Shortage of Skilled Craftsmen
Freeze Damage in Texas
Oxford Languages online dictionary defines a perfect storm as “a particular bad or critical state of affairs, arising from a number of negative and unpredictable factors.” In a nutshell, that is exactly what has happened to the pool industry to cause the delays. The confluences that have caused the delays that the pool industry is currently experiencing is the shortage of skilled craftsmen, followed by the increased demand caused by the pandemic, and finally—the freeze damage in Texas.
- Shortage of Skilled Craftsmen
If you have tried to have home repairs or remodeling done over the past few years you are probably already aware of how difficult it can be to find someone to do the project, especially of the high-quality variety—from plumbers to electricians to HVAC to masonry contractors to pool equipment technicians, as well as many other trades. An online search concerning the topic confirms with data that there is a serious shortage of skilled tradespeople throughout the country, and it is a problem that started well before the pandemic. The bottom line is that there is simply not enough of them to get the work done, and it doesn’t appear to be getting any better.
- The Pandemic
It goes without saying that our lives have been changed forever due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. One thing that we do know is that almost all of us have spent more time at home over the past year than we ever have before. People are asking—Is my home the way that I want it? Is this where I want to spend my time if this ever happens again? It has led many of us to think of ways that we can improve our home. One of the results that we have seen is the increase in the demand of home improvements, including swimming pools. This has resulted in an increase in the construction of swimming pools and the supply of skilled labor and materials has not increased, which has resulted in projects taking longer to build. PK data estimates that 78,000 pools were built in 2019 and the last report that I saw was a projection of 94,000 pools to be built 2020, which is a 20% increase. In addition to the lack of skilled tradesmen available to do the project, other steps that used to be fairly quick processes oftentimes delay the project—financing, underground utility approval, HOA approval, engineering (if required), and city permitting.
- Freeze Damage in Texas
Before the power outages in Texas occurred, pool equipment (pumps, filters, heaters, etc.) availability was becoming a problem. There are three major manufacturers that provide most of the pool pump, filtration, & heating equipment in the United States—Pentair, Fluidra, & Hayward. The increase in demand caused by the pandemic coupled with pandemic-related plant closures and difficulty getting raw materials and components caused the manufacturers to get behind and in a position where they were really struggling to supply the needs of the pool industry. And then the power outages in Texas came—what a debacle that has caused for the pool industry. According to PK Data, there are approximately 5.2 million inground swimming pools in the United States and Texas has between 600,000 and 700,000 of them, trailing only California & Florida in total number of pools. In Denton County, we are seeing between 15%-25% of them having some type of freeze damage at the pool equipment pad, and if this pattern holds true for the entire state—then it is possible that there are anywhere from 90,000 to 175,000 that experienced freeze damage, and oftentimes new equipment is needed to make the pool operational again.
As you can tell, it is a bad situation. Pool companies and equipment manufacturers are doing all that they can to improve the situation, but at this point it appears to be a fairly dire situation.