Join 3,439 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Hey presto, your waterfall is a tomato plant!
May 2, 2012 12:23 PM   Subscribe

I want to fill or cover a large water feature on my property so it's child-safe, does not require maintenance, and ideally, allows planters/planting. Advice? Online guides? Experience?

We have a large water feature with several large water reservoirs that spill over into each other with a waterfall. The water is recirculated with a motor. There are 4 containers ranging from 3 by 4 feet to 8 by 4 feet in size and they are 2 to 4 feet deep. They are made from concrete. The first and last have plumbing fixtures (PVC pipe) in them.

We need to make this area child-friendly so we can use our yard. That means covering or filling the fountains. We don't clean them and they look awful (although we do keep the water running and add mosquito tablets so it's not super bad).

I'd like to be able to use these spaces to grow plants - we don't have a lot of room for that. I propose just filling them up with dirt. But what about drainage? And how could we protect the pipes/plumbing fixtures from damage? My husband has proposed building some kind of lumber covers for them that we could put pots on. I'm concerned that water would accumulate underneath them and smell, also that the covers would have to be able to support heavy planters AND stray children.

Would very much appreciate any advice or experience.
posted by bq to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I propose just filling them up with dirt. But what about drainage? And how could we protect the pipes/plumbing fixtures from damage? My husband has proposed building some kind of lumber covers for them that we could put pots on. I'm concerned that water would accumulate underneath them and smell, also that the covers would have to be able to support heavy planters AND stray children.

So you fill them up with dirt then but covers on them. The dirt supports the covers and keeps the whole thing protected from the elements, while the covers keep most of the water out and eliminate drainage problems for your plants.

As an alternative, you could just fill up the bottom few feet with medium-sized smooth rocks, so that there's only a few inches of water at the top. The whole thing would be filled, but the effective depth would only be a few inches. You could even overfill it with rocks so that the fountain goes but there's no standing pool. No mosquitoes that way either.
posted by valkyryn at 12:37 PM on May 2, 2012


Fill gravel might be a better choice (though possibly more expensive) if you want to put a cover on them. Reducing the effective depth is a good idea, too. Are they in-ground or above ground/low enough to fall into?
posted by jquinby at 12:40 PM on May 2, 2012


Filling in with rocks seems like a great idea. If you do this and you have small kids pay careful attention to the "few inches of water" statement. Unfortunately there are lots of stories every year about children drowning in shallow water. I'm not sure where the line is, 1-2" would seem to be fine, I'm guessing 5-6" could be dangerous for a toddler...
posted by NoDef at 12:50 PM on May 2, 2012


Yes, they are either in-ground or have a very shallow wall. Perfect for drowning!
posted by bq at 12:55 PM on May 2, 2012


For drainage you need to bust up the bottoms significantly, likely with a jackhammer. Then you can fill in with rocks, dirt, or whatever. The best method would be to break up and remove all the concrete, but at the very least the bottom needs to be broken up. Do a search for "filling in swimming pool" to get an idea of the process, albeit on a larger scale.

And how could we protect the pipes/plumbing fixtures from damage?

I don't really understand this. Do you want to preserve the pipes and fixtures with the idea of re-implementing the waterfall pools at a later time? If that's the case waterproof covers will be necessary, and you'll inevitably still collect some water in the pools which will get funky. But if you're never going to get the system back up and running there's no reason to make a special effort to preserve the pipes. Just be sure to disconnect the pipes from the water supply and disconnect the pumps from electric supply.

Were I in your shoes I'd just hire someone to come in, bust it up, and remove the whole thing. Yeah, it's work you can do, but running a jackhammer is not my idea of fun. Plus, these types of water features generally don't seem to be assets that increase the property value.
posted by 6550 at 3:21 PM on May 2, 2012


Yes, we were thinking of filling them in or covering them for now but leaving them intact and restorable for later.
posted by bq at 3:49 PM on May 2, 2012


Just remove the pvc and motors and cur a few holes the bottom of each for drainage with a concrete saw (or pay someone too). Keep the pipes, motor and plugs for stopping up the holes later. Fill with dirt and plant. Easy.
posted by fshgrl at 5:15 PM on May 2, 2012


Cur = cut
posted by fshgrl at 5:16 PM on May 2, 2012


Depending on how much rain you get, and what plants you put into it, maybe you can put rocks/gravel in the bottom, then plant stuff in dirt on top of that? If you don't get much rain, you may do just fine, and you can always use the feature later.
posted by kellyblah at 7:16 PM on May 2, 2012


Recently I was discussing with a real estate agent a problematic swimming pool in the back yard of a house I was looking at purchasing. She suggested that a common practice is to fill them with sand and then cover with plastic, then with dirt & sod. That way, if the pool is ever wanted restored, it is relatively easy to clean out (residual sand could be shop-vacuumed out).
posted by darkstar at 9:28 PM on May 2, 2012


I would just fill the ponds with rocks. This prevents drowning risk, but allows you to keep the water feature operational. Obviously, you can resurrect the water part of the feature later by removing the rocks and may be able to progressively do so by removing some of the rocks.

It might not be practical with such large ponds, but you can also cut down the quality of rocks (landscaping rocks are not cheap) by making a cover of steel mesh so that there is only a thin layer of rocks with water underneath the mesh.
posted by dg at 9:53 PM on May 2, 2012


... and by 'quality', I mean 'quantity' of course.
posted by dg at 10:26 PM on May 2, 2012


Thanks to everyone for the input. We've drilled some drainage holes and are getting rocks and soil delivered today. It's a huge messy job but I am so glad we're getting it done.
posted by bq at 10:31 AM on June 3, 2012


« Older Help me go pink - mostly out o...   |  Running advice needed. First ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.