THE CANVAS: A never-ending vista, rolling hills, colonial countryside

THE PALETTE: An army of evergreens, capstone concrete finish, 20-ton natural boulders

THE MASTERPIECE: A suburban backyard waterpark, cliff-diving paradise, symphony of moving water

The customers requested a magnificent, yet functional aquascape. “They wanted a magnet for their kids and their kids’ friends,” says Mike Hodak, owner of Pools & Waterfalls by Mike Hodak. “But they wanted it to be a whole environment. They wanted to expand their backyard living lifestyle.”

It was a tall order, but Hodak has been building pools for three decades. He was ready for the challenge.

Hybrid approach

The type of pool Hodak builds doesn’t fall neatly into any particular category. It’s neither concrete, vinyl nor traditional fiberglass — though some of those elements are incorporated into the construction process.

For the walls, Hodak uses fiberglass coils that can be unrolled and formed into any shape down to an 18-inch radius. Concrete is poured under the fiberglass to form the pool’s floor. It is then sponge-finished to create a smooth surface. Three coats of epoxy paint are added to give it a ceramic bathtub feel.

The finished pool measures 45-by-75-feet and holds 75,000 gallons of water.

Before any of that could happen, though, Hodak had to deal with the 30-degree slope of the backyard. The problem was solved by packing in the area with soil to create a 12-foot-deep fill. On the low side, a 7-foot-high retaining wall was constructed and faced in brick. To add more functionality, a fireplace was built on top of the wall.

Rock on

Natural boulders were used for the project, some weighing as much as 20 tons.

With these flat stones, Hodak created a multilayered rockscape that stacks up like strata, creating the showcase cave and waterfall, as well as outlining paths and creating steps and stacked diving ledges.

He has a specific strategy for placing the rock. “A lot of the stuff I do is all cantilevered. I don’t want to build straight up,” Hodak says. “The rocks bleed away from the cave. They can be used as stairs, and there are diving stones on each side of the waterfall.”

Clearly the centerpiece of the pool, the cave features a jetted bench and ceiling mural. “It’s not just about building a pool,” Hodak says. “It’s about creating a little piece of art.”

Material considerations

The builder used a joint cutter on the sponged concrete deck to create a pattern. He wanted to keep it simple so as not to compete with the waterfall.

Two lines of blue-patterned, 3-by-3-inch, porcelain tiles form a 6-inch band around the waterline. Capstone concrete — the same that was used on the deck — created the coping.

Besides the full-grown pines that Hodak planted around the property, a variety of other plants and flowers soften the rockscape.

“We used magnolias because they have a tropical look without being a palm tree, which wouldn’t belong there,” Hodak says. “We used sheared junipers to create a unique look. Of course, we picked plants that did well around chemically treated water.”

The result is not too manicured, not too wild.