Contractor's Corner

Contractor’s Corner | Live & Learn

What’s below the surface may cost you dearly.

South view of completed project.

In summer 2017, we received a referral for the rebuild of a water garden with waterfalls. The client, D.W., was a housing developer. I was excited about receiving the referral, because I remembered driving by the waterfalls for the first time, and it was beautiful. Over the years, I had given a couple of bids for this site and seen it unkept. All waterscapes need regular maintenance! I called the client and set up multiple site visits to overview the water garden. The water was filled to the rim, and I could not see below the surface. Going into the heat of summer, I took some time reflecting on the project, designing and planning the site well.

>> See all the images related to this massive clean up and design

I met D.W. for the first time in early fall at his home to go over my plans. He spoke fondly of the water garden and the joy it gave others and himself when it was created, as it was one of the most photographed areas in the city. After discussing his goals, we decided on a koi pond and multiple waterfalls with higher-end components for ease of use and clarity. After emailing budgets back and forth for a couple of weeks, we came to agreement on the overall bid for the project. I felt confident in all aspects of this project and was looking forward to the waterscape build — if I only knew what was below the surface.

Kane and Daniel work their way through the debris.

The last week of November, we started D.W.’s waterscape build, which was scheduled as a six-week project. As we started draining the pond, below the surface there was a complete mess of muck, limbs, a filled tinhorn and other debris. It was the worst pond gone wrong caused by poor design, bad craftsmanship and a lack of care. Approximately 100 yards of muck, debris, river rock, decomposed boulders, five inefficient filter falls, five warped skimmers and the liner were hauled away. After removing the liner, we discovered erosion issues and an underground spring (contributing 1 foot of water per day). Digging in a low area to drain the water, we were able to start grading down to compacted soil. A French drain with sump pump was installed to keep the pond liner from floating.

With the thought of running water driving our passion forward, we pulled together as a team and were able to get back on schedule to build the koi pond and waterfalls. The project took 10 weeks to complete — four weeks longer than scheduled due to unforeseen circumstances, including extreme cold and wet weather, broken-down machines and labor pains. Below the surface cost us dearly: four weeks of production, supply overages, time away from family, stress and health. The payout was a live-and-learn experience with a finished waterscape I’m proud of.

North view of completed project.

Many people enter a job to perform a task for some type of payment; others have chosen a career they have been educated or trained for. While for some this is a norm of life, waterscape artisans have chosen a profession they love, for few things compare to the building a waterscape experience. Passion and the driving, devoting force of loving what we create, along with skills and knowledge allow us to see below the surface. I’m proud to be a waterscape artisan.

>> See all the images related to this massive clean up and design

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