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Adding a water feature to your property is one of the most popular home improvement and landscaping projects around. This has been true for many years. Water, whether it's in a lake, a pond or cascading down a rocky waterfall, is one of the most naturally soothing things you can bring to your home.
When working with or adding a lake, pond or waterfall to your property, there are many things to consider. As with any home improvement project, there are potential mistakes at every step, and some of these mistakes can be very costly. Others are very harmful to the environment. However, if you're considering adding beauty to your property with a water feature, there's no need to worry. All of the most common mistakes can be avoided with a bit of knowledge and some careful forethought.
In this article, we'll review the most common mistakes made by homeowners when dealing with water features. We'll also help you avoid these mistakes, saving you headaches, saving you money, and ensuring that your water feature is gentle on the environment.
Common Mistake - The Landscaped Lakefront
If you're fortunate enough to live on a lake, you may want to landscape your property in order to make your yard more beautiful. While extensive landscaping has been done on lakefront property in the past, environmental experts now warn that this particular part of your property is best left alone.
When extensive landscaping is done near a lake, several things usually occur. Native plants and grasses are typically taken out in order to extend the yard right down to the water's edge. Often, other plants are put in the place of these native ones, plants chosen purely for looks.
While the look of a perfectly landscaped yard is undeniably beautiful, a lakefront is simply not the place for it. If you own natural lakefront property, experts recommend leaving it as is. In nature, you'll notice that lakes and ponds are almost always surrounded by vegetation. This provides several vital elements for the individual body of water, including oxygen and nutrients for animals living in the water. In addition, many native species live within those plants. In today's world of earth-conscious behavior, the kindest option is to leave your lakefront exactly as nature designed.
If your lakefront property is already landscaped, there are many steps you can take to reverse the damage. These steps will result in a naturalized lakefront which is different but every bit as beautiful as the one you now have. Even better, you'll be doing your part to help the earth.
Your first step is to contact your local Department of Natural Resources for a list of plants which are native to your area, and which are suitable for planting near a lake. Ask about resources for obtaining these plants as well, since many are not readily available at your local nursery.
Once you've obtained the plants or seeds you need, removing the grass and any ornamental plants comes next. The earth should be thoroughly aerated in order to give the new native species a good opportunity to put down roots.
Planting is the last step. Once your new, native plants are in the ground, nature will take over. In time, you'll have a lakeshore which has been completely restored to its natural state, making the enire lake that much healthier. Encourage your neighbors to do the same. As a general rule, experts agree that your landscaped lawn should begin no less than ten feet from the lakeshore. Keeping a path through the native plant area for lake access is perfectly fine and will not affect the naturalization process.
The mistake of landscaping right down to the lake itself is simply outdated. Now that we know this practice is harmful, there's no reason to continue harming lakes. Naturalizing helps you practice an earth-friendly lifestyle, and has the added bonus of giving you a beautiful and maintenance-free view!
Common Mistake 1 - Not Digging Deeply Enough
Digging a pond seems like a fairy simple concept. You're just digging a hole in the ground, after all. However, a pond isn't just a hole. It must be deep enough to prevent the water from evaporating, yet shallow enough to allow light to reach to the bottom and prevent stagnation.
Consult an expert before you begin to dig. Pre-fabricated pond "shells" eliminate this issue, but they only come in a set number of sizes and shapes, so many homeowners choose to use a flexible liner instead. If this is the project you're taking on, don't go it alone.
There are several online pond retailers who can provide books on the subject, and many large home centers have extremely knowledgeable employees who can give you the proper specifications. Digging a pond, only to have it all dry up, is a common and frustrating mistake. Play it safe from the beginning and start with the proper depth.
Common Mistake 2- Ignoring Safety Precautions
Just like any other body of water, a pond on your property poses a risk of drowning. Since putting a fence around your pond destroys much of the natural beauty, most homeowners must decide for themselves if they're willing to take the risk. If you have small children in your household, it might be good to wait a few years. The same applies if your neighborhood is full of kids.
While for many homeowners this is a personal decision, some areas have strict laws. Laws regarding swimming pools are more common and well known, but many cities and towns have begun imposing the same types of safety regulations on decorative water features as well.
Don't make the mistake of ignoring these regulations. Even if no injuries ever occur, you could face large fines due to an improperly protected water feature, and you could potentially be forced to fill it in. Call your local government office and find out what regulations you need to follow.
Common Mistake 3- Ignoring Underground Utilities
When installing a pond or a waterfall feature with underground components, far too many homeowners make the mistake of not checking with local utility companies. Any project which includes digging should be preceded by a phone call to water, gas, and any other companies which run underground lines.
If you don't know where utility lines are located on your property, you run the risk of hitting them when you dig. Depending on the pipe or line that you hit, this could result in a host of serious problems. Hitting a water main could result in a flood, hitting cable and internet lines can leave your entire neighborhood disconnected, and hitting a gas line can be truly catastrophic, resulting in an explosion.
Utility companies will provide you with a map, detailing the exact locations of any pipes or lines which run through your property. Obtain these maps before you plan the location of your new water feature, and be sure to make any hired workers aware of where they should and shouldn't dig. This is one of the most dangerous mistakes made during the installation of ponds and other water features, but thankfully it's also a very simple one to avoid.
Common Mistake 4- DIY Electrical Work
Water features have come a long way in recent years. The most elaborate ponds often feature fountains which mimic those found in front of upscale hotels, including built-in light shows. Waterfalls are available with lights as well, in addition to automatic water recycling features which allow the waterfull to run without needing refills.
While these features are stunning to look at and add a great deal of visual appeal to your property, they usually contain electrical components which can be very tricky to install yourself. In fact, in many areas, a licensed electrician must perform this type of installation to avoid fines and insurance issues.
If your chosen water feature is self-contained and only needs to be plugged into an existing outdoor wall outlet, you have nothing to worry about. However, many homeowners make the mistake of trying to "rig" the electrical components of their water features. This is a huge mistake, and it can be both dangerous and expensive.
If your new water feature requires intricate wiring, play it safe and hire a licensed electrician to do the job. Don't hire a handyman; electrical work, in most areas, can't be performed legally without a license. Yes, this means an added initial expense. However, when you consider the potential fines, insurance losses and fire risks that come with a DIY electrical job, that initial expense doesn't seem so high.
Common Mistake 5- Awkward Placement
We've already talked about the dangers of digging near utility lines and the potential hazards invoved with open water and children. However, placing your new water feature in an awkward spot is another common mistake, albeit not a dangerous one.
If you're like most homeowners, you're putting a good deal of time and money into your new water feature. So why would you want to stick it in a corner of your backyard where it will never be seen or enjoyed? Although it doesn't make much sense, this is one of the most common water feature mistakes.
Naturally, you probably don't want to put a pond or waterfall right in the center of your front yard. Water features are very soothing, and they seem to call for an out-of-the-way spot. However, you need to ensure that you will actually get to enjoy this peaceful addition to your property.
There are a few ways to do this. Many homeowners opt for a free-standing waterfall which can be tucked into a corner, placing it on the front porch. This unexpected placement is beautiful, and ensures that you'll appreciated your waterfall each time you exit and enter your home. These waterfalls are generally faux stone, and can look quite realistic.
Another popular way to maximize your enjoyment of a water feature is to create a small oasis surrounding the area. This can be as simple as a chair to relax in, or it might involve a small grove of shady trees and a hammock. Landscaping in this manner ensures that your whole household will be able to enjoy your new water feature easily and comfortably.
Installing a new water feature, or landscaping around an existing one, isn't rocket science. With a bit of planning and attention to the natural environment, you can create a truly beautiful place to relax.