Six crew members of Bowen Pools work on a renovation. The company started as a pool servicing and maintenance company, but since 2018, Bowen Pools has also offered repairs and renovations. Photo: Bowen Pools
Considerations before adding remodels to your service list
Rob Blake, senior product manager of NPT Pool Finishes – POOLCORP, based in Covington, Louisiana, says there’s no better time than now for pool servicers to jump into the pool remodeling business. After all, these companies already know what a pool needs — and what can make it better.
According to a study of the pool and spa industry from P.K. Data, Inc., published in 2020, around six times more pools were remodeled last year than built new, with about 85% of pools being 10 years or older at this point. It’s not uncommon that 10 to 15 years after installation, concrete pools need major repairs or a remodel, Blake says.
“We are in a remodel market now and for the foreseeable future, so take advantage of it,” Blake says. “Now is a fantastic time to pursue these remodel opportunities because the North American pool market is very mature, which means the vast majority of pools are ready for remodeling.”
As a pool servicer considering remodeling opportunities, first look at the talents and training current staff might bring to the process. Then consider partnering with professional subcontractors to fill the gaps.
“The first key to this decision is knowing whether you have the knowledge and capabilities to take on renovation work,” says Michele Gill, owner and president of Elite Pools and Spas in Lake in the Hills, Illinois. “Renovation work is not the same as building a new pool and certainly is not the same as making simple repairs to equipment. This kind of work can quickly become unprofitable if you lack the proper expertise.”
Sometimes, that means bringing on a project manager from the get-go, advises Chris Bowen, president of Bowen Pools in Flower Mound, Texas. Someone with expertise in pool remodeling procedures and projects is best, he says.
His company started as a pool servicing business, and quickly expanded into repairs and remodels. He partnered with a former employer to learn the remodeling side of the business, and they split the profits.
“I kept having people asking if we did it,” Bowen says. “It was the next natural progression — plus, there’s a lot more money involved in it, so that helps, too.”
Bowen warns startup costs are hefty to launch into remodeling, which is why he advises pool servicers to look closely at company financials beforehand. He recommends having $20,000 to $30,000 saved for that initial remodel job or the cost of a project manager’s salary.
“See how much they’re making as-is,” he says. “It has to be worth it from a financial position. Make sure you have enough financial cushion.”
While investing in a project manager can be costly, it can also save a lot of headaches and money down the road, Bowen says. Anything a project manager needs to know, Bowen says an owner should, too. He recommends owners obtain training from organizations like Genesis University and Swim University.
For pool pros who prefer to manage jobs themselves, a solid team of subcontractors is essential to a successful pool remodeling business. Bowen and other pool remodelers agree hiring out the work can be more profitable if the right people are in place. The list of necessary equipment is as expensive as it is long, and contractors generally have the tools for the job, minimizing the need to invest in large equipment.
“Finding people who actually warranty the work they do is important,” Bowen says. “Ask about their process and what their scheduling looks like. For warranty claims, ask how they do that. Look at companies on the professional side versus the run-and-done side. Find a good plaster subcontractor and a tile subcontractor. Take them out to lunch a few times.”
Part of making that decision is knowing what you’re capable of doing yourself, Gill says.
“If you are not good at concrete work, for instance, it may be a better idea to subcontract some of that work out, and watch and learn from the partner firm until you have the abilities,” she advises. “With this in mind, you may need to be willing to take a little less profit on some jobs until you are fully up to speed.”
As for other pool remodeling business practices, Bowen says having excellent business relationships can ensure remodeling goes smoothly. He likes knowing he has representatives who can answer questions with ease for managers in the middle of projects.
Before jumping into remodeling, Bowen advises knowing what your city calls for, as permit requirements differ. In his city of Flower Mound, Texas, he doesn’t need a pouring permit, but other cities require it. “Find out what’s important to your municipality,” Bowen says.
Passion for the pool business also plays a large part in moving into an area as demanding as remodeling. “It is satisfying to be able to take something from a state of disrepair and make it new,” Gill says. “We have made many customers happy when they see their pool transformed.”