Markus Brunner’s approach to building pools is simple: Give customers what they want. “Every house, yard and client is different,” says the president/owner of Forest City Pool & Patio Inc. in London, Ontario, Canada. “So their backyard should be an extension of their personality.”
As a matter of fact, Brunner says this project fit his clients’ needs like a glove. The homeowners, who are school teachers, spend much of the summer in their backyard. “They wanted a natural garden setting, a place where they could cool off and play games,” he notes, “but that didn’t have algae or fish in it and still looked like a pond at the end of the day.”

He says the “straightforward” design of the 14-by-15-foot, kidney-shaped pool presented only a few challenges. It required just three weeks for the installation. “It’s about getting back to basics,” Brunner says. “I can’t stress enough how wonderfully simple it was. ... It’s tasteful.

“This one was standard pool construction,” he adds. “We dug the hole out, put the walls up, cemented them in place and threw in the liner.”

Getting grounded

Perhaps he oversimplifies matters a bit. The region has abundant clay soil and a high water table. His company integrates a sump pump system beneath every pool it installs to control ground water during construction. Of course, the sump becomes a permanent feature, which also helps combat the danger of ground freeze.

“You have to make sure the drainage is good and that water isn’t collecting under surfaces that freeze up. This way, you avoid heaving and cracking,” Brunner says.

He achieved a gunite feel to the project by using a full-print black vinyl liner. “If you do it this way, you get rid of the tile border that’s typical on vinyl pools,” he says.

A dual aluminum flat track system was topped with coping stone. “This way, you don’t see the aluminum track or PVC coping going around the pool,” Brunner says. In his book, exposed beads “ruin a vinyl-liner pool.” Therefore, he applied a 1-foot coping border composed of indigenous flagstone quarried near Ontario’s Owen Sound. To naturalize the setting even more, his crew planted a grass deck right up to the pool’s coping, and scattered some pink and gray granite stones along the edge.

Approximately 10 tons of natural granite stones were used to create the waterfeature. Beach pebbles troll along its riverbed, which flows for 8 feet until it curves around in an L-shape and gently spills into the pool. “With the waterfeature, [the clients] just wanted to add a bit of sound — some soft running water,” he says.

The lush extravagance of the garden was an added bonus. “The customers love gardening and planting ... and weren’t shy about doing the work themselves to maintain the garden,” Brunner notes.

All in all, the aquascape cost approximately $30,000 (USD). “It shows that you can have a gorgeous pool without spending a lot of money,” he says.

“It just takes a bit of care.”