Saltwater Pool to Natural Pond Conversion

Sometime in the last year or two we decided that our saltwater pool had become a pain to keep up, was sorely needing an upgrade, and was costing us about $600 a swim based on the little we used it.  My significant other wanted to fill it in and be done with it.  I on the other hand, really loved the look of water in my yard.  We had to come up with a solution.

After much research I figured that putting marbelite on the pool would run us about $15,000 and last 10 years, repainting the concrete would cost about $7,000 and last 5 years, and filling it in would just be the end of our marriage.

Ever resourceful, I started to think about what the pool could be used for and how we would find enjoyment in it.  Our yard is very naturalized with lots of big trees, and critters like deer, racoons, ducks, coyotes and a whole myriad of rodents with good publicity (squirrels and chipmunks).  Since we try and do what we can by keeping these creatures around, and our birdfeeder is the best bistro in town – I thought about changing our pool to a pond.  Hubby thought this was a great idea since he could toss fish in and do a bit of fishing off the deck.

I noticed that many places in Europe seemed to go this route, but there was no one in the Toronto area who seemed to do this regularly.  One call to our landscape architect Lisa Mactaggart of Arium Design Group, and suddenly I was inundated with info.  Lisa did our landscape plan about 12 years ago when we moved in.  Little by little we have been implementing her vision.  This was never in the plan – but her enthusiasm and research had us thinking we could do this.

Lisa introduced us to Jean-Marc Daigle and Simon Ackles-Dold of Genus-Loci.  The conversation began as we met and discussed the possibility.  It seemed at first to be a real challenge – but Jean-Marc and Simon really wanted to take the time to do their own research and think things through.  Over the winter we would get periodic emails as they kept looking at not only design, but also what would thrive in our climate.  In some respects, I thought they did not think we would go through with it.  I thought they would be too hesitant to take on the project.  Sometimes a leap of faith by both parties has you meeting exactly where you want to be.

In the early Spring after about 6 months, Jean-Marc and Simon came back with a plan, a budget and the confidence to apply all their traditional pond expertise in a non traditional application.  With a contract signed, work began very quickly.

The guys decided to use the existing pool equipment to filter the water, along with an additional biofilter, a nutrient scrubber and an ionizer.  With this configuration we decided that we did not want the maintenance of fish and their “output”, so that idea was put on the backburner.

The big problem was of course the concrete pool itself.  This was solved by engaging Barry Pitman and his team at Ontario Protective Coatings.  Barry prepped the pool and sprayed a black, fast setting liquid liner to seal the concrete.  I was amazed at how tidy the kept the job site and how in less than 3 hours, the pool looked fantastic.  Barry told me that his work in Central America had him spraying pools all the time.  As I looked at the pool I had a moment of thinking “I could stop right here and be really pleased with the outcome”.  Marbelite?  Paint?  Liners?  Forget it – this stuff is magic!

Then came the mechanical.  Our wonderful electrician Tom King stepped in and rejigged the pool house.  He removed the almost dead heater, and provided electrical for the new equipment and the low voltage LED light for the fountain.

Also rounding out the team was Ted from Blue Hawaii Pools.  Ted reorganized all the filtration pipes and made sure that the old salt conversion system was disengaged.  We also moved the old pool jet up a couple of feet and added an exterior drain pipe to make winterizing the system easier. 

The next day, Genus-Loci started the actual build.  Douglas fir walls in the shallow end contained the aquatic plantings.  The walls were filled with sand and a stone, and a little flagstone path was created so you could walk from the shallow end into the deep.  The plants include horsetails, pond lilies and submergent aquatics.  The Indiana Sandstone fountain was also secured in place. 

Our home is very modern, in the Brutalism Style.  It is certainly not for everyone.  One of the things we have always tried to do is to respect the architecture of the house.  So creating a natural pond that actually looked like a natural pond would really not do.  Genus-Loci really understood that point, and ensured that every element was not only natural and blending into the forested landscape, but had a simple elegance and aesthetic that we as homeowners appreciate.

In two short weeks, the project was completed with no major headaches or hiccups.  Overall it was extremely well managed and Simon or Jean-Marc were constantly on-site.  To be truthful, because the work site was so clean, I could hardly tell they were even working except for the progress I would see every day.

From our perspective, this project was an resounding success.  It encapsulates our vision and we cannot wait to see the plantings grow and thrive over the coming months.  There is no question that most people thought we were crazy to undertake such a project – many did not see the logic in transforming a pool.  However, the end result is something we will truly enjoy more with little maintenance and possibility of still jumping in and cooling off.  Only this time, we will likely be joined by a pair of ducks or a few tadpoles.

Genus-Loci has great photos at

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