August 12, 2020

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Summer bummer

Pandemic breaks above-ground pool parts supply chains, leaving a drought of affordable options on local store shelves

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Hoping to beat the heat by taking a dip in a new above-ground swimming pool?

Don't hold your breath. You can add it to the ever-growing list of things to wait for this summer.

In Winnipeg you need a permit for any pool capable of holding more than two-feet of water — and a fence is always required. Similar permits are required in most parts of the province, so be sure to do your due-diligence with the local authorities before installing any pool.

In Winnipeg you need a permit for any pool capable of holding more than two-feet of water — and a fence is always required. Similar permits are required in most parts of the province, so be sure to do your due-diligence with the local authorities before installing any pool.

Lifesaving Society Manitoba, a provider of programs, products and services designed to prevent drowning offers the following pool safety tips, some of which go beyond the recomendations in place from the city or rural municipalities.

● Have a four-sided pool fence that does not attach to the house or any other building.

● The pool fence should have a self-closing and self-latching/locking gate designed so that children cannot access it from the outside (i.e.: an adult needs to reach over the fence to release the latch).

● The pool fence should be a minimum of 1½ metres in height, with gates of at least 1.4 metres in height.

● Ensure that you have safety equipment (reaching tool, throw rope or ring buoy) on hand and available at the pool whenever it is in use.

● The fence should be made of a material or combination of materials that cannot easily be climbed.

● When not in use, the pool and surrounding area should be cleared of all toys or other materials — any toys or items left behind are an automatic magnet for young children.

● If a pool cover is used, it should always be placed all the way onto the pool — never left partially off — and being able to lock it in place is recommended.

● Pool alarms for gates or motion detectors that float in the pool are one level of protection, but should not be depended on to keep a child out of the water.

● When the pool is in use, there always needs to be an adult supervising the swimmers. This is their sole responsibility, and cannot be combined with using a phone, cooking, etc.

Thanks to uncertainty regarding access to public pools, cancelled vacations, shuttered summer camps, a broken supply chain and many Manitobans just generally spending more time at home than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic, the popular and affordable backyard pools typically found at big-box stores are difficult to find.

Photographer Krista Oar and her millwright husband Andrew live south of Steinbach. They reckon they've checked every store in Winnipeg and southern Manitoba in search of a new pool to replace the worn-out one in their 10-acre backyard.

They expected to spend between $500 and $1,000 but so far they have been left high and dry.

Tyson Kay with his kids, Julie (eight) and Liam (nine), recently had an above-ground pool installed at his in-laws property in East St. Paul. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Tyson Kay with his kids, Julie (eight) and Liam (nine), recently had an above-ground pool installed at his in-laws property in East St. Paul. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

"I've been pretty much everywhere," Krista said. "Canadian Tire, Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, and I've had no luck at all, and when I asked they really couldn't give me an answer about when they would be getting more in."

With summer solstice only a week away, she's begun looking further afar; a few stores in North Dakota have what the Oars want in stock, but due to the border closure there are some complicated logistics involved.

"I may just have to get a friend who is a truck driver to pick one up for us," she said. "We really want a new pool. Living in the country, we are outside all the time so it's nice to just go and jump in the pool and cool off when you're doing yardwork, and we like to have people over. It's just fun to crank up the tunes and go for a swim."

Eight-year-old Julie Kay plays in the recently installed above-ground pool at her grandparent's home in East St. Paul. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Eight-year-old Julie Kay plays in the recently installed above-ground pool at her grandparent's home in East St. Paul. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Don Carson, president of Krevco Lifestyles, a Winnipeg company that specializes in outdoor-living products, shed some light on why big-box stores can't get the inexpensive pools.

"The supply chains are broken," he said. "So many of the parts and pieces of the different pools are out of production so there's manufacturers that can only produce up to a certain point and they can't get the parts to finish it. That's the real challenge right now.

Krevco offers other options, but at a significantly higher price, including in-ground pools and swim spas. And the high-end above-ground pool models they sell and install range in price from about $3,300 up to $5,600.

Because of the pandemic, business has been booming, and Carson doesn't see things slowing down anytime soon.

"People are deciding to spend the money in the backyard on something they can use and enjoy for the next 10 years, as opposed to what they might have spent over the next couple of years on a vacation," he said. "Instead, they can create their own backyard escape."

Tyson Kay, a renovation contractor who lives in Transcona with his wife Cathy, recently put together an above-ground pool in his in-laws' backyard in East St. Paul. The family has been enjoying the affordable pools for years and his sister-in-law Gina Cada was lucky to grab one of the last ones on sale at the Regent Avenue Walmart two weeks ago for about $300.

"We've always had a pool out at their place, but they were smaller ones, usually just for the kids," Kay said. "But this year the adults have been talking about getting in the water, so they bought a bigger one that holds 11,000 litres of water."

Julie Kay and her brother Liam enjoy an afternoon playing in their recently installed above-ground pool. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Julie Kay and her brother Liam enjoy an afternoon playing in their recently installed above-ground pool. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Kay said putting the pool together was a breeze.

"Basically you take it out of the box, they suggest putting a tarp underneath it so it doesn't kill the grass, lay it out, set up the posts and you just start filling it with water,' says Kay, "it's pretty easy actually, we dumped algaecide in there immediately to get rid of the algae that starts growing within about six hours and then we do the regular treatments that the pool manufacturer calls for and you're golden."

Kay is happy to chauffeur daughter Julie, 8, and son Liam, 9, over to their grandparents for a swim.

The beauty of any pool — above or in the ground, expensive or cheap — is that kids don't know the difference and have just as much fun, he said.

"It's water and they love it."

 

willy@freepress.mb.ca

Willy Williamson

Willy Williamson
Travel/Homes/Autos Editor

Paul “Willy” Williamson joined the Free Press editorial team in 2007, turning his back on a career as a corrections officer. His motor has been running non-stop ever since.

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