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Leaving No Stone Unturned

01 MAY 2019

By Ted McIntyre

Although Mother Nature has clung to the last vestiges of winter with a death grip, spring briefly rears its head on this sunny Monday, April 22 in Etobicoke.

It’s 11 a.m., and with the mercury inching upwards of 15C, Daniel Pacheco’s team of five has shed a layer since arriving four hours earlier at 7 Firwood Crescent. It’s the first full day for Pacheco’s Scenic Stone Landscape & Design firm at this backyard project—a July 2018 purchase of Terry and Jennifer Young.

Previously torn down to the foundation and completely rebuilt over the course of 18 months, the handsome 5,000 sq. ft. home stands out from the crowd on this quiet side street, although its elegant Indiana stone-clad exterior lends a certain harmony to the surrounding neighbourhood.

In business seven years, with projects stretching from Burlington to Etobicoke, Pacheco has been charged with a complete back yard makeover here. And while today is glorious, three days of steady rain have left the yard, with its recently installed pool, a bit of a quagmire.

On the road out front, soaked earth is being dumped and piles of gravel carried back by a compact excavator, which carefully threads its way between the Young’s home and a neighbour’s. Planks of wood have been laid down from neighbour Don’s driveway to provide a ramp for the excavator, but it’s still a messy scene.

“In this specific location, we needed cooperation from the neighbour,” says Pacheco. “A make-good will be providing him with a new pathway afterward. He’s a nice gentleman. In cases where they don’t allow us to do this, it’s a whole different ballgame, with conveyor belts and stuff like that, which costs the homeowner a lot more.”

As two employees busily tend to the street front to keep the site tidy and watch for traffic, Pacheco guides me into the backyard. “We’re removing about 90 tons of dirt and bringing in 70 tons of aggregate and other material, including 28 tons of armor stone,” he points out. “The pool coping will be Unilock Natural Stone (Greyfield), and 1,400 sq. ft. of Unilock (Umbriano French Grey) will serve as the main paver, accented with a triple border of the Copthorne Basalt.

“We’re playing with a multi-elevation back yard here, so it’ll be a two-tier elevation,” Pacheco explains. “We’re creating a retaining wall all the way around the perimeter to keep the neighbours’ soil and gardens in place. There will be a drop-down of three steps leading to the pool area, plantings around the back of the yard, a pavilion/cabana structure in the back-right corner, a hot tub up here where we’re now standing, and we’re also replacing the deck with an AZEK composite deck.”

As such projects go, this one has comparatively moved at warp speed. “The pool was installed just two weeks ago,” says Pacheco, who was referred to the Youngs by Pioneer Pools. “When I initially met with the clients about four weeks ago, they gave me their ideas for the pool area. I provided them with the options of going with the Umbriano French Grey, the armor stone retaining wall... In Etobicoke, one of the bylaws is the need for a separate fence, so the way the elevation is, we’ll have an aluminum fence on the upper elevation to separate the pool, with a gate running up the stairs. When we sat down to look at the design via Unilock’s Uvision 3D Landscape Creator, they were very excited.”

For Terry, an investment advisor, and Jennifer, a chartered accountant, the move—from essentially just an intersection away—was prompted by the desire to upsize for their two children, going on six and 11 years of age, respectively. “We bought this house knowing we would put in a pool and finish the backyard,” says Terry, who was impressed by Pacheco’s presentation and design work. “Daniel came two nights after we first spoke. He came prepared, with a blueprint of what we were looking for and some ideas of his own. The previous plan (of a company we were thinking of going with) had patches of grass here and there, which I didn’t want. I wanted more clean lines and uniformity, with low maintenance and more utilization of the space. Daniel integrated everything and came back two nights later. He had Unilock from the gate to the back. We’ll have some shrubs and an irrigation system. No bringing a lawnmower back there, which I love! Our previous designer said we had to have some grass, but we clearly didn’t. You need 50% greenspace, and the pool counts toward that softscape—and Daniel utilized more flowerbeds, which brought us up to the 50%. The new plan also included some enhancements with the cabana, where the hot tub would go.

“We gave him what we were looking for, and he added to it with his expertise. And what he came back to us with was better than we were expecting,” Young notes. “And we gave him a budget, and he came in under that, including all the high-end stuff we were looking for.”

Out back, Pacheco is now in the driver’s seat of the excavator. “Back one more inch,” a team member says, as Pacheco surgically taps a half-ton armor stone into place with the excavator’s shovel.

“We’re looking at about three to four weeks to complete the project—around 200 man hours,” he predicts. “I might send a few of the guys out to the next job to begin excavating and prepping for the next site, but we’ll be here every day. Once we start, we like to get it finished without having to go back and forth. We’ll get the armor stone work done over the next couple days. Then we can start bringing in the interlock and concentrate around the lower half. Then we’ll move to the upper elevation as we work our way out.”

“The neighbours on either side are original homeowners,” notes Terry. “We’ve stayed close with them to make sure they’re OK with the process. I told Don we’d paint the driveway or repave it if there are cracks.

“So far, it’s gone like clockwork,” he says. “This should be done by the end of May.”