Building a pond can be a bit like a rock concert. Successfully taking a show on the road requires many hometown rehearsals to make sure the performance is the way it needs to be. Each member of the group needs to know his or her role to make the rock show look effortless and wow the audience.
Many things need to happen in order to pull off a successful rock show. It starts with the setup, followed by the sound check, the first set, the second set, the encore and, finally, the breakdown. It also requires tight logistics and coordination with vendors, suppliers and even restaurants and hotels. When all these parameters have been worked out, the rock show can hit the road.
At Full Service Aquatics in Summit, New Jersey, project inquiries come in from all over the country. Most of these don’t come to fruition, typically due to the higher premium when a rock show goes on the road. However, we recently had the opportunity to hit the road for a big gig.
In July 2016, we received a one-line email that stated simply, “I want to turn my swimming pool into a pond.” After some back-and-forth emails for more details, the client revealed that she was located in Tennessee. We gave her some names of local pond contractors, but she was bound and determined to work with us directly after having consumed most of our project videos online, including a two-part project video of a swimming pool being renovated into a pond. After a few conversations, it was pretty clear that we were in store for a little road trip.
Several weeks before the project was to begin, an on-site consultation took place. I went to Tennessee to meet with the client, perform an assessment and finalize project pricing. During this time, I learned that the project would serve as a memorial for the client’s recently deceased husband. Converting the swimming pool into a pond and a home for her koi was something the client had planned to do with her husband for a long time before he passed away. It was clear that this already special project needed to be extra special.
The project was 11 hours away from our home base, so it would require us to live in a hotel, work with new suppliers and vendors in a different state and cope with an unfamiliar market. The success of the project would rely on these new and unfamiliar vendors being highly coordinated with multiple deliveries of the promised materials and equipment during 10 days of absolutely perfect weather conditions. What could possibly go wrong?
The Sound Check
I went to meet with local rock suppliers, bulk water suppliers and equipment rental agencies, while locating all the local big box stores and making some decent hotel arrangements for the duration of the project.
We found some beautiful Tennessee mountain stone about an hour away from the project site sold by a 70-year-old little lady right off her 476-acre property. Thankfully, I found a gravel supplier even closer to the job site. Equipment rental was plentiful. Hotel accommodations, big box stores and restaurants were all within mere minutes of the job site. Delivery dates and times were set, deposits were made, hotels were booked and the rock show was going to go on — as it always must!
Back in New Jersey, the project lists were checked twice and equipment and materials were loaded up, making our trucks look just a bit like the truck from “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Our team hit the road at 5 o’clock in the morning for the 11-hour drive to the Volunteer State. Upon arrival at the job site, the excited client was surprised to see that our team went immediately to work. There was no time to waste!
Before we began, we drained the long-abandoned swimming pool. With trash pumps cranked up, the team set up the work site. When it was dusk just a few hours later, the pool had been drained, dozens of frogs were relocated and several yards of decaying, wet leaves were removed, leaving a clean pool shell to start the next day. Sound check complete!
Over the next several days, heavy equipment, stone screening, gravel and that beautiful Tennessee stone rolled in according to schedule. With lots of manpower and the help of a skid steer, the team began the transformative process from an abandoned swimming pool to a landscape showcase.
Stone screening was used to backfill the pool to the desired depths for the pond. Then, the underlayment and liner materials went in. The rock, stone and gravel followed quickly afterward. We crafted several luxurious fish caves and some integrated aquatic planting areas. Submersible LED lighting was installed to make for some dazzling nighttime viewing and a big wow factor.
Then it was time to install the filter components. The skimming system was composed of two skimmers that were installed in the interior of the pond instead of connected from the exterior. A submerged pump housing was installed next to the skimmers to draw water from the lower level of the pond and distribute it through a network of water jets, circulating the interior of the pond. From each skimmer, 3-inch, flexible PVC pipe ran the exterior length of the pond, extending to large biofilters on the opposite waterfall end of the pond. All the connections were secured, and the first set was in the books.
The Second Set
As you do, we saved the choicest rock specimens for the second set. The team used larger, flatter pieces of stone for the edging of the pond, creating feeding stations and places to sit. The eye candy — the waterfall — was built 12 feet off the edge of the pond with larger Tennessee boulders and steppers to create a multi-tier, multi-cascade waterfall display with an overall height of 4 feet.
The project was progressing very nicely and according to plan. From morning until nightfall, the team was totally on our A-game, producing some pretty awesome results in a swift manner. The client, visitors, some neighbors and other contractors working on the property made their respective ways to the job site to stare in amazement at the transformation happening right before their eyes.
Once the pond was constructed, it was time to clean the interior of the pond in advance of the arrival of water trucks. After some rinsing, rinsing and more rinsing into the twilight hours, the pond was ready to be filled. Like clockwork, the local vendor showed up on time and prepared, letting the water flow. And flow it did. It was a perfect way to end the second set.
It had been a really good show to this point, but now it was time to make some memories. The client and our entire team gathered for the startup. First, the air pump began, throbbing to the surface bubbling and popping away. Then we started one pump at a time.
The first pump controlled the submerged water jet system. We checked the output on each jet, and all of them ran strong, circulating water inside the pond. The second and third pumps controlled a skimmer and a biofilter each, and when they were turned on, the pond immediately started skimming while the waterfall display came to life. A trickle became a 15,000-gallon-per-hour crescendo of water flowing, churning and jumping, with multiple cascades dropping, twisting and turning into small pooling areas. They came together into a thick, single cascade dropping into the pond.
Next, the light show kicked on, and the interior of the pond glowed. The waterfall sparkled, and watery effects of light were cast onto the surrounding landscape. Our team performed one last number and released the client’s koi into their new amazing pond. The pond was truly complete now, running beautifully. Our client shed tears of happiness and expressed many other strong emotions. The encore had made the impact we needed. Now it was time to start the breakdown, which began immediately following the last note of the Encore.
The rock show was a hit, but now it was time to hit the road again. Site cleanup was efficiently completed, and we loaded the gear and equipment back onto the trucks — a little less “Beverly Hillbillies-like” for the early-morning ride back to New Jersey.
After 10 days and 1,300 miles of travel, with five guys working from morning until night, the pond looked amazing. During that time, more than 120 tons of materials were processed, and an old swimming pool was transformed into an aquatic paradise. The pond came in at 12,000 gallons with a 4-foot maximum depth, featuring professional-grade filter components and lighting. It was a rock show to be proud of!
As the last koi was introduced to its new home and swam off into the pond, our client quietly let us know that it was exactly four months to the day that her husband had passed away. It was not by plan, but it certainly seemed like a most appropriate situation, properly acknowledging the real meaning behind the renovation project. New life was introduced to the pond as we celebrated another life that was lost too soon.