New home construction in Tampa, Fla., increased 25- to 30
percent in 2005. Pool-building firms such as Elite-Weiler Pools
Inc. had their hands full.
“There was a tremendous boom in home building,”
says John D. Kennedy, CEO of the Sarasota, Fla.-based firm (No.
35). “Many of our clients are national home builders. It was
an extremely busy time.”
As a result of their numerous successes in the past five years,
the company opened a second pool operation called Superior Pools of
Southwest Florida Inc. (No. 25). “They’re two separate,
stand-alone companies with basically the same owners, but we did
this to be able to consolidate the geographic areas that we serve
so we can better service our customers in terms of performing
construction,” Kennedy says.
Such aggressive expansion plans are just one of the reasons why
this year’s Pool & Spa News Top 50 Builders
shattered records. The honorees grossed more than $2 billion in
2005, thanks to strong housing markets, expansions, acquisitions
and a number of other factors. Looking ahead, they hope to continue
that growth despite a softening economy.
As an industry closely linked to the housing market, pool
construction continued to prosper in the first three quarters of
2005, during which time existing and new home sales stayed
“Interest rates were still favorable,” says Paul
Porter, CEO of Premier Pools & Spas Inc. in Rancho Cordova,
Calif. (No. 7), a division of KPJ Holdings. “Housing starts
and sales, and the appreciation rate, were still good. On top of
that, our company is well-positioned, our team is well-trained and
we’re growing in the areas where we have less market
retail, service, residential and commercial
Indeed, this year’s Top 50 Builders showed revenues of
$2.08 billion, nearly 15 percent more than the $1.81 billion total
in 2004. Revenue has grown consistently since 2001 when Pool
& Spa News unveiled its Top 50 Builders program.
Construction dollars followed in line. Median revenue rose more
than 25 percent to $17.8 million. “Nearly every month, we had
record-breaking numbers at our company,” says Steve Ast, vice
president of sales and marketing at Phoenix-based Shasta Industries
(No. 5). “There was incredible demand for swimming pools and
spas. Last year was one of the best markets we’ve ever
experienced in terms of new- pool construction.”
The boom was due in part to the growth in residential
renovation revenue. As a group, the Top 50 Builders averaged
$1,350,875 in renovation dollars, nearly seven times the $205,000
average in 2004. Ten builders reported that more than 10 percent of
their revenue is coming from renovations.
Includes all residential and commercial
Still, 21 builders have no renovation business at all. That
explains why renovations accounted for only $67.5 million, or 4
percent, of the Top 50 Builders’ total construction
Despite the disparities among companies, growth was evident across
the board. Only two Top 50 Builders saw a dip in numbers this year;
the majority reported revenue increases ranging from 2 percent to
Leading the charge were list newcomers Pools by Bradley (No.
46) and Superior Pools of Southwest Florida, the sister company of
Elite-Weiler. Both are based in Florida. In fact, six of the Top 10
fastest-growing companies operate in the Sunshine State.
What’s more, of the seven newcomers this year, five are based
Bill Krawczyk, CEO at Superior Pools of Southwest Florida,
attributes the near doubling of his business to post-hurricane
construction and a healthy building environment in the Southeast.
“We’re in a hot, robust market,” Krawczyk says.
“A lot of home builders, due to Hurricane Charley in 2004,
started building spec homes, and we got flooded with
Mother Nature influenced business in other parts of the country
as well. In the Midwest, gloomy weather affected the construction
business in the first half of 2005.
“Sales in this area weren’t as robust, but we were
able to grow exponentially,” says Bruce Holmes, CEO of Pools
of Fun Inc. (No. 41) in Plainfield, Ind. “We’ve
expanded into different markets. We have an aggressive marketing
campaign. We established a Construction Alliance Program in the
state. And that has all helped build our company.”
expansions, acquisitions, consolidations and similar deals were
rampant in 2005, and are continuing in 2006.
“It pays to consolidate,” explains Porter of
Premier Pools & Spas. “Through the consolidation, you can
create more revenue and compete at a more sophisticated level. The
pool industry is one of the few industries that hasn’t yet
For instance, last year, Pools of Fun acquired two fiberglass
firms, increasing fiberglass to 13 percent of the company’s
construction business. In April 2005, Paddock Pool Construction Co.
(No. 4) in Scottsdale, Ariz., was recapitalized by a private equity
firm, helping the company free funds to expand its
In January 2006, Gilbert, Ariz.-based Presidential Pools and
Spas (No. 9) also was purchased by a private equity firm to achieve
the same purpose.
Pool and spa builders did not stop there. Besides expanding
their construction business, many companies entered new arenas.
Shasta aggressively grew its commercial construction and
manufacturing operations. Similarly, 29 companies on the Top 50
Builders list earned revenue from commercial construction, raking
in nearly $94.5 million from such public and municipal
Meanwhile, Premier Pools & Spas completed a merger in late
2005 with Litehouse Products, LLC, a retail chain located
throughout the Northeast and Midwest. That’s one reason why
the company’s retail revenue doubled in
“That was a direct result of our relationship with
Litehouse. They brought their retail expertise into our company and
that helped grow that part of our business.” Porter
Overall, nearly half of the builders on this year’s list
sell products in retail outlets; four of those companies derive
more than one-quarter of their gross revenue from retail
operations. In all, the Top 50 Builders raked in more than $101
million in retail sales, up 6 percent from $96 million in 2004.
Still, retail revenue accounted for only 5 percent of the Top 50
Builders’ gross revenue in 2005.
pool builders, however, financial transactions, retail sales and
gross revenue aren’t the nitty-gritty of their business.
Their day-to-day efforts focus on putting pools in the
Top 50 Volume|
The Top 50 Builders constructed a total of 46,513 pools last
year, up 10 percent from 42,253 in 2004. The top five volume
builders had less pronounced growth, inching up 6 percent from
21,338 pools in 2004 to 22,656 pools in 2005.
Overall, volume for the Top 50 Builders ranged from 30 pools built
by high-end leader Platinum-Poolcare Aquatech Ltd. (No. 50) to more
than 8,000 installations by industry behemoth Blue Haven Pools
& Spa (No. 1). Conversely, average pool prices ranged from
Platinum-Poolcare’s $135,000 per pool down to $22,782 at one
of the Top 10 volume builders, The Pool People Inc. (No.
The average pool price for the entire Top 50 group shot up to
$43,423, a whopping 17 percent over the previous year’s
$37,203. Many report that this increase will continue due to
skyrocketing costs of raw materials, fuel and
“Rising costs are a big challenge,” says Holmes of
Pools of Fun. “In years past, suppliers and vendors would
give us price increases off and on. This year, it’s been
across the board. Fuel has really taken a toll as
Materials costs weren’t the only factor driving pool
price increases, however. Many Top 50 Builders say their aquascapes
continue to be feature-packed as the entire industry moves toward
embracing the “backyard living” concept. Salt-chlorine
generators, energy-efficient pumps, upscale patio furniture and hot
tubs were among the most popular additions in
Despite this energy and movement last year, some Top 50
Builders are wary about the future. In the fourth quarter of 2005,
they say the fruitful situation began to change.
“We’ve had a dramatic drop in the whole economic
climate in our industry. Interest rates started inching up. We got
a new Fed chair. Housing inventories started rising. There’s
going to be a big transition in 2006,” Porter
R’nelle Lazlo has similar concerns. “We’re
just starting to feel the impact of the rising interest rates. I
think it’s having an impact in certain markets, California
being one,” says the vice president of national marketing at
San Diego-based Blue Haven Pools & Spas. “Rising
construction costs and materials costs were also a big
Despite this, Blue Haven Pools & Spas has aggressive plans
to expand into new markets. “We’re looking at mid-sized
markets in the Sunbelt and large metropolitan areas in the Midwest
where we don’t have offices, markets like Milwaukee, Boston,
Albuquerque and El Paso,” Lazlo says.
Regardless of what may come in 2006, the pool industry is sure
to look ahead, survive and prosper.
“I think the pool industry goes through its blips,”
says Shasta’s Ast. “People continue to move to the
Sunbelt states. They continue to look at the home as a
pride-of-ownership investment. And the pool and spa industry has to
work to take that pride of ownership into the backyard. I’ve
never been as excited as I am now about the future of the pool