Have a seat. This is going to take a while. I’ll try to keep it short and just give the facts, but there is a lot of them over our year dealing with Anthony and Sylvan that potential pool buyers might want to hear about.
We were in the market for a house and wanted a pool for the kids. We found a lovely house with a sloping back yard and a wrap-around driveway leading to a garage on the lower level facing the back yard. Because of the slope and the driveway surrounding the back of the house and access to the electricity I wanted to consult a pool construction company to understand any special issues or problems with building a pool on this property before buying it. So we brought in Anthony and Sylvan before our contract was even finalized to look at the site. I wanted a pool that would be parallel to the slope to minimize drainage issues and had drawn the shape we wanted before they arrived based on brochures we had picked up from various pool builders over the past months.
The Anthony and Sylvan rep Mike noted there would be some additional expense because of the access difficulty but assured us there would be no other problem but told us we needed to build the pool perpendicular to the slope because of the angle of the slope. Their electrician was later consulted on the phone while I was there and we were told access to the electric panel would be by removing pavers between driveway and back of house so the bit of the boring machine could be found as it got near the house. I am unclear on the training or expertise of the staff who came to the house in the areas of geology, geomorphology, and hydrology ads they have failed to provide that information as requested.
After the house purchase was complete we signed a contract with Anthony and Sylvan for a 22’ x 39’ pool perpendicular to the slope with a 72 foot long 12-18 inch retaining wall and 700 sq ft of concrete decking on 3 sides of the pool.
As others have noted, most everything else on the pool project was done by subcontractors. On the day the hole was dug we were not home. A small sediment fence was installed immediately adjacent to the removed fill dirt only on the downslope side of the site, but not all around the dirt pile where there could be erosion down the slope of the dirt pile (this will be significant in the ensuing months as described below).
Later we discovered they had driven at least 2 feet off the driveway and destroyed some shrubbery, including one large branch over 3 inches in diameter. A brick retaining wall had 10 bricks in a row in another area of the driveway was ripped out, with 4 bricks torn in half. Fifteen feet down the driveway another section of 4-5 bricks of the wall was also destroyed so their vehicles left the driveway at least three times. At the bottom of the driveway a three foot by 10 foot area of the driveway where we park an extra vehicle was left 6 inches deep in dirt. Wood and other debris from the work was left scattered throughout the yard and along the side of the driveway. A box with electric timers, other parts and manuals was left outside without them telling us what it was, where it got wet in the rain. Neither the subcontractor nor our Anthony and Sylvan project manager had left a note or contacted us about the damages that day and have never explained what happened or why problem was not discovered and noted until we brought it to their attention.
Our original drawings of the site had noted the location of the pool equipment to be such that the long axis lined up with a tree in our upper yard and then with the center of our second level patio in order to minimize visibility of the equipment. Mike and the project manager were fully aware of the location and the rationale for this placement when it was put on the drawings as part of the contract. First time final drawings were brought back to us the equipment was oriented wrong way by 90 degrees and I required them to redo the drawings, which they were initially resistant to do so. We were again not home when the plumbers installed piping and equipment platform and it was put in the wrong location. At this point we realized we needed to serve as general contractor and be at home any time anyone was working on the site as Anthony and Sylvan was not managing the project to specifications.
Over a week later when the gunnite crew foreman was inspecting the site he noticed erosion of the hole sides and toilet paper in the bottom of the hole and discovered that the sewer line had been cut. When the Anthony and Sylvan project manager arrived he proclaimed he did not know sewer lines could run in the back yard of a home. A natural gas equipment plumber who happened to be doing other work for us at our home that day overheard this and taught him (at no cost! And I don’t believe Anthony and Sylvan ever paid him for his consulting) how to recognize where a sewer line was based on the cleanouts and manhole covers. Anthony and Sylvan claimed they had done their due diligence with Miss Utility but the area they had marked as the project site was smaller than the affected area of the yard. The Anthony and Sylvan operations manager responded to our inquiry as to how they could have missed cutting and digging up about 15 feet of steel sewer pipe by saying the pipe may have disintegrated. At the time no pipe was visible so we could not challenge this assessment.
A contractor had to be brought in to reroute the sewer line around the pool and a shed. We had lost confidence in our project manager who hadn’t known sewer lines could run in back yards and who failed to notice damage to our shrubs and retaining wall and had him replaced by Anthony and Sylvan as part of a settlement for the above problems which were fixed, though brick work was very sloppy. We made clear we expected a high quality, experienced project manager this time.
By this time winter had set in and rain and snow was causing erosion. Our project manager had failed to maintain the site and dirt was being eroded off the excavation pile and washing down and creating gullies in the rest of our yard and the original small sediment fence had been overtopped and was now horizontal in spots. After we had to serve as general contractor and pointed out the problem a larger erosion fence was installed in the same place, again immediately adjacent to the pile of dirt which would later cause more problems. A second one was installed along the creek in our back yard as a safety. But still no fence was installed on the side of the pile where erosion was occurring. Over the course of winter 3 sections of steel sewer pipe of a minimum length of 2 feet each were uncovered. So much for the theory that the pipes were vaporized. We showed the pipes to our project manager and sent pictures to Anthony and Sylvan management but still never received an explanation for how this happened.
At this time we also learned we had been given wrong information about electric access and the removal of pavers on our deck had to be more extensive as they needed to put their boring machine down next to the house and bore away from the house (opposite of original explanation) and they were using such a simple and cheap boring machine they couldn’t be confident the drill bit would not come out prematurely in the middle of our driveway. Anthony and Sylvan also tried to add the cost of this boring equipment onto our contract, despite knowing from the beginning about the electric access situation, and providing us advice even before our house purchase on special issues for a pool on this property that did NOT include any discussion of additional costs for boring equipment. Or having that noted in our supposedly comprehensive contract
We decided to remove their electrical subcontractor from the contract and we contracted with a professional directional drilling team to drill the lines for the electric and natural gas. That company did a perfect job. We also removed the decking and fencing subcontractors from our contract as we had lost confidence in Anthony and Sylvan.
In the spring, before the gunnite phase we asked our project manager who would remove the rebar steel bars sticking vertically above grade level around the pool as we were starting to plan landscaping around the downslope side where there would be no concrete decking. Our supposedly experienced project manager told us the decking crew would remove those. Seemed odd but he was insistent even after questioned on this once more. The gunnite crew finally got to work and of course they had to remove the rebar to install their forms and do their work. That was obvious once we saw their process. So much for our confidence in project manager number two.
Gunnite crew had a few areas of gunnite slump off the sides. Our project manager didn’t notice that problem after the job was done so we had to act as general contractor and project manager again and point this out to Anthony and Sylvan and get crew there again to do repairs. The gunnite crew also left piles of gunnite along the perimeter of the pool and above final grade level that they didn’t bother to remove and allowed to dry and harden. This later caused problems for the plumbing, electric, and decking crews as well as us for our landscaping, as had to sledge hammer through this material and also dispose of it. Entirely preventable.
Tile and coping crew was the first subcontractor to do a good job.
Meanwhile the retaining wall subcontractor came and told one of us we didn’t need a retaining wall at all and he could landscape the yard above the pool to deal with drainage. Let me note our pool is about 50 feet down into our yard from the driveway back there and is parallel to the house and driveway there. The water level of the pool is 6-7 feet below the grade of the driveway which is 2 feet below the level of the floor of the basement so the slope is moderately steep. And we get runoff from our roof, the driveway, 1000 square feet of patio between the house and driveway, a portion of the front yard that drains around the sides of the house to the back, and from a large portion of our neighbors front and back yards that slope towards our back yard. In a decent thunderstorm the runoff on the side off the house can be 3 inches deep and 2 feet wide after just a few minutes. In other words, a LOT of water. So the no retaining wall option seemed dubious at best. In the end I installed two new drains and over 240 feet of drain pipe in the upper yard where the main runoff led down towards the pool and re-graded some of the yard to divert water away from the pool, after having Anthony and Sylvan tell us orienting the pool parallel to the house was the way to go and they could handle the runoff with retaining wall and their work with no extra modification. At this point I am not terribly confident the pool will survive in its current location and expect future discussions with Anthony and Sylvan on this issue if problems arise.
The retaining wall subcontractor missed a couple of dates when they were supposed to come do the wall and we were not notified until later in the day when they were supposed to arrive after we had to contact our project manager (rather than the other way around). Eventually the retaining wall was built at 52 feet long and was graded so the soil level was right to the top of the wall. Contractor picked up a long electric extension cord we had let our unprepared project manager borrow as he had not brought a long enough cord to power pump to remove water from bottom of pool to give electricians access to install light. The next day it rained and significant mud overtopped the wall and came around both ends. On the south end significant erosion occurred as the wall did not stretch far enough along to integrate with the slope and we ended up with 50-75 square feet of the deck area covered in mud and water. A French drain was installed on the upslope side. It is unclear if that French drains were actually wrapped in fabric or not as they should be. A French drain was installed on the downslope side of the wall that is unwrapped. A 10 foot section of that drain was laid above the final grade of the pool deck. Insufficient gravel was laid over the French drain so its top was exposed along most of its length. Neither the subcontractor nor the project manager noted these deficiencies and once again we had to serve as general contractor and project manager and point out the problems and insist on corrections. The amount of time we have spent supervising the project is now in the hundreds of hours doing the job Anthony and Sylvan should have had staff there to do. The subcontractor then returned and graded more of the yard. After the owner of the company left for the day one of his crew took the bobcat up into the upper yard, scraped off the topsoil and created this berm in this location that had not been part of the agreed-upon grading as part of the retaining wall construction. He came within a couple of inches of ripping out a sewer cleanout. When the subcontractor returned to repair the issues they forgot about the french drain issue and had to be reminded, brought a different, non-matching type of grave, and did not bring enough dirt to fix the grading issues. We ended up hiring a landscaping contractor on our own to fix the problems and billed Anthony and Sylvan, which they paid.
At the pre-plaster walk-through and final check off the project manager came with an incorrect total due amount on the paperwork. At this point we removed the pool cover subcontractor as we were not interested in dealing with Anthony and Sylvan on anything else.
The plaster subcontractor did a good job plastering the pool. They also ran off the driveway with their truck. They also plastered a dozen of our cobblestones around pool and 4 different sections of the fence as they dumped plaster laden wastes from buckets through the fence instead of having waste receptacles or getting permission to use drainage ditches. Some plaster was left on the. They cleaned their sponge with water once when they tried to remove plaster sheen from coping and needless to say they did not remove all the plaster from the coping. They had to come back a few days later to clean up these messes after our project manager was a no show to inspect after their work that day (or the next two- despite language in a settlement agreement that he would be there day of work or next) and again we had to do the inspecting and contact and complain to Anthony and Sylvan about the workmanship issues. The plaster residue was not fully removed from the coping and the project manager did not come to inspect that work until three weeks later. We still have no definitive answer on whether this outcome of the plastering meets Anthony and Sylvan’s quality standards. It definitely doesn’t meet mine.
Finally we had water in the pool and had made appointment at 4pm on Monday for their start-up person to start up pool and teach us mechanical and chemical operations and maintenance. At one we hear from one of our mothers who was at the house that someone from pool company was on the property without permission and had entered pool area. When we arrived at 4pm the man was apologetic about the trespassing. He had never been told by his superiors that the pool cover was out of our contract so he had wasted his time measuring for a pool cover before we arrived. Otherwise he did a great job showing us equipment and chemicals.
Project manager was supposed to come a few days later to remove a portion of the sediment fence we had agreed upon in area that had been landscaped and where grass was growing well enough to allow fence removal. He never showed so I eventually did most of it myself. When we demanded project manager come and remove the trash and the other sediment fence he was supposed to remove, he also removed the fence we had agreed he would not remove.
After being filled for one month we still get shots of a cup or two of sand from the inflow pipes most every time we touch a valve to vacuum or clean filters. I am not clear if this is normal but it seems that they could have properly capped the plumbing pipes so that dirt did not enter them during the construction phase. Anthony and Sylvan has failed to really respond to our questions on this issue.
I’m sure I am missing some details but you probably have enough to go on about Anthony and Sylvan pools in the MD, PA, VA, DC area at this point. There is only one licensed contractor for the company in the state so this should cover at least this area. We are happy to provide more details and photos to anyone who wants to contact us.
Product or Service Mentioned: Anthony Sylvan Pool Building Service.
Monetary Loss: $20000.