Building and calculating an upflow bog with EcoBlox

We recently received a question on a previous blog: BOG FILTRATION, THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT TO BIOLOGICAL FILTERS. The question was:

Do you have any additional information about building and calculating an upflow bog with EcoBlox, like shown in the graphic at the end of this blog post? You already talked a bit about the surface area of the bog compared to the pond but what about the depth and the number of blocks stacked on each other for example? 
I want to build a 15′ x 13′ pond with 3000 gallons and 9′ stream. Pond will be filled with stones and gravel, some plants and 20 goldfish (around 8″). How many blocks do I need and how do I arrange them for a fitting surface area of the filter? Do you have any recommended product to be used as tube under the blocks? Or do I have to build one myself? If so, do you have any instructions to do this?

Great question O Noble Ponderer!

Bogs are sized by surface area. 10% of the area of the pond in bog area is sufficient to consume all the nitrates a goldfish pond is likely to produce. At the other end of the scale are Koi, which need three times as much area, 30%, planted to bogs.

With 205 square feet of pond, 20 square feet of planted gravel will be sufficient. You have a 9’ stream, which simplifies matters greatly. What I would do is set one or two Eco-Blox at the top of the stream, on the existing grade on top of the stream liner. I would install two 2” or 3” flanges or bulkhead fittings on either side of the chamber thus created, down low so water enters and exits the Eco-Blox near the bottom of the block. On one side I’d attach the pipe from the pump, on the other a drain valve. Take a look at the sketch.

Water comes from the skimmer into the Eco-Blox on one side, flows up and out through a 4-6” layer of ¾-1” gravel on top planted to various low grasses or other aquatic plants, which are also planted in the gravel of the stream. The Eco-Blox under the gravel acts as a settling chamber. The outlet on the side opposite the inlet is valved. The valve is buried near the flange or bulkhead fitting, attached to a piece of pipe out to daylight somewhere.

I usually just set an 18” length of 4” pipe vertically over the valve so the handle can be accessed periodically to drain out the muck which will accumulate in the chamber. If I can’t reach the valve with my hand, I’ll slot the end of a pipe to create a wrench to turn the handle. This is necessary usually only once or twice a year.

You’ll have a great little active bog filter that uses the top of Eco-Blox chamber plus the stream to provide the necessary area for plantings. Plus a built-in settling chamber that will remove much of the suspended organic debris constantly and automatically. You may also consider adding a bottom drain to the skimmer, to pick up the rest of the debris. But that’s the subject of another post.

The Atlantic Eco-Rise System

Bubbling Basalt Columns and overflowing vases set on buried Fountain Basins are attractive, easy and profitable add-ons for the irrigator, landscaper or hardscaper. These water features are especially popular with contractors who only occasionally venture into water (so to speak) because they are simple to build, easy to maintain and rarely require call-backs. As a bonus, the successful completion of one project usually leads to another, as friends, visitors and neighbors ask about the fountain and decide to put one in for their own enjoyment. But what happens when the next job requires a boulder too big for the basin? A vase too vast? A mountain of a fountain?

The “Old” Way

In the old days, BA (Before Atlantic), installing a one-ton fountain piece, like a 36″ granite sphere, was a month-long project. The contractor would design a concrete basin large enough to catch splash and strong enough to handle the load. Waterproofing would depend on climate. In the north, the design would have to deal with freeze/thaw cycles and excavating below the frost line. After digging to the proper depth and tamping the bottom, the plumbing would need to be set, with no room for error, as it would literally be set in stone. Then the concrete trucks would arrive. After the four-week curing period (ouch!), the sphere could be carefully lifted by machine, plumbed in the air, then lowered into place, hopefully without crushing the plumbing.

The “New” Way

The Atlantic Eco-Rise System allows two men with two wheelbarrows to complete a two-thousand-pound granite sphere fountain install – in two days. Like most good systems, it’s simple, with only three structural components, plus liner, pump and plumbing. Instead of formed and poured concrete down to the frost line, the reservoir is just a rubber-lined hole a single layer of Eco-Blox deep. The Eco-Blox may look like milk crates, but the similarity ends there. Our Blox come disassembled, lock solidly together and support 7 tons of distributed load without crushing.

The Eco-Rise is a load distributor that supports the sphere, and much more. Rated at three thousand pounds, the Eco-Rise spreads the weight of the stone across the tops of the Eco-Box while protecting the plumbing. Install the pipe into the sphere, roll it onto the Eco-Rise on the Eco-Blox. With the flex pipe in place, the sphere can easily be moved and adjusted by hand, without a machine!

The third component, the PV1700 Pump Vault, houses and protects the pump. Hook the pipe to the pump in the Vault, and you can adjust the sphere, by hand, even while running. Then, cover  the Eco-Blox with two wheelbarrows of gravel and go home early.

Atlantic. We’ve got you covered.

Mining Completed Projects for New Business

One of the easiest ways to create new business is to prospect for new work in your existing customer base. For landscapers, hardscapers and poolscapers, getting a past customer to contract a new project can be very profitable, and there are other advantages. For example, this is one of the rare times the contractor gets to pick the client, instead of the other way around.

I go through my customer base and choose past clients who are easy to work with, can afford a new project, and would be interested in what I have to offer. If I choose wisely, my client benefits as well. He or she knows me and my work (and my boys and my dog) and trusts me to do the right job for the right price, no “new contractor blues”, no surprises. The key, then, is to find an attractive and desirable project that has a high perceived value and a high potential for profit, with little risk and minimal disruption to existing infrastructure.

Adding Water to the Hardscape, Landscape or Poolscape

According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, who poll their members every year to determine market trends, Water Features consistently make their ‘Top Ten’ desired enhancements list year after year, although the type of water feature may vary from year to year. Currently, Hardscape water features are very popular, and that puts all those customers squarely in our sights.

Atlantic Formal Spillways Hit the Bullseye

Many contractors already know that Atlantic’s Formal Spillways offer great visual impact, ease of installation and plenty of margin. What most do not know (yet) is that the Wall Spouts, Spillways and Colorfalls, and the Basins that complement them, were specifically designed not just for new work, but to upgrade pre-existing walls as well. Stainless Steel Spillways are exactly 4” tall by 12”, 24” or 36” long, to replace an even number of engineered wallstone. Colorfalls illuminated sheer descents drop into a simple-to-cut profile just under the cap of the wall. Solid brass Wall Spouts install from the front, threading directly onto 1-1/2” MIPT schedule 40 fittings.

Retrofitting – Easy Installation by Design

Choose the Spillway, Colorfalls or Wall Spout(s) and the appropriate Basin Kit, which contains everything needed for the installation – except the water ?. Determine where the feature will be located, and whether you want the Basin snugged up against the wall sitting at grade level or completely concealed underground. Compact the soil under the basin, then figure out how to pass the included 1-1/2” flexible PVC either under or through the vertical wall. Depending on the depth and the wall construction, a 2” hole may need to be drilled. Plumb the pipe to the Basin using the included fittings and install the pump in the Basin.

Remove the top course or cap directly above the basin, wide enough for your Spillway or Colorfalls, or drill a 2” hole for each Spout. Install the spillway or Spouts following the instructions and replace the cap, caulking rather than cementing or gluing the stones above the spillway to provide access for future maintenance. Fill up and plug in. If the Basin is set at grade in front of the wall, hide it with a 16″ high wall of the same or contrasting stone.

Get Paid

The time these features take varies by size and complexity, with the most complicated installs requiring excavation behind the wall to pass the tubing and perhaps core drilling two or three 2″ holes for Wall Spouts, but they usually take a day or less for a two man crew regardless. The outlay costs are modest. Even the large 36” Colorfalls or Spillway with the 36” Basin Kit runs less than $1800 MSRP (I assume you know your multiplier) plus 1.5-2 man days.

With the going rate at around $4000-$5000 for the completed project in most markets, electrical service not included, this is a moneymaker. If you chose wisely, there will be no question about how or when you get paid, just smiling faces all around. Not a bad day’s work, all things considered, especially off-season. And we’ve haven’t even begun to talk Lighting, the other great add-on – that’s for next time. Meanwhile, get out there and start mining!

 

How to Calculate Total Dynamic Head

Finding the right pump for a water feature can be a challenge, and the stakes are high. The right pump, delivering the right flow at the right head height, while at its Best Efficiency Range, will last and last. Specifying the wrong pump or plumbing can damage the pump, increase operating costs, shorten pump life and lead to pump failure, perhaps even a fish kill if the water feature happens to be a fish pond.

In order to properly size the pump for any water feature, you’ll need to know both components of the work it has to do, the flow and the pressure. The flow is the volume of water it can push in a given time, measured in gallons per hour (GPH). The pressure is the force required to push that flow through plumbing and up to the top of the water feature. We measure pressure in ‘feet of Head”, because it’s easy to visualize. A waterfall four feet high requires the flow be delivered at 4 feet of “Vertical Head”, plus the extra work required to push that flow through the plumbing, the “Friction Head”. The total pressure required is the “Total Dynamic Head” (TDH) of your water feature. Once you know the GPH and the TDH, you can plug them into the Comprehensive Pump Chart (Chart C) to find the right pump.

Follow the steps below to calculate TDH and find the perfect pump for your water feature.

Find the GPH needed to achieve the look you want

determine friction loss

FIND TUBING SIZE & FRICTION

Find the dark blue cell in the row that corresponds with the Recommended Flow (GPH) in the chart below. The column indicates the recommended tubing size and the number in the cell is the Friction Loss in every foot of tubing. Keep Friction Loss low for greatest flow.

To find the Friction Loss of existing systems, estimate the flow through the actual tubing size used.

Chart A


ADD FRICTION IN FITTINGS

Add the equivalent lengths of all the fittings in the system from the chart below.

CALCULATE FRICTION HEAD

Multiply the Equivalent Tubing Length in feet by the Friction Loss in the dark blue cell from CHART A to find the Friction Head of the system.

FIND THE TOTAL DYNAMIC HEAD

Add the Friction Head in Feet to the Vertical Head of the system. Vertical Head is the height in feet from the surface of the water the pump will be TDH sitting in, to the highest point the water is pumped to.

CHOOSE YOUR TIDALWAVE PUMP

Find the TDH at the top of CHART C, then find the pumps below that provide at least the Recommended Flow. Grey colored cells indicate that the TDH is outside the pump’s operating range and the pump will likely not last in this application. The light blue cells indicate the pump is operating within its operating range. Dark blue means the TDH is in the pump’s Best Efficiency Range, where the pump will run best and longest. If the chart gives you a choice of more than one pump, check for the type that best fits your application from the list below, then check for the lowest wattage, to save on operating costs.

  • For Low Head, Low Volume applications, use Magnetic Drive Pumps (MD Series)
  • For Low Head, Very High Volume applications, use Axial Pumps (L-Series) with 3″ or larger tubing
  • For Medium Head, Medium Volume, use Asynchronous Pumps (TT-Series)
  • For High Head, High Volume Applications, use Direct Drive Pumps (A-Series)
  • For Solids and Dirty Water applications, use Direct Drive Solids Handling Pumps (PAF and SH-Series)

Chart C

To learn more on how to Calculate Total Dynamic Head, watch the How-To video on our YouTube channel, AWGtv.

Tools That Don’t Suck – Wiss W10TM Scissors

As water feature installers, my sons and I are used to hard, dirty, sometimes dangerous work. We enjoy what we do, whether it’s digging ponds, plumbing pumps, rolling boulders or tweaking waterfalls, but we also value anything that helps make the work easier or more fun. We’re always looking for tools, apps or gadgets that save time & effort, eliminate stress, add to our comfort on the job or are just fun to use. Often a buddy will turn us on to one. I’d like to return the favor by passing our favorite Tools That Don’t Suck along to you.

Making the Cut

Construction Scissors – No, not the kind I use for construction paper when playing with my grandkids. These are exactly the opposite. I use razor sharp, heavy duty Wiss W10TM scissors nowadays when we’re building water features. It took some convincing to make me understand how useful they could be. Once again, I learned from my boys.

We were at a job a couple of years ago when I noticed one of my sons, Edwin or Ely, trimming liner at a job using these scissors. (I don’t remember which. They both had long hair back then, it was hard to tell the difference. ?) They told me that Koi Market’s Shawn Rosen had turned them on to them. As I’ve mentioned before, Shawn has a good eye for tools, and koi, of course. I was initially skeptical. I’m a blade guy at heart. Plus, I couldn’t help but remember how hard it was to cut liner with the old pair of tin shears I keep in my bucket for emergencies.

Wiss W10TM Scissors

These were a totally different story. With a little practice and the right amount of tension on the sheet you can just glide the partly open scissors through liner and underlayment as fast as you can move your arm. They’re way faster than a cordless cutter or even a razor knife on clean liner. And they don’t just work on liner. We’ve used these to open just about everything from cans to boxes, punch holes in ¼” thick pump vaults, cut aluminum flashing and light gauge steel, strip wire insulation, even eat with. You do what you have to when they forget to give you a fork.

One last thing – if I do happen to need scissors when I’m playing with my grandkids, my old pair still works great on construction paper….

 

How Often Should You Clean Your FilterFalls?

Atlantic FilterFalls are  one of the best designed upflow biological filtration units on the market. The low maintenance FilterFalls works in two ways to remove wastes. It removes visible suspended solids mechanically by trapping them in the filter pads, clearing the water. One type of bacteria that grows right on the filter pads consumes that trapped organic ooze.
Why use FilterFalls
The primary function of the filter is to remove the toxic ammonia and nitrites excreted by fish, converting them to harmless nitrates. This function is performed by a nitrifying bacteria which  lives in the filter pads. Without them the fish and animals in the pond would actually poison themselves very quickly in their own wastes. These bateria require a constant flow of oxygenated water and cannot survive drying or washing in chlorinated water. They take a long time to grow and a longer time to grow back. They are essential to the health of the pond. The longer the filter is left undisturbed, the better it will do its job. The filter should not be cleaned more than a few times a year; once or twice a year is typical. Look for greatly reduced flow as an indicator of when to clean it, or wait till the end of the season before closing it up for the winter.
Cleaning your FilterFalls
To keep the bacteria alive, take the top pad out and keep it in a bucket of pond water so the bacteria doesn’t die. It doesn’t need to be perfectly clean. Only wash the bottom filter pad in chlorinated water. Put the top pad down on the bottom and the cleaned pad on top and fill the filter with pond water. The check valve at the pump will keep the water from draining out of the filter. Reassemble the filter and start the pump. The water from below will help the undisturbed pad reseed the cleaned pad above it, ready for next year.
So relax, enjoy your pond and rest assured that your filter is doing its job without much intervention needed.

Steps for Spring Cleaning your Pond

Well, it’s finally here, a month late in my neck of the woods, but worth waiting for. Time to get your pond up and running after a long, cold winter!

Step 1

The first step is to remove any pond netting installed in the fall. It may be heavy with leaves and debris that have accumulated over the winter. This is good news, because anything trapped in the net would have settled to the bottom of the pond. Clean and dry the net. Use zip ties to repair small tears before storing, you’ll need it next fall.

Step 2

The next step is to clean the filter media without killing all the beneficial bacteria living there. Those are the bacteria that convert toxic ammonia that your fish excrete continuously to harmless nitrates. They cannot survive drying, and your fish can’t live without them. Get a couple of suitably sized buckets and fill them with pond water. Rinse any bagged media in the pondwater and leave the media in the bucket, to prevent the biofilm from drying out. Then take the top filter pad out, rinse it in the other bucket of pond water, and leave it there. Don’t worry about getting it really clean; the bacteria is what counts and you’ve saved enough to reseed the filter.

Step 3

Now you can pull out the remaining filter mat(s) and clean out the FilterFalls with a hose or wet/dry vac. The closer to the bottom the mat is, the more gunky it will be, and will probably need more aggressive cleaning. Use the hose and rinse the other mat or mats really well. The chlorinated water will kill whatever bacteria remain but that’s ok. When you’re ready to reassemble the filter, the clean mats will go back on top of the mat you kept in pond water. When the pump turns on, the flow of water up through the biologically active mat will help recolonize the top pads.

Step 4

Now for the skimmer. Begin by removing the debris net, mat or brushes and clean them well. In the skimmer the bacteria don’t matter as much as ensuring that water reaches the pump. If your pump and check valve overwintered in the skimmer, remove and clean them now. If removed in the fall, clean and inspect your pump and check valve. Lock the weir door into the closed position and remove any debris in the bottom of the skimmer with a wet/dry vac. Reinstall the pump, check valve, net, mat and/or brushes. If you have an auto-fill installed inside the skimmer, test to make sure it is working properly and adjust the level if necessary.

Unlock the weir door and replace the skimmer lid.

Step 5

Remove as much debris as possible from the stream and pond before starting your pump. Remove algae and leaves from the streambed by hand. Use a net to fish out any algae growth and debris from the bottom of the pond.

Once you have cleaned out both the pond and streambed, take the wet mat from the bucket of pondwater and place it on the grate at the bottom of the FilterFalls, then place the clean mat(s) on top of it. If there is bagged media, set that in the filter, then cover with rocks and stones to camouflage the filter. Before the mat/media can dry out, turn on the pump.

As the water clears over the next week, remaining debris will become more visible in the bottom of the pond. Remove the visible debris and rinse out the skimmer mat and net.

ANNOTATION:

When everything is up and running, inspect the pond for any visible leaks. Keep an eye on the water level over the next week, so any problems that may develop can be dealt with early in the season.

After the pond has been opened and water temperatures have reached 50 degrees on a consistent basis, you can begin to use treatments.

Beneficial bacteria will help kick-start your eco-system and get your water clearer, faster. More frequent usage of Biomax+ for a couple of weeks after opening your pond, will help seed bacteria into the biological filters.

  1. ReVive will dechlorinate the water if you have changed or added water in the spring.
  2. If the pond is really cloudy, you can use QuickClear to drop suspended solids to the bottom of the pond and clear the water.
  3. EcoKlean is a great oxidizing product to help remove debris from the stream bed and the bottom of the pond in the spring.

How To Properly Conceal a Biofilter

So, there’s been a lot of good, sensible talk out there about how hard it is to hide a giant plastic biofilter at the top of the stream you’re building. In all fairness, when it’s just sitting there, exposed, before rocking around it, hiding a sizeable biofilter can seem near impossible. But there are simple, solid techniques to hide those big black boxes, and some compelling arguments in favor of using biofilters to start streams.

 

Advantages

The advantages of having an upflow biofilter are well-known and pretty convincing. In general, they hold an impressive amount of filtration that not only removes suspended solids but provides surface area for beneficial bacteria that consume ammonia and nitrites. Their position at the top of an elevated stream usually means they can be plumbed with a drain valve, so they can be rinsed or backwashed easily. More complete cleaning may need to be done only once or twice a year, because of the way upflow biofilters work. The pump forces water up through the filter media under pressure, so the media tends not to clog easily; although the water may channel around the media, it won’t stop flowing. Finally, the ability to securely attach both the plumbing and the liner to the filter to start the initial waterfall has eliminated the most common leakage point in stream construction.

ATLANTIC’S BF1600 COMPLETELY HIDDEN BY ROCKS

technique

SETTING THE FILTERFALLS INTO, RATHER THAN ON TOP OF THE ELEVATED AREA

Hiding a well-designed biofilter is primarily a matter of setting it into, rather than on top of, the elevated area. This is typically formed by mounding the excavated soil from the pond or reservoir. After the filter is properly set, then it’s a matter of simple rock placement. In nature, a stream cuts its way down in the surrounding land; waterfalls form as the flowing water scours out a pocket in softer soil or rock behind a hard surface. In theory, we want to bury the biofalls behind that ‘hard surface’, the rock or stone the water will flow over. What often happens instead? The biofalls is placed on the ground and soil is heaped around it up to the top of the box, then rocked, to form the utterly unnatural ‘water volcano’ we all love to hate.

BF2600 FILTERFALLS HIDDEN UNDER ROCKS

It’s a simple mistake, and just as simple to avoid. I prefer to mound and tamp the soil first, then carve out a space for the filter, then plumb to the front of the filter, but the box can be set and plumbed first – to each his own style. The point is, the soil has to end up higher than the top of the box, so the water flows out from about two-thirds up on the slope. If that requires digging the filter down, so be it. Then, I excavate the tamped soil away from the front of the filter, cutting a vertical wall the width of the filter to either side. I dig down until I reach the level of the bottom of the splash pool at the base of the falls. Then I attach the liner, leaving a couple of loose folds below the lip, to allow for settling and adjustment. Now I can start the stream by setting rock to create the first fall.

The idea is that building the waterfall is the objective, not hiding the filter. That will come by itself if I accomplish three tasks. First, I need two ‘shoulder’ rocks on either side that are taller than the filter, set to cover the ends of the spillway or opening of the filter. Next, I set a spill rock, or rocks, between the shoulder rocks up to the height of the spillway.

Now I need to fill between the rock and the filter to stabilize the falls. I usually have the space behind the shoulder rocks to push soil in behind the liner. If not, I’ll just fill any void on top of the liner with rounded stone. Either way, I’ll foam between the liner and the rocks, sealing the space so all the water goes over rather than around the spill rocks. As a finishing touch, I set small, flat rock on the ledges and grate inside the filter to finish hiding it.

Sounds simple, and it is. Working ‘backwards’ on the falls instead of focusing on hiding the filter actually hides it better. Couple of quick recommendations:

  1. Get the largest filter you can fit. The larger the filter is, the easier to hide, because the stones set on the grate or ledge can be larger without compromising the flow or forcing water up over the sides. Of course, having more media and settling volume can only help as the pond matures and organic loads increase.
  2. Tilt the filter forwards a couple of degrees, on a well-tamped base. Nothing worse than having a filter settle and water leak out over one side or the back.
  3. I always plumb the filter with a cleaning drain, and use Matala semi-rigid mats, to allow for fast periodic backwashing. This reduces the frequency of tearing the filter apart for major cleanings to once every couple of years.

If you have any questions or tricks to concealing a biofilter please comment below.

 

 

Tools That Don’t Suck – Tirolessa Sprayer

As water feature installers, my sons and I are used to hard, dirty, sometimes dangerous work. We enjoy what we do, whether it’s digging ponds, plumbing pumps, rolling boulders or tweaking waterfalls, but we also value anything that helps make the work easier or more fun. We’re always looking for tools, apps or gadgets that save time & effort, eliminate stress, add to our comfort on the job or are just fun to use. Often a buddy will turn us on to one. I’d like to return the favor by passing our favorite Tools That Don’t Suck along to you.

Tirolessa Sprayer

Every now and then a tool comes along that does a job simply and inexpensively, that otherwise would have required a major investment in time, energy and equipment. Typically, these tools are born of necessity, because someone, somewhere doesn’t have access to the technology – or the money – to get the job done any other way. Today’s entry in the TTDS category is that kind of tool.

I ran across the Tirolessa sprayer online a dozen years ago when I was investigating building a dome home. I had this idea about an ecotourism bed-and-breakfast in the mountains of Michoacan, Mexico, where the Monarch butterflies go on their amazing winter migration. I figured I could create really cool, inexpensive and energy-efficient housing modules by covering an inflatable mold with multiple thin layers of fiber-reinforced concrete, building up the layers successively until the structure was strong enough to resist not only weather, but earthquakes too. The trick is to get a thin, strong first layer of concrete without deforming or collapsing the plastic balloon form. After the layers are self-supporting, the form is deflated and the rest of the concrete dome built up by troweling. The Tirolessa sprayer was recommended as the ideal tool to apply those first thin layers.

 

Well, just about the same time as I was pipe dreaming, I was asked to build caves and huge artificial boulders around a 200-foot-wide pond cover an interior wall with waterfalls. I had just finished plumbing and tweaking a Hawaiian-themed “black lava” waterfall in a restaurant. A Gunite crew had been called in to form the structure out of rebar covered with wire lathe and shot the whole wall with very wet black cement. I bought the Tirolessa thinking it might replace the Gunite crew – and it did. I wasn’t very good at texturing the final product, but there was no doubt about it. This little gadget could really blow some mud.

Yes, blow. The Tirolessa is basically a stainless steel bucket with air holes at the bottom. The handle is a hollow steel tube to which an airhose is attached, with a trigger. Pull the trigger and air blows inside the bucket across the bottom and out the front-facing air holes, carrying a spray of very loose concrete slurry with it. We make a mix of two parts fine sand to one part Portland cement, with enough water to give it a consistency between pea soup and oatmeal. Scoop a bucket of slurry from the wheelbarrow, hold the bucket two feet from the vertical surface to be covered, pull the trigger and spray the slurry. And repeat.

We’ve found the Tirolessa invaluable for getting that first critical layer on difficult vertical surfaces, and that has opened a whole new range of possibilities for us. Now we can easily protect the inside of any EPDM pond without building inner walls. The Tirolessa still can’t make concrete stick to rubber, but it CAN make cement stick to vertical geotextile, no problem at all. We cover our vertical liner walls with a layer of geotextile, well-anchored at the top so it will support the weight of the cement we spray on it until the first layer dries. If needed, we spray another layer on that until the curtain of concrete-covered fabric is stiff enough, then we switch to troweling on additional layers, this time with chopped polypropylene fibers mixed in.

By the time we have 4 to 5 thin layers, around an inch and a half thick, the skin will withstand a blow from a sledge hammer. We often add powdered black dye to the last coat so the finished pond appears bottomless; it also enhances the colors of koi. And it all starts with one of my favorite Tools That Don’t Suck, the Tirolessa sprayer.

Tools That Don’t Suck – The Perfect Hat

As water feature installers, my sons and I are used to hard, dirty, sometimes dangerous work. We enjoy what we do, whether it’s digging ponds, plumbing pumps, rolling boulders or tweaking waterfalls, but we also value anything that helps make the work easier or more fun. We’re always looking for tools, apps or gadgets that save time & effort, eliminate stress, add to our comfort on the job or are just fun to use. Often a buddy will turn us on to one. I’d like to return the favor by passing our favorite Tools That Don’t Suck along to you.

You Can Leave Your Hat On…

I certainly hope that phrase evokes a pleasant visual for all of you out there. It certainly does for me. The first time I saw it I thought, nice – wow that looks good…. The second time I thought it looked even better. The third time I really wanted to get up close and personal. I just had to.

So I asked my buddies about the Hat. You’ve probably seen somebody wearing it. You may know the one – looks like a solid suede brim, with a vented crown, jaunty little leather braid and a chinstrap. Sharp looking hat. But the Kakdu Soaka hat isn’t suede at all, it’s made of an absorbent microfiber. Just dunk it, shake it off and wear it. Water trapped in the microfiber slowly evaporates as air circulates through the vented crown, lowering the temperature of both the hat and the head under it. Sort of a wearable swamp cooler.

Kakadu Soaka Breeze

Lloyd Lightsey of The Pond Monster

Down in sunny Lake Wales my buddy Lloyd swears by his fully vented Soaka Breeze. He says it keeps him going when the temps soar into the 90’s. Another buddy, Sean, up Boston way, thinks so highly of the hat he mail-ordered a bunch of them when they were hard to get a couple of years ago. Nobody had them in stock for quite a while, so he’d order them from another company just to find out they were backordered there too, and so on. Waited almost a year, then everybody shipped at once. Now he’s got’em in every color. Wears’em constantly.

The Kakadu Soaka Breeze is just one of twenty plus styles of Soaka hats, some with more venting, some with solid microfiber crowns, but all share the same cool feature. The one I got the best picture of was Sean’s, a relatively fresh one that hadn’t yet really broken in. (Lloyd’s, on the other hand, was a little too, ah, personalized by wear, shall we say? for close inspection.) I got mine direct from Kakadu’s Washington State distribution center by mail order, but you can find them in plenty of other places too. If you work outside where your brain boils in the sun (and who doesn’t?), these hats are really worth trying. And at around $40 most places, you can cool the burn without frying your wallet.