As the reach of this website continues to grow further and further beyond AZ, I continually meet new and interesting people from different places in the US who love to talk about pool construction in their region. Earlier this year, I had a chance to talk to Angela from Orlando, Florida. She has been involved in the pool construction industry as a Project Manager/Superintendent for the last 8 years and working with pools in general for the last 16 years.
Angie has worn many hats during her stint in the pool business. She's done everything from computer design, permitting, inspections, maintenance, fire-ups, minor repairs, and field supervision in all phases of new and renovation construction. In her last role, she was a project manager/superintendent for a mid-size pool company that specializes in custom pools in Orlando, Florida.
At the time I spoke with her in early 2009, the market in FL (as well as most places) was very soft and people throughout the construction industry in general were facing pretty bleak prospects.
Can you give some additional details about your background?
I started off working for my first pool company doing start-up type of work, showing homeowners how to manage their equipment and valves, and training them on basic pool care topics. From there, I moved into the service/warranty/repair/maintenance side of the business. I then branched out on my own and started a pool cleaning/maintenance business, but quickly got bored with that and came back to work on the construction side of the business. I was with my previous company for a little over 3 years and have been working with my current company for the last 4 years. When I first started at the current company I'm with, I started off doing scheduling. It was total chaos there - there were angry customer's leaving nasty voice mail about their neglected project. It took 2-3 months to get to a place where the company's backlog was finally processed. Since that time, we've had no complaints with the BBB. I've done computer design, permitting, inspections, maintenance, fire ups, minor repairs, and field supervision in all phases of new and renovation construction.
In your estimation, what is the market for pools in Orlando Florida?
These are just ballpark figures based on my observations, but the larger pool companies will typically do around 600 pools a year, the mid-size companies (like the one I work for) will do will do 250-400 pools a year, and the smaller companies will build approximately 200 pools a year. There are currently approximately 20 pool companies in Orlando. The vacation rental home business is big in Orlando. In a subdivision with 300 homes, its not uncommon to find each house with a pool.
What is the current state (early 2009) of the pool construction business in your neck of the woods in Florida right now?
Things are pretty tough. The industry is very soft right now there are many people who are getting laid off. My pool company did 250 pools in 2007. In 2008, that number went down to 80 pools. In the last 6 months, 12 pool companies went out of business. Everyone in the industry is suffering. The sub base has been cut almost in half. Subs that do good work are having to reduce their fees by 25%-40% to stay afloat in this tougher market. Other subs that used to specialize in certain trades are having to do other things to stay in business. One of the best concrete companies that I work with is starting to do renovation and cleanup to keep their crews employed.
Can you explain some of things that you do as a superintendent of a pool project?
There is a separate person who schedules the subs, but I work with the scheduler to determine who will be coming into a job site on a given day. I will identify and check the work that the subs perform on the job site to insure that everything is being done properly and to code. I meet with the inspectors to make sure that everything is up to their standard, and will arrange for the subs to come back if something is not up to par. At all phases of the project, I keep the home owner informed of what is going on and address any concerns that they might have about any aspect of their pool. Lately, I've been also running the service and warranty departments and work with either the manufacturer or homeowner on any issues that need to be resolved. I work with pools across the spectrum. Most if not all are custom pools in the $25K - $100K range.
What is the owner/builder environment like in Orlando Florida?
The state of Florida allows for owner/builder pools although the situation is more like Houston TX, than AZ or CA. Because the market is not as large here as in AZ or CA, subs will depend primarily on pool builders for their primary source of income and so the sub-contractor market is not as large or as open here as it is in AZ or CA. It's definitely harder to find good subs on your own and most will not advertise their services for owner/builders. You are not required by law to used licensed sub-contractors, but you would be doing so at your own risk. Using licensed sub-contractors is highly recommended. The process of building your own pool is similar to AZ and CA. You will have to submit your pool design and engineering drawings with a stamped/wet seal to your city to pull the proper permits. You would then schedule the subs and work with them individually.
(Note: for the latest laws and regulations in regards to owner/builder construction in FL, please refer to Florida statute chapter 489
What are some of the differences between the in-ground shotcrete pool construction process in Florida and Arizona?
They are very, very similar between the 2 states. In fact the biggest difference that I noticed comparing your story with the way we do things here is that the tile work is done before the decking guys come through to pour the decking concrete. The tile guy will typically level the pool's bond beam since the shotcrete guys do not always pour a level bond beam. They use a water-level (which is a simple gas-can type of contraption that allows you to be very very accurate) to find the level, and having the decking guys come in first gives him less flexibility to do the work. Other than that, we also include the layout as a part of the excavation like they do in CA as opposed to having it be a separate sub. With the number of subs that come through to build a pool, its just a little more efficient to combine them.
After finishing this interview, Angie has since started her own business doing pool start-ups, maintenance, pool schools, automation programming/troubleshooting, equipment installation/repairs, and low-voltage lighting. While business is really humming along and time is a limiting factor, Angie mentioned that she is willing to talk to prospective O/Bs as a consultant as time permits.
If you are an O/B living in the Orlando FL area, and would like to talk to Angie about your project or possibly hire her as a consultant/inspector, you can find Angie's contact information in the subcontractor's list section of the website.