THE CANVAS: A
long journey, looming winter, dense shale
Waters from the Northumberland Strait, salt-splashed cedars, a
MASTERPIECE: Novia Scotian charm, modern sensibility, shades of
When Ed Gibbs was asked to work on this project in New
Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Canada, he knew he was in it for the long
haul — literally. The job site was a full 1,100 miles from
his company’s home base in Toronto.
He often accepts long-distance projects, though. His
ISO-certified firm has built pools from Cote d’Azur to the
Caribbean, including one at the Marriott Hotel in St. Kitts, U.S.
“Traveling and doing pools around the world is probably
the most rewarding part of the business,” says Gibbs,
president of Gib-San Pools Ltd. by Master Pools. “It’s
similar to a military-style deployment. More precision is required
because you can’t just go back to the shop if you forget
The clients in this case were a high-profile Canadian family
that owned a large chain of supermarkets, among other businesses.
When it came to selecting the type of pool they wanted, Gibbs says,
“It wasn’t a question of dollars. It was a question of
practicality and utility.”
From the ocean depths
wanted two for one — a lap pool that also could be used for
fun. Because they loved swimming in the ocean, they asked that the
vessel be filled with water from the Northumberland Strait.
“The salt level is outrageously high,” Gibbs notes,
“but they didn’t want an ordinary pool
That’s why the vinyl-liner pool was the right choice, he
says. A gunite or slate pool would etch and calcify too quickly
when exposed for any duration to the brine air and waters of the
harsh North Atlantic environment.
With construction set for late October, the threat of winter
gave Gibbs’ 10-man crew only a short window of opportunity to
finish the project. “We worked for three weeks straight with
no days off,” he recalls. “Everything absolutely had to
be executed on the day it was scheduled.”
From day one, Gibbs had his share of challenges. The first 4
feet of topsoil was composed of dense shale, which had to be
jackhammered and removed piece by piece. “It’s an
ominous task because it’s not like you can take out huge
chunks at once,” he says. “It comes apart in small
Being at sea level, the ground had a high water table. Pumps
were constantly running to dewater the area designated for the pool
excavation at a site chosen because of its relationship to the
“We wanted to ensure that sight lines from the house
looked at particular aspects of the pool,” Gibbs says.
“In this case, the clients have an office and a living room
on the lower level of the house, which looks directly at the pool
dock in the widest part of the pool.”
A bridge over salty waters
The dock and bridge became two of the most unique aspects of the project,
from Gibbs’ perspective. The dock serves as a tanning deck
and diving point. It comes over the lip of the pool coping and
thrusts out over the deep end, giving it the appearance of floating
on the water.
The bridge was chosen not only to complement the dock from an
aesthetic standpoint, but also to solve access issues due to the
large size of the 40-by-80-foot pool. “If you want to get to
one side of the pool, you’ll have to do a lot of
walking,” he says. “Having the dock and bridge brought
a natural symmetry [and convenience] to the
Both features were made of cedar, which grays as it ages to
lend a maritime look. It’s “almost like washed
driftwood,” Gibbs says. The choice was inspired by the
home’s Cape Cod motif. For the deck, flagstone indigenous to
Nova Scotia was used.
“We have to be reinventing the wheel all the time,”
Gibbs concludes. “A pool is a pool is a pool. It’s a
vessel in the ground with water. ... You reinvent it with shapes,
textures, attitude and technology. That’s what gets me out of
bed in the morning.”
Ed Gibbs, president, Gib-San Pools Ltd. by Master Pools, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.