The pond liner track record speaks for itself:
More than 37% of all waterfalls have serious structural damage within 3 years of construction.
57% of homeowners say they are rather unsatisfied with the way their waterfall came out after the project was completed.
One in three waterfalls and ponds are leaking water within nine months of completion.
63% of “do-it-yourselfers” say they wished they had the proper information from the “get go” or that they had hired someone.
These statistics are from the pond liner industry itself (Bob Wilder, 48-Hour Waterfall). I can confirm and attest to these figures myself. (Doug Hoover, WaterFalls Naturally) I have built over 2000 concrete and rebar waterfalls and ponds over the past 28 years. I have ripped out and replaced dozens of defective liner ponds and replaced them with concrete ones with lifetime warranties. One of my most recent was a project in Rancho Sants Fe (pictures above). These folks paid a line pond contractor $355,000.00 for a pond and waterfall, only to have it leak like a seive in less than 6 months. The line guy came out to inspect and discovered ground squirrils ans rats had burrowed under the liner and chewed holes in it. He proceeded to explain that the 30 year warrenty covered factory defects only, not damage by rocks, sharp objects or animals. These folks hired another rubber liner company ($75,000.00) to come out and fix the leaks. All they did was paint the base of all the rocks in the falls with thoroseal concrete sealer. Since there was no concrete foundation and all the rocks and boulders were sitting on the liner, they all settled and the liner ended up leaking even worse. Now they have $430,000.00 invested in a leaky liner pond and waterfall.
They finally called a professional. I proposed to remove all the boulders and rocks, rip out the liner and construct it in 4500psi shotcrete and rebar w/expansion joints for $225,000.00 building the entire thing twice as big and replacing the single 2hp pump with 5- 3hp “Whisper Flow” pumps. Oh, did I mention I threw in an AquaFill autofill water level control system?
Pond liner guys will not attach more than a one-year warranty. They make no guarantee against rats, mice, ground squirrels, gophers, tree roots and sharp objects in their contracts or warn them in writing or verbally.
Let’s compare apples to lemons … First, let’s talk about apples (concrete waterfalls). We will construct a pondless waterfall that is 20 inches wide at the top by 20 feet long, becoming 24 inches wide at the bottom, to create a spillway 3 feet tall. At the bottom is a catch basin 4 ft. x 6 ft. x 3 ft. deep. The costs of excavation are as follows:
To dig a waterfall and basin takes two men 4 hours @ $20 per hour = $160.
The flexible PVC pipe is 35 ft. @ $1.25 per ft. = $44.
Concrete (3500 psi with stealth fiber)): 2 ½ yards = $250.
20 pieces of 20 ft. x 3/8 inch rebar = $100.
One 1/3 HP high efficiency pump, 2800 GPH, 356 watts = $429.
One anti-vortex drain = $10.
Four 2 x 4 ft. heavy plastic corrugated or galvanized plans to cover the collection basin = $35.
Setting the rebar: 3 man-hrs. = $225.
Pumping and finishing 2 ½ yards of concrete: 4 man-hrs. @ $75/hr. = $300.
Applying thoro-seal, 1 sack + 1 hour = $43.
Rock work + 8 sacks mortar mix: labor – 8 man-hrs. @ $75/hr. = $600.
Mortar: $40. AquaFill electronic water levelling system: $106
TOTAL EXCAVATION COST FOR A CONCRETE POND = $2,236.
With this type of construction, no filter is needed. The water in the basin is not exposed to sunlight, so there are no algae. Plus the top layer of rock and the planks are easily removed for cleaning out debris about once a year. If a plastic screen is placed over the planks before the rock layer, cleaning is reduced by 90%.
Now let’s talk about the lemons (the liner folks). The pondless waterfall liner kit advertised by all the disciples of the “liner messiah” on their websites is $1,940 + tax & shipping, or $2,176.
And now for the math: One concrete/rebar construction pondless waterfall completed with high-efficiency pump = $2,236. One pondless liner kit to build a pondless waterfall of the exact same dimensions = $2,176. If I did the math correctly, the completed concrete pondless waterfall costs $60 more than the pondless waterfall liner kit; however, it is still in the box!
Concrete and rebar pondless waterfall has a lifetime warranty. Liner pondless waterfall: 1 yr. warranty on labor, lifetime warranty against factory defect. But there is no warranty whatsoever against holes caused by rats, mice, ground squirrels, gophers, tree roots, sharp objects, etc. Sorry Charlie!
Concrete and rebar pondless waterfalls use a high-efficiency above-ground pump that is easy to service (it has a 3 yr. warranty). The 1/3 HP pump is small, very quiet, and easily hidden behind a couple of rocks or plants next to the falls, or piped to another part of the yard. The liner pondless waterfall uses a submersible sump pump that is placed in the bottom of the basin, and then buried with hundreds of pounds of rocks. To service this pump (only a 2 ½ yr. warranty), all the slimy, stinky rocks have to be removed from the basin first.
The concrete and rebar pondless waterfall “Sequence” pump produces 5,800 gallons per hour at only 356 watts (retail $429). The liner pondless waterfall kit comes with a sump pump (they advertise as “the best pump on the market”). It produces 5,700 gal/hour (100 gal. less) at a whopping 911 watts of power (over twice that of the above-ground pump). You will pay $525 more per year for electricity (at $.12/kwh) for that extra 555 watts. Their pump costs $600 retail ($171 more than the above-ground). Oh, did I mention “the best warranty in the industry” is only 2 ½ years, compared to 3 years for the “Sequence” above-ground?
The concrete and rebar pondless waterfall’s rocks are all mortared in place. So anyone, especially small children, can climb on the rocks without them moving, with possible serious injury resulting. With liner pondless waterfalls, rocks will move and shift on their own without help. After a few months, the ugly liner is exposed in the falls and around the pond.
While building the concrete pondless waterfall, design liberties can be taken, such as altering the length, width or shape of the feature. With a liner pondless waterfall, the parameters have already been set by the manufacturer of the kit.
The concrete pondless waterfall can utilize the large, open basin to install an Aquafill automatic water leveling device. The AquaFill water leveller senses the drop in water from splattering and evaporation and automatically adds water by means of a 24volt transformer and solenoid that also shuts off automatically when the proper level is reached. In addition, the basin can be made smaller because the space for water is not taken up by rocks as it is in the liner pondless waterfall basin. The only rock that exists is on top of the galvanized or plastic plank cover.
Wow! Concrete waterfalls are stationary, permanent, lifetime life-expectancy, cheaper to build, cheaper to operate, easier to clean, easy to maintain, longer pump warranty, safer and more natural looking! Apples or lemons? You be the judge!
I am sick and tired of these amateurs giving my life-long profession a bad name by their exaggerated, dishonest and sensational claims – only to be backed up by a nebulous warranty and, at best, shoddy workmanship. My disclaimer: There are professionals installing liners that do take measures to prevent rodent or root attacks by placing a think layer of mortar under and over the liner. I found that if you are going to go to all that extra work and expense, just build it with 3500 psi concrete to begin with! Thank God there are still people with integrety in this business.
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