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New Jersey-based Lehmann Pools and Spas uses tents and heaters to build pools during winter.

Wintry Work

Pool companies build throughout colder months to meet demand

Since the pandemic began, countless more people have seen the value in having a pool in their own backyard, and this trend doesn’t show signs of slowing. 

Jacob Beninati, owner of Beninati Pool and Spa in Utica, Michigan, says his company is prepping all customers by telling them upfront about the increasing costs of building their pool — which he says are up about $20,000 from this time last year.

“Demand has been insane,” he says, adding that the price hike hasn’t phased most customers. “I never thought we’d get to a point where we can’t call new leads back, but that’s the new normal. Everyone wants a pool. We could sell out an entire season’s worth quickly if we had availability.”

Because of this incessant demand, Beninati’s company plans to build throughout the winter season. In the past, they’ve built only a handful of shotcrete pools in winter but plan to go “full steam ahead, all winter long” this year.

Luckily, as a pool builder in the Detroit metro, Beninati Pool and Spa is no stranger to working in the frigid cold, and knows how to build pools in a region where temperatures can drop from 50 and sunny to 20 below zero in a hurry.

“We try to focus our winter installs on warmer weeks,” he says, “to allow proper curing temperatures for the shell. We also use tenting and portable heaters.”

According to Beninati, one pro to building in winter is that it keeps his staff sharp. When he can keep his employees working year-round, it not only satisfies demand but also helps eliminate turnover, since finding new workers is difficult.

“Too many times, we either lose good help in the offseason — or they simply forget half of what they learned the year before due to the long layoff,” Beninati says.

Another benefit: The company can beat the inevitable yearly product price increases. Beninati says most companies use March as the start of a new price season. This year, he’s anticipating a 10% increase on all goods and labor.

“Working this winter should help us build at 2022 pricing, which should offset some of the efficiency and weather-related costs of winter construction,” Beninati says.

Ordering early and often has also helped Beninati Pool and Spa keep pace with demand. Having products in stock like skimmers and main drains has eliminated nearly all delays plaguing many construction companies. Beninati says his team has multiple people checking inventory levels weekly, with the goal of having three months’ supply of essential items in stock.

For New Jersey–based Lehmann Pools and Spas, meeting the demand for pools means being organized and having a schedule, owner Vic Lehmann says. The company has a waitlist through spring 2022, so it too will build in winter. Lehmann’s staff, led by construction manager Christopher Koeppen, works to get pools dug and plastered before temperatures drop, but they’re prepared if things go awry. 

“In this industry, even the best made plans can be scrapped at the last minute due to [natural] circumstances out of our control,” Lehmann says. “In these instances, we have the knowledge, ability and resources to tent and heat our pools when necessary, which ensures we can continue to get the key stages of the pool completed.”

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Manufacturers ramp up production to meet demand

The overwhelming interest for pools — pools that are now being built over the winter season — also puts pressure on pool and equipment manufacturers.

Scott Frost, senior vice president of sales at Fluidra North America, says unprecedented demand is challenging the company right now, mostly in terms of sourcing the raw materials it needs to manufacture and ship its products.

“If weather permits, we know our customers will continue to build pools as long as they can into the winter,” Frost says, “so we’re actively doing all we can to put ourselves in a position to support them with product.”

In addition to investing in inventory early, Fluidra — which has a portfolio of brands including Jandy, Polaris, Zodiac and Cover-Pools — has also increased its production capabilities.

At Fox Pool, the company that manufactures Ultimate Pool, keeping inventory in stock is key. The Ultimate Pool line is made from 14-gauge galvanized powder coated steel walls, enabling them to perform extremely well amidst the challenges of cold-weather building.

Sales manager Eric Gohn says even in “normal” times, the company sees its dealers installing the product throughout the cold months.

“Builders can easily build these pools in the winter using idle above-ground crews,” Gohn says. “They’re optimizing their crews with the Ultimate Pool in order to build more pools, since it involves less time and labor than a traditional in-ground pool.”

Similarly, Dustin Buckland, vice president of sales and marketing for AQUA & More, a manufacturer of reinforced PVC membranes, says while global material shortages and unpredictable delivery dates continue, the company has kept up with demand by absorbing increases in shipping costs and shipping new orders directly to customers to meet on-time deliveries. This has served the company well, as Buckland says its installers have reported increases up to 200% in new residential projects.

The company’s reinforced PVC membranes also have the benefit of being able to withstand installs amidst winter temperatures.

“Installers who wish to work even during the colder months use inflatable tents and heaters,” Buckland explains. “One of the main advantages of installing reinforced PVC membranes is that there is no setting time needed for the material and most jobs can be completed in two to three days, making it an affordable option to rent tents and be able to work anytime of the year.”

And while longer lead times have also impacted Frank Wall Enterprises, which manufactures AquaForms (aluminum swimming pool concrete form boards), its products provide some benefits to being installed in the winter months. Once an installer has a set, they have complete control over the construction process up to the point of dropping the liner, says Brett Blaise, president of Frank Wall Enterprises.

 “Builders can set, pour and strip the forms in one day and strip the forms 12 hours after the concrete is poured using our designed concrete mix available at all concrete plants,” Blaise explains. “Once a builder gets familiar with the forms and gets a good process down, he can move quicker and get more work done in those shorter periods of quality weather that you see in the winter.” So while building pools throughout winter does carry possible schedule delays due to snow or freezing temperatures, the pool industry has the plans in place to tackle it head on and tools in its belt to keep projects on track despite the cold.

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