Contractor’s Corner | An Uphill Climb

By Jeff Graupmann

Published on December 6, 2017

backyard waterfall
My clients love to sit in their chairs and drink their morning coffee. They also find it a great place to wind down after a hard day at the office.

As pond-builders and artists, we sometimes take on projects and later ask ourselves, “What on Earth did I get myself into?”

This was one of those builds.

We found this dirt-covered liner after the removal of the ugly flagstone, along with small, necklaced-in rock.

I happened to be working on a smaller project helping a homeowner construct his own stream when he mentioned that his neighbor had a leaky water feature. So, later that day, I walked over to his neighbor’s yard and discovered a rather steep hill with what looked like stairs. Foamy stuff was coming out from all directions. The stream was a straight line into a pond, where the liner looked like Swiss cheese.

I approached the homeowner and asked if fish or plants had ever been a part of the leaking pond, and they said that they did not have much interest in either. They wanted something that required a little less work with a likeness to northern Minnesota. I explained what a pondless water feature was, emphasizing the ease of maintenance. They agreed to my sketch and quote, so the game was on!

I knew from the start that I wanted to get rid of most of the existing rock, as it was generally small, sharp and ugly. The waterfalls were all flagstone — you know, the stuff that is really easy to work with, but looks like nothing that would naturally occur in nature.

The larger rock I chose posed some big challenges, including the steepness of the hill and many obstacles in and around the site. With a lot of perseverance and a little luck, we eventually placed all the key stream boulders and outcroppings exactly where we wanted them.

This hill and the backdrop of various trees and vegetation offered the perfect setting for me to duplicate the northern parts of Minnesota.

I installed an adjustable Aquascape pump, which the customers now love to use as they sit on their stools drinking their favorite beverages. I carved out their existing hole to make room for the Aqua Blocks, added an autofill valve and did a little landscaping around the stream and pond to prevent erosion into the stream and basin.

Even with these challenges, this project has become my favorite water feature that I have built to date.




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Designer: Jeff Graupmann 

Installers:  Rock-N-Water Landscapes LLC

Location: Minnesota

Contact Info: 612/865-4504

Size: 27-foot stream that feeds into a 11-by-6-foot pondless reservoir


  • Seven res cubes
  • Aquascape 4,000-8,000 gph adjustable pump
  • Spillway and pondless waterfall vault with autofill valve

Time to Complete: 5 days

Crew Size: 2

Cost:  $7,700



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