Contractor’s Corner | Expect the Unexpected

By Benjamin Timmermans

Published on October 4, 2022

Waterfall build escalates to include pond & patio

Ashville Pond and Patio
The completed pond about a month after we wrapped up. Water clarity is looking good. 

We all can agree that in just about every build, we can expect the unexpected. It could be the unknown in the excavation, an unexpected weather system, an injury or maybe even the homeowner supervisor syndrome. (That’s the worst, in my opinion.) I think we’ve all experienced these issues and a few more. However, sometimes the unexpected can be positive and profitable.

Liquid Landscapes Inc. was contacted by a client who recently had purchased a house here in the Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, as a getaway from the Florida and Texas Gulf coasts. When we had our first site meeting, it became apparent that he and his girlfriend had different ideas on where they wanted water. They were focused on the rear of the house, which was wooded with a nice large paver patio and entertainment area. They went back and forth on where it was going to sit and how it was going to flow. I gave them several ideas, but it became apparent that they were getting frustrated with each other, which is never a good thing.

Ashville fountain
The fountain before the unexpected change order. We used some large Tennessee slabs to put this together. 

I decided to flip the script and began telling them how the front driveway courtyard could be great place to incorporate water into the landscape. We went around front, and I explained how we could do a beautiful freestanding, bubbling stone waterfall that could be viewed from all sides. I felt that this could be a great option as the drive-in front of the house with a porte cochère. They were excited about the concept, but I could also tell they were relieved that I was directing the design. The front landscape driveway island was a bit elevated, so I explained that we would be removing soil and decreasing the overall height of the area. They had a very long driveway approach, which gave a straight shot to the front of the house so the elevated rock formation would really break up the space and create more depth to the entrance. They were sold!

On the first day of installation, the unexpected entered my thoughts. What could be lurking below grade in the middle of a front driveway courtyard? We began excavating one scope at a time for the installation of the Eco-Blox and pump vault. We dug down to the proper grade and ended up hitting nothing. It’s always a great feeling when excavation goes smoothly!

There was some heavy rain in the forecast for the weekend, but we were able to get everything set in time. The boulders were set to arrive Monday. We showed up at 9 a.m. to find nine contractor vehicles in the driveway. This site had no overflow or street parking. We were unloading the stone 1/5 mile down the driveway and moving it to the site by skidsteer. We had no place to stage it, so we had to work each pallet and then return with the next as we moved our way up the formation. The unexpected had arrived!

We were constantly playing parking attendant with the various contractors on site. The owners had not been onsite during the build until Tuesday that week. They came in town for one day to see the progress on the property. They really loved what we were building and had nothing but good things to say about the progress. We conversed about what it would sound like and how it would look with water flowing down the boulders. They spent the rest of the day there, visiting with the construction company overseeing the remodel. There were some significant, unexpected things that arose for them, which I learned about later. We just kept plugging away on the build and playing leapfrog with vehicles.

Ashville Patio Under construction
Here we are wrapping up the build with the patio install. You can see the transition from the original fountain feature in the back to the koi pond in front. 

The next morning, I received a message from the homeowner telling me he would be flying back in on Friday and wanted to go over the water feature again. This is where the unexpected was about to drop. I didn’t want to probe him about what he was coming back to discuss. My mind was scrambling the rest of the week, wondering what the issue was. I started to question our design and pray that he wasn’t having second thoughts about moving the feature to the front.

Liquid Landscapes has been building waterscapes for more than 20 years, and we have had a few builds that ended up going sour for one reason or another. I started to think about a build we had in 2016 where the homeowner demanded we move a water feature 6 feet over so she could see it through her house from the front door. This was a 10-by-12-foot pond and waterfall we had just completed.

So, yes, my mind was racing. The owner showed up that Friday with a smile on his face, which was great to see. He told me to come inside, as he wanted to show me a photo. He opened up his phone to show me a photo of a large koi pond his girlfriend had taken. He said, “Can you build this?”

The unexpected had dropped! I replied, “Absolutely.” He explained that he wanted it in the courtyard with the stone waterfall. I told him that we could make it fit perfectly and still be able retain some room for terrestrial plantings. He also added that his girlfriend had requested a patio to be incorporated in the design.

This unexpected addition of a pond and patio was four times the cost of the initial build! We ended up installing a 30-by-30-foot koi pond and 20-by-15-foot patio. The pond incorporated two skimmers, two aerators, a UV system and a pressure filter. We added two small low-height waterfalls to the pond, which help tie in the existing feature we previously completed. The patio used some local crab orchard stone and also added a small knee wall, which helped with the transition from the existing cedar tree. We will also be stocking the pond with some rescue koi this coming spring.

Waterscape contractors have a lot of moving parts with their business. Our role can vary from the consultant, estimator, installer … and the list goes on. No matter the capacity, you will always have to be concerned about what could go awry. When the unexpected happens, it can be a bump in the road or a big hurdle, but the unexpected can also be quite profitable.


Liquid Landscapes Inc. was founded more than 20 years ago in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina by Benjamin Timmermans. Liquid Landscapes prides itself on constantly delivering unique, one-of-a-kind waterscapes that truly are pieces of functional art.

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Project Specs

Liquid Landscapes

Benjamin Timmermans

www.LiquidLandscapesInc.com

Asheville, North Carolina

Pond 30’ x 30’

Patio 20’ x 15’

Fountain 15’ x 15’

4 weeks to complete

Crew 3 – 4 people

$123,000

2 Atlantic-Oase PS7000 Skimmers

2 Atlantic-Oase Tidalwave TT9000

1 Atlantic-Oase SP2600 Fastfalls

2 Atlantic-Oase PV1700 Pump Vaults

1 Evolution Aqua MicroBead 24

1 Aqua Ultraviolet 80w UV Clarifier

1 Performance Pro A2-HF Pump

1 Hakko 60 w/ 2 Diffusers

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