Pools and spas have been hot-ticket items for the last couple of years. Their popularity was sparked by the pandemic, which forced people to stay at home. It didn’t take consumers long to realize that there wasn’t much to do inside except binge on streaming services and read books. With people unable to get out and enjoy themselves, they targeted home improvements that could make being stuck at home more bearable.
A surge in demand for pools and spas hit during the height of the pandemic in 2020. The market-driven appetite has cooled somewhat, but pools and spas remain popular as we head toward summer 2023.
“Demand for pools and spas was incredible for the last two years,” said Mark Cristallini, vice president of operations for Westmoreland Pools and Spas in Warrendale, which focuses on designing and installing custom in-ground pools for commercial and residential clients. “It was a 10-month lead time to get a truckload of hot tubs—that’s how high the demand was. It was the same curve for in-ground pools.”
In-ground, On-ground and AboveGround Pools
Cristallini added that trends for the 2023 pool and spa season look similar to 2022. “However, automatic covers have exploded in demand and interest,” Cristallini said. “They were a semi-popular item leading into COVID, but now they’re close to a standard item. We get a lot of requests for them.”
Tom Esser, sales manager with Alpine Pools and Spas in Allison Park, said that automatic pool covers have also become more popular as a safety feature with his customers. Fully automated, the covers require an access code to open and close. Pool owners can secure their pools from unauthorized access when they’re not home to supervise.
“When the cover is on, you don’t have to worry about your kids or other peoples’ kids getting into the pool without adult supervision,” Esser said. Because of this feature, some communities no longer require pool owners to fence in their pools for safety reasons.
Speaking of automation, pool covers aren’t the only items that fit into this category. Customers also want to get their hands on fully automated pools and spas they can control remotely. Think of smart home technology, only for pools and spas. These systems allow pool owners to open and close automatic pool covers, adjust the temperature of the heater, turn lights on and off, and control the amount and timing of sanitizing chemicals.
“You can do almost everything remotely now,” said Cristallini.
Benches and tanning ledges are also surging in popularity among in-ground pool customers this year. Having a ledge of any size—let alone a large and elaborate one—has become one of the must-haves for 2023, said Esser. “Besides sundecks and tanning ledges, some customers put benches in the deep end of the pool for easy access or for sitting on to supervise other swimmers.”
Natural stone decks are also a hot commodity, and customers can choose from marble, limestone, sandstone, and travertine. Cristallini said that manufacturers of stone decks have done an excellent job of designing a product that adds a natural look and feel to pools, which most of his customers appreciate. “A lot of people want that softness and subtleness to their pool’s overall look,” he noted.
Saltwater pools have become more popular as an alternative to traditional chlorine pools. The water in them is softer, which is better for hair, skin, and bathing suits. If you dislike chlorine but want an in-ground pool, Cristallini suggests talking to your pool installer about saltwater alternatives.
Esser said that most of his customers want to get away from chlorine and request alternatives like silver and copper ions and UV light filters. “That’s the way most people want to disinfect their pools now,” he explained. “You can totally eliminate chlorine use with these methods.”
Alpine Pools has also seen on-ground pools gaining in popularity, said Esser. “They come in several shapes and sizes and can be a stepping stone for communities with HOAs (homeowners associations) that don’t allow aboveground pools or for people who just aren’t ready for the expense of an in-ground pool.”
Sometimes called metric pools, these pools sit on the ground and can be installed practically anywhere as their design features mimic in-ground pools that satisfy most HOAs.
Cristallini encouraged commercial and residential customers to ask for what they want in a pool design. If they have an idea, chances are, the designers and installers can make it happen within reason. “All in-ground pools must have a standard filtration and sanitation system, but everything else beyond that is customizable,” he said.
As for spas, the frenzy over tight supply and demand has eased, making it easier to get one installed this year. “Supply is normal now,” said Cristallini. “There is a growing demand and interest in swim spas, especially the elevated models and the flush-installed hot tubs.”
Swim spas are deeper and longer than regular hot tubs. They’re designed with fitness and wellness in mind. A propulsion system at each end simulates swimming against a current to make it more challenging. Customers who aren’t sure if a swim spa is right for them can stop by Alpine Pools and Spas location to try before they buy, said Esser. “We have demo units in our stores that customers can get in and try out.”
As for pool and spa accessories, UV units for sanitation have become a top-requested add-on for commercial clients.
Also popular for the summer of 2023 are small, medium, and large portable spas. “Portable means you can unplug it and drain it,” said Cristallini. “If you wanted to move it, you could.” Customers who prefer an in-ground hot tub instead of a portable one can make that request as well, he added.
Some consumers go all the way when they install an in-ground pool or spa (or both) to create a complete outdoor oasis. Patio kitchen setups have soared in popularity, with the most in-demand features including 36-inch stainless steel grills, fridges, warmers, and sinks. Versatile gas firepit tables are also available to complete the look.
All outdoor kitchens installed by Westmoreland Pools and Spas are manufactured by Bull Outdoor Products, Inc. On request, the basics can be extended with a 90-degree island with seating. “You can customize a lot with our outdoor kitchens,” Cristallini said.
Even if you didn’t add a hot tub or pool during COVID, the time is still right to add these luxuries to your home.