The thing about creating a landscape, pond, or water feature is that there really are no set “rules” when it comes to many aspects of the industry; combine this with the fact that practically anybody in Colorado can grab a shovel and wheelbarrow and call themselves a landscaper, and you have a recipe for some “creative” installations. These projects might look great and work perfectly once they’re finished, and maybe even for a few years afterwards as well. However, just as most people are not car mechanics, many consumers have no idea what to look for when looking “under the hood” of a pond or water feature and can be left with what can only be described as a clunker.
The number one offender that falls into this category is the concrete pond. Built by contractors and construction crews that mean well, concrete ponds are numerous and varied. It could be that the person or company that built the pond didn’t know how to keep the rocks in the waterfalls together, so they only concreted those areas; in other times, it might be that the contractor just wanted to protect the liner from puncture so they poured concrete over everything. There are even some times where contractors fail to install a liner underneath entirely, not knowing that concrete is porous and doesn’t hold water by itself! We have certainly seen some concrete ponds that were beautifully constructed, and they may last for quite a while before they have a problem, but inevitably they all succumb to the same fate – a leak.
A leak can happen in a pond or water feature in a variety of ways. The most common leak is simply when the liner at the edge of the pond slips or slides down due to settling (this is usually an easy fix). Another common cause of leaks occurs when old bolts rust out in areas where the water flows past (like a skimmer or a biofalls lip) and the bolts need to be replaced. Less common but more problematic leaks are caused by rodents chewing holes in the liner. In recent years, Denver has experienced an increase in vole activity during the winter; this directly affects ponds and water features, as (for some unknown reason) voles and pack rats love to use pond liner as nesting material! Rarer still but even more confounding are leaks due to random punctures. These may be caused by any number of things ranging from friction on liner sandwiched between two rocks to a bird pecking a small, random hole in the liner. While uncommon, these holes are the trickiest to find and fix as they are often only a quarter of an inch large or smaller in size. Nevertheless, we can fix leaks of practically any cause – unless there’s concrete involved.
When a leak occurs in a concrete pond, all of our leak detecting methods are useless. If the leak is hidden underneath concrete, the most we can do is find a general area under where we think it might be, and even then we could be wrong! Assuming we had a magic wand and knew where under the concrete is, the second problem rears its ugly head – how do you get to the leak to fix it? If the concrete is any more than half an inch thick, it would take a miracle to break it out without puncturing the liner. In reality, a jackhammer is required to remove concrete in ponds; because of how a jackhammer works, you would put about 20 more holes into one small area of the liner just trying to find the one hole causing a leak!
At BR&D Landscape, we’re not interested in creating problems, but rather solving them. We don’t use concrete when we build our ponds and water features for the same reason that we employ the Aquascape construction method: the simpler things are, the easier they are to repair. Unfortunately, I have spoken with far too many customers who experience the dilemma of the concrete pond leak and the only real solution is to rebuild the feature. Rest assured, however, that we will rebuild the pond to look even better than when it was first built.