The pandemic sparked a huge boom for the pool installation industry – a historic 24% overall growth, according to the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) – and left many homeowners disappointed. “Labour and supply chain issues caused significant delays,” says Janay Rickwalder of the PHTA, whose website SplashFacts.org was developed to guide homeowners through the pool building process. “The demand was off the charts. Pool builders received more building requests than they could answer, and the above-ground pool supply quickly sold out.” There are still shortages, but there are opportunities to swim until next summer. We spoke to experts to find out how.
Before you approach anyone, you should know what you want. “Include as much prep work as possible beforehand,” says Ashley Petrone, an interior designer in Anna Maria Island, Florida. “Scour the web for ideas and inspiration so you’re not the one causing additional delays when you’re ready to hire someone.”
The scope and design of your project will determine a builder’s ability to fit you into their schedule. For example, according to Kevin Holleran of Hayward Holdings – a manufacturer of pool equipment – construction times for vinyl liners or fiberglass are significantly shorter than for custom-built concrete or shotcrete pools.
“Talk to your builder and make sure you understand the implications of certain finishes and design details,” advises Sara Cukerbaum of Slic Design in Austin, Texas. “Recently for a pool interior design [we were doing] We’ve found that there can be delays with a particular patch, so we’ve opted for a pebble finish. This also applies to the pool equipment.”
Withdraw your permits
Labor and material shortages have drawn most of the attention, but John Rachel of Rachel Lynch — a pool builder in Southampton, New York — says the permitting process can actually be the biggest obstacle due to labor shortages and high turnover. While a contractor will typically seek approval once a design is in place, it’s worth checking the specifics in your area before even beginning the design process. “I can often build a pool in four to six weeks, but the permitting process can take two or three months,” says Rachel.
Ideally, you want to involve a landscape architect or designer in creating the overall vision for the pool, hardscaping, and landscaping. It’s a large and permanent project, after all, and approaching a builder with an existing design is a great time-saving move. But to save even more time, it’s possible to go directly to a construction company, says Cathy Purple Cherry, an Annapolis, Maryland architect — you should only look for a company with in-house design services or a professional designer on staff.
Complete the contract as soon as possible
If you want the pool installation to be completed by next summer, you should sign the contract now, says Thomas Jepsen of architecture firm Passion Plans. “Many companies are covered for several months. So if you sign the contract now, you’ll be ahead in getting the work done,” he says, noting that it’s a good idea to take advantage of winter shutdowns. “This is usually the time when contractors have some time that they would like to fill. If you can do it now instead of everyone else vying for your attention, you’ll probably save money, too.”
Think above the ground
Though in-ground pools are still considered the most premium option, above-ground pools can be made very cool with custom decking and landscaping, says interior designer Phoebe Schuh of Philadelphia-based PS & Daughters. “Our recommendation is to go smaller—think immersion, not lap—and consider stainless steel as your material to avoid warping.” Just be warned: John Rachel says some above-ground projects can be deceptively difficult could be. “Above ground you can bypass the permitting process and sometimes be quicker,” he says, “but underground and virgin soil are still the easiest tanks to build.”