Backyard pool construction is on the rise as Canadians choose an oasis at home to escape COVID-19, heat and boredom

While some parts of the economy are struggling to recover, the pandemic has proved a boon for Canadian swimming pool builders.

Some people say COVID-19 restrictions and the summer heatwave have sparked unprecedented waves of demand from homeowners looking to build a backyard oasis.

Harmony Pero’s family in Anmore, BC, about a 50-minute drive east of Vancouver, is in the process of building a custom infinity pool to keep their two teenage boys busy and ready for their late forties after almost two years of pandemic living another record heat like the temperatures that gripped British Columbia last summer.

“We live so close to Buntzen Lake and White Pine Beach, but with COVID it’s brought so many more people to the area looking for some water. It’s difficult to even get to those places, so COVID definitely played a big part in our desire to have our own little slice of paradise at home,” Pero said.

Harmony Pero looks at the infinity pool being built on her property in Anmore, BC on October 28th. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Her family is among a wave of new private pool owners in Canada. Tired of masking, the fear of blending in with crowds, or booking trips only to have to cancel, many backyards are redesigning, often using cash they couldn’t spend on trips. Others who are taking the plunge say they are being spurred on by rising home values.

They all want a backyard retreat where they can spend time together.

38,000 swimming pool permits in 2020/21

The pool and spa industry says it is seeing “unprecedented” demand for pools on private property.

According to a census of Statistics Canada building permit reports, a total of 18,820 pool permit applications were made in 2020. The 2021 tally exceeded the 2020 figure in the first eight months of the year. As of August 2021, 19,306 pool permits have been registered, according to Statistics Canada.

Last year, most pool permit applications were made in Quebec, where there were 13,625. Ontario finished second with 3,400 and BC third with 591.

As of January 2020, 1,286 pool permits have been registered in BC

Marcos Borges of BC Pools and Spas Ltd during a pool installation in North Vancouver, BC October 14. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

It was a record year for master builders like Marcos Borges.

His North Vancouver company, BC Pools and Spas Ltd., had 47 pool orders.

Borges says he installs everything from above-ground to in-ground custom pools. They cost an average of between $12,000 and about $150,000 to install the pool and landscape the yard.

But the cost of a custom pool with unique landscaping can run into the millions, depending on the location.

Borges says his clients want to upgrade their backyards because they plan to spend more time at home.

“Our customers tell us they won’t be vacationing much in the future, so everyone wants to renovate their backyard…to turn the backyard into their ‘stay place,’ or so they can stay home and enjoy family,” he said.

Harmony Pero can’t wait for her backyard oasis, a custom-designed infinity pool, to take shape behind her home in Anmore, BC (Maggie MacPherson/CBC).

He and other builders say they’re so busy they’re struggling to keep up with demand. It is also plagued by supply chain bottlenecks related to the pandemic and high demand for certain parts. Items that used to take weeks to arrive can now take months, he says, while things like certain pool liner designs simply aren’t available due to high demand.

Record demand for pool construction

Across Canada, many pool and hot tub manufacturers and installers have bookings through 2022 or beyond.

Bill Roberton, executive director of the Pool and Hot Tub Council of Canada, says its 400 or so members tell him they’ve never seen demand like this.

Across Canada, pool builders and retailers tell him they are doubling or tripling sales and hitting capacity.

“Most say this is unprecedented, the demand for pools and for really everything in backyards. People invest in their homes because they realize it [the pandemic] can go on or come back.”

In Ontario, Roberton said there were initial delays in permitting and construction during the initial COVID restrictions. But he said that didn’t deter customers, it just led to pent-up demand and a backlog of orders and shipments.

“Some suppliers are sold out into next summer or fall,” he said.

That has left some frustrated pool shoppers with nothing but a muddy hole and visions of that first dive while waiting for parts and dreaming on.

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Mike Hunter

Mike is the owner of the local pool shop. He's been in the business for over 20 years and knows everything there is to know about pools. He's always happy to help his customers with whatever they need, whether it's advice on pool maintenance or choosing the right chemicals. He's also a bit of a pool expert, and is always happy to share his knowledge with anyone who's interested.

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