Koi pond or waterfall without a pond: where do I start?

1.) Have you thought about a water fountain?–Is it true that a water fountain will add equity to my home? How about a pool? Does a pond require a lot of maintenance? What is the average cost? Do I need a building permit? Do I have to eat fish?… We travel a lot!

American Society of Landscape Architects

Landscape architects identify trends for 2007

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — “Sustainable design is bigger than ever and homeowners and commercial buildings are looking to make even more use of outdoor spaces. The New Year will bring a host of creative design solutions and exciting landscape architects

Homeowners request landscape architects to design entire exterior rooms, such as kitchens and bars, for entertaining. Water features like koi ponds, waterfalls, and fountains continue to be popular (with no signs of slowing down), according to a new survey of leading members of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

The American Nurseryman Association reports that “water features are the fastest growing trend in landscaping since 1990 (2007 should break all records).”

Regionally, inground pools will add about 5 percent to home value in the Northeast, about 6 percent in the Midwest, and 7.5 percent in the Southeast and West. In the Southwest, a pool will add nearly 11 percent to a home’s value.

If you add a $35,000 pool to a $300,000 home, you’ll barely recoup your initial expense. However, you still have the high cost of maintenance and you have just limited the future buyers of your home to people who want a pool. Therefore, you have actually reduced the equity in your home. On the other hand, everyone loves a beautiful water feature, young and old! Therefore, greater equity!

Pools require constant attention and maintenance. Unlike ponds, pool owners cannot rely on the nitrogen cycle to help keep their water healthy. This can only be achieved with due diligence and a myriad of chemicals. Unlike a pond, the enjoyment of a pool comes from its use; and for most regions of the country, the weather dictates a very short window of time for pool use. Unless you heat your pool, then you are throwing more money at your pool.

A pond requires minimal attention compared to a swimming pool. Once a properly constructed pond is established with the proper ratio of fish, plants, and biological elements, the pond will take care of itself, the rest is year-round enjoyment. You don’t need to use a pond like you do a pool, it just needs to exist for you to enjoy.

2.) What do I do about the safety of my young children or grandchildren? How big should it be? Is it something I can do on my own or do I need professional help building a pond?

Unlike a swimming pool, ponds can be childproofed with very little expense. However, a swimming pool requires special self-closing gates with special latches. Another required code requirement is 95 decibel alarms on all exit doors leading to the backyard.

And for added peace of mind, you can install an unsightly, removable, lightweight fence that costs hundreds of dollars. Then you can continually worry whether you or someone else forgot to close the fence gate.

A pond, however, can be filled with large rocks, which can be removed later when the children get older. Or you can build a waterfall without a pond to start with. Now you can still enjoy the sight and sound of cascading water without worrying about safety.

An added benefit of a pondless waterfall is that it costs less to build and maintain. A pondless waterfall can be added to your front yard, meet all building code requirements, increase curb appeal, and thereby increase the equity and resale value of your home.

The “size of the water source” is a relative term. There are many factors that must be considered. Much more than can be discussed in the space I have allocated to this article. I will cover it in my next article. Some questions to ask yourself: How big is your yard? Where do you spend most of your time? What is your budget? How does the size, shape, and topography of your yard relate to certain limitations regarding building codes? Will the existing water table affect your water source? Does your property currently have adequate drainage? Do you have underground services? If so, where are they located? What are the local building codes regarding pond depth? Do you need a building permit or a licensed contractor?… just to name a few of the topics covered.

If you need a professional contractor that is another article. What kind of access do you have to your property? Do you want big rocks? If so, is there enough clearance for a crane or Bobcat? How do you find a qualified contractor? How do you rate them? Are they duly authorized? Insured? Guaranteed? Workers’ compensation? Liability insurance? Hospitalization? References? Background checks and much, much more. Do your homework and do the proper research before you start, it could save you thousands of dollars.

3.) What is the most important first step in building a water feature? What about the team? Should I buy koi fish and a turtle? Where should I place my pond and waterfall? All these questions can be addressed with two words: Plan and design!

First, decide where you spend most of your leisure activity… family room, living room, patio, etc. Your waterfall and pond should be very close to that spot. Not in the farthest corner of your property. Sound and visualization are two of the main benefits of a waterfall and pond. These decisions are part of the planning process. Once you decide on these themes, the design process begins.

The best way to approach this phase is to consider a digital design. There are companies that can produce an amazing digitally designed virtual photograph of your backyard, simply by providing them with a digital photograph of the area in which you wish to locate the water feature. You can choose to digitally design your own. There are digital design programs that are easy to master for less than a hundred dollars. Just search the web by typing digitally designed ponds or waterfalls.

The type of equipment you should use depends on the size of your pond. Your budget is another factor. If you have a small budget, you are thinking of designing a small pond. Also, look at the options available for building materials.

You can purchase a rubber liner kit and install it yourself, or have a rubber liner kit installer install it for you. Simply put, either way, there’s no guarantee against critters with crooked teeth, like mice, rats, ground squirrels, gophers, and woodchucks, burrowing under your expensive rubber lining and burning a hole in it. Concrete (3500 psi) and rebar is the best construction method and if done correctly it will last for generations. Concrete ponds cost only 10-20% more than liner ponds.

Your pond will require less maintenance if you allow the nitrogen cycle to do all the work. This means that you must do your part by providing the necessary elements for the nitrogen cycle to work. The fish provide the wastes that produce nitrates and ammonia. Certain essential bacteria break down nitrates and ammonia into safe byproducts used by plants and other organisms.

Once this process is started, with the aid of a biological filter and possibly ultraviolet light, future maintenance is minimal and routine. A high efficiency above ground pump produces more water flow at half the power and less initial cost than a sump pump used with liner ponds. The electrical cost savings alone could easily pay for the added cost of professional concrete construction in less than three years.

4.) Where do I find the construction equipment and supplies I need to complete my project? How do I know what size filter, pump or UV light I need? If I want to have a concrete pond and waterfall, where do I start?

The Internet is the best place to start looking for equipment. Local pond stores often have a higher price due to overhead. Most internet dealers know the size of pumps, filters, and UV lights for any size pond or waterfall. Be aware, however, that most online dealers are trying to sell pond liners, sump pumps, and related pond liner filters and accessories.

Look first for energy-efficient pumps, and those dealers will sell products related to concrete ponds, such as bottom drains, pool-style skimmers, and pressurized, backwashable biobead filters. Also, Liner dealers sell cheap mechanical automatic filling devices, due to high profit margin.

Be sure to invest in a reliable electronic automatic fill system that is less likely to fail, such as levelers and water fill systems. A stuck float could result in the death of all your fish from chlorine poisoning and possibly thousands of dollars in flood damage.

Acting as your own project manager, you can get competitive bids from a local concrete contractor to pour your pond and waterfall shell. Also find a mason who will build your waterfall with mortar. With liner ponds and waterfalls, rocks sit on the liner and can easily shift when stepped on by adults or children, which can lead to serious accidents.

Trying to save hundreds up front could potentially cost you thousands in the future. You get what you pay for.

penny wise and [pond] foolish? Koi happy, peace and joy.