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A behind the scenes look at a pool and landscape project in Ontario’s Muskoka region

Incorporating a sports area

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Finished sports court fully suspended over garage, cantilevered decks.

There were two options for the installation of the sports court at the far end of the property: blast a shelf similar to how the pool was constructed or proceed with pinning the foundation onto the sloping granite bedrock. After considering both options, the decision not to blast the rock was made for two reasons: the rock blasted for the pool was used on-site, so any additional blast rock would need to be trucked off site at a considerable expense; and the sport court was located as close as possible to the lakefront, so the risk involved with blast rocks cascading into the lake was also a real concern.

Therefore, the footings were pinned into the granite base, under the direct supervision of a local soil engineer. Massive footings were poured directly onto the bedrock, before the sports court was built above an eight car sports utility garage. From the base of the footings to the top of the stone pillars, it was 13.7 m (45 ft) above grade. This was significantly higher than a typical 2.4-m (8-ft) pool project. In fact, the client liked the pillars so much the project was extended further west to create an additional column.

Lake level

The project did not just involve the immediate property surrounding the cottage, as work was also completed at lake level. Working with a local contractor through the winter, steel frames were fabricated while the water was frozen, which made it easier to construct the dock as vehicles could be driven on the lake.

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Natural Muskoka granite steps permit access between the residence/sports court and lake-level ipe-wood boat dock installed by International Landscaping Inc.

This prep-work in the ‘off season’ allowed for a seamless continuation of work into the springtime. The ipe-wood deck surface was installed and the finishing touches, including flush-mounted lights, and an 8.2-m (27-ft) diameter custom umbrella were installed. The dock features slips for two large vessels and two sea-doo’s, as well as mooring locations for many more. A protected swimming area was also created between the dock and the shoreline to provide a safe place for young bathers.

To permit easy access between the residence and dock, natural Muskoka granite steps were installed. To facilitate the installation of these granite slab steps on such a steep incline, a 100,000-kg (100-ton) crane was used to lessen the impact on the environment. This installation technique ensured approximately 100 slab steps were carefully placed without having to remove any mature trees.

Project management

During this project, Poolscape and International Landscaping crews were working approximately three hours away from their respective head offices. Therefore, careful co-ordination and scheduling was required to ensure the project was completed without going over budget. This meant daily conference calls with team members on-site and at office locations, as the client was very hands on, confirming any design changes, and reviewing progress benchmarks.

Careful planning was necessary on such a tight project with so many companies and trades all working together. Timing and co-ordination had to be perfect to ensure there were never too many people in a given area and that everyone was not working on top of each other. Not only did this relate to physical crew members, but also for material storage, as too much material on a site at the wrong time can lead to major delays in productivity. Therefore, navigating the logistics before arriving on site can ensure headaches are kept to a minimum.

Finally, another challenge with working in cottage country during the summer season is the influx of people. In an area where people try to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, it is hard not to draw some complaints when the cottagers arrive; therefore, a happy medium has to be obtained and monitored between the requirement of completing the job on time and within budget and the goal of keeping the neighbourhood happy.

Justus_HeadshotBarry Justus is the owner of Poolscape Inc., and Justus International Consulting. He is an international lecturer and author of more than 40 articles on pool design and construction. Justus is also a fellow of the Society of Watershape Designers (SWD) and a member of Pool & Spa Marketing’s editorial advisory board (EAB). More than 90 per cent of his projects designed and built over the last decade have won a national or international award. He can be reached via e-mail at



Gucciardi_HeadshotBaldo Gucciardi is a founding partner and CEO of International Landscaping Inc., in Hornby, Ont., He has more than 27 years’ experience in the landscape industry and has developed an expertise in design and construction practices. He can be reached via e-mail at




Flint_HeadshotMichael Flint is a landscape design consultant with International Landscaping Inc. He is a graduate of the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture program at the University of Guelph. Along with fresh perspectives on landscape design, Flint brings experience in municipal processes from a prior position with a local municipality. He played an integral role in design amendments and management on this project. He can be reached via e-mail at

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