Massive Koi Pond Renovation

Published on February 24, 2024

Koi pond waterfall
Matthew ‘Prime Time’ Marsteller (left) poses proudly with the mystery waterfall, a buried gravity-fed pipe that creates an awesome aquatic illusion when flows seem to emerge from stone. This monumental backyard build (right) seems to have ushered in a new era at Premier, where five-star artistry has become the norm.

Back at a Sept. 2023 team dinner, Premier Ponds’ owner “King” Mike Kurylo said he had an announcement. From his pocket he produced rough blueprints of a pond, but as we looked closer at the sketch, we all were in shock at the massive koi pond renovation.

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“The client asked for a ‘pond on steroids’,” Mike explained. “We’ll be starting in two weeks.” The boys exploded in excitement.

Our client had an existing concrete-bottom fishpond with a few small koi and goldfish. He also had a massive backyard and, moreover, a huge hill that came steeply down to his patio. This was an aquatic artist’s dream for water action.

Making the Dream Work

boulder placement in koi pond renovation
With a passion for perfection, Premier Ponds’ head artist Kevin “Big Country” Lescallett finalizes the thundering cascade.

Finally, Day 1 came, as did a Sunbelt excavator! It’s rare for us to utilize machines, but given the scope of the project, it would be necessary. Within a few hours, we had dug out the layout, a sprawling 20-by-12-foot footprint with 4 feet of depth. Carving out the hill, our waterfall artist Kevin “Big Country” Lescallett’s head began to spin with the possibilities.

We dropped underlayment and our thick rubber liner. Then we installed key infrastructure: skimmers for filtration, dual biofalls and two fish tunnels for koi protection. Then our artists began rocking out the space using our signature Pennsylvania mountain stone. The creativity would be on full display for the next few days.

Having collaborated with Aquascape the previous month for a similar project, Premier Ponds’ Sam Wells worked tirelessly to strap boulder after boulder. Each boulder would be airlifted by a machine to the perfect location and position within the basin and waterfall. Operating the machine was our fellow contractor on this project, Travis, who skillfully lowered each stone with care. King Mike himself operated the machine for the very first time, delighted at the seamless process.

However, it was Lescallett who truly shined within this build. As each rock was lowered slowly down to his jurisdiction, the aquatic icon masterfully planned and executed each drop point. We could tell he was creating something special for our awesome clients.

All the while, crew lead and technical specialist Andrew “Kuzi” Kuznetsov made crucial plumbing connections while fellow crew lead Roger Pope and new employee Eric Giron tag-teamed a retaining wall that led up to the pond. Matthew “Prime Time” Marsteller handcrafted a gorgeous underwater patio, allowing our customer to walk down into the pond’s deepest depths. Talk about “interactive” water features!

“Mystery” waterfall is the highlight of the koi pond renovation

The spacious new pond included all the classic add-ons — underwater lights for nighttime enjoyment, aquatic plants for natural filtration and aerators for fish health in the warm months.

Our client even sprung for one of our favorites — a gravity-fed “mystery” waterfall built by Marsteller. With plumbing inconspicuously running underground from the main waterfalls to a subtle crack in some stones below, the trickling stream of water seems to appear from nowhere. This is such a cool concept that continually delights clients and our team members alike!

The rocking process took about five days. Our creative team crafted a pond that was as functional and easy to maintain as it was aesthetically pleasing. We always build with longevity in mind. The pond has designated deep spots for dropping a pump to the lowest region when cleaning. In addition, the fish tunnels’ inner sections are just accessible enough to polish fully. (Much like a human that values privacy, koi prefer to poop in their tunnels.) Crystalline water is core to our team’s idea of the perfect pond.

Magnum Opus

Despite late-fall conditions, the team’s excitement for the project powered them through over a week of hardcore stonework. This basin features multiple fish caves and an underwater patio.

On Day 7, we revealed the waterfall. The crew was instantly met with excited howls and repeated screams of “Dude!” from our marketing guy Mark.

“Are you not entertained?!” King Mike exclaimed as Lescallett gazed upon what very well may be his magnum opus.

Lescallett’s waterfall captivated our clients. They remarked that while they were aware of his artistic talents, the waterfall looks like it “belongs at a hotel!” The cascade was truly magnificent. Lescallett’s intricate approach paid off with a mix of sheet-style waterfalls at the top and more crashing, thundering streams below. The whitewater’s effect on the team was undeniable. (As the marketing guy, I always ask our crew members for postgame interviews. For this project, everyone’s initial reaction was speechlessness — which is, honestly, understandable!)

Marsteller retrieved his brand-new koi sock for ethical fish transport and began loading the fish back into their brand-new habitat. You could tell their minds were blown — their home had suddenly grown tenfold! As they gracefully swam around their new ecosystem, there was a sense of pride among our crew. These koi will now enjoy long and healthy lives in their enormous new pond.

In the end, our clients were absolutely thrilled with the transformation. The original ask — a “pond on steroids” — had been fulfilled. The crew, meanwhile, spoke of how this project represented a “new era” for Premier Ponds. Located in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore region, the company is pushing creativity to the limit to embody the cutting edge of aesthetic waterscaping.

This huge pond may well be our project of the year, if not the crown jewel of our staff’s work to date. We are extremely proud of this build!

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