You might be leaving money on the table if you’re not offering to store your clients’ covers off site for the summer.
Companies that provide this sort of valet service say many customers will gladly pay to free up space in their garages or garden sheds, knowing their covers will be stowed somewhere safe and rodent-free.
Generally, anything service professionals can do to protect their clients’ investments will be more than welcome.
Take Tracy and Cecil Bond’s word for it. Last year the siblings, who own Great Valley Pool Service in Frazer, Penn., were brainstorming ways to bring in more money when they hit upon the idea of providing a cover cleaning and storage option. Fifty clients took them up on it last summer.
“[The fact] that we’re thoroughly inspecting and cleaning it so that [the cover] would be nice and clean the next season — I think that’s what most people were drawn to,” Cecil Bond says.
The service netted them $5,000 last season. But they soon realized there was more to be gained. “It also gave us the opportunity to do patch work if necessary, and any patching that was done was an extra charge,” Tracy Bond says.
Likewise, Sean Meyers has doubled his cleaning and storage business. The co-owner of DS Pool Service Inc. in Royersford, Penn. stored 40 covers, up from 20 last year. “It’s grown each season,” he says.
While this service may seem a straightforward one, professionals should follow certain steps to ensure a healthy cover.
Professionals recommend giving covers a thorough assessment before tucking them away for the season. In the frigid Northeast, covers take a beating. Springs and straps can break under heavy snow loads, deer hooves can puncture panels, and wind-induced vibrations can wear the material down where it constantly beats against the coping.
Be sure to document all defects with digital photos, and leave a detailed report with your client before hauling the cover off. This way, the customer knows the condition of the cover before it is stored and therefore can’t accuse the professional of damaging it.
This also would be a good time to suggest needed repairs.
Most service pros can handle minor repairs such as patching and replacing straps. Others have developed an expertise in this area and can tackle tougher tasks. John Viola has an entire sewing division that completely rehabilitates covers.
“We try to offer a complete (cover) service, which gets us a lot of the clients who are more high-end,” says the president of Viola Associates of Hyannis, Mass.
Of Viola’s 300-plus service accounts, roughly half utilize his sew-and-stow services. His team can extend the cover’s life by stitching another layer of material around the perimeter, protecting it against abrasion from the coping underneath.
However, some jobs are best left to the manufacturer, such as when an entire panel needs to be replaced. In that case, the cover should be shipped to the factory.
In some cases, the cover will need to be replaced entirely. The average cover lasts eight to 10 years. Brittle fabric and shabby seams indicate that it has reached its expiration date. “That happens almost every year,” Meyers says. “Sometimes we’ll even think it can be repaired, but the manufacturer will tell us it needs to be replaced.”
That’s the other benefit of offering a more robust pool cover service. “It’s definitely a way to take a better look at the cover,” Meyers says.
Cecil Bond concurs. “Out of the 50 that we stored, three or four turned into sales for new covers,” he says.
Before retiring the cover for the summer, a thorough cleaning is in order.
Because you’re already hauling it off site to store it, you might as well clean it there. This will save a step come spring — the cover will not have to be cleaned right away on the client’s property, buying time to perform more openings. Simply clean the covers later at your base of operations. In fact, it may be possible to wash multiple covers at once, provided space is available.
When cleaning, avoid harsh soaps that could damage the material. Some professionals recommend trisodium phosphate. Of course, there are cleaning solutions specifically formulated for pool covers that work well, too. Scrub away all organic matter using a soft-bristle brush or mop. The professional can also use a power washer. Just be sure to adjust it to a light setting.
Allow the cover time to dry.
“You can put them away damp, but not soaking wet,” Meyers says.
There are some logistical matters to consider when storing. Professionals advise placing the covers in a dry, secure location. Of course, rodents are an ever-present threat. Stowed-away covers are inviting nesting places for varmints. Hire an exterminator and set traps.
Even tightly folded covers take up a lot of room. Make sure there is ample space.
The Bond siblings also recommend tagging both the covers and bags with the clients’ last names and storing them in alphabetized rows. Make a note in the work order or schedule to bring the cover when closing the pool at season’s end.
By the way, keeping the cover virtually guarantees that you’ll be closing the pool in the winter. Clients are less likely to shop for a new service provider when they realize they’ll have to first retrieve the cover out of storage.
“They realize, ‘Oh, hey, they still have my cover. I guess I’ll still close with them,’” says Meyers. “They’re almost locked in.”