because they don’t want the liability because they don’t know what they are doing. And a lot of their insurance policies specifically exclude pools.
California has many chapters of the CREIA, California Real Estate Inspectors Association. There are others like ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Find a local chapter. Join up and attend their meetings. They need speakers every month. So, offer to give them a talk about pools. If you get to know them then some will refer pools to you. A home inspector will see a home every day and a certain percentage of those will have a pool so if you have 5 or 10 home inspectors that regularly refer you, you will have plenty of business.
What kind of Insurance is necessary?
You need to go over your insurance policy very carefully and make sure that it covers pool inspections. There’s a saying that we have in the inspection business: it’s not a question of if you get sued, it’s a question of when. If the homeowner sues the realtor, the realtor is going to drag in the inspectors. Sometimes a home buyer could sue the pool inspector directly because of an error or omission in the inspection.
Describe the major components of a thorough inspection?
I have a checklist but I never show it to the client. I know some inspectors do but I think that’s very dangerous because it opens you up to a lot of liability.
The first thing I look for is safety components such as fencing and gates. If there’s a diving board I’m going to recommend that they remove it or that they get the manufacturer to come out
and look at it and certify that it safe. I look at slides and make sure that they are up to CPSC standards.
I inspect the electrical components, the bonding, the breakers, the GFCI’s. I spend a lot of time looking for light junction boxes, because they are hard to find, and the older ones are dangerous.
Then I look at the structure of the pool – that is, the tile coping, deck, and plaster. I’ll look inside the skimmer for cracks. I’ll check whether it is manual fill, auto fill or no fill. Then I look at the equipment and test each piece of equipment. I check the valves for leaking. If there is a spa, I turn it on and make sure all the jets are working. If it’s a pool/spa combination, I will drain the spa into the pool and inspect the drains in the spa. The drains on the spa are critical and they hardly ever meet VGB and California standards. I can also get a look at the plaster of the spa which gives me an idea about the plaster in the pool.
I also measure the pool and draw it on my computer. I can then estimate gallonage. Using the gallonage I can calculate turnover, velocities and get a rough idea of heating times.
A big part of the inspection is debriefing the client and explaining what is going on. It’s very important to get their email address and their money. You must get paid on the job or before. Never bill escrow because you don’t know if the sale is going to close. That said, the pool inspection should not determine whether or not the house is going to sell. Most of the repairs are only going to cost a couple thousand dollars. The pool inspection shouldn’t kill the deal.
Are there any typical problems inspections will find?
Filters are very dangerous. As an expert witness, I’ve worked on several cases where a serviceperson cleaned the filter, turned on the pump, and the filter lid exploded off, hitting the serviceperson in the head. The last person I worked for had $250,000 worth of reconstructive facial surgery from a filter explosion. In manufacturers’ installation manuals, it says that the filters have to be separated a certain distance from any electrical switch that can turn on the associated pump to avoid injury in case of an explosion. But for an experienced installer, reading the filter installation manual is like most people reading instructions on how to install a light bulb.
Lack of bonding is probably one of the most common things I see. A lot of people don’t know the difference between bonding and grounding. If the equipment gets moved from its original location, or else replaced, then bonding may be ignored. They move the equipment but don’t connect to the bonding grid. Bonding problems are very common, especially in older pools, or when the pump is replaced.
Fences are supposed to swing out, away from the pool. The code is very specific about this. But it is a very common violation. This is a drowning hazard.
I worked a drowning case where teenagers lodged a piece of wood in the gate to keep it open. A small child came, got in the pool, and drowned. The lawyer argued that the child would have had enough strength to push the gate open, but not enough strength to pull the gate open.
In drowning cases like this, they always sue, and they are often 7 figure judgments.
Also, I always recommend that they comply with VGB standards, even if it isn’t required. But any work on a pool that requires a permit also requires VGB compliance.
Richard “Rick” English is owner of English Pool Consulting in San Diego, California. He has his Certified Pool Operator (CPO) Certificate and Certified Building Professional (CBP). He works as a forensic consultant in litigation involving pool construction, pool service and pool safety. He has been qualified as an expert witness in California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Texas, New Hampshire, Idaho, Washington and Kansas.