Emily Martin gets the inside track on swimming pool renovations…
It may be less glamourous than new-build work, but refurbishment and renovation is the beating heart of the residential UK pool market.
For our annual look at the repair and refurbishment market, Swimming Pool Scene set out to compare experiences with an overview of the typical fix- lists and find out how vital repair and refurbishments are to keeping pool business ticking over.
James Knight is the Director of Essex-based swimming pool contractor, Aquaria. His business is reflective of many in the UK.
“Last year our percentage of refurbishment work was around 30% as we primarily focus on high-end swimming pools,” James explains. “But always take up the opportunity to bring an older swimming pool up to a really high standard specification.
“Depending on what is involved, be it just an internal tiling job, or a total strip back and full interior upgrade with mechanical and electrical plant installation, I would estimate a typical domestic spend ranges from £20,000 – £80,000,” he continues.
“A lot of older domestic swimming pools were built to very basic standards and, in the present time, these can look very dilapidated. “There are many people that still build the most basic style of swimming pool but this does offer a bigger area for potential improvement and transformation.” When it comes to typical fix-lists, it’s a long one, James advises, from poor water circulation to poor internal fittings layout and calculation of pipe sizes leading to very low turnover rate. Throw in a single low-level sump, very basic and redundant plant equipment, damages to pool shell, crumbling render and concrete, no waterproof tanking, basic mesh-backed tiles that inevitably start to fall of, and you can see why the budget can sometimes run away from clients.
James cautions: “It’s so important to discuss with the client exactly what level they’re trying to get to at the start of the job.
“To determine a fix list, the pool and project outlines need to be agreed to understand what level of pool the client wants to achieve and ideally the fix list would be to overhaul the entire pool and bring it to a high specification,” he adds. “Modern tastes tend to follow what people see on the internet and social media,” James believes. “There are a few things we recommend bringing a tired pool up to date and these are adding elegant glass mosaic tiles, aesthetically designed underwater lighting and often porcelain coping tiles and surrounds.”
Updates Aquaria typically recommend and carry out include:
– Epoxy resin grout
– Stainless steel interior fittings
– Well-designed underwater lighting
– PVCu class D pipework and fittings
– Modern filtration equipment with a four hour turnover rate,
– UV disinfection system,
– Automatic chemical dosing
“We always specify our projects with the most efficient and advanced equipment but it’s not always a commonly asked or requested thing by customers,” James says. “However, once you explain the benefits and the technology most people like to take an interest in the kit that they’re having installed.”
Tony Keogh is the Managing Director of Bespoke Swimming Pools, a small but successful family-run business they are busy year-round offering residential refurbishments as well as new-builds and book an incredible 13 months ahead.
Tony is a third-generation pool builder and says: “I’ve seen it all. Every year is different but I’d say business is 70/30 in favour of new builds at the moment, although some years it’s 50/50.
“Towards the end of the spring people usually get in touch wanting a new pool but the refurbishment calls come in around February when people switch their pools back on after the winter and then go, ‘Oh…”
Tony continues: “Most of our refurbishment work comes from pools being what I call ‘winterised’. It’s never a good idea to turn a pool of because the frost and standing water causes so much damage.
“Normally the damage and need for refurbishment is caused around the water-line where people have the pool in stagnant conditions over the winter months.
“We suggest to customers, if they do want to close the pool down, leave the filter on a timer and keep the water moving because moving water doesn’t freeze.”
When it comes to how much customers will pay for refurbishment, Tony observes: “If there is damage to the water-line, it’s pretty rare; I’ll just do a new mosaic band.
“A typical residential refurbishment spend can range anywhere from £30,000 to £100,000. We’ll often add a safety cover, update all the tiling in the pool and redo the paving too.”
Customers tastes and trends have changed over the years and Tony says: “To bring a tired pool up to date, I’d say the most important things to get right are the tiling and the paving.”
He continues: “Years ago adding ‘bells and whistles’ used to mean adding a slide. But now the wow- factor is to have things looking plainer.
“For example, instead of going for an Indian Riven stone, customers will go for porcelain or an Indian sandstone. And a lot of our customers are opting for a new safety-cover too.
“We really recommend the Certikin Coverstar. It’s a safety cover you literally can walk on. And you also get very minimal evaporation which means you lose less water, heat and chemicals, which saves money.
Customer preferences now include more eco-concerns than they did in the past too. Tony says: “Customers will switch to an air-source heat pump to heat their pools and we also install ultraviolet sanitisers which means less chlorine is needed.”
Kay Cunningham is from West Midlands Swimming Pools, also a family business. She and husband Robert have found the pandemic has boosted trade and offer a complete swimming pool service but say it’s 65% in favour of updating old pools where a typical spend can be anywhere from £15,000 to £30,000. Like Tony, their current wait times are also a number of months in advance.
Kay says: “A typical fix list will include repairing older, leaking concrete tile pools, where onsite lining wins every time. And current tastes and trends are definitely an increased interest in porcelain coping, Optimus pool fittings and counter current units.
Kay continues: “Customers concerned with making their pools more eco-friendly will update the pool insulation and add an air source heat pump or variable speed pump.”
Kay says the essential ingredients for bringing a pool up to date is the quality of the finish. “Also important is making sure the filtration and heating system is up to current standards and adding coping and paving to finish of the surround,” emphasises Kay.
It’s clear that maintaining and refurbishing pools continues to contribute a huge slice of swimming pool contracting business.
Modern pool design is constantly changing with on vogue tastes and trends evolving alongside increasing awareness of environmental concerns.
Rest assured, pool builders can rely on repair and refurbishment diaries being filled for many foreseeable seasons ahead.