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Backyard into a park.

We are finally at the end of our five part project: the transformation of a backyard into a very nice landscape.

This part covers the construction of a very cool little water feature. The initial design did not envision a pond, but there was a highly suitable area just off the deck patio, and it really called for something that wasn't a plant or a brick. Voila!... a water feature, with the splash of a waterfall that is amazingly efficient in helping to mask the background sounds of the neighborhood.

If you've kept up with the project thus far, here, here, here, and here, you know the story of the construction. This part wrapped up our efforts, and we could begin to enjoy the finished work.

The gallery will give you the inside story on the construction of the water feature; after the jump, we'll go over the details.

Build Your Own Patio - Add a Pond(click thumbnails to view gallery)

A perfect spot for the water feature ...The first positioning of the waterfall.OK, first dig a big hole.A better look at ...Installing the liner.


Safety: nothing much remarkable here, except for the care we took in the addition of the 110v line that powered the pump. We installed a GFCI, per code and common sense, so that we didn't have an unfortunate interaction of water and amperes.

So, let's get to it! We've already discussed the materials, so let's proceed with the process:

We dug a hole in the ground -- a good beginning!
The site was of primary importance. If you have the perfect site for a pond and you can't see it through a convenient window, or it's not close to an outdoor viewing or sitting area, you have pretty much wasted your time.

For this project, there was an ideal site adjacent to the deck patio and right along the pathway to the upper patio. Could it be better than that? I think not. Initially, I built the waterfall with the "stream" flowing away from the patio and the view was of the rear of the waterfall.

After rough construction of the structure, however, it quickly became apparent that this was not such a great idea, so I tore the structure down and moved the whole thing to a spot about two feet uphill, turning the long axis of the waterfall towards the patio, so now we would be able to view it across its entire length. Much better!

The pond excavation was about two and a half feet deep and about three feet by four feet in size. We dug plant shelves at the top, so it didn't just look like a miniature Grand Canyon (with vertical sides) and so we could place rocks and plants around the "collar." This contributes to a more natural appearance.

Next we placed the liner.
We had purchased a piece about 10 feet wide and 20 feet long; this would allow us to have adequate overhang around the collar of the pond and easily cover the distance from the foot of the pond to the top of the waterfall. (Better to get too much, than too little; remember, it's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.)

We were careful to make the liner fit firmly against the bottom and sides of the hole so that it wouldn't be damaged when we put the rocks on top of it. If it looks like a hammock when you lay it in the hole, you're short of material and you've got trouble.

Then we took some of our recycled stepping stones and placed them along the sides and in the bottom. After that came the crushed coral we got from our excavation work. We tried to fill all the gaps in the wall and bottom rock to provide as natural an appearance as possible.

The waterfall came next, built from pavers and recycled concrete squares.
These guys, because of their shape, were used in concealed locations. It's important to avoid a waterfall "volcano" as this would just look so bad; as a guideline, if the waterfall is taller than about 1/3 the length of the long axis of the pond, it won't have the correct scale. At some point, of course, no matter the size of the pond, the waterfall will be too tall; be on guard for this common mistake. With water features, aesthetics are everything.

We pulled the liner up, and onto, the waterfall structure (see the gallery), laid several pavers on it and then wrapped the liner back over the pavers to make a back "wall" with the liner. Using another concrete square as a "roof", we now had a waterproof tunnel for the pond pump hose to lay in. We cut a circular hole, slightly smaller than the diameter of the hose (so as to ensure a tight fit), and inserted the hose through the liner and pulled it toward the pond until it was flush with the front end of the tunnel.

Fill that pond and get it pumping.
OK; getting close to the end of the project. We ran the pond pump power supply cord to the GFCI we had installed (ensure that you make provisions for easily removing the pump for cleaning), filled the pond with water, turned the pump on, and and tested the water flow. We adjusted the placement of the hose in the tunnel such that it made a nice flow down the front of the waterfall. It took remarkably little tweaking to get the waterfall looking just right -- very happy, don't 'ya know!

Now make it pretty!
We finished up with the "cute" stuff, as my son's wife calls it. We laid in the balance of the field stone we had purchased, in the bottom, sides, and collar of the pond. We planted dwarf mondo grass around the rim, then added cypress mulch, and gathered fallen coconuts from the backyard palm trees.

Lay the sod.
The last item on the agenda was the sod; that was about a half day's work with the grading, topsoil addition, and installation. As with the pavers, we paid particular attention to the impact of the turf on the drainage pattern.A final cleanup and that was that. The sound of the waterfall carries to the deck area and onto the back porch and really helps muffle the street noise. Ponds are niiiiice and really a lot of fun to build.
The water feature was the last part of this ambitious project. We were constrained by several factors in the work: the long, narrow, aspect ratio, the slope of the ground from the back fence to the deck, requiring us to be especially careful of drainage issues, and the sandy soil, which initially gave us some concerns about the stability of the paver base. We worked around these issues quite readily and the backyard was, in the course of a week's time, turned into a serene retreat. Great fun.

Your turn.



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