We were two years into a maintenance contract for a natural water garden built by another contractor. It featured a large, 25-foot waterfall cascading down a hillside. As we continued to maintain it, we found that the sides of the stream in the waterfall were settling, creating many leaks that would require continued adjustments. Because the liner had been cut too short, it could not contain the water. Boulders had to be lifted and moved inward to correct the leaks.
The pond was lower than grade, so it captured runoff from the concrete patio above, which consistently washed debris into it. The previous contractor had attempted to install a drain beside the pond to capture the runoff, but it only lasted for so long. It was clogged with dirt and debris, and at this point, its functionality was a thing of the past.
Fast-forward to 2019, and the customer had become long irritated with all the costly upgrades required to maintain the feature. She pulled us to the side and asked us if we could make a water feature that she could actually enjoy and see her fish — something different, but awesome!
We began with the design of a new koi pond with a viewing window to see the fish swim back and forth. After sitting down with her and going over the plans, designs and layout, we began removing the existing headache and started constructing the new koi pond for her.
We removed the old water garden, and with the boulders set aside, we got busy. Once we got started, the customer ended up redesigning her entire backyard, including a new liner for her pool, a new whirlpool, an outdoor pergola, a new deck on the house, new lighting and much more.
The initial design consisted of a waterfall that flowed down the hillside and into the main pool area. She wanted to combine natural elements with a formal feature at the same time. After removing the entire feature, I found that the existing slope would not work for the design we were after. For it to work, we would have to lower the formal pond, and the viewing window would not be visible from above. There would have to be a major step down below grade to see the fish.
With that being the case, I decided to keep the feature at the same grade as the existing patio around the pool area. That way, the customer’s family could be on the patio and see the koi swimming back and forth without having to change levels. We also made it the proper height so that viewers could walk right up, lean over and touch the fish.
We leveled out the entire pond area and started with a clean slate. After fighting rain and mud for several weeks, we were finally able to lay down a crush and run base, compact it down as tightly as possible and let it set for several weeks. This needed to be done since the area was very muddy, and loose mud tends to shift.
Ready to Pour
After several weeks of compaction, we laid out the main base of the fountain, which was 12 by 16 feet. The concrete was poured by one of our existing subcontractors at a depth of 6 inches, with a fiber mix and wire mesh inside. This base didn’t need to move, and it had to hold approximately 5,000 gallons of water. Once the base was poured, we again let it sit for the proper amount of curing time.
Now, it gets interesting. We had already scheduled our yearly cruise during this construction period. How would we get the walls laid and constructed in time? Well, as you may know, the internet connection on ships in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico is rarely reliable. Since the walls were ready to be constructed, and I didn’t want to wait until our eight-day cruise was over, I found a way to communicate with our brick masons over Facebook and WiFi at a Wendy’s when we docked in Curacao. Drawing out all the dimensions on paper, we were able to communicate with everyone on the design and construction. In more ways than one, these guys rocked!
They sent me photos of the job, and when I finally got back to the job site, it looked great. It met my expectations, and we were ready for the remaining work.
The Heart of the Feature
All walls were constructed using cinderblocks and filled with concrete and ½-inch rebar every 24 inches vertically and horizontally. This provided additional strength for the walls. On both sides, we had to apply a parge coat for a smooth finish. On the outside, we covered it with Bucks County Southern Ledgestone by Boral.
The 8-by-3-foot glass viewing window is tempered and 2 inches thick. We did our research, discussing the load capacity with several engineers and consulting with a local glass company. The window was placed and secured in a steel S-channel, which was constructed by local welder Adam Burton of Burton Builders. Holes were drilled every 12 inches, and 4-inch lag bolts were screwed into the concrete. All metal was sealed with a waterproof sealer, including Dowsil 795 architectural-grade silicone sealant around the glass window. We used two coats Masterseal 550 cementitious membrane for waterproofing.
For pump and filtration, we used an Aqua Bead pressurized along with two pumps. One pump circulates 7,000 gph for the Atlantic Water Gardens Color Changing Waterfall Spillways, which require approximately 2,200 gph each. These waterfalls not only provide aeration of the water but also create a relaxed feeling of serenity. The other pump is sized at 4,000 gph and circulates through the aqua filter. We plumbed Jandys 3-Way valves onto the lines to provide water in the directions we needed and included several locations for additional aeration lines.
A Waterway Renegade Skimmer was attached to the side of the feature to skim the debris on the water surface, and a bottom drain releases water from the pond during cleanings.
For lighting, we used Jandys LED Lights inside the feature to highlight it at night.
A Swimming Success
We learned a lot from this project, as we had to meticulously ensure everything was above and beyond expectations. This new koi pond will provide movement and serenity in our customer’s backyard and create future opportunities for family and friends to become mesmerized by the large koi swimming back and forth.
Our customer is very successful, so we are especially proud of the combination of the female Buddha, which represents the Mother of Liberation and the virtues of success in work and achievements. The koi fish, too, are associated with perseverance in the face of adversity, strength of purpose and, perhaps most importantly, good fortune.