Finding Leaks and Repairing a Concrete Pond System


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Hi, I'm grateful for any guidance you can offer, and thanks for your time.

I'm here because I'm new to all this, so please no admonishing my ignorance or foolishness, I admit to it. Moving on.

I bought an older home a couple years ago with an impressive water feature. It's likely decades old, concrete lined (incorporating some boulders), ~5 medium sized pools (from 4-8' diameter), a long, concrete creek bed spanning about 15', several small waterfalls, and one large pond at the bottom (~12 diameter).

The intermediate owners said they infrequently turned on the pump when we bought it; we quickly realized why: It loses a significant amount of water when running.

When filled to capacity, it only takes about 8-9 hours to drain the bottom pond to a level where the pump is sucking air (though it will fill again when the other ponds drain back into it). When the pump is turned off, most ponds will hold a fair amount of water -- close to the level at which it would spill into the next section if it were running (this is good), and the bottom pond also holds a high level of water on its own. The creek bed holds no water to measure, as it drains downward by design.

I have identified a couple of ponds which drain lower than expected, however, which indicates some possible leaks in these areas above the standing water level. I greatly suspect areas where the concrete meets large rocks/boulders as points of stress, and any water level that sits lower than expected seems to involve a point where concrete meets rock, although I cannot see any cracks with the naked eye.

Long story short, I would like to attempt to patch/reinforce these areas and see if it solves the problem. I'm looking specifically for advice about how to go about this and what products people might recommend (as well as general thoughts/brainstorming about my predicament).

In my mind I've focused on two potential groups of products: hydraulic cements, or silicone/rubberized sealing products like Flex Seal, or even something like Gaco Roof. Obviously if there are more application-specific products along these lines you all might be the ones to know and I'm interested in hearing about them, and also which tactic you think is best (cement vs. silicone vs. another option).

I'm hopeful these efforts will stop the preponderance of the leaking, though if I'm satisfied these fixes are correctly applied and I still lose too much water I will have to look at two other possible areas of concern: 1) The long, concrete-lined creek bed which has embedded in it many protruding rocks, or 2) the PVC pipe buried underground (and inaccessible) which connects the pump at the bottom pond with the top cascading pond.

Thanks again for your time, hope to hear some good news or ideas,

-- Adam
 

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mrsclem

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Have no info about patching concrete but if the ponds are holding water with the pump off, seems like its the plumbing from the pump that is leaking. Check for wet spots where the plumbing runs to the top of the water feature.
 
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Have no info about patching concrete but if the ponds are holding water with the pump off, seems like its the plumbing from the pump that is leaking. Check for wet spots where the plumbing runs to the top of the water feature.
The ponds all hold some level of water, but some hold less than expected, and none sit perfectly at the brim without a flow of water happening.

There is no way to observe anything regarding the plumbing, its situated under landscaping, no indications there.

Thanks for the reply.

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Mmathis

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Hello and welcome! Totally out of my comfort zone, sorry, but hope you get it worked out. Have you checked with any pond/pool building companies to have them assess it for you?
 
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I'm with the others so far. Don't know a lot about fixing concrete liners, but based on what you shared, I'd start by trying to find the plumbing from start to finish and look for leaks there first.

I bet you're right about the interface between boulders/concrete. I'd be investigating those joints closely, too. Hydraulic cement is an amazing product, but I'm not sure how it bonds to rock if your leaks, in fact, are at those junctions. Might be better to use a flexible seal product that can adhere to both and stretch when the two materials expand/contract at different rates.

Also, that's a really cool feature! Good luck!
 
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To patch concrete I trowel on Rapid Set mortar mix available at Lowes and HD. Rapid Set is not portland based cement. It is stronger, doesn't shrink and sets quickly. It sticks well to clean concrete. First clean the concrete surface with a wire brush or muriatic acid.
 
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I'm gonna throw this out there:
Are you sure you have a leak?
Are you actually losing water or is it just getting pumped to the top?

Dumb question:
Has the whole system been filled with water?

The water from the lowest pond gets pumped to the top and you'll have to keep adding water until the whole system is filled.

I was just hoping it might be something simple.
Disregard if you have already done that.
 
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I greatly suspect areas where the concrete meets large rocks/boulders as points of stress. Good guess as if you asked me how to build the pond around the rock i'd tell you there's almost no way to insure a seal between the existing boulder and the new concrete. EVEN THOUGH THEY MAY BE SIMILAR they will expand and contract at different rates and times. the rock can have fissures /cracks and all rock absorbs some water.
products like Flex Seal, fLEX SEAL IS GARBAGE its thin and not very durable . flex paste i do not know but there's other time proven products id look at way before a cheap easy fix that may not last.
the PVC pipe buried underground remove the pump insert a plug or plumbing ballon and fill the pipe with water see if it moves. in a day or two.

PRESSURE WASH THE ENTIRE POND AND PONDS AND HAVE A COAT OF PLASTER APPLIED it can be died to a black or any color you want.

I'd give it a shot with pressure washing / plaster / and some cauking. see if it stops leaking if not then one of two things lift the boulders to above water line . Not going to happen i'd suspect. But if you drop the water to the bottom of the rock then apply moss like it is on it's own to the concrete.

There are paints/ epoxy's / fiberglass / liners but for my money i'd go with the plaster 10 million pools can't all be wrong/ that's assuming the concrete is solid and crack and spalding free
 
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To patch concrete I trowel on Rapid Set mortar mix available at Lowes and HD. Rapid Set is not portland based cement. It is stronger, doesn't shrink and sets quickly. It sticks well to clean concrete. First clean the concrete surface with a wire brush or muriatic acid.
Thanks, this is good info.
 
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I'm gonna throw this out there:
Are you sure you have a leak?
Are you actually losing water or is it just getting pumped to the top?

Dumb question:
Has the whole system been filled with water?

The water from the lowest pond gets pumped to the top and you'll have to keep adding water until the whole system is filled.

I was just hoping it might be something simple.
Disregard if you have already done that.
You know, honestly I did consider that. It's been an ongoing saga over a couple years of going only so far with it. I thought that was a possibility originally and I can't exactly remember how I concluded otherwise, I think I did fill every pond to max level and it still happened.

However, seeing that each pond returns to it's own natural level, I would think at this point there has to be a leak, as none of them sit at the brim when left alone, and some considerably lower.
 
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PRESSURE WASH THE ENTIRE POND AND PONDS AND HAVE A COAT OF PLASTER APPLIED it can be died to a black or any color you want.

I'd give it a shot with pressure washing / plaster / and some cauking. see if it stops leaking if not then one of two things lift the boulders to above water line . Not going to happen i'd suspect. But if you drop the water to the bottom of the rock then apply moss like it is on it's own to the concrete.

There are paints/ epoxy's / fiberglass / liners but for my money i'd go with the plaster 10 million pools can't all be wrong/ that's assuming the concrete is solid and crack and spalding free
This seems like good advice -- I will definitely use the plug in the PVC idea.

The boulders aren't going anywhere -- even if they are points of weakness for water, they are unmovable unless i destroyed the whole thing, as they are embedded in concrete. Each waterfall goes over rocks as well (and I suspect water is leaking under this point at several junctures -- sometimes into the next pool, as I can see it happening before it cascades over the top in some cases).

I know nothing about plaster... I'm now intrigued.

Exploring that further that does seem like a viable, yet intensive solution. Perhaps thats ultimately the best way to go, though i wonder how expensive or how much of a pain in the ass it would be to do myself. Take a look at my photos -- theres a lot to cover and so much is uneven and craggy with all the rock. If I could simply reinforce the points of weakness that would be a lot less expensive and a lot easier/faster (though if that didn't work it wouldn't matter how easy or cheap it was...).

To be clear, the actual pond beds all hold water, so coating the entire mess in plaster might also be overkill (though if thats whats necessary I'd consider it).

Couple questions:

What "time proven products" might you recommend over Flex Seal?

I notice you said caulking in conjunction with plaster. In my mind a product that can be sprayed would form to the uneven surfaces better than caulking -- is there a different option you'd recommend?

Are you aware of any particular plaster/application I should be looking at? Do you know how to apply it? Do you know how expensive that might be for material?

Thanks for your help.
 
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I know nothing about plaster... I'm now intrigued.
Plaster has been around since the begiing of man made buildings/ aquaducts and bath houses. And is still the product used in concrete and gunter pools today it how ever is not flexible in any way and must have a solid base to be applied to
 

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