1. Have you thought about A Water Feature?
Is it true that a water feature will add equity to my home? What about a swimming pool? Doesn't a pond require a lot of upkeep? What is the average cost? Do I need a building permit? Do I have to have fish? ...we travel a lot! American Society of Landscape Architects, Landscape Architects Identify Trends for 2007: WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --'Sustainable design is bigger than ever and homeowners and commercial building owners alike are looking to utilize outdoor spaces even more. The New Year will bring a number of exciting and creative design solutions from landscape architects. Homeowners are requesting that landscape architects design complete outdoor rooms, such as kitchens and bars, for entertaining. Water features such as koi ponds, waterfalls, and fountains continue to be popular (with no signs of slowing), according to a new survey of leading members of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).' The American Nurseryman Association reports that 'water features are the fastest growing trend in landscaping since 1990 (2007 should break all records.)' Regionally, in-ground pools will add about 5 percent to the value of a home in the Northeast, about 6 percent in the Midwest, and 7.5 percent in the Southeast and West. In the Southwest, a swimming pool will add nearly 11 percent to the home's value. If you add a $35,000 pool to a $300,000 house, you will just barely recover your initial expense. However, you still have the high maintenance cost and you have just limited the future buyers of your home to people who want a pool. Therefore, you have actually reduced the equity in your home. On the other hand, everyone loves a beautiful water feature, young and old! Therefore, increased equity! Swimming pools require constant attention and maintenance. Unlike ponds, pool owners cannot rely on the nitrogen cycle to lend a hand at keeping the water healthy. This can only be accomplished by due diligence and a myriad of chemicals. Unlike a pond, the enjoyment of a pool comes from its use; and for most regions of the country, the climate dictates a very short period of time for pool use. Unless you heat your pool, then your dumping more money in your pool. A pond requires minimal attention compared to swimming pool. Once a properly constructed pond is established with the right proportion of fish, plants and biological elements, a pond will take care of itself, the rest is enjoyment, year round. You do not need to use a pond as you do a pool, it only need to exist for you to enjoy. 2. What do I do about the safety of my small children or grandchildren? How big should it be? Is this something I can do on my own or do I need professional help building a pond? Unlike a swimming pool, ponds can be child proofed, with very little expense. A swimming pool, however, requires special self-closing gates with special latches. Another required code requirement is 95-decibel alarms on all exit doors leading to the back yard. And for your added peace of mind, you can install an unsightly, removable, lightweight fence that cost hundreds of dollars. Then you can continually agonize over whether you, or someone else, forgot to close the fence gate. A pond, however, can be filled with large boulders, which can be removed later when the children are grown. Or you can construct a pondless waterfall to begin with. Now you still can enjoy the sight and sound of cascading water without the concerns for safety. An added advantage of a pondless waterfall is that a pondless waterfall costs less to construct and maintain. A pondless waterfall can be added to your front yard, meet all building code requirements, increase curb appeal, and thereby increase the equity and the resale value of your home. The 'size of the water feature' is a relative term. There are many factors that need to be considered. Far more than can be be discussed in the space I have allotted for this article. I will cover it in my next article. A few questions to ask yourself: How big is your yard? Where do you spend the majority of your time? What is your budget? How is the size, shape and topography of your yard related to certain limitations regarding the building codes? Will the existing water table affect your water feature? Does your property currently have adequate drainage? Do you have underground utilities? If so, where are they located? What are the local building codes regarding pond depth? Do you need a building permit, or a licensed contractor? ...just to name a few of the topics covered. Whether you need a professional contractor is another article. What type of access do you have to your property? Do you want large boulders? If so, is there proper clearance for a crane or Bobcat? How do you find a qualified contractor? How do you go about qualifying them? Are they properly licensed? Insured? Bonded? Workmen's compensation? Liability insurance? Hospitalization? References? Background checks and much, much more. Do your homework and proper research prior to commencement, it could save you thousands of dollars. 3.What is the single most important first step in building a water feature? What about equipment? Should I get koi fish and a turtle? Where should I place my pond and waterfall? All these questions can be addressed with two words: Plan & Design! First, decide where you spend most of your leisure activity. ...family room, living room, patio etc. Your waterfall and pond should be in close proximity to that location. Not in the far corner of your property. Sound and visualization are two of the major benefits of a waterfall and pond. These decisions are part of the planning process. Once you decide on these issues, the design process begins. The best way to approach this phase is to consider a digital design. There are companies that can produce an incredible digitally designed, virtual photo of your backyard, by simply providing them with a digital photo of the area you want the water feature located. You may opt to digitally design your own. There are digital design programs that are simple to master on your own for less than a hundred dollars. Just search the web by typing in digitally designed ponds or waterfalls. The type of equipment you should use is dependent upon the size of your pond. Your budget is another factor. If you have a small budget, you're looking at designing a small pond. In addition, look at the available options for construction materials. You can buy a rubber liner kit and install it yourself, or have a rubber-liner-kit-installer-guy install it for you. Bottom line, either way, is there is no guarantee against bucked-toothed critters such as mice, rats, ground squirrels, gophers and ground hogs, from burrowing underneath your expensive rubber liner and chewing a hole in it. Concrete (3500psi) and rebar is the best construction method, and if done correctly, will last for generations. Concrete ponds cost only 10 to 20% more to build than liner ponds. Your pond will require less maintenance if you allow the nitrogen cycle to do all the work. This means you need to do your part by providing the elements needed for the nitrogen cycle to operate. The fish provide the waste which produces nitrates and ammonia. Certain essential bacteria break down the nitrates and ammonia into safe byproducts used by the plants and other organisms. Once this process is started, with the aid of a biological filter and possibly an ultraviolet light, future maintenance is minimal and routine. An above ground, high efficiency pump produces more water flow at half the energy and less initial cost than a sump pump used with liner ponds. The savings in electrical costs alone could easily pay for the additional cost of professional concrete construction in less three years. 4. Where do I find the equipment and construction material I need to complete my project? How do I know what size filter, pump or ultraviolet light I need? If I want to have a concrete pond and waterfall shell, Where do I begin? The internet is the best place to start looking for equipment. Local pond stores are usually higher priced, because of overhead expense. Most of the internet dealers are knowledgeable on sizing pumps, filters and ultraviolet lights to any size pond or waterfall. However, keep in mind, most on line dealers are trying to push pond liners, sump pumps and pond liner-related filters and accessories. Look for energy efficient pumps first, and those dealers will carry concrete pond related products such as bottom drains, pool type skimmers and pressured, back-flushable biological bead filters. Also, Liner dealers sell the cheap mechanical autofill devices, because of a high profit margin. Make sure you invest in a reliable electronic autofill system that is less likely to malfunction such as the levelors and aquafill systems. A stuck float could result in the chlorine poisoning death of all your fish and possibly thousands of dollars in flood damage. If you act as your own project manager, you can get competitive bids from local concrete contractor for pouring your pond and waterfall shell. Also find a stone mason who will build your waterfall using mortar. With liner ponds and waterfalls, the rocks sit on the liner and can easily move when stepped on by adults or children resulting in serious accidents. Trying to save hundreds up front, could possibly cost you thousands down the road. You get what you pay for. Penny wise and [pond] foolish? Happy koi, peace & joy.