Last year, homeowners wholeheartedly embraced the benefits of having a vacation spot right in their backyards. As travel budgets shifted and people started to create private havens for family and friends at home, demand for pools skyrocketed.
“People can’t go anywhere, so they want to build a paradise at home,” says Thiago Silva, owner of Aquatica Pools & Spas in North Charleston. In 2020 the company built 100 pools, and this year it’s planning to design and install twice as many.
While all pool and spa installers face a shortage of labor and supplies, Aquatica is well positioned, thanks to Silva’s ability to think out of the box. When the pandemic hit, some companies furloughed employees and stopped ordering materials. Anticipating a surge in demand, Silva held a meeting with employees to determine how to keep up the business while working from home. Then he started ordering materials. “When the world changed, we immediately changed our strategy,” Silva says. “We started projecting six months out to order supplies.” Aquatica also expanded its commercial division to Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina, as well as South Carolina. Aquatica’s sister company, TJ Tile Services, does most of the installation work so the company has access to labor faster than anyone else.
Silva says some pool companies around the country are taking on more work than they can handle or aren’t necessarily being up-front with clients about supply shortages or how long the process will take. From the beginning, Aquatica’s strategy was not to oversell its clients, which turned out to be a smart move. Though there’s still an eight- to 12-week average build time, which is just a little more of a delay than pre-pandemic, the company’s policy of managing sales and setting realistic expectations with customers means Aquatica’s customers are happy campers throughout the process.
Before construction begins, Aquatica helps clients get through the broad strokes and paperwork of installing a pool. The first step is ensuring the site qualifies for a pool and identifying a budget. After the site visit, clients talk with a member of the sales team about design. Silva takes pride in the fact that every pool he builds is unique, so no two clients will have the same pool. Once the design is finished, the homeowners see their pool in 2-D and 3-D renderings before any ground is broken.
As part of the design process, clients choose pool equipment that suites their budget and lifestyle. Advanced options include equipment that is EnergyStar rated, quiet and fully automated. For example, if your pool is at your second home, you can add the required chemicals right from your smartphone. Or, if you don’t mind doing more maintenance yourself, there are more affordable options.
Aquatica is well-known for its contemporary designs that include water features, infinity edges, bubblers, fire features and more. The company also builds lap pools for dedicated swimmers. “We just finished a beautiful 85-by-12-foot lap pool for clients who are competitive swimmers, and they love it,” Silva says.
Once the design is complete, clients are advised what landscaping or fencing needs to move for site access during construction. “We always recommend our clients work with a landscaping company to remove irrigation, bushes, trees or anything else that needs to move before we show up,” Silva says. If you don’t have a landscaper, the company can recommend several that it trusts.
In a year where business owners in many industries are burned out, Silva’s enthusiasm and resilience are impressive. “It’s been a great year,” he says. “For us, it’s a privilege to work on people’s backyards. Our goal is to bring people together to create memories. Whether we’re building a pool in a backyard, for a neighborhood or a hotel, everything we do is so people can have fun.” *
Robin Howard is a freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.