Koi Pond Renovation & Rescue

By Matt Van Vlack

Published on February 27, 2023

Apple Ponds & Water Features completes large-scale koi pond renovation

Van Vlack Koi Pond Renovation - Waterfall
Main waterfall 

A potential client called one evening and stated that her pond was leaking water. Approximately 1,000 gallons of the 5,500 gallons that originally had been delivered into the pond were lost. There was limited information on what causing the leak, who installed the products, what type of products were used, and the overall quality of work.

Site Consultation

Van Vlack Koi Pond Renovation - Before
Before renovation the day of consultation 

We scheduled a site consultation the next day to determine the solution to the salvage the pond. We found exposed plumbing lines, topsoil bags built as a wall, pallets stuck under the liner supporting a very large boulder, and concrete block. The entire backyard was very wet. It was evident that the leak was caused by the overall construction. It was very hard not to make a quick judgment on what had transpired previously. We were in complete disbelief that a company could do such a poor-quality job!

The clients explained how they had hired a company to enlarge their previous 11-by-16-foot pond to double the size. There were no elevations set prior to excavation or during installation. In most cases, with a sloped yard, we would transition the soil to the downhill side. However, the contractor’s laborers hauled the soil across the backyard, over a runoff ditch and into the woods about 20 yards. They never set any reference of elevation. The homeowner bought the topsoil bags to construct a wall to hold the elevation difference. The simple solution would have been to use the soil to back fill the slope.

Ultra Balance

Temporary Koi Rescue

The clients tried to help the company rush the job because they already had a water tanker delivery scheduled. They were in a panic to get their koi back into the new pond. Their 17 koi were temporarily stored in their garage using a small kid’s size pool that held approximately 50 gallons of water, a small pump and aquarium air stones. The koi had already been in this tub for eight days without any food and were very stressed. Our solution was to build a temporary storage tank on their concrete deck for the koi so they could start feeding them again.

The timing of this koi pond renovation occurred during our previously scheduled summer work. After providing the homeowners with a detailed proposal we explained that the work would have to be squeezed into our busy schedule. Being the company we are, we tried to help the needs of the client and their prized named koi. We asked previously scheduled clients if they would be willing to delay their projects to rescue this pond. They all were kind enough to allow us to delay their work.

Koi Pond Renovation

A week later, we started deconstructing the pond materials. The first day on the job, it rained heavily, making the work more difficult. The remaining water was pumped out, and we removed all the natural stone stacking for later use. We had wet topsoil bags and sandbags, two pallets of 8-inch concrete masonry units (CMU) block, four wood pallets supporting large boulders, a skimmer box with flex seal holding the liner, and a 40-by-50-foot 20-mil LDPE liner for trash.

The clients thought they had purchased approximately 300 topsoil bags. We couldn’t believe that there were so many holding up the liner. The number of bags made sense considering all the excavated soil base moved away from the pond. The LDPE liner was the hardest material to deal with — it had zero flexibility, tore easily and was super slippery. The liner wasn’t salvageable due to the number of holes and slices the stone had punctured into it. That was $1,700 of the client’s money down the drain. To save the expense, the clients cut up the liner themselves and disposed of it along with the topsoil bags.

The next day, we established elevations to create the new 20-foot-wide by 30-foot-long by 36-inch-deep pond with two biofalls, two skimmers, a wetland filtration system and a 5-foot color-changing spillway. (The 5-foot stainless steel spillway and one biofalls had already been purchased by the client.) The wetland filtration system was designed to accommodate the pond gallonage and fish load.

To raise the grade, we hauled all the soil in the woods back, in addition to a triaxle load of fill dirt compacted in lifts. The filtration components we installed were two Atlantic Water Gardens skimmers, new Atlantic Water Gardens filter falls with existing Easy Pro they had with Matala mats/bio cubes, a 4-by-10-foot constructed wetland measuring 3 feet deep, and a 5-foot stainless steel spillway. The pond circulates 9,000 gph with two magnetic drive pumps.

Van Vlack Koi Pond Renovation Pond View
View of the completed pond from wetland filter 

Successful Koi Reintroduction

With the help of the client, we cut up the 300 bags of topsoil and used it to establish a lawn below the pond. The nasty, dark, play-dough-like soil had to be mixed with the existing soil. The clients called for another water tanker with well water to fill the pond. Because the water was from the same source as before, we were able to acclimate the koi more quickly and without stress. The client’s 17 koi were reintroduced into the pond along with 17 additional koi from another client’s pond, which we were in the middle of converting into a pondless waterfall. We had planned for the koi from the other pond to be moved to other homes, but instead we were able to accomodate them with the expanded pond. The clients were very happy to have more large koi in their pond!

This entire project was a challenge from the beginning — cleaning up a mess, dealing with difficult timing, and completing on a tight budget. We couldn’t be happier about how it turned out, considering the situation we were dealt.

Learn more about koi ponds.

Contractors Corner

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Designers: Bert and Matt Van Vlack
Installer: Apple Ponds & Water Features
Contact Info: applelandcapemgt@gmail.com
Project Location: North Wales, PA
Size: 20’x30′ with 4’x10′ Wetland Filter
Components: Atlantic Water Gardens, EasyPro
Time to Complete: 5 days
Crew: 3
Buyer’s Cost: $22,000



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