Pour in some concrete, add some water and chemicals, and voila! You have a pool. 

Even before a pandemic completely upended the industry, pool design had already evolved far beyond simple shells and a handful of core materials used.  

Local companies like Aqua Blue Pools, Diamond Pools and Year Round Pool were consistently busy but never enough to create a year-long waitlist. Enter 2020. 

With families quarantining and looking for more home-based outside fun, the demand for pools in the Lowcountry exploded exponentially. 

Jeff Fotia and his staff at Year Round Pool perfected their production formula over decades of innovative installations. Eight weeks from a customer signing a contract to wading in their new water oasis.  

Their crew could juggle both large-scale buildouts like the pool amenities at Spring Lake and Margaritaville and the new lazy river at the Hilton Head RV Resort while equally servicing residential clients.  

Today, despite his veteran management team scaling up staff, the turnaround is 12 to 14 months with close to 100 paid clients on their install list. 


“I’ve seen a lot in this industry, but nothing like this,” said the company vice president. “We’re in the dream-making business, but this has been more about managing people’s timeline expectations to get that dream. That’s always been part of the process. It was an awkward conversation pre-COVID, but now, folks get it. The whole world is backed up right now.” 

Whereas clients typically would come to Fotia and his crew with a design in mind, now it’s more about expediency.  

“They have families who just want and need to have an outlet for safe fun,” he said. 

With so much work in the queue, one upside is it’s easy to identify trends. 


smallpollAs more tract neighborhoods have sprung up, backyards have gotten smaller over the past decade. Consumers had already started inching toward smaller buildouts. Now, with a lot of community pools closed and families concerned about passing germs in larger groups, small is the norm. 

“Access becomes an issue with smaller lots, just having the means to get in a backyard without disrupting neighbors’ land, but we find a way to make it happen,” Fotia said. 

The company is currently developing a smaller pre-fab shell to meet the growing need. 

Cocktail pools are trending, according to Backyard Pool Specialists. Known as “spools,” they are usually about 400 square feet, with a depth of 4 feet. 


There has been a decade-long shift from chlorine-based filtration to saltwater filtration systems. Less chemicals, right? Not quite. 

“When you break down the salt atom, the end result is chlorine,” Fotia said.  

According to the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance, the answer for folks looking for less chemical exposure is UV light and an ozone-based filtration system. 

The method reduces chemical usage up to 80 percent, and minimizes both exposure to contaminants and the resulting skin irritation, red eyes and bacteria-borne illness. 

“It has become the new norm during COVID and I expect that trend to stay,” Fotia said. 


Gone are the days of staid blue tile for the waterline and white for the interior of the pool. 

Today, clients are using a variety of tile colors to more closely match the colors of their home.  

And alternate finishes like pebble aggregate are being used to more personalize each design.  

Tile inlays and LED interior lights have also become go-to options for creating a modern look. 

“We now have to stock a larger variety of materials, but we love the challenge of a heightened design. ‘Cookie cutter’ is definitely not the trend,” Fotia said. 

Backyard Pool Specialists said LED lights will “dominate” the market in 2021, with colored LED lighting to be popular. 


Here are a few insider tips to help you become a savvy shopper before talking to a pool design specialist. 

KNOW YOUR IMPACT: Fotia said the more informed clients are about the land around their pool, the quicker work can progress. 

“How will the design impact landscaping, removal of irrigation, electrical and restoration of the land? Helping us collectively understand the impact to the site is a big key,” he said. Sitemaps are included in most property closings. Bring that to your initial pool design meeting.  

WHAT’S THE USE? Know how you will use your space. And know you don’t need an Olympic-size pool to focus on exercise. Underwater treadmills, aquabikes and endless pools can make even the smallest spaces a full-scale workout. 

UNDERSTAND THE INVESTMENT: The PHTA’s biggest tip is to be aware of the ongoing costs before embarking on pool ownership. Concrete pools, for example, need to be resurfaced every 10 to 15 years at an average cost of $10,000. Vinyl replacements are less expensive ($4,000 every 5-10 years) while fiberglass never needs resurfacing. 

Shady locations could end up costing more in both heating and cleaning.  

“When you know and maximize your space, you’re going to maximize your investment,” Fotia said.