Epic pond replacement project by Larry Fogelquist
A long time ago, in a place far away…. well actually not all that far away… just out in the backyard… but it WAS a long time ago… something like the summer of 1996, we built a koi pond in our backyard.
You’re probably noticing that it’s an above ground pond… Why would anyone want an above ground koi pond? Well it all goes back to my parental neurosis… As I said, this pond was built back in 1996… Spence was all of three and Jack was five… I reasoned (worried) that if we had an in the ground pond that one day we’d find one of them floating face down in it… Not a pretty picture for a new parent. But we still wanted a pond… Having the pond be above the ground seemed to be a reasonable alternative…. besides, where it was located, we could watch the fish from our living room… Great idea huh…. well the kids are now 21 and 23 so I think we can call this a success. Problem solved… So if I’m going to go to all the work of replacing it now when everyone is all grown up, why not put the pond into the ground this time… Well when we replaced the patio, we built the new patio out of concrete which was poured around the existing pond… so that made the location of the pond sorta permanent. Besides, it still is fun watching the fish from the windows in the living room… Bored yet? Okay… I’ll get back the topic of the pond replacement project.
So why replace the pond? Quite simply the existing pond was rotting… one corner was pretty well done for… and many of the 4X4 used in the construction had rotted. Don’t just take my word for it… Check out these pictures…
So now I guess it makes sense that we replace it huh?
As I see it there are six steps to this project..
- Build the temporary pond
- Fill and transfer the fish to the temp pond
- Tear out the old pond
- Build the concrete form for the new pond
- Lay down the block for the new pond
- Install the liner
- Move the filter to the new pond and fill the pond
- Move the fish to the new pond
- Tear down the temporary pond
Step 1 – was to build the temporary pond. If I was going to nuke the existing pond, I needed some place to put the fish during the construction of the new pond… Dumb Larry, I didn’t take any pictures of the temp pond construction process… doh! It was pretty easy though… It was done and partially filled in a day. It took way longer than it should have cuz I was feeling lazy and kept procrastinating.
Step 2 – Okay… now it’s time to drain the existing pond and move the fish.
My basic approach was to just move the nectar quality water from the existing pond to the temp pond… I used some tap water in the beginning to smooth out the wrinkles and settle the pond into its shape… but after that it was pond water all the way.
As the pond water was being pumped into the temp pond and the water level went down, it got easier and easier catch the fish… but they were still tough to catch. They were easiest to catch at night with me using a flashlight to blind them while Spencer and sometime Jack tried to block their escape with a second net. One by one we got them all with the last tiny one being caught just before the pond water completely dried up. I didn’t even know I had that tiny little one… So there are 28 fish in all.
When all the fish were successfully transferred it looked like this…
Step 3 – Time to tear out the old pond… sigh… kinda sad. It’s been a fixture in the backyard for 18 years… and I designed and built it… Oh well, out with the old, in with the new…
First the liner comes out…
Now it’s time to destroy and remove the pond structure…
Step 4 – Now it’s time to begin building the new pond. Because of the measurements of the blocks (6 inches high) and the cap (3 inches high) and the target height of 36 inches AND the fact that the slab isn’t level… I have to build a footing to make the pond level and at the right height. So construction begins on the footing. This turns out to be the most difficult part of the project. Everything boiled down to measure, measure, measure… and level, level, level… I’ve never built a form before so that’s also an issue…
So this is where I am as of 10/7/14… Stay tuned… I will continue to add to this post as I make progress on the project…
On 10/11/14 (Spencer’s 21st birthday… see next post), after procrastinating all morning by buying the last of the pre-mixed concrete… then slowly driving over to the rental place to rent a cement mixer… and coming back to drill a hole for drainage… I couldn’t think of anything else to delay me… so at something like one in the afternoon, I took the plunge and started mixing, pouring and troweling… Just in case there was any doubt… concrete is really heavy… everything is hard… but I got it done and about 5:30 I was cleaning my tools…
The finished footing with forms removed. Had to keep it wet for a week or so to help the concrete cure.
Okay… so it’s finally time to deliver the block for the pond construction… I went down to Central Home Supply to order the block. $2,270.67 later, I had it on order. A couple days later, it was delivery time…
Next step was to move it to the back of the house… that basically meant me wheel barrowing it back… unbelievably heavy block by unbelievably heavy block… Jack, bless his heart, kicked in to help me.
Now the actual pond construction begins… I have to glue down the first row… so gotta be careful… the first row is the most important… ‘cept I don’t really know what I need to do to make sure that everything goes well on the succeeding rows…
Now that the first row is laid, time for the real work to begin. Throughout the project, I kept thinking that, ‘after this, the rest will be easy’. But even this phase had it’s challenges and time consuming aspects. The difficult part of this phase was getting everything the spacings to work out. This is a very hard block, so there is no wiggle room. It either fits, or it doesn’t. There were times when one row on one side would take me a couple hours of trial and error… and these blocks are super heavy. The lightest were 21 lbs, and I didn’t use very many of them. The ones I used the most were 64 lbs, and 50 lbs…. So every trial was a lot of work.
But first I had to deal with a little plumbing issue. There’s a faucet that comes out of the house under the window… Couldn’t relocate it inside the walls of the house because a fireplace was in the way. So I rerouted it on the outside of the house. Kinda kludgy looking but it’s all covered up with the pond so I guess it’s okay.
Now I can get on to stacking the block…
Now that the block is in place, we can get on to putting the liner in. But before doing that, I wanted to put down some underlayment to protect the liner from the ground… This consists of a some fiberglass mat… and then the liner from the previous pond to help support and protect the final liner.
Now it’s finally time to fill the pond, add the plants and transfer the fish… gettin’ close!
The outside wall of the pond gave way… Of course there was a tsunami as approximately 1,000 gallons of water spilled out. I was standing over by the temporary pond trying to net out the last of the koi. Even that far away, I had to jump for higher ground. The water first engulfed the backyard, then cascaded down steps into the utility area… then flowed through the fence into the neighbor’s pool. Unbelievable!
It’s almost a week later as I write this… and I’m still looking for silver linings to this setback. Believe it or not, there are a couple: 1) It’s very fortunate that this happened during construction because I had a temporary pond right there ready to accommodate the fish… 2) It would have been quite unfortunate to have had a, probably relatively minor earthquake which could have caused the pond to rupture like this, perhaps even when some hapless person was standing right there. Rough calculation has that wall by itself weighes about a ton and a half . Then there is a considerable weight of water behind it… Having that fall on someone woulda been ugly. So actually I’m REALLY glad it failed now… But I so totally want to be done with this project. This pond project is beginning to feel like a life sentence.
Current status is that the fish and plants were moved back to the temporary pond the day after the wall failure. Been pretty busy with some other higher priority items since that dark day of the wall failure, so have only been picking away at clean up.
Also, it’s taking a little time for me to come up with a new design. I think I’ve got it though… It’s actually Jack’s idea. But I like it.
- Rebuild the pond back to it’s former height without capping installed
- Cut a channel all the way around the top course of block
- Install a piece of angle iron within the entire length of the channel
- Weld the corners of the angle iron so there is an iron connection all the way around the top course of block
- Reinstall liner underlayment, and liner
- Refill the pond, transferring plants and fish as I go
- Install the capping and trim liner
Okay… Time has passed… Any readers of this post that have made it this far have got to be wondering when… if… this ordeal is ever going to end… that is both the ordeal of building this damn pond… AND the ordeal of reading about it… So sorry… it wasn’t supposed to be this way. BUT… this is no time to lose faith… the end is at hand.
They said it couldn’t be done… but at last (on 1/11/15), the pond was finished… of course there are a few things remaining to be done. But it’s been filled up, is holding water and fish are swimming around in it. I think the best way to go about this now is just to wrap this up with pictures.
Now to fill up the pond… gulp!
And they said it couldn’t be done… Mark your calendars… on January 10th, 2015… The pond was essentially completed. I say essentially cuz there’s still stuff to do… e.g. situate the filter, recut a few capping stones… clean everything up… BUT! For now, it’s done. I can pick away at the other stuff over time.
Some photos of the finished product…
And this morning (1/20/15), the new pond survived it’s first earthquake… no damage.
Okay… this endless post is finally complete… Way to hang in there.