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Renovating an Old Pond

 
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Another one of the many gardening and renovating projects in Longview, WA that I am doing is a pond renovation.

After I cleared the area where one leak is in the pond, I was told that it would be useful to expose the rest of the sides of the pond.
Currently, they are dry ponds, because they're leaky. The plan is to seal the lower pond, the one I'm working one, and then seal the upper pond. That way if the upper pond leaks, it will go into the lower pond.

This is what the two concrete ponds look like, after I had cleared out the area around them.


This is the first leak uncovered in the pond.


This is the progress I made recently to expose more of the wall. I'll be working more on this tomorrow.
 
Dave Burton
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I made more progress today moving rocks out of the way, so that I can check the rest of the lower pond for cracks.
 
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It is an interesting renovation Dave, it is just I have no experience with concrete ponds, so I do not have any advice at all to give you.

I like what you are doing, jut not sure what to say on the matter!

Keep at it buddy!
 
Dave Burton
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Thank you, Travis! This s=is the first pond I've worked on! All I'm doing right now is investigative work. I am searching for all the cracks in the pond, so that they can then be sealed up. Since the paint was drying on the windows and it wasn't that bad outside, I spent all of today on this project.

I found several more cracks in the pond today.


I did a lot of clearing up the areas around and beneath the cracks to expose their full extent.


So far, most of the cracks look like planned cracks from when the concrete was poured, like expansion joints of a sort. But there are a few cracks that look unplanned, because they are smooth on the surface and don't show the poured concrete being laid that way.
 
Dave Burton
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Today was all pond work! I cleared out more rocks, so that I can check the walls for cracks.
 
Dave Burton
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Today, I sealed some of the cracks in the pond. I cleaned out the cracks and then applied the concrete patch material.


And I moved some more rocks in the upper portion of the lower pond. I'm almost done exposing all of the lower pond's wall.
 
Dave Burton
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I patched up some more cracks in the pond today!






And I cleared some more rocks in the upper portion of the pond, too!



 
Dave Burton
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I cleared out some soil from the pond today, and I added that onto my hugelkultur raised bed.



 
Dave Burton
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I removed more soil from the bottom of the pond, and I added that to my first hugelkultur raised bed.

 
Dave Burton
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With the pond renovations, my general plan of action is to slowly move all of the rocks towards the center of the pond. That way I can get all of the soil that has built up on the sides of the pond out. Then, after all the rocks meet at the center and the soil gets out of the pond, I'll be moving the rocks back onto the sides, so that the bottom of the pond can be repaired. There are a few cracks that I didn't catch on the sides of the walls, but they've been spotted now, so, I'll be repairing those later, too.

This is from this morning's clearing of soil from the pond and onto my first hugelkultur raised bed.



This is from this afternoon. I have begun the process of moving the rocks towards the center of the pond.

 
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OK, I have questions.  I'm not sure I've ever seen a concrete pond that large before; my sense is that they are, um, prone to cracking and require, er, quite a lot of labor to repair when that happens, so they aren't terribly practical.  (Please don't take this the wrong way; I get that you are tasked with repairing an existing system, and did not design the thing.)  

My question is about the rocks that you are so laboriously moving to and fro.  They seem to be numerous, in proportion to the total volume of the pond.  As in, so much so that the pond would be a better pond from a water storage standpoint if they weren't there.  

If you know: did they wash into the pond during flooding/erosion events at some point after the pond was constructed?  Or were they placed there as a feature of the pond's design, perhaps to make the pond interior better habitat for something?  Or to make the pond interior more natural in texture/appearance?  One theory I've got is that they originally lined the smooth concrete sides of the pond to make it less of a slippy-slidey death pit trap for everything.

Related questions: Are you moving the rocks back and forth within the pond because it's desired that the rocks remain in the pond after your work is complete?  Or because your employer lacks the resources (your labor, the labor of others, a big excavator) to come and remove them all once you put them in a nice neat pile in the middle?  

It's been fun to watch your progress on this project!
 
Dave Burton
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Hi Dan! You're fine, and I understand! I agree that they're not terribly practical, but yes, that is besides the point. For general context, I am working on an old and rather historic property. The building and property are very old and very well-built; the place has been around for at least a hundred years or more.

Yes, the pond I am working on is very huge. It's at least thirty by thirty feet, and that's a conservative estimate.

I do not know how or why the stones got here into the pond, but if I had to take a guess, I think they were placed there on purpose by the original builders. The reason I think this is because the rocks were placed around the walls of the pond in a very orderly manner. It seemed they were there with a purpose and reason.

Yes, I am moving the rocks back and forth, because the rocks are desired to remain in the pond. As part of the work I am doing on the property, we are trying to keep everything as much to the original way that the place and property were built- to keep the history and heritage of the site. I am not entirely sure what the full plans are that Eric has for the property, but keeping the history of the property seems to be one of the vibes I am picking up on.

These are some of the cracks and holes in the pond that I will be fixing.



I made more progress moving soil out of the pond today.



I moved a lot of that soil onto my first and second hugelkultur raised beds.
 
Dan Boone
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Hey, Dave, that all makes sense.  Ours is not to reason why ... a busted concrete pond full of rocks is what you were issued, and a concrete pond, lovingly patched and carefully lined with said rocks, is what you will leave behind you.  I'm sure there was a reason that made sense a hundred years ago.  In a century, so much about labor costs and other practical considerations can change, it's hard sometimes to puzzle out why things got done the way they did!
 
Dave Burton
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I may have found the spot where the upper pond connects to the lower pond with this drain pipe.



This is what the intentional holes in the lower pond look like that I have uncovered. I am not sure what they were used for.



You can kind of see three of the four planned holes in this picture.



And this is all the progress I made up to this point on moving the rocks and getting out the soil.

 
Dave Burton
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I cleared out more soil on the bottom and sides of the pond, so that I can survey the pond for more damage and cracks. I found extensive cracking at the seams between the floor and walls of the pond.



This is what some of the worst seam cracks looked like.



These are before and after pictures of multiple hairline cracks in the pond that I fixed today.







 
Dan Boone
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After all this beautiful work that you are doing, will you get to see water in these ponds?  Or is that dependent on waiting for rain that may or may not come while you are working there?
 
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I wanted to ask similar question. Has it not rained? Is there a drain?
 
Dave Burton
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There is a drain at the bottom of the pond. It has been opened and cleared.

Yes, it has rained multiple times, but none of the rain has been terribly heavy. It's been pretty light pitter-patter rain, which I guess is what the Pacific Northwest is known for having, unlike the torrential downpours I typically get during the summer of hurricane season back in Houston.

I am hoping that I will eventually get to see water in the pond. It may or may not be dependent on rain; that hasn't been figured out yet. At the moment, there are still probably too many cracks for water retention to happen. Because, I found a big mostly continuous-ish crack all along the bottom of the pond where the floor and wall of the pond meet.

I repaired some more cracks that I discovered in the wall today.







I found another crack but ran out of repair material. So, I'll be getting to this one later.



This is a view from downhill, looking uphill at the pond.

 
Dave Burton
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I found the drain from the upper pond to the lower pond and tried to clear out the drain pipe.



I'm not sure the patch material will last, since it appears to already be cracking.



Then, I tried to find unintentional cracks and holes in the pond that developed over time. Those are pretty big.

 
Dave Burton
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I did a lot of sweeping to expose the cracks in the pond, and I dug out some of the bigger cracks, so that they can be repaired.







 
Dave Burton
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I spent practically all of today working on patching up the pond.

I poured some concrete for a bigger hole.



I patched lots of hairline cracks in the walls and floor of the pond.















I swept the floor of the pond a bunch more!



And then, I repaired a lot more cracks!













Here's a picture of my overall progress on repairing the lower half of the pond.

 
Dave Burton
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Today was another pretty full day of making repairs to the pond. Repairing concrete ponds is indeed a LOT of work!

These were a bunch of the cracks that I fixed!



























And I fixed some bigger holes in the pond, too! The hole from yesterday I was filling up wasn't quite level up to the floor, so I finished that. And I got this other hole filled level to the floor and a little bit over.



This is a picture of my progress!

 
Dave Burton
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Today, I did a lot of sweeping out of the pond floor, so that I could make more patches.

This is what the back of the pond looked like before. (The front of the pond was where I was mostly working earlier, so it's pretty clean)



These are progress pictures.





And this is what it looked like after sweeping.



Then, I got to work making more patches. I focused on fixing larger cracks today.









And this is what the pond looks like right now. It started raining, so I worked more on the doors I was restoring.

 
Dave Burton
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I made a lot more patches, pretty long ones at that.











And I laid some more comcrete, too.

 
Dave Burton
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Today was lots of pond work! I spent most of my time today restacking rocks in the lower left hand side of the pond and the left wall, since I got most of the cracks there. I patched a few of my previous patches that were showing some breaks in them.









And I patched a few more larger holes by filing them with concrete.





After that, I began restacking rocks. Putting rocks back in an orderly fashion takes more than piling them all in one place unorganized.





Then, I did a littl more patching.



This was the end of today.

 
Dave Burton
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Today, I patched some more cracks that I found before moving rocks back into place on and near the wall.







I retacked rocks on that part of the pond's wall.



I patched another crack.



I restacked more rocks.



I layed out more concrete in some larger holes in the pond floor.





And here's today's overall prgress picture!

 
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Chicken wire ferrocement might be the way to go?
 
wayne fajkus
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Thats a lot of work. I'm hoping everything under those beautiful handstacked rock piles are sealed. Are you going to put a final water tite paint over it? The product i remenber is UGL. It should seal minor cracks you haven't seen.

Looking forward to seeing the water added! If there are more leaks it should tell the story. It will be at the new water line.
 
Dave Burton
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For the time being, I do not think any paint will be applied yet. I think what happens later will depend on how well everything goes with the current approach of fixing as many of the major holes and cracks as possible.

I fixed a crack beneath what looks to be an old repair.



And I fixed a series of cracks and holes by the pipe that connects the upper and lower ponds.



I restacked more rocks.



I was worried that I might run out of rocks before I made a full circle around the pond, but there's more than enough. So, I worked on adding a second layer of rocks to the walls and filling in the gaps between rocks with smaller rocks. This is what it looked like at the end of today.

 
Dave Burton
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I stacked some more rocks onto the wall, today. There's plenty more rocks to go!

 
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All the cracking is exactly why I ripped the concrete out of my duck pond and let the pigs gley it. The concrete did have to be painted with a water proofer before it would even hold water. I hope you have better luck than I did!
 
Dave Burton
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Thank you! I hope it all works out as get farther along with it. I spent this morning stacking rocks, and then from noon until sundown, I was on hay crew loading and unloading bales of hay.

 
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We re-plastered our pool 4 years ago, and in the process, they found a crack that ran all the around the bottom of the deep end.  It wasn't a big crack, but even a small crack will allow water to seep into the soil, particularly when it's under the pressure of all the weight of water above it.  We discovered it when we pumped all the water out of the pool, and now water was actually seeping back up through the ground and re-filling the pool.  We obviously needed to fix it.

Our solution was to pour a 4 inch layer of new concrete (gunite) to completely seal the crack and make sure it would never leak again.  Overkill, yes, but everyone I spoke with said that just treating the crack by itself would ultimately fail within only a few years.  We live in earthquake country, and a thin layer of patching material just can't withstand the pressure.  While we lost 4 inches of depth to the pool, the thickness of the concrete/gunite is now about 12" thick with the old and new added together.  After the new layer of concrete cured, we re-plastered over the top of it, adding another 2 inches of material.  As far as we can tell, no leaks any more.  The whole job cost about 35K, but included new pumps and filter and a slight reconfiguration of the pool.

Fixing this stuff is expensive, but if you're going to spend time and money, you want to do it right the first time.

My concern is that all of your careful patching and scratching will only last a short time before new cracks will form or those repairs fail.  You've patched a LOT of cracks.  That should tell you something about the fundamental structural integrity of the entire pour.   I would appear that either they didn't use enough steel in the structure, the prep-work for the base below the pour wasn't properly completed, or the PSI strength of the concrete wasn't up to snuff, or perhaps all three.

If it were me, I'd pressure wash the whole thing so that you can blast out all residual dirt and get it perfectly clean, and then look for a way to do a skim coat across the entire surface -- not just the cracks.  Since the old concrete is so cracked, is it safe to assume that they didn't put adequate re-bar in when they poured it?  So any skim coat that you might pour, even if it's 6 inches thick, will fail as well if you don't put enough steel in it to keep it stable.
 
Dave Burton
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Thank you for the advice Marco. I do appreciate it. However, I am not in charge of this project is to be carried out. So, I think I will probably just have to watch and see what happens.

I spent today getting the majority of the rocks out of the pond. I saw that it appeared to hold some water for a bit of time during the recent rain. It may not have held for as long as it could have, because the drain pipe was open, I think. These are pictures of the evidence of rain had happened and some stayed around in the pond.



These are progress pics on after I got most of the rocks out of the center. Once it dries a bit more, I will sweep out the dirt and rocks. or I might try raking it up.

 
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Marco Banks wrote:
My concern is that all of your careful patching and scratching will only last a short time before new cracks will form or those repairs fail.  You've patched a LOT of cracks.  That should tell you something about the fundamental structural integrity of the entire pour.   I would appear that either they didn't use enough steel in the structure, the prep-work for the base below the pour wasn't properly completed, or the PSI strength of the concrete wasn't up to snuff, or perhaps all three.



I should add a little context for this pond being a rather elaborate garden pond that handles the property water runoff from the gutters and driveway.  It was poured 95 years ago so structural standards were a little lower than what you might expect now.  But still, for a 95 year old pond on a hillside with slow slide movement, it seems to have held up pretty well.  The main thing that could have been improved was not letting roots grow through the many cracks for the past 50 years.

I agree that the patching will just be a temporary seal and not really help the structural integrity - but that's the level of the project now -- sealing a decorative pond in the center of a walking garden.
 
Dave Burton
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I uncovered the center of the pond with a lot more sweeping and shoveling of the dirt piles.





I fixed one large crack in the center of the pond. I have many more to go and a few holes to fill, too.



And here's an overall progress picture!

 
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I only got a little bit of work done on the pond this morning, because the vast majority of the day was all bucking hay.

I did uncover another crack in the pond. I will get around to sealing this later. And I opened up two holes where plants had taken up residence through the concrete.

 
Dave Burton
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This morning I uncovered and repaired another large crack in the pond. Then, I was taught how to make sauerkraut and brined pickles. And after that, I spent noon until pretty much sundown bucking hay.

 
Dave Burton
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I uncovered another crack but coudl only fix part of it, because I ran out supplies, for the time being.



I uncovered another crack.



Then, I did more sweeping so that cracks are easier to spot.

 
Dave Burton
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Location: Missoula, MT US Hardy:5a Annual Precipitation: 15" Wind:4.2mph Temperature:18-87F
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I poured some more concrete in a few of the larger holes in the pond.



And I fixed a couple pretty large cracks.





Then, I worked on the windows inside and thought more about the design around the pond, because it started raining a lot outside.
 
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