Reflection Pool Retrofit: From splash pad to sun shelf and reflection pool

By Jerry Romano

Published on November 3, 2022

reflection pool at night
The “natural Sun shelf” and reflection pool after sunset provides just the right ambiance. The lighting highlights the water feature without being intrusive.

Our main objective for this project was to create a naturally filtered, shallow reflection pool with a sun shelf area where the water quality I so often speak and post about could meet the standard of our “No Passport Required” plunge pond. It should also meet our safety and comfort requirements that we continually emphasize and improve upon, especially where human interaction is of concern. In other words, we needed a slip-proof, comfortable, strong and pervious material that could be secured to the smaller rain modules — a hybrid material, if you will.

Having to follow our “insane,” one-ton floating boulder was no easy task, to say the least. Due to the fact that diverse creativity is a staple in my thought process, it sometimes can take a while for those litany of ideas that float aimlessly in my mind to come to fruition.

And then it hit me. Let us destroy an absolutely gorgeous splash pad that we had for a number of years at our showroom and take a shot at a retrofit design. Of what? I had no idea at that point, but I decided to implement my deranged rationale as I figured I would gain 35 large rain modules — fresh, new inventory for future jobs. See how easy that was?

I also knew I would leave the existing liner intact (after cleaning the daylights out of it), and the water level was already set due to the existing patio. The only large blocks we left in were to form the entire perimeter of the sun shelf, which gave us our close-to-patio grade. More importantly, it also created the area for all our surrounding cushions, which now were at a perfect elevation for those who just wanted to put their feet in the foot of water. From there, it was a safe, comfortable step down into the design as well.

reflection pond with chair and umbrella
A close-up of our unique Water Wall setup and our portable table/umbrella. 

Finally, I wanted the flexibility of enjoying a portable table and umbrella. This was key. So again, what to do? Why not core out a beautiful piece of one-inch quartz I had laying around? I had a perfect, irregular piece that was just meant to be, as you can see. The umbrella was cake. I stole that from my neighbor’s tiki bar. (Just kidding.)

Having to flash our new wetland-filter liner was an act I knew would be a bit of an issue. Not having a machine on site to lift two of the three boulders would simply mean it was time to be creative once more. What else is new?

The problem was, the existing old liner from the splash pad came under and up the backside of the two boulders. So, we had to protect the old liner while we tilted the large existing boulders with our compact track loader. Using the tip of the forks and some thick felt material against the top pf the boulder so the forks wouldn’t slide against the rock being pitched forward, we made sure we stuffed plenty of new liner under the boulder so that when we very carefully pitched the rock backward, we were able to pull the new liner through with plenty of flash.

before and after reflection pool
The photo on the left shows the nearly completed wetland while the old splash pad design is somewhat still intact. The old splash pad design is relevant because it never had a wetland or any filtration attached to it.  The completed photo on the right shows that the liner was flashed successfully.

Implementing a wetland filter for this project to achieve the desired water quality was pinnacle and needed to be perfect. This was the only thing we did a bit differently in this wetland construction. I had always enjoyed creating some other form of water movement inside our wetland to create interest and add some water volume to the main spill exiting the wetland area. I had no interest in just dumping an additional hose in the wetland area as well. I wanted something different and more creative.

Though our wetland wasn’t too large, I was able to come up with a cool concept. Our cleanout snorkel port would double as a fountainscape. (My foreman was like, “What?”) This was exactly what we did, and it turned out amazing. If you look closely, you can see the small portion of urn that covered the snorkel. The real magic, however, is on the inside.

Additional techniques to help keep the water quality in mint condition:

  1. First and foremost, we ran a 1.5-schedule 40 across the floor width of the design. We had six small but strong jets stirring up any debris that might settle to the floor, with a set of three jets shooting in each direction.
  2. Each quadrant had its own aerator disk tucked nicely onto the bottom baffle of the four rain modules/Aqua Blocks.
  3. A cool little waterwall for aesthetics also brings with it some more forceful surface aeration.
  4. Four pumps and an air compressor make up the heart of this unique design.
  5. The wetland filter runs 24/7 at approximately 2,500 gph.

Daytime video of reflection pool and splash pad

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PROJECT SPECS

Designer: Jerry Romano

Installer: Liquid Designz LLC

Contact info: Liquiddesignz@optonline.net / www.liquiddesignznj.com

Location: Bergen County, NJ

Size:15’ x 12’ x 2’ (of which 1’ is surface water)

Components:45-mil liner, geotextile fabric, 2 Atlantic pumps, 2 Aquascape pumps, 8 Aquascape lights, large & small rain modules, wetland filtration system

Time to complete: 3 weeks

Crew: Jerry Romano & Foreman Ryan O’Donnell

Buyer’s Cost: Not available

 

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