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.

Quick Tips – Waterfall Construction

In the world of water features, there are many different tactics that contractors and homeowners use to approach building a water feature. Over the years I have encountered a variety of construction methods water features are built and through my experience have put together a list of tips that I think will help you create a natural looking water feature.

Use different sized rocks to achieve a more natural looking waterfall. But let’s be honest, when building these features moving heavy rocks can be quite the challenge.

Tip #1.

Try cutting a piece of underlayment (commonly known as geotextile fabric) large enough to hold the rock you are trying place and use it as a sling. The corners will act as handles for you to hold on to. Because the fabric is very strong it can handle the weight of heavier rocks.

 Another option to move heavy rocks by hand is to use tow straps or tie down straps. This method can be used with heavier rocks and will require more than two people to move the size rock you are working with.

If you are using large boulder and neither of the two options prove useful, you may need the help of larger equipment.

**You do not want to hurt yourself trying to move these rocks, equipment can be rented on a day to day basis at your local rental yard.

While you are placing your rocks keep in mind that you are also creating a place for water to flow. When creating your waterfall or streambed you will notice gaps forming around and behind the rocks that you have placed. Once you turn on your pump water will flow into these gaps instead of flowing down your streambed causing you to lose some of the visual effects of your stream or waterfall.  In order to avoid this, these gaps should be filled.

Tip #2.

When filling the gaps, a mortar or cement type mix can be used but this method is highly susceptible to cracking and movement. Another option is to use expandable foam, the foam will not crack or move and can fill large or small gaps in the rock placement. Typically foam is grey in color so that it will blend with most rock colors. Waterfall foam cans from Atlantic are available in two sizes – a 12 ounce can with a straw applicator or a 29 ounce can, which requires using a professional foam gun.

I highly recommend the professional foam gun if you build multiple water features during the season.

For the average one or two builds a year, the DIY 12 ounce can works great. To save on the use of foam you will only need to apply the foam in the locations that water is flowing over.

Please be sure to wear gloves and protective eyewear when handling the foam as it is very difficult to remove.

Tip #3.

A great technique to disguise the foam that you used to fill in the gaps is by covering it with smaller stones and/or gravel. You can also add a small amount of sand over the foam before it is completely dry to disguise the foam to look more like a rock.

Make sure you give the foam time to cure before you turn your waterfall on. Once the waterfall has been turned on you can add more foam to push the water in the direction you prefer at any time.

Remember this is a foam product and is not glue or a patch product for leaks. It is only used to direct the flow of water.

 

Hopefully, these tips will help save you some time and frustration (as well as your back!) and keep your water flowing in the right direction! If you have any tips of your own, please feel free to comment below.

 

About the Author:
Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens.
JIM CHUBB

Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens. With 26 years of sales experience and 16 years in the water garden industry,

 

Tools That Don’t Suck – The Pipe Fitting Reamer

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.

FIRST, A QUICK CORRECTION AND THANK YOU – out to the The Pond Gnome Paul Holdeman for being the REAL source for the nifty little Liner Cutter featured in the last blog. Although Susan had purchased them for me and the boys on a scrapbooking site, Paul showed it to her at a charity build he graciously donated his and his crew’s time and tools for at the Virginia C. Piper Cancer Center of Phoenix in 2014. Thanks Paul!!! It was a pleasure working with you!

Chevy S-10 piled high with basins, spouts, scuppers, Colorfalls, pumps, plumbing, lights etc.

And here’s another big Thank You, this one to Sean Cudmore of Pond Creations by Sean, for turning me on to our next Tool That Doesn’t Suck. Let me set the stage. I had driven up to Boston from Long Island with everything needed for New England Grows, the Northeast’s largest horticultural and landscaping show. The F-250 was in the shop, so I made the 6-hour drive in a Chevy S-10 piled high with basins, spouts, scuppers, Colorfalls, pumps, plumbing, lights etc. literally a foot over cab height. It was snowing (surprise) so the giant hump of equipment was shrink-wrapped, tarped and strapped down with straps, bungies and ratchet ties. There was a lot of heavy stuff on that load, including a 300 lb. tiled Colorfalls display, and I was worried that stuff would shift on the way up. Sure enough, when I arrived at the convention center and started to unload, one of my favorite displays had broken.

The “skeleton” style display had two Spouts mounted one on either side of a Stainless Steel Scupper, right on the plumbing pipes that supplied them with water from the basin they were attached to. The center pipe supporting the Scupper in the middle had snapped, right at the junction of two fittings, leaving no room to piece in a coupling. I was fit to be tied. I would have to cut the whole thing apart and start over with all new plumbing. Then Sean piped up from the other side of the booth, where he was setting up a thousand-pound boulder on a FB4600 fountain basin.

“Why don’t you just ream out the fittings? Save you a ton of work, not to mention materials. Pretty sure I’ve got a 2” plastic fitting reamer in the truck.”

HUH? Really? 15 minutes later there were white shavings everywhere. And it was FIXED, good as new.

Simple tool, not expensive, comes in various sizes. LIFESAVER! A disc the inside diameter of the section of pipe you want to remove guides a pair of blades that shave the old pipe right out of the fitting, leaving it ready for a new piece of pipe. Search for ‘plastic fitting reamer’ to bring up professional models that can get quite pricey or “socket saver” for an adequate, inexpensive tool that won’t last as long but will run only you $15-$30. Fast, easy, effective and what a time saver!!!! This is a real TTDS, thanks Sean!

 


 About the Author:
Demi is the Direct of Product Information for Atlantic Water GardensDEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.

Tools That Don’t Suck – Cordless (Liner) Trimmer

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.

Cordless (Liner) Trimmer

TrimmerThis first tool makes the nasty job of trimming liner and underlayment easier and much safer. Most of us have had to trim wet, bunched up, sand- and mud-laden underlayment and liners. It’s a dangerous chore. Razor knives that so easily cut clean fabric in the shop dull in minutes in the field, requiring new blades constantly (until you run out). There’s always the risk of cutting too close or through a hidden fold (or yourself) while hacking away. (And let’s not even mention where the dull-but-dangerous-used-blades-that-should-always-be-safely-disposed-of turn up.)

My wife Susan, who is always looking out for me and her boys, saw this little trimmer advertised for scrapbookers. She actually thought it might work for us! I laughed at the “toy” when it arrived. I don’t laugh at this tool anymore. I have since apologized to Susan. Many times. (She likes that.)

Skil TrimmerThe original trimmer shown is 4 years old and has gone through hell. It ain’t fast, but it still chews through muddy, sandy liner and underlayment for hours on a charge, though I’m not sure exactly how many. In the field, trimming in 10 minute bursts every hour or two, it doesn’t run out for a couple of days, very forgiving for when we forget to charge it overnight. The octagonal blade with its 8 corners almost self-feeds through a single layer of liner up to 60 mil or 8oz fabric with minimal effort, and it continually sharpens as it spins. One last thing, for anyone with employees (or sons, or an aversion to seeing their own blood) – it’s almost impossible to cut
yourself.

Skil discontinued the model shown, but there are a number of similar trimmers out there, many around $45. At that price, we can afford to test them for the day that Old Red finally dies. Give these cordless trimmers a try; I think you’ll find this is one Tool That Don’t Suck. Thanks, Sue!

**UPDATE

QUICK CORRECTION AND THANK YOU – out to the The Pond Gnome Paul Holdeman for being the REAL source for the nifty little Liner Cutter featured in the last blog. Although Susan had purchased them for me and the boys on a scrapbooking site, Paul showed it to her at a charity build he graciously donated his and his crew’s time and tools for at the Virginia C. Piper Cancer Center of Phoenix in 2014. Thanks Paul!!! It was a pleasure working with you!

 


 About the Author:
Demi is the Direct of Product Information for Atlantic Water GardensDEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.

The CICY Project – From Orchids to Cenotes

It all started at the IWGS Symposium, in an orchidarium in a salt mine one hundred feet below 20150813_110344-1Kansas City. I was chatting with a lovely couple, Porfi and Beatriz, long time members of the International Waterlily and Water Garden Society, IWGS or I-Dub for short. We chatted as we ogled the 10,000 or so magnificent orchids at Bird’s Botanicals that flourished in the controlled temperature and humidity of the vast underground caverns. (If orchids in salt mines sound pretty cool to you, consider joining – the IWGS and its members are very interesting indeed.)

The subject was the artificial ponds and lakes of the Yucatán Peninsula. I’ve been traveling to Mexico for number of years, trying to help our distributors in Yucatán maintain the many large water features that are built using swimming pool technology. Unfortunately, lakes are not large swimming pools, as my friends Lydia and Nacho Barroso can attest.

As the owners of a very successful pool and spa distributorship that has expanded into every facet of water technology, the Barrosos have found through years of experience that chlorine and sand filters cannot adequately deal with the sun and heat of southeastern Mexico. The large shallow artificial lakes at every golf course, country club, condo complex and resort on the Peninsula require a different strategy. Years of trial and error have proven phytofiltration, cleaning and clearing water with plants, the best course of action. While we strolled through the cavern, I asked Porfi, who lives near the Barrosos, if he could help, and he knew just where to find aquatic plants.

Then he asked if we knew about a pond project coming up at a local botanical garden. That’s CICYhow we found out about the Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán, or CICY (pronounced SEE-see). I Googled it as soon as we got back from the tour. According to the webpage, CICY is “a public research institution (whose) mission is to generate scientific and technological knowledge in the areas of plant biochemistry and molecular biology, agricultural biotechnology, natural resources, materials science, water sciences, and renewable energy in order to contribute to sustainable development.” What could we do for el CICY, I wondered?

My next trip down to Merida my friends and I stopped by for a look around. They have some really cool stuff there, including a cloning lab and a huge collection of native plants, and they were about to put in a new Sensory Garden. Porfi knew the architect and the botanist in charge of the gardens, and had heard that the centerpiece of the new 20150713_092457Sensory Garden was to be a pond – would we be interested building it?

Would we ever! This was a golden opportunity to show off just what active bog filtration could do, in a public garden that would receive 150,000 visitors a year. Now to make it happen…To Be Continued.

Subscribe to receive updates on new blog posts, including Demi Fortuna’s next post on the construction of the bog pond.

Read “The CICY Project – Part 2”

 


 About the Author:
Demi is the Direct of Product Information for Atlantic Water GardensDEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.

 

Illuminating your Outdoors

Illuminating your outdoor space can be tricky. How many lights do you need? Where do you place them to get the best lighting during the evening? Where and what are the best aspects to highlight in a water feature?

In a pond or waterfall you need to be very careful with the placement of light. Even in the water, light can be blinding to someone who is looking into your pond. A good rule to follow is always place the light facing away from the viewing area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In this picture the lights highlight aspects of the pond but are facing away from the main viewing area. These lights are small enough to be placed in the water and to be hidden within the rocks around the edge of the pond.

The amount of lights you use is completely up to yosol_lights_beautyu depending on how bright you want your water feature to be at night. If you have a lot of focal points that you want to highlight, use as many lights as needed to illuminate the area. You should want to focus on the main aspects of the water feature that draw the most interest.

For example, you would not want to place a light into a stream that is flat with not a lot of water movement. By placing the light on the falls of stream beds and waterfalls, you create a more visually interesting feature at night.

The shadows cast on buildings from the movement of water and light will create a very dynamic effect that will make a lasting impression.

Another tip for light placement is to stagger the lights throughout the landscape or area to create balance. The goal is to move the viewers eye through the entire space, using too much light in the foreground will prevent viewers from experiencing the entire water feature.

Do you have  any other tips or questions on light placement? Post them below.


About the Author:
Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens.
JIM CHUBB

Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens. With 26 years of sales experience and 16 years in the water garden industry, Jim is your go-to guy for selling water features.

How Many Eco-Blox do I need for my Pond-free Feature?

Pond-free System

Pond-free features, where a pond or waterfall recirculates from an underground reservoir, have become very popular because they are easier to build and maintain than fish ponds. The Pond-free basin is a hole lined with EPDM rubber to make it waterproof, filled with water matrix boxes called Eco-Blox that can support thousands of pounds.

This weight-bearing reservoir can be hidden under gravel, lawn, pavers – you can even build waterfalls right on top of it! The water in Eco-Blox basins stays clean and clear, so maintenance is much simpler. Pond-free water features are generally safer too, because there’s no way for anyone to fall in.

With the great popularity of these features,  we receive many questions. One of the main questions we get at Atlantic is “How many Eco-Blox do I need?”

Here’s how to figure that out.

First, find the volume of water needed to fill the stream and falls to overflowing.

Usually about 3” in the whole stream will do. Measuring everything in feet makes things easier, so convert 3” to a quarter of a foot. For a 6-foot by 2-foot stream:

Length x Width x 0.25 feet = 6’ x 2’ x 0.25’ = 3 cubic feet

We’ll want 3 times as much water in the reservoir as we need, so the level will only drop by a third when we turn the system on before it starts recirculating:

3 cubic feet x 3 = 9 cubic foot reservoir

Finally, we’ll divide by 4.3 cubic feet, the number of cubic feet in an Eco-Blox:

9 cubic feet ÷ 4.3 cubic feet/Eco-Blox = 2.1 Eco-Blox

With the addition of a Pump Vault to house and protect the pump, as well as providing a little extra water volume, 2 Eco-Blox will be perfect!

 

Now that you know how many Eco-Blox you’ll need for your next project, check out our video on how assemble one.


 About the Author:
Demi is the Direct of Product Information for Atlantic Water GardensDEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.