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Pool builder, landscaper join forces to create a natural oasis in a small backyard

By Eric Gohn

The pool, waterfall, and firepit were all strategically designed to not only make the backyard fun, but also visually attractive.

The vision this Thornbury, Ont., homeowner had in mind for their backyard was to capture the natural feel of the surroundings, but also create the illusion of a larger, more open landscape. To make this happen, Thornbury Clear Choice Pool & Spa was called in to propose a backyard pool and landscape oasis for this homeowner in one of the area’s newer residential developments in the picturesque town of The Blue Mountains.

However, this was easier said than done, as the homeowner’s backyard was limited in size. Not only was this outdoor retreat confined by its 3.7 m2 (40 sf) area, but access to the backyard was also extremely restricted.

Therefore, to create the client’s dream backyard, the project involved the following:

Site preparation, including obtaining access to the backyard for construction equipment.
Structural concrete, which would include a pool, hot tub, and a cantilevered deck with a seating area, complete with a cascading waterfall flowing into the pool along with various retaining walls and areas for landscaping.
Landscape, which would include all softscaping (e.g.soil, trees, plants, etc.).

The pool builder’s president, Preston Owen, has built vinyl liner pools in the area for more than 18 years and upon evaluating the client’s site, he immediately told the homeowner their small backyard and property restrictions could become an issue during construction. As the lot was narrow, getting construction equipment in to build the pool would be a challenge.

Therefore, before the pool was designed, the first crucial step was to approach the client’s neighbours with regards to purchasing the rights to access the client’s backyard through their property. Luckily, the neighbours agreed to this plan, but with the guarantee that new landscaping would be installed to make the area between the two homes equal to or better than before the work began.

All about the design

A completed design 
was presented to the home-owner within one week, and was accepted without any changes.

Thornbury Clear Choice Pool & Spa works hand-in-hand with Scott Park of ParkLawn Landscaping and have combined forces during the initial design process on many projects throughout the years.

On this particular job, the homeowner sat down with both companies to discuss what they wanted to create in their backyard. Like many customers in this region, the homeowner was looking for a ‘natural’ backyard look. They wanted a waterfall and flowing pool shape.

“We describe this style as a ‘northern’ look,” says Owen. “We use a lot of natural stone around the pool and deck and recommended a dark coloured liner so the pool blends into the landscaping.”

Additionally, the homeowner wanted a lounge and deck area for sitting to be created, which would also incorporate a hot tub as part of the final design. With this in mind, both companies went to work and presented the homeowner with a completed design within one week, which was accepted without any changes.

Design challenge

One of the biggest challenges during the design process was to make the client’s small backyard appear larger. To do this, a 4.8- x 9.7-m (16- x 32-ft) lagoon-shaped pool was located at the furthest edge of the property with a 3 m2 (10 sf) sitting area that included a rock firepit.


The construction site had two different elevations with one area distinctly higher than the other.  Because the client had requested a waterfall, Owen and Park decided to take advantage of the different elevations when selecting the placement of the water feature. The elevation of the backside of the pool was higher than the front portion, making this area the ideal location for the natural-stone waterfall. The change in elevation and the waterfall provided an additional visual obstruction, giving the homeowner greater privacy when in the pool.

Hand building a waterfall is always a challenge, but luckily due to the pool’s size, the waterfall was only 3.6 m (12 ft), making it more manageable to build.

To accommodate the waterfall, a double main drain was also installed. This design allows the pool and waterfall to operate separately so they can be isolated, making service/maintenance easier.

“In this area we tend to have surprises like deep frost, ice, and heavy snow, so it’s good to be able to keep these two systems separate should any trouble arise,” says Owen. “The waterfall re-circulates the water from the pool and the pool is set-up on a salt-chlorine generator system.”

The waterfall was also installed with a valve system so the homeowner can determine the water flow and sound effects created by the water feature. For example, if the homeowner wants to mask noise coming from any neighbouring yards, he/she can increase the water flow to create a louder, more pleasant auditory sensation. The water flow can also be dialed-down to decrease the sound produced by the waterfall to that of a low, gurgling brook.

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