THE CANVAS: Rural serenity, an infinite nature experience, lush greenery
THE PALETTE: Dry-stack Pennsylvania bluestone, cedar decking, integrated waterfall with changing hues
THE MASTERPIECE: Quaint English garden, sophisticated social setting, environmental therapy for the soul
The customer wanted an inground spa installed in a quaint, English garden setting. Most builders would take this as a cue to dig a hole and shoot some gunite.
But Ken Tucker pursued an entirely different design direction. The owner of Artistic Stonework, a landscape, design and masonry installation firm based in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada, decided to recess a traditional portable spa into the ground.
“Rather than use gunite, we went with more jets and seating capacity,” Tucker says. “Most of the gunite [spas] are pretty basic.”
The customer purchased a high-end, 350-gallon spa from Crystalview Pool & Spa in North Vancouver, British Columbia. It seats up to six people and features 27 jets, an ozonator and a dual filtration system with 120-square feet of filtration area. It also has an integrated waterfall with an LED light that automatically changes color.
“The reason these spas stand out so much in the Vancouver climate is that they have a full synthetic skirt for the cabinet and a base that is completely sealed across the entire body,” explains David Heron, Crystalview’s general manager.
The big dig
When installation time arrived, the first thing Tucker’s crew did was excavate down approximately 24 inches. Five inches of concrete was poured to create a base, then a drain was set into it. Next, the spa was lowered into the ground and set on the concrete base.
Now they began the concrete block subsurface work. “It allows some air space between the skirt of the hot tub and the surrounding dirt,” Tucker notes.
The next step was to put the stone surface in place around the skirt to give it a custom look. For this, the designers chose dry-stack Pennsylvania bluestone. But before it could be set in place, a vapor barrier had to be installed between the spa skirt and the decorative stone. “We prefer a building material called Tybec,” Tucker says. “It’s a paper material with a plastic sheen to it.
“The patio was the last thing to go into place,” he adds. “Again, we used Pennsylvania bluestone, which is a square cut with a smooth edge like flagstone.”
It wasn’t just a matter of laying a stone deck around the spa, however. Tucker needed to design an area where service technicians could access the door to the spa pack if repairs were needed. On one side of the spa, a cedar deck was created. It can be easily lifted away, making access to the spa pack a breeze.
The entire backyard was then re-landscaped to accommodate the new spa’s aesthetics. “[The customer] wanted the backyard to flow as if the spa had always been there,” Tucker says. “This is only the second project like this that we’ve done. I think they’ll become a trend.”