How to Choose a Pond Sealant

You have found yourself at the right place if you want to know how to choose a pond sealant. I have personally heard of people using all sorts of things to seal their pond or water feature with. I have heard of people using asphalt, tar, latex paint, liquid rubber paints, various unknown epoxies, polyester resins, deck sealers and even spray paint, just to name a few.

While there are all types of sealants available to make something waterproof, most of the list of products available generally has to be thrown away simply because they are toxic in nature to fish and plants.  If you are building a water feature that will house either of those two life forms, then you need to steer your project towards a sealant that will do the job and not kill your stock. So that is the very first thing you need to consider. Many sealants can actually leech toxins off into the water and cause serious harm. This can happen rapidly or in some cases over a long period of time which could also lead to misdiagnosing the illness being seen in the stock.

The next things you need to consider is what the pond sealant is made of. I keep using the word sealant here because generally that is a recognizable terms when it comes to waterproofing. What you should not confuse the term with is a type of material that is used to saturate a surface and repel water or moisture. These types of sealants are not really sealants per say but repellants that normally need to be reapplied on a regular basis.

What you are looking for is a pond sealant that will not only waterproof, but bond to the surface it is being applied to. Bond is very important because without it, the sealant will eventually fall off of the surface in which case you will see peeling. When peeling happens, water can get behind the sealant and the decomposition of organics in the water can actually expedite this process. Rubbers and latex materials are prone to peeling because their bond strength is inhibited by their flexibility.

You also need to choose a sealant that was specifically designed to work under water. Too many times people take this simple fact for granted. Just because the sealant is capable of waterproofing a surface does not necessarily mean it can withstand the rigors of existing under water. This is also a reason why so many sealants can fail.

Flexibility is also important. It should be considered very carefully because too much or too little can cause premature failure of the sealant. Rubber for example tends to have the highest amount of flexibility, but with that comes its inability to hang on to the surface it has been applied to. Epoxies on the other hand have exceptional bond strengths. This means that when they are applied, they tend to not want to come off. Arguably though, most people tend to think epoxies are a bad choice because they think epoxies are brittle and are prone to cracking through.  Generally with the average epoxy this would be correct. However, a good epoxy sealant will not only have great bond strength, but it also has a certain amount of flexibility built into it that allows it to move with the surface applied to and not be prone to peeling because of it.

Finally, the pond sealant should be designed to work properly for a decent amount of time. The last thing you want to be doing is recoating every year. The effort in preparation alone does not even equate to the stress cause on your stock each time you have to empty the water feature, clean it, recoat and fill it again. This does not even take into account the new cycle the water feature needs to go through in order to hold your stock again.

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Pond Liner Glue – Does it Really Work?

I am always asked if Pond Shield epoxy can be used as a pond liner glue.  The short answer is no.  I hate to disappoint, but while there are times Pond Shield epoxy can be used in the same manner as a glue, it can not be used as a pond liner glue.

The real issue here is not that Pond Shield is not sticky enough.  It really is.  The issue is that the epoxy and the liner are from two very different families of materials, in the case of a rubber liner.

While Pond Shield sticks to PVC and ABS pipes, this does not mean that it will stick to PVC liners either.  The problem here is the difference in material flexibility.  All flexible liners are going to be on the furthest edges of the scale with is comes to flexibility.

So in essence, it amounts to two major issues, the family of materials and the flexibility.  If you want to use a pond liner glue that will have any success of working, the pond liner glue needs to cover both of those issues, being of the same family of materials and at least as flexible.

The down side of pond liner glue is that they can be tricky to get to work properly.  If you read my article Patching a Pond Liner,  you will get a better understanding of how this process works.

You should be aware that pond liner glue and patches do have their issues even if you follow the rules with repairs, so you will want to take care of them and treat them with extra care so that the patch lasts as long as possible.

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Koi Pond: Liners Vs. Professional Construction

Why is there so much talk about pond liners? Which ones are UV protected, or stronger, or last longer? I am by no means an expert on liner technology, nor have I ever used them in my 26 years of designing and building waterfalls. If you’re a “liner guy” disciple, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oh no, here he goes.” To tell the truth, I have been minding by own business for over two decades, just watching, reading and listening to all the “experts.”

I’ve listened to how “pond liners are simple to install,” and “pond liners are inexpensive compared to concrete and steel,” and “pond liners are quick to install.” Or “pond liners last for 50 years,” “pond liners bring higher profits to pond construction and waterfall construction,” and “liners don’t contaminate the water with alkali as does concrete construction.” Yes, I’ve almost sold myself on listening to the facts of the “experts.” Well, not quite, due to a few facts of my own.

So, a pond liner is guaranteed for 40 to 50 years? I would have to agree with that, as long as you leave it in its box the whole time. Too bad a liner manufacturer’s warranty doesn’t include damage from gophers, ground squirrels, chipmunks, rats or mice. Or tree, plant and weed roots. Or from stretching and punctures in the liner due to heavy rocks and other sharp objects. Startling fact: a puncture only the size of a pin hole can cause a pond to lose one drip per second, or 5 gallons in just 24 hours. That’s a pin hole, not a hole made by a pair of buck teeth on a burrowing mammal.
Imagine along with me for a minute. You have spent $350 on a pond design and then $8,000 of your hard-earned money for a pond and waterfall. This water feature is impressive. They dug a big hole, piled up some dirt at one end, draped a large rubber liner over the whole thing, and placed giant boulders all around the fish pond and on the dirt mound. Smaller rocks fill in between the boulder and additional rocks cover the liner in the pond. Now, it’s two years later and you’ve just come home from a two-week vacation to find the pond half empty (or half full, if you’re a positive person).
There must be a leak! How did this happen? Where is it? No problem, you think, I remember the salesman’s pitch: “If you should ever get a leak, just clean off the area around the hole, dry it off, and using the directions enclosed in the patching kit, apply this patching material.” But there’s only one problem: Where is the leak? or leaks? How do I find them? And if I do find them, and I’m successful in patching them up, what’s to keep it from leaking again?
Okay, I’m going to snap my fingers and you’ll wake up. “Snap!” Surprise! That was only a mental exercise with a happy ending. It wasn’t real! Or was it? Yes, it was. The short story you just heard was true. One out of every eight projects we do involves replacing the leaky liner for an angry fish pond/leaky liner owner.
Why am I finally speaking up now, after 26 years and well over 1,900 waterfalls and fish ponds? Because I’m angry, too! Not at the “liner guy” who sells the pond liners, but at his disciples around the country who are bragging how much money they make in just one or two days. I’m not upset at the fact that they make in two days what takes me six to seven days to make in constructing my fish ponds of rebar and 3000 psi concrete.
My ire stems from having to charge $8,000 to replace a $6,000 liner pond that lasted only two years. (A pond liner with padding didn’t stop a tree root which traveled 25 feet to do its destructive work.) For only an additional 16% in cost, that client could still be enjoying his original pond, stress-free, for his lifetime and that of his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The main features touted by pond liner promoters are simplicity, low cost, quick installation, and extremely high profits. In an article published in his catalog/magazine of liners and accessories, the “liner messiah” has obviously taught his disciples well, as you can read in this excerpt:
“If you hire us to install your pond, you get a choice of buying it with or without a stream. We offer no other choices! The pond we build covers an area of 11 by 16 feet, has a maximum depth of 2 feet, and a beautiful waterfall. We’ll build your pond in one day. The basic pond costs $5,100 and if you want to connect the falls with a stream, you’re looking at an extra $1,000. That’s it. End of story. No mas.”
That’s what Ernie Selles, president of Patio Ponds and disciple of the “liner guy,” said. Another quote from Ernie in the same catalog is, “I get out of bed every morning and look forward to going to work in a way that I never had before.” I noticed he didn’t mention how well he slept.
Let’s do the math on Ernie’s installation. The pond, stream, and waterfall cost is $6,100. The actual retail cost of the kit is only $1,000. $5,100 profit for only one day of labor. Notice: unlike our package, they offer no lights, no autofill, and the pond is only two feet deep. Yet three feet minimum are required for koi fish. A two foot pond affords no protection from predators such as raccoons and herons, and the shallow depth is affected easily by rapid temperature changes, causing undue stress on the pond’s inhabitants. They do not like to construct ponds over two feet deep, because they are more susceptible to cave-ins.
We would build the same pond with a depth ranging from 3 to 3 ½ feet, with no shallows for dining predators. It is constructed of rebar 18 inches on center with a shell of 3000 psi concrete (sidewalks and driveways are typically 2000 psi). This 7 sack, 60% pea with fiber mix is so dense that it’s waterproof. However, we still coat it with ThoroSeal. The pond is equipped with two anti-vortex bottom suction drains, a skimmer to remove surface debris, and an out-of-pond pump that produces 5000 gallons per hour at only 2.6 amps, compared to the liner guy’s pumps which are only 4200 gallons per hour at 7.6 amps – over twice the cost of energy! In addition, you have to pull his heavy cast iron monster pump out of the water to clean out debris.
We would also include a state of the art Aqua Ultraviolet filter and UV light – the best money can buy. The liner guy’s filter needs to be disassembled in order to clean it by hand. The Ultima II filter requires the simple turn of a handle to back flush the debris. This system has been operational in my water features for six years with no problems. We include an ultraviolet light in our system that kills the bacteria that create smells, kills pathogens that cause disease and algae spores that turn the water green. This light has a wiper arm that cleans the internal lens without the need to open the light.
We also offer an automatic electronic water level control system, the “AquaFill” by Aquamedia Corp.com that keeps the water level of the pond constant. Pond liner installers use floats that are mechanical like the float in a toilet tank. Mechanical fillers can corrode and stick, causing overflows and even poisoning the fish with excess chlorinated water. However, the AquaFill does not stick or corrode.
Not only are all our ponds designed a minimum of three feet deep, we build caves for the turtles and fish to hide in. With pond liner construction, rocks cannot be cemented to the liner and consequently many are loose, creating a hazard if someone were to step on them. Kids will be kids and I promise they will eventually be running up and down the falls. We have no loose rock because they are all cemented in place with Aquamedia Mortar Mix, which is not only three times stronger than regular mortar, it is very dense. As a result, alkali will not leach out into the water and create a pH problem. Regular mortar mix is porous and water passes through the joints of the rock, carrying with it cement residue. This in turn creates stain trails high in pH, easily poisoning the fish.
In conclusion, as an educated customer, would you pay $6,100 for a rubber pond liner or spend the same amount or a little more to get a shell made of concrete and steel that not only would never leak, but would last for decades. So what are we as contractors looking for? Exorbitant profits or peace of mind with long-term, happy clients?
It is more enjoyable for me to get a call eight years down the road from a content client than to get a complaint of a leaky pond. What does the “liner guy” disciple say? “Sorry, we only have a one year warranty”? Or do they go back and remove all the rocks, pull out the pond liner, clean it, repair the leaks, and replace all the rocks and equipment at no cost? Liners or professional installations?
You say pond liners are professionally installed.

Then why is the very same liner kit sold to homeowners and do-it-yourselfers? The reason is, it doesn’t take an experienced professional to install one.

All you need is “a garden hose and a shovel”!

Look before you leap, and ponder before you weep. Happy koi, peace and joy.

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