Contractor's Corner

Contractor’s Corner | Art Imitates Life

Aquatic portal adds art, audio & serenity to backyard landscape

The finished product.

One day, I got a text message from Patrick at Virginia Beach Patios. He sent over a picture of a metal arch. I called him back and asked what exactly he wanted me to do with it.

“My client wants this in her backyard,” Patrick said.

“OK, so what are the dimensions and specs?” I asked.

“I don’t have any.”

Funny, right? I sure do love a challenge, though! I quickly showed the picture to my fabricator, Andrew Mazza. We briefly talked about specifics. I asked him to make the arch stick out of the basin about 8 feet and be about 6 feet wide. We also wanted it to have a rusted, rugged look right out of the gate, with built-in plumbing to simulate rainfall.

We had to put some thought into the structure to make sure that it would not blow over. I also wanted it to be a simple install: no concrete, no permanent anchors and nothing through the liner. Andrew made a couple of mockups to make sure we had the right idea, and we did.

Before the new deck or patio.

He built two 22-inch feet out of ¾-inch steel to make sure we had weight at the bottom, and they also provided a lip to stack material on. During the install, we notched and fit the AquaBlox perfectly around the structure. By the time the gray chalet was laid on top and around, the feature had zero wiggle, and we had no anchors. Success!

When Evan installs a new basin, we always start with what we call “the taco.” First, we excavate. Then, we install underlayment, liner, more underlayment, and the pump vault, followed by the AquaBlox. There were 34 Blox in this case — almost 600 gallons. We then fold the liner and fabric over the Blox and wrap it up. (Hence, “the taco.”)


Using our Smart Level to achieve the correct height, we installed the taco before the patio was laid. When Patrick installed the patio, they cemented Techo Bloc Borealis around the top to give the feature a crisp, finished appearance.

The steel was wiped down with vinegar to creat immediate rust. The next day it received many coats of automotive grade clear coat.

Once the feature was complete, we went back and installed a bit of foam pad along the drip line just to help a little bit with the splash zone. It was not excessive splashing, and our client was prepared for it, but we did end up with an awesome side effect — the sound change! Landing on the rocks from this height creates a clapping sound, while landing on the foam created a gentler, spring rain effect. So peaceful!

Typically when we build a new feature, I can always find the best angle to show off the build in pictures. However, I’ve had a hard time capturing this one! Eight feet is a lot, and the pictures simply don’t do it justice. The Techo Bloc Hexa pavers also show off so well. What a different and unique project!

It is not every day we get to create something so unique. We love to build water features because we know how water brings peace into a space. It creates a calm, tranquil environment, no matter what type of feature you create. The arch did exactly that for this backyard here in Virginia Beach.


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