After the Hole is Dug...
You have a new customer who wants you to build them a pond for their backyard. You dig out the area, throw in a liner, fill it with water and then it’s a pond, right? Not even close. There’s a lot more to building a pond; in fact, digging the hole is the easiest part.
I want to touch on some basics that too often get overlooked in both instructional materials, as well as in the day-today rush of making a living in today’s economically challenging times.
Although not overly glamorous, I think you will find them extremely informative in a ‘nuts and bolts’ fashion.
One of the things you should do before you even begin to dig, is to determine not only where the pond should be situated, but also where you intend to put the filters and pumps, along with the rest of it. After the hole is dug, you’re ready to install the pipes, wires, valves, etc.
While you were digging that hole, was there a low side that needed to be brought up to level? If there was (and there usually is), then by prepositioning your pipe before excavation, you can cover it with fill dirt rather than going back and digging a trench. Why move the same dirt three times?
I almost always set skimmers and any waterfall units prior to liner installation. Many times, the first hole dug is for the skimmer. Then most, if not all, of the plumbing can be laid out, and then the hole dug.
While we’re at it, what type of primer and glue have you been using? A polyvinyl chloride (PVC)) cleaner is not a primer. A primer needs to be applied to prepare the two parts of PVC that are about to be “chemically welded” together. Neglecting this step is a gamble that is unjustified, in my opinion.
First, prime both pipe and fitting, then use an appropriate glue on the male part of the union. By putting the glue on the male side, any extra is left on the outside of the fitting. If you put the glue in the female side of the joint, any extra glue will be pushed into the fitting, most times creating an obstruction of sorts that can cause you problems long term. By appropriate glue, I mean one chemically ‘hot’ enough. Regular PVC glue may not be the best choice for gluing flexible PVC pipe, even to conventional Schedule 40 fittings.
So-called flexible PVC pipe is really vinyl pipe with PVC Slinky-like coil embedded within it. So you’re really not gluing PVC to PVC. You’re gluing vinyl to PVC, and that requires a ‘hotter’ chemical mix to get them to ‘melt’ together successfully. I’ve been using 721 blue glue for this mix for over 20 years with good results. There are other, even ‘hotter’ glues out there that will work as well. Just remember, the hotter the glue, the less working time you will have to get everything lined up right before it sets up. Also, using a hot glue on lighter pipe, such as Schedule 200 or CPVC, may very well melt it beyond a usable state.
I want to emphasize one point when buying and using flexible PVC pipe. Just remember that all flexible PVC is not the same. I’ve received both under and oversized pipe on more than one occasion. It is frustrating as all get-out to put in a piece of flex and have it literally fall out of the fitting because it is undersized. No amount of glue will fill the gap, either. I’ve tried— on more than one occasion—in frustration, only to have them leak. Trust me, you’re not saving money buying a cheaper product. It’s going to cost you much more in the long run to not buy the ‘good stuff’ the first go around. To ensure a quality product that will work for you every time, make sure you buy from a reputable supplier of an American-manufactured product.
The last thing I’ll talk about today is silicone and using it to get proper seals on your standard water garden equipment. Silicone can be used in lieu of Teflon tape, but only if you’re willing to let it set for a few hours minimum before start up. Also, silicone cannot handle much pressure without failing. So, if you understand silicone's limitations, it can be a very useful tool.
For using silicone around the sealing areas of plastic water garden equipment, I use 100 percent pure silicone that is clear. I make a bead about a quarter of an inch or slightly wider and just as thick. I start out making a circle around each bolt hole and then connecting them with a straight line bead, looking like an unbroken necklace of flat Cheerios connected with a thick string.
I have never had a leak using this method, so I am highly confident in recommending it to you; just use care in positioning the liner at the seal points. If it slips or smears the silicone too much, pull the liner back off, reapply the silicone, and get ir right. Once all the plumbing is in place, you're ready to fill the pond.
So, where do we get the water to fill the pond? It could be from your own well, or maybe you recaptured rainwater, but more than likely, it will come from the municipal water district. If it’s well water, it should be tested at least once for many things, primarily gases.
It’s good to know what the DO (dissolved oxygen) and pH are. Some well water has toxic levels of gases that won’t necessarily affect us, but will be lethal to fish or aquatic life. If there is little or no DO you can still have fresh, pristine looking water in your pond that is lethal to fish unless it is first agitated and aerated back to a life supporting level of DO.
Rainwater may be contaminated with many different chemicals, depending on where it came from. A parking lot will almost always have oil and antifreeze spills, drips or puddles that will be rinsed off during a rain event. These and other contaminants can usually be removed by running the water through a bioremediation zone of different plant types, such as a bog filter.
Now that the pond is filling with water, you can take a moment and look back at what you’ve created. It’s nice to know that not only do you have a satisfied client, but you know you’ve done the job right. You’ll never regret all the callbacks you won’t have to make by doing it right the first time.
Hope you found something here to help you in your business. Have a profitable year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dave Jones is the owner of The Pond Professional.