Contractor's Corner

Think Outside the Box on Pond Renovations

Think outside the box and get the job!

A great over all view of the pond. The deck area provides a great place to entertain, feed the fish, and enjoy your morning cup of coffee.

A great over all view of the pond. The deck area provides a great place to entertain, feed the fish, and enjoy your morning cup of coffee.

We have been doing a lot of pond renovation projects over the last couple of years. Most of the time it’s just going bigger — maybe changing out the stone for more of an outcropping look or adding larger stone. But on this particular job, the client wanted to get rid of the skimmer box. He had an old PSA skimmer on his pond that would constantly be clogging and starving the pump for water. He wanted something different…something with less maintenance.

Inherited Problems

He had owned his current pond for 12 years, and it was designed with an upper and lower pond. The lower pond was smaller than the top, so when the pond would shut off, it would flood out the bottom pond — and his house! It was also designed with mostly small granite boulders, 6 to 12 inches in size. This is a look that has plagued the industry for years, and on this site the stone was piled everywhere. Since it was there, the owner wanted to keep most of it.

Trying to save money and stay within his budget, I suggested adding some bigger boulders and some outcropping to break up the look. This would also make it look more natural. He also had a small cypress tree growing in the pond — something I had never seen and never would have recommended. However, it had been doing great for 12 years, and he wanted it planted back unharmed.

Under-filtered

This shows the intake set-up. A pondless vault, with Aqua Blox were used to construct the intake. An optional basket can be used if leaves are falling, to improve the skimming into the basket , a piece of bluestone was added to the top of the Aqua Blox.

This shows the intake set-up. A pondless vault, with Aqua Blox were used to construct the intake. An optional basket can be used if leaves are falling, to improve the skimming into the basket , a piece of bluestone was added to the top of the Aqua Blox.

The pond was also under-filtered, with just a small Biofalls filter and a 3,000-GPH pump. Both ponds spanned close to 30 feet by 11 feet and appeared shallow. Due to the deck, house, lot line and landscape, there was no room to go longer or wider.

I suggested we turn it into one pond. This would solve the flooding problem of upper and lower pond and give his fish more room to swim. I also suggested a small bog filter and new, larger Biofalls. Even after talking about advancements in the skimmer technology, he was looking for other options. I suggested adding a small intake bay: an area where the pumps could be located and still remain unclogged. Plus, we could add a small crate to collect leaves when they started to fall. He loved this idea and we went forward with the project.

Major Obstacles

The primary obstacles on this project were:

  • Keeping the job within budget
  • Blending in the small existing boulders with the new outcropping stone
  • Adding the small intake bay with optional leaf-catching basket
  • Turning the two ponds into one larger pond
  • Working in an existing, limited-size area and still being creative
  • Removing, and then adding back, a 12-year-old cypress tree to the pond
  • Containing the mess of reconstruction

Tearing It Down, Putting It Back Together

Pond renovations are always messy, and this job was no exception. Also, we had limited room to stack the existing boulders and gravel.

Side shot of the waterfalls. Much better flow than before.

Side shot of the waterfalls. Much better flow than before.

First, the client covered his deck with boards (and we brought extras). The fish were caught and safely tucked into a large, netted, aerated container. Next, we began the process of removing the boulders and then the gravel. The pond ended up being deeper than we thought, and we ended up with an extra 6 to 10 inches of gravel in the lower level.

Then the liner came out, and we began reshaping the pond. We dug down the upper pond to the level of the lower pond. It was now close to 3 feet deep. We then dug deeper for a fish cave in the center of the pond. Every time we install a pond, we add a cave for the fish to hide from potential predators.

The bog construction came next. With limited room, we were able to squeeze a 6-foot by 8-foot bog behind the waterfall. A small centipede was used, and three small AquaBlox were placed on top of the centipede. This allowed for better flow through the bog. A separate cleanout vault was added, allowing for a cleanout pump to be placed for future cleanings. When building out the bog, we were able to lose a lot of the small boulders and extra gravel. Plus, it would actually have a purpose now. It connected back to the pond via an 8-foot stream. Some of the weathered limestone was added here.

Next, we installed new pond liner. I worked with the guys at this point to get the intake bay right. We tightened up the area where the pond vault was set and three small AquaBlox were added to the front of the pond vault. We foamed in the stone to still have some water pulling through the lower level of the pond vault. Most of the flow from the two pumps — an existing 3,000-GPH and a new 5,000-GPH — would be drawn in through the top 6 inches of the intake.

Replacing Rock

We then started on putting the rocks back. Most of the smaller stone was placed on the bottom shelves. The new larger boulders and the weathered limestone outcropping were used on the top shelf. The waterfall was built entirely of the weathered limestone. We allowed for an area in between the bog and main waterfall to replace the cypress tree. The homeowner trimmed the roots back, and we then carefully nestled the tree back into the pond. It fit perfectly.

This shot includes the stream/bog waterfall, Cypress tree and biofall waterfall.

This shot includes the stream/bog waterfall, Cypress tree and biofall waterfall.

The nasty task of cleaning and then adding in the old gravel came next. Sometimes we replace the old the gravel with new. For this job it was pre-rinsed, and then rinsed several times when added back to the pond. Since the old pond had no water overflow in the skimmer, we added a 2-inch bulkhead fitting and drainpipe at the side farthest from the house. This would help keep the rainwater from accumulating near the house. Under the homeowner’s supervision, we let the pond fill overnight.

When we came back the next morning, the pond had filled up perfectly and looked great! Due to all the sediment in the water it was a bit murky. A few tweaks to the waterfall, and the pond was completed. The homeowner was extremely pleased with the job.

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