Repairing a Leaky Water Feature—part one, Taking it Apart

A very nice fountain--but it leaks

A very nice fountain–but it leaks

I built this water feature for a client quite a number of years ago. I don’t remember if the fountain or the bridge came first but it ended up being a waterfall with a creek under the bridge pouring into a small pond on the other side. The plastic liner in the system started leaking a bit here and there a couple of years ago and I have patched it over and over. This year, we decided that we just needed to change the liner. This article and part two which will follow next week should serve to show you not only how a pond liner is replaced, but also give you a good idea of how it is built in the first place.

To begin with, I drained the fountain and let it dry out. This picture is of the top pool where the water pours in and then cascades to the “creek bed.”

The upper side of the fountain ready to take apart

The upper side of the fountain ready to take apart

After entering the top of the fountain, the water pours over a flat rock, down into a creek bed and then goes under the bridge to a pool on the other side.

The bottom pool holds the pump for recirculation

The bottom pool holds the pump for recirculation

We begin by cleaning out the lower pool. We look for any rocks, sticks, or other high points that will possibly poke a hole in the new liner. I will leave the old liner in the pool to serve as a buffer pad for the new one.

Cleaning out the lower pool of the fountain

Cleaning out the lower pool of the fountain

The rocks are stacked neatly to the side, out of the way of the work area.

fountain rocks set to the side

fountain rocks set to the side

The product was not available when I first built the pool, but this time I will use a Firestone rubber material that is rather thick (40 mil) and very resilient. It is guaranteed for 20 years and if it does, indeed, last that long, I shouldn’t have to fool with it again unless I feel like working on a waterfall when I am 87. We have to measure carefully for the needed dimensions of the liner. It is expensive and I don’t mind having a bit too much, but if I buy too little, it will be totally wasted. We first measure across the pond in two directions.

Measure carefully to determine liner size for water feature

Measure carefully to determine liner size for water feature

After measuring for width and length of the liner, we measure the sides and add them into the calculations. This will give us an overall dimension. I will use two pieces of rubber for the project—one to cover the bottom and sides and another to go from the top of the feature, down through the creek, and then to lap over the bottom piece. One must be very careful with a lap to insure that the water doesn’t escape around it so we will extend the lap into the bottom of the pool making sure that the sides of the lap are higher than the water level.

Measure the sides and add to the overall dimensions for the fountain liner

Measure the sides and add to the overall dimensions for the fountain liner

This is a float valve that was installed to keep the water level to the desired limits. To install the float valve I have modified the hook up of a horse trough filler that I purchased at the local Tractor Supply.

float valve installed to maintain water level in the fountain

float valve installed to maintain water level in the fountain

We have carefully taken the top part of the fountain apart. I will have to adjust and level the concrete blocks which hold the liner above the water line and also give a base for decorative rocks to cover the liner.

Under structure of the fountain

Under structure of the fountain

Now it is time to go shopping. Even though there are modern alternatives, I eschew them and use cement instead. When we put the fall rocks back together, we will mortar the joints to insure that water will only go over the desired rocks and not under or beside them. I have tried pre mixed mortar formulations but I have found that they don’t hold up as well as I would like. Over many years of building projects like this, I have found that I get much better results using Portland cement and adding sand. It is more trouble but worth it in the long run. Here it is on the rack at Lowe’s. Brand name doesn’t matter, just make sure that you are purchasing Portland cement and not a mix.

Portland cement mixed with sand is more durable than ready mixes

Portland cement mixed with sand is more durable than ready mixes

The project is not big enough to order a load of sand, so I will purchase a bagged all purpose sand. The formula for mixing thePortlandis 9 large shovels of sand to a half a bag of cement. We worked on it and figured that we would use two-50 lb bags of sand to a half a bag ofPortland.

all purpose sand to mix with Portland cement. Two bags sand to 1/2 bag of cement

all purpose sand to mix with Portland cement. Two bags sand to 1/2 bag of cement

My next shopping stop was at Willow Creek Nursery which is way on the other side of town. Willow Creek carries large rolls of pond liner in several widths. They will cut the liner to my specifications. This is where I must be careful. The guys at the nursery will only make one cut, and once it’s cut, it’s bought. If I make a mistake it will be costly—and I never have been good at numbers. I checked all of the widths, 10’, 15’, 20’ and 24’. I had to think about it a bit, but then I sketched out a diagram and decided that a piece of the 24 foot liner would be my most cost effective choice.

Figuring out the best size for the liner for your water feature

Figuring out the best size for the liner for your water feature

The guys at the nursery measured carefully and then measured both sides to make sure they were getting a square cut. The liner was mine.

purchasing water feature liner at the nursery

purchasing water feature liner at the nursery

We took the large piece of liner to the jobsite and laid it out in the parking area, measured carefully, and cut off an 8X12 piece for the top fall, leaving just the right amount to cover the bottom pool.

carefully cutting the pond liner

carefully cutting the pond liner–One piece for the pond and one for the waterfall

Next week I will have an account of the re-building of the water feature. In the meantime I will be working on pictures and ideas to continue my series on shade gardens

And a Word from Our Sponsor:

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

If you want a consultation in your yard in N.W. Georgia, send me an email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Repairing a leaky water feature—Part two, putting it back together « johntheplantman's Landscaping Ideas from a Veteran Gardener
  2. pondcoating
    Feb 02, 2017 @ 01:32:27

    Greatest post I have seen superb buddy! You may use Pondpro2000 rubber waterproofing material that painted directly to the inside of your pond, adheres to the base material and then hardens to create a 100% permanent waterproof barrier.

    Reply

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