Despite this year’s outstanding summer, the number of new pool builds across the UK and Eire continues its downward trend.
In the wake of the double dip recession, the number of new pool builds has been slashed dramatically, representing less than 20% of the estimated total worth of the pool and spa market.
Instead, it is service and refurbishment contracts, in both residential and commercial pool sectors, that are providing the life blood for many of the UK’s core pool and spa businesses.
Timing of refurbishment is vital and the importance of the autumn window cannot be overstated for water leisure companies looking to maximise the potential of repair and refurbishment orders.
“At the end of every summer season, and even more so at the end of a good summer that we have currently enjoyed, it is essential to sell the swimming pool MOT for both residential and commercial sectors,” advises David Mathers, recently retired from SCP UK and now an independent industry consultant.
“Always an important contributing factor, repair and refurbishment have become absolutely vital with new pools on the downturn and now equates to as much as 80% of turnover for many companies. This has been a real bonus for the industry in challenging times,” adds David.
David says the downturn in new swimming pool construction reflects the depression in the housing market.
“When you think how many homes are now rented, compared to ten years ago, and the increasing number of firsts time buyers who cannot afford to get on the property ladder – you don’t have to work out why swimming pool building is being impacted,” he points out.
He expands: “The refurbishment market is essential really – if the number of new pools is declining, we need to be keeping the existing ones going, so we can all earn off them.
“Many clients now acknowledge that refurbishment work is more important than new-build contracts that are few and far between.
“Repairs are keeping them busy and helping them survive, while on the other hand, those who generally rely on refurbishment work, say they are finding the market more difficult with the increased competition vying for each contract, ” says David.
There are three main reasons for the rush to refurbish:
• Ageing stock from peak pool builds in the Seventies
• More people opting to improve rather than move
• A trend towards more energy efficient pool heating and management
ADDED VALUE .
“Residentially there has been more refurbishment work coming through than the past two to three years no doubt due to the economic downturn, less people moving house, so more spent on the existing home,” David Mathers reports.
“Commercially there has been more interest in refurbishment with many operators opting to invest in short term fixes to buy them more time on stretched budgets rather than invest in new builds.”
And a word of advice, David chips in: “When you are throwing your hat into the refurbishment ring and you consider a job too far out of your scope, don’t forget to check with wholesalers and specialist services suppliers to find out what hands-on support is available to you as an extended part on your in-house team.”
Minimising down time is essential when it comes to commercial pools. A replacement hydrotherapy pool at Center Parc’s Elveden resort was craned in at 1.30 am to ensure minimum disruption to guests.
The existing pool has been upgraded to a Signature Pools all-in-one pool system. Because of the build method, Signature Pools are 100 % waterproof with no structural leaks and are even stronger than concrete. The fully tiled pool is insulated to 0.19W/m2K and comes fitted with stainless steel fittings in place. Depending on the size, one or more completed modular systems can be added and joined on site.
The Signature Pool system ensures no inclement weather delays, no reliance on sub-contractors and no loss of profits.
Most residential pools would need a major renovation every 30 years to check the structure is sound and to prevent any major damage from occurring. An annual inspection would include plant room and pool surrounds.
On one recent project, the team from Oyster Pools, in Wales, set about the complete transformation with an overwhelming list of technical improvements from a new liner, new track, re-screeded floor, brushed and painted galvanised panels, steps enhanced and cleaned, new skimmers, new poolside lighting, new underwater lighting, new filtration system, new coping, new slabbing, new balustrade – the list goes on!
A pool that is leaking water is undoubtedly the biggest problem. A small leak may be quite easily repaired but if a pool no longer holds water, then unfortunately this can be a major repair job.
This would mean having to break out the floor of the existing pool to establish what is happening and identify where the pool is leaking. If water has been leaking significantly for a period of time it has often damaged the foundations, so it is not simply a case of laying a new floor. In this case, you would dig out the old floor and fill in the holes in the foundations with type one, compactable material such as gravel and stones, to give a ground bearing of 100KPA. This is essential for the stability of the pool for it to be able to take the combined weight of the pool floor and the water.
It is possible to utilise the existing shape of the old pool to reconstruct the new pool, but you essentially have to build a pool within a pool so you would lose about 450mm of the pool size overall. Once the foundations have set, the pool is lined with steel reinforcement and the top pool surround is removed.
No-body wants to swim in a pool that has seen better days and for commercial businesses a pool that has cracked or broken tiles can be a safety hazard and may result in it being closed for public use.
When refurbishing pools, it is essential to check that there are no structural faults or leaks. If there are no problems, and the pool simply has cracked or missing tiles or is in need of updating then it can be re-tiled and add in new features as the client desires.
Re-lining or retiling a tired old pool can give it a new lease of life. The UK Swimming Pool Company has a new twist on refurbishment by developing a niche for conversions from liner to tiled finishes.
Firstly, the team removes the existing liner and cleans the pool interior with a pressure washer. Then they supply and fix stainless steel expanding metal lathing to the complete pool interior surfaces, fixed with stainless st
eel fixings every 100mm.
They completely render the interior with high content sand and cement rendering and leave ‘keyed’ for new mosaic tiling. They supply and fix new glass mosaic tiles to whole pool interior. In some cases a new concrete floor over the sand shaped hopper floor is required.
When quoting for a refurbishment, it is often cost effective, for both the pool business and the client, to carry out other improvements at the same time to minimise overall disruption. There is also huge selling potential from upgrade designs, products and services. There are a lot of products that can significantly enhance an old pool or will make it easier to maintain that the owner either is not aware of or won’t have considered.
Straight forward liner repair and replacement requests offer up opportunities for complimentary makeovers such as pool coping and surrounds. When sold for its many benefits, ‘add–ons’ such as automatic safety covers and counter current units are increasingly being taken up.
Improving the economic efficiency of pools by adding such products as heat pumps, vari-flo pumps and automatic dosing systems are also on the increase. But don’t forget the aesthetic improvements of adding such ingredients as water jets and LED mood lighting that are also seeing a boom in popularity.
Oyster Pools & Leisure Ltd
Tel. + 44 (0) 1291 690614
Tel. + 44 (0) 1256 748388
UK Swimming Pools
Tel. + 44 (0) 1293 881340