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Pond falling apart! Advice needed.

Discussion in 'Water Features' started by thebobcatkid86, Mar 22, 2007.

  1. thebobcatkid86

    thebobcatkid86 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 100

    I come to you as a fellow landscaper looking for advice. I have read several books on the subject of aquaculture however my practical experience is slim. When my family moved into our current house we also inherited a fully established pond, fully landscaped and it looked to be in fairly decent shape. Over the last roughly 3 years however it has become evident that some things were not done correctly. That coupled with the destructive digging force that is a Jack Russell Terrier looking for chipmunks has rendered it to the condition that you’ll see in the following pictures.
    At one time the intent had been, or so I was told by the former owners of the house who were the ones who installed it that the original idea was for the pond was for there to be a ‘bubbling spring’ at the far end of the streambed. In any case that explains the electrical connection at the head of the stream.
    As you can see it is made of flexible Butyl liner which happens to be in excellent condition. No known punctures or tears thank god.
    In the main pond you will see that the method used to secure the sidewalls involves the liner being folded over some sort of rigid plastic sheet and then backfilled with poured concrete. I don’t know if this is a common practice for securing flexible liners but I have never seen it in any of the books that I’ve read, so I can only assume it was another half-assed idea that the former owners invented. In any case as you can see the concrete is cracked and the plastic that is under the butyl has begun to cave in as well. The stream portion of the pond is secured in a different way. They simply cut the butyl so that in several places it forms tabs and then heavy pieces of sandstone were placed on these tabs. Which would seem to make all kinds of sense except that the stones on the tabs are on a slope, enough of a slope that when our Jack Russell goes digging for the chipmunks that live under the streambed, she causes the stones to fall into the river which in turn causes the wall to fall and the level of the pond drops anywhere from 2 - 4 inches. Another contributing factor to this is that as you can see the walls of the stream are quite steep. The soft loamy soil has begun to compress and therefore press on the butyl causing it to buckle. My next problem is that this is a fully established landscape. Much of the area where you see bare dirt will in another month or so be filled with several varieties of large, well established hostas, amongst other perennials.
    So my questions to you are this: What should I do? Remove some of the plants alongside the streambed so that the angle can be lowered so that the rocks can’t fall in? Should I try to remove the concrete and reset the main pond liner? Do you think I should reset the entire liner? I am simply looking for some semi-professional advice as to what *I* can do to try and save it? I don’t have much of a budget at this point to work on it. I and my family like it very much. I would like to restore it if at all possible. It is a nice feature to have in the yard.
    Also, what should I do about the fish and frogs? There are three 6-inch goldfish that my sister has become very attached too. Should I buy a cheep plastic kids pool or a small shell liner to put them in? Is that even a good idea? They are used to the pond that they’re in and I don’t know if putting them in a smaller unit might shock them somehow and cause them to croak. Also there are numerous frogs which I would like to disturb as little as possible.



    stream 2.JPG

    collapsed stream wall.JPG

    buckling stream wall.JPG
  2. thebobcatkid86

    thebobcatkid86 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 100

    More Photos

    sliding rocks.JPG


    concrete problems.JPG
  3. BSDeality

    BSDeality LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,850

    Looks like you've got quite a project on your hands there. You can try to patch it back together, but I suspect that you will be wasting your time. I came across a poorly constructed pond last year. We tried to fix what was there first, but it was a losing battle. We ended up ripping it up 100%, reshaping the bottom and doing the construction the correct way (no cement, no sand, no fishbowl sides). There is a thread about it. Perhaps search my name for it.
  4. thebobcatkid86

    thebobcatkid86 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 100

    Thats what I was afraid of. I guess I just needed to hear someone in the biz say it. Believe me, Ive tried fixing and patching and Im sick of it. I would love to do it over I just want to do it *right* this time. I am not afraid of hard work. Do you think the liner is salvageable? BTW I read your thread, very nice work.
  5. BSDeality

    BSDeality LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,850

    Also, if you wait a few weeks for the plants to come up you can dig them up and move them into containers temporarily. We had to do that with the rebuild. Then you can plant them back after all is said and done. The liner may be salvageable. if you pull it up and it is stiff (not from cold weather) I would replace it. If it still is fairly flexible I would put it back in. This means you cannot over dig the existing hole, so it may limit your options for improving it. Liner is fairly cheap. You can pick up a roll or have a section cut to fit from a supplier. If in doubt replace it, you don't want to do all that work and then find out you have a tear because the liner was brittle. you'll then have to pull all the rocks out again and repeat all your work.

    good luck, I look forward to more pictures if you reconstruct it.
  6. thebobcatkid86

    thebobcatkid86 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 100

    Thanks. I tried to reset the liner where it had collapsed at the side of the streambed. It seemed rather flexible, almost like new. I will probably try to salvage it. I plan to get rid of the concrete and plastic and create a slope by filling in around the sides of the main pond on an angle. Also I plan to cut the sides of the streambed down to create a shallower angle to increase the stability of the liner being held by the stones. I know that sand is bad and after doing some poking around I think that a sand finish grade may be the culprit. It is so mixed with the soil its hard to tell. What would you suggest to replace the sand when I redo it? Packed earth? Packed clay? The top 10 - 12 inches or so in the garden surrounding it is very loamy high grade topsoil due to the former owners vigorous application of compost and manure. However the soil here is naturally sandy. Is there anything that I could or should do to stabilize the soil besides use a different base material to finish the grade?
  7. BSDeality

    BSDeality LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,850

    Sounds like the liner may still be good then. You don't want to have angles for sides, ideally you want to have steps, like a staircase so that you can stack stones and make little retaining wall-like shelves. The shelves will allow you to walk into the pond to clean it out, and also have a place to plant. For the streambed you want to do the same thing, vertical walls with stones. The pond we re-did had a lot of sand at the bottom (where it all settled). We ended up wheelbarrowing it off to the side of the property. You don't have to remove 100% of it, but just the bulk of it. Then work the sand into the other soil. As long as its not 100% sand it should hold shape with other soils. As soon as you finish excavation and making the shelves, lay the liner, make sure it still fits! and then re-rock it and fill it with water. The water will help hold the shape of the pond too.

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