Creating a Stay-cation

By Dave Stoup

Published on April 1, 2016

Before it was a luxury resort, a clean palate with the outline of what’s to come.

In today’s economy, many clients are looking to have the resort experience at home. This project had several challenges to address before we could enjoy that special experience.

First was the property’s grade. The original grade led away from the home and main seating area. The client wanted a lengthy, 20-foot stream and a noticeable presence of sound and falls. In order to create a natural look and feel, we had to change the grade. This required 80 tons of boulders and 120 yards of fill, creating a gradual rise in the grade, where the back stream was 10 feet above the original grade.

The grade was still not significant enough to create a nice falls and stream from the top pond to the lower pond. We wanted the stream to be consistent, or at least appear to be. To create the illusion of one water feature, we placed the second BioFalls against the side walls of the upper pond, 8 inches higher than the water level, and concealed it with rocks, making it look as if it continued onward.

At the midway point, the crew finished digging out the top pond and placing the biofalls, while creating the illusion of a stream to continue on from 1st pond to 2nd pond.

Weather was another challenge, with nearly 25 days of rain while we were working on the project. Digging and moving dirt in the Alabama clay, we found ourselves stuck just a few times to say the least.

The floating boulders provide great additional access to the formal fireplace. I did not want them to look placed, so other the boulders — not cinder blocks — hold them up. Finding the right sizes to match and balance was a painstaking process, but it was worth it in the end.

The fire pit on the stream next to the pondless is gas-powered. The gas line runs under the stream and along the back side, coming out behind the stones where the tank is hidden. The fire pit is an informal space for children to sit while adults are at the wood fireplace.

With the elements of fire and water, the client has a stay-cation to enjoy. Electrical outlets were also installed so the client can stay connected while relaxing.

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Designer: Dave Stoup

Installation: Primarily Ponds

Location: Madison, Alabama

Contact Info: 256-886-1111

Size: 11-by-16-foot pond with 20-foot stream; and 10-by-10-foot pond with 15-foot stream. 900 sq. ft. patio, fireplace and gas fire pit.


  • Pond grade liner
  • 2,500 sq. ft. geo textile underlayment
  • 2 Aquascape Signature Series skimmers
  • 2 Aquascape BioFalls
  • 2 Aquascape 7000-gph pumps
  • 80 tons of rocks & boulders
  • 120 tons of fill dirt
  • 5 tons of river rock
  • 400 sq. ft. Alabama field stone
  • 800 sq. ft. Red River Pavers
  • 1 fire rock fireplace
  • 300 sq. ft. Eldorado stone veneer
  • Lighting

Completion time:  3 months (due to rain) with 2 workers

Crew size: 2 workers

Project cost: $48,000



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