Contractor's Corner

Unique Pond Completes New Patio Project

Combining natural and formal features in a backyard makeover.

View of bridge, waterfall, and kitchen island from patio.

It’s a relatively rare thing to have one of your competitors give you business, but that’s exactly what happened when a fellow “waterscaper” had an interesting job he wasn’t able to take on. He introduced us to our future client, Matt, who had a grand vision to completely make over his otherwise empty backyard. Matt wanted a large formal patio, including a fire pit and outdoor kitchen island. More importantly, he wanted a waterfall and pond that would be built into the patio and be the centerpiece of his yard.

That’s where the Fitz’s Fish Pond crew came in. The project posed many challenges; we knew from the start this would be a big undertaking. Matt wanted the feature to have natural aspects, yet still fit into the formal look of the patio. The patio would have to be built in tandem with the water feature, since they were basically extensions of each other. Matt hired a hardscape construction company for the patio portion, so we would have to work in unison with them to bring everything together. We discussed the design and details in depth with Matt and while there were a number of challenges, we decided to move ahead with the project.

Matt had a vision in mind and wanted control over the design. We had several meetings with him to take in his design ideas and apply our knowledge and experience. Together we came up with the final design for the water feature. The feature would begin with a natural-looking waterfall built with large, red Pennsylvania fieldstones to match the reddish tint of the patio pavers. The back of the waterfall would be built up into the kitchen island to really connect the two together. The falls would then cascade down into a formal rectangular-shaped pond, which would border the entire edge of the patio. The pond portion would be capped with the same stone as the patio to bring the two together.

Clean and Crystal Clear

Keeping the pond crystal clear with little maintenance was definitely a priority for Matt. Considering the pond would also be stocked full of koi, we did not skimp on the filtration. Seeing as the pond was rectangular, we thought it would be the perfect candidate for an under-gravel grid system, or “UGF” for short.

 

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Scenic view from fire pit.

Although the “Pond Digger” himself, Eric Triplett, has already written an article on UGFs for Pond Trade, here’s a basic explanation for those who don’t know. An under-gravel grid system is exactly what its name implies: a grid or lattice of PVC pipe (usually 2 inches) that is buried under river gravel. There are small holes drilled along the underside of the grid, which act as a water intake spanning the entire bottom of the pond. Water is sucked through the layer of gravel on top of the pipe, which traps debris and builds up bacteria, essentially turning the bottom of the pond into one huge biological filter.

In addition to the UGF, we installed a Helix skimmer as a second intake. Using a “Y” coupling, both lines were combined into one and then run through an Ultima 10,000 filter, Evo 55 watt UV light, Ionizer, and finally an 11 kW in-line heater to allow the pond to run all year round. After passing through the filtration, the lines then split back into two returns on either side of the waterfall. All of this was powered by a 2-horsepower Artesian Pro Pump. In conclusion, clear water would not be a problem for this pond.

The Execution

The entire project took us a little over two weeks with a full crew. The first step was to excavate the area for the pond and trench for our plumbing and electric. During the excavation it was crucial to work with the company doing the patio, as they were doing excavations of their own. Some of our plumbing even had to run under the soon-to-be-finished patio. The capstone edging the patio was to connect to the capstone edging the pond, forming one seamless edge around the project site. This meant the pond height had to be exact. We set a steel-reinforced footing and used concrete block to build the pond walls. The north, east and south walls were right up against the edge of the patio, while the west wall was exposed, facing the rest of the yard. Now that the pond was closed in and shaped, we were able to run our plumbing and then set the liner in.

At this point the hardscape company was finishing up the stonework for the patio and kitchen island, bringing the patio stone right up to the concrete block edging our pond. Once the liner was set in we began to build the waterfall. We used an excavator to set our larger Pennsylvania fieldstone, including our spill rock, which was about 5 feet wide! Smaller bordering and fill stones were brought in and placed by hand.

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Aerial view of project.

Building the waterfall was the most important part appearance wise; we had to create a waterfall that looked natural, but didn’t seem awkward spilling into a formal pond. We accomplished this by making the waterfall jut into the patio; we even wrapped it around one of the pillars supporting the overhang on the kitchen island. This gave the appearance that the waterfall had been there forever and the patio was built around it, rather than the waterfall looking artificially placed over it. While the waterfall was being built we began capping the top of the pond with paver stones matching the patio’s edging. The still-exposed west wall was coped with patio pavers and became the edge to a lower patio. For a compliment to the natural look of the waterfall, we installed a wooden bridge that went over the pond, connecting the upper and lower patios. We installed both underwater and landscape lights, making the waterfall and pond look even better at night. For a final touch we put in some aquatic plants to further integrate the natural and formal aspects of the project.

The Fitz’s Fish Pond crew overcame a lot of new challenges on this project, which we believe is very important for any contractor or business to grow. We combined natural and formal elements, and worked with another company, which taught us how to be flexible and think of solutions when faced with difficult problems. Most importantly, in the end we met the expectations of our client and helped make his backyard a paradise that will bring joy to him, his family and his friends.

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