My project with SP included a pool remodel, new hot tub addition, removal of existing patio cover, new outdoor kitchen w/ patio cover, new fence and new retaining wall. (roughly 110K project).
My overall experience with Southernwind Pools was excellent. I actually signed an agreement with another company (pending financing) prior to finding SP and the experience after signing was downright abusive, so I canceled my intent to build and went on an exhaustive thorough hunt for a new provider combing through reviews on Yelp, Houzz, Google and FB.
After narrowing it down to 5, I ultimately decided to go with SP for the following reasons: The design process, the owner answered my call on a Saturday (the main line forwarded to his cell phone) and they did what they said they would do in terms of getting back in touch with me after submitting an information form online. (It was astounding how many didn't ever get back to me even when communicating my budget.) The saying "must be present to win" rang true.
After filling out the form and proving an extensive list of my expectations, within 10 minutes I received a call from Mark Robinson and we scheduled a consult the next week. When we met, Mark brought his designer with him (Mike Calonne). I explained my biggest concern was the design process. I explained that I wanted a provider who would work WITH me on my ideas, provide professional design services, consult with me on best practices and not rush me through a cookie cutter design process. I wanted a thoughtful designer who would accept feedback and be willing to iterate with me until the space was designed to maximize the available space and exhaust all considerations for placement of the outdoor kitchen and new hot tub. I also wanted one main point of contact to be involved from contract through the build process.
I felt confident after the initial consult that SP could deliver on all that was important to me because I could see that Mark and Mike were working together as a team. They also gave me honest answers about my project, even if it was not what I wanted to hear. When I asked about their pricing, Mark immediately told me he was not the cheapest but that the work quality was very high and that they would not cut corners just to appear cheaper. I loved this response as I wanted a quality job above all else.
I'm happy to report that the design process was exactly what I expected and Mike is fantastic about thinking outside the box to ensure the design delivers. He worked with my ideas and in the end offered a critical suggestion that made my vision become a reality which was something I would never have thought of on my own. I am truly grateful to him for going on a journey with me with zero ego or attitude! Very collaborative!
Regarding the build process; all I can say is that Mark Robinson is a pro. He is extremely educated on the process and knows every single detail that goes into the build process. I found out later that it's because he actually started out building pools when he was a kid. His knowledge is extensive and he could answer any question I had in depth when trying to understanding the progression of the work. SP is VERY fortunate to have him. He is also the hardest working man I think I've ever met. He arrives on the job as early as 5AM, is in constant communication with you via text and phone until late at night and is an absolute pleasure to work with even through the rough spots.
So what could have been better? I would say that I could have done a better job reviewing my contract to ensure everything that I expected was in WRITING. There were a few misses in terms of exceptions, but I have to own that as well as SP. Do not rely on "we discussed this", get it in writing so there are no breakdowns in communication. Nothing missed was earth shattering, but could have been avoided if I would have requested a walkthrough of the contract ON SITE. Go slow to go fast. Going through the agreement line by line and physically pointing to the things that the contract is referencing is clear is very important as SP will point to the contract as the source of truth; understandably. I would also suggest that as you get to "points of no return" in the work, that you take a pause with your Project Manager and do a double check of what is about to happen, the features you are expecting, and all of the possible upgrade / field changes that are available to you so it's not too late to get what you really wanted. Lastly, don't get behind on your decision making on tile, colors, plants, pots etc. Before you know it your decision will need to be made and if you are not ahead of the project plan, you will feel a lot of pressure to make decisions as the crews are scheduled and ready to execute. Lastly, I would recommend against having multiple contractors on a job this size, let SP do it all, as you will avoid the stress of coordinating schedules and managing through how to rectify situations where one contractor damages another contractor's work.