Unlike residential pools, commercial facilities are more likely to have been closed during the pandemic. Finally reopening, the pools now may have peeling, cracks or leaks. One solution pool professionals can offer commercial clients is to line those pools with PVC membrane.
Outsourcing or In-House
Steve White at Underwater Pools in West Boylston, Massachusetts, outsources PVC membrane installation to Membrane Concepts and receives a referral fee, which he says works best with his business.
“It’s easy to sell the PVC membrane,” White says. “It solves the chronic problems encountered by our commercial clients who are also hiring me to do the rest of their renovation work, or to continue to service and maintain the water chemistry and pool cleaning. Servicing pools with a PVC membrane is always easier than before the PVC membrane installation.”
Ron Melbourne, owner of Membrane Concepts in Massachusetts, says he enjoys working with pool professionals to help them maintain positive, long-term relationships with their commercial accounts. “The facilities appreciate having their pool pro recommend a long-term solution for their pool,” Melbourne says. “The PVC membrane solves some big issues for these facilities, and the pool professional comes across as a hero by recommending a PVC membrane and hiring us to do the job for them.”
There are also a growing number of pool professionals who see PVC membranes as a lucrative addition to their business and are training staff to install them. Dustin Buckland, vice president of sales and marketing at AQUA & More, the official U.S. distributor of Renolit PVC membranes in Swedesboro, New Jersey, says his company has been extremely busy this last year selling the product and training pool professionals on the installations.
“In order for PVC membrane installations to be more common in the U.S., there needs to be more trained and qualified installers,” Buckland says. “We offer on-site training, which is basically an assisted installation on the first order placed by any pool professional.”
Buckland says his team at AQUA & More will assist in the installation for the first week or the entire length of the installation if needed. “What we are seeing is that pool pros don’t realize how easy it is to install this product,” Buckland says. “There are low barriers to entry as you don’t need to invest large amounts of money for equipment and you don’t need to have the material in stock; you order rolls of material for each job, which is shipped from our warehouse in New Jersey. There is as an obvious learning curve, like anything else, but compared to other types of equipment repairs, it is a much faster learning curve.”
For those looking to hire experienced staff, Buckland recommends hiring roofing contractors familiar with the welding process, as this material is commonly used to waterproof commercial roofs.
The installation process of a PVC membrane is relatively straightforward, Melbourne says. Before lining the pool with the PVC membrane, the surface of the pool needs to be repaired. Once repairs are complete, a felt lining, which acts like a pad under a rug, is installed along the floor and walls of the pool structure. The lining protects the pool surface and provides cushioning, making the floor of the pool more comfortable to stand on, he says.
After the felt lining is installed, 6-foot-wide strips of PVC membrane are rolled out and heat-welded together on site to ensure a perfect, smooth fit. Steps, beach entries, safety ledges and the like are cut, fitted and welded as well. Some membranes are available with slip-resistant, embossed surfaces, which are generally used on steps. Black material is also available to create racing lanes, transitions and depth markers as needed.
Renolit’s new Touch reinforced membrane product has a 3D design printed to look like marble, stone or sand. “This product has been extremely popular with hotels, country clubs, HOAs and community pools because it’s not just plain white or blue,” Buckland says. “Touch is also slip-resistant, making it a terrific product for pool pros to offer and stand out from competitors because it gives pools a high-end finish.”
A Viable Solution
As commercial aquatic facilities reopen their pools, many facility managers and owners are looking for a way to stop having to resurface, re-plaster and repaint every year.
“It’s important for facility managers to consider the costs of having to structurally repair their pools year after year versus the cost of installing a PVC membrane,” Melbourne says. “Surface patches are often not long-term solutions. There may be underlying issues with the structure of the pool that are eliminated by using a PVC membrane to create a complete watertight structure throughout the pool.”
And awareness of PVC membranes is on the rise, Buckland says. “Many aquatic facilities do research and learn about our PVC membrane, and then approach their trusted pool professional to provide this solution,” he adds. “We are now making it easier for pool pros to offer PVC membranes in the U.S.”