Artificial rock, from the very early days of being used to create Hollywood movie sets has seen a constant rise in popularity and notoriety as the go-to method for creating unique man made environments. As the styles and processes for making artificial rock have grown, so to have the number of applications that man mad rock can be applied to. For many years, the concept of man made mountains was confined to large theme parks and expensive holiday resorts. Over the last 15-20 years however, more and more rock companies have been catering to a more private and residential market. These projects would generally include things like backyard waterfalls and ponds, some basic rock structures, or possible some type of swimming pool water feature. We at Creative Rock have been building waterfalls, pool features and creating rock concepts for many years but here are a few other ways that artificial rock can be utilised that you probably haven’t considered.
ROCK CLADDING ON WALLS
Man made rock can be used to easily cover an unsightly wall or retaining structure. An old garden wall that is falling down, or rotting away can be easily replaced with a beautiful rock wall that will easily conform to any angle, size or contour that a site may require. Creative Rock can also sculpt a natural looking rock feature onto a brick or block wall ranging from a small garden wall to an entire brick house turned to stone.
AQUARIUMS AND ANIMAL ENCLOSURES
We have built a number of rock features for zoos, large municipal aquariums, and reptile enclosures. Of course these large scale projects have an important objective to create a natural looking habitat for these animals to thrive in but consider a smaller and more practical application. Often times people are looking to build their own unique environment for a pet lizard of fish tank. This may entail a simple rock aquarium background or may involve a very complex and unique custom designed rock aquarium stand or enclosure.
UNIQUE GARDEN LIGHTS
Having been in the landscaping world for many years, I can definitely appreciate how difficult it can be to find unique and beautiful garden lights. Of course, if you’re looking for a cheap and mostly ineffective light then you will certainly find them in abundance, but if you are looking for lighting that is more dramatic and elegant that will add personality and an individual statement to the atmosphere of your home and garden, artificial rock can offer a unique solution that can be incorporated into any lighting infrastructure.
THAT AWKWARD SPACE UNDER THE STAIRS
Over the years, I have been in countless custom built designer homes where every last element has been considered, selected, and built with a keen eye on detail and quality. With the exception of one area… the awkward spot under a staircase. I can never understand how a builder, architect and/or home owner can simply neglect one of the most immediately visible areas of the home. This difficult enclave of empty space created when a large staircase (often the first thing seen when entering the front door) ascends to the second floor is an excellent opportunity if used correctly. Due to the versatility of artificial rock to be designed to accommodate any space or shape, Creative Rock features offer an elegant choice for bringing a unique water feature or fountain into this often abandoned space. There are always a number of ways to bring the outdoors in.
These days there are endless options when deciding how to finish an outdoor floor area, footpath or patio. A myriad of paving, tile, and concrete finishes are all available solutions at a wide range of costs. However, if you’re looking to make a unique impression on a particular area, sometimes you have to think outside of conventional methods and materials. Artificial rock sculpted from steel reinforced concrete provides a beautiful and natural finish to any walkway or seating area. Stepping stones made from fake rock can also provide a truly unique way to navigate through a designer garden. Often a landscape design that has amazing potential to be truly fantastic is let down by a completely bland and unimaginitive garden pathway design.
What is Artificial Rock?
There are many types of artificial rock. Sometimes fake rock can be made of a light weight polyurethane which is usually cast into a mould and pressed out into various shapes and styles. Secondly is fibreglass rock which is a more rigid medium but is also a remarkably light weight rock with practical purposes when building indoor ponds and waterfalls or on even a second floor where weight limits are a concern. Finally, there is concrete artificial rock which is the most durable and customisable type of artificial rock. Concrete artificial rock is made by first designing a steel frame infrastructure, then covering the framework with concrete. This is a very specialised concrete mix with colour,bonding,hardening and waterproofing additives put into the mix. The concrete is then hand sculpted and finished to a beautiful natural looking finish. This concrete artificial rock is what Creative Rock most often uses when we build a pond, waterfall, or fountain.
Is Artificial Rock Strong Enough To Stand On?
The structural strength of our our concrete rock features is such that it can easily withstand enormous weight loads without any risk of collapse or damage. This allows us to build magnificent rock structures over swimming pools that kids or adults can feel safe climbing onto and jumping off. Because our rock is steel reinforced and built to the highest standards, it can be used to make rock walkways/patios and stepping stones, or rock retaining walls or fake rock wall cladding. The landscape design potential is limitless when using artificial rock. When building man made rock ponds, you can always be confident that there will be no way to compromise the waterproofing as is often the case with rubber pond liners.
How Do You Build A Waterfall To Fit A Small Area?
These days, people often don’t have a lot of space to incorporate a large landscape design. Sometimes, a property may only have a small courtyard or patio and without proper consideration, these areas are often left underdeveloped and therefore not utilised the way they could be. Creative Rock can design and build a waterfall, feature or fountain to make a huge impression with very little space. After many years of landscape design specialising in artificial rock and waterfall construction, we have many tricks to help create amazing concepts to bring elegance and vitality to areas of any size.
What Other Things Can Artificial Rock Be Used For?
Artificial rock has many standard applications that are familiar to everyone. Things such as rock fountains, Koi Ponds, rock waterfall construction,and waterfalls on swimming pools, rock garden edging and retaining walls. Sometimes, however there can be some really interesting ways to incorporate artificial rock that most have never even considered. Often, swimming pools will be carefully designed inso far as the shape, style and colouring of the pool, however what is often overlooked is the positioning and design to deal with the vast amount of functional pool equipment. Pool pumps, sand filters, lighting/transformers, chlorinators, and general pipes, valves and electrical set ups all take up quite a large amount of space and are completely unattractive. I have seen many swimming pool landscape designs that are completely ruined by the fact that no thought has been given to covering these unsightly mechanics. This is where artificial rock can be a saving grace. Many times we will build a waterfall on the side of a pool so that a beautiful cascade with flowing water and strategically placed lighting showcases a wonderful feature. What some people fail to recognise it that ofter we cave built the waterfall over top of the filters and equipment so that is completely out of view. We can create an artificial rock door which is removed when servicing is needed but when running normally, all of the pool equipment is hidden inside the rock. This also helps to keep the sound of pumps and equipment much more contained so that only the tranquil sound of the waterfall is heard and not the bringing of pumps.
We Have An Old/Broken Waterfall. Do You Do Waterfall Repairs?
We have extensive experience in regards to all types of water features, artificial rock repairs, pond repairs and all elements of waterfall construction. Call us if you require a waterfall or pond to be repaired or replaced. Too often a waterfall is left empty and not functioning. This is sad and unsightly and can easily be fixed so that any water feature can be properly restored to it’s former glory.
Is Artificial Rock Expensive?
Obviously, the price of our artificial rock features is dependant on many factors. Size, scope and design are always very individual, and will require individual pricing. If you would like to get a no obligation quote, give us a ring. That said, generally concrete artificial rock is very competitive when comparing pricing with factory made plastic waterfalls. When you factor in the value of having a custom made concrete feature with the strength a durability that comes with it, we believe that the cost of a well built Creative Rock waterfall far outweighs any comparable alternatives.
There are many different applications for artificial rock and there are just as many methods for building them. This article will outline the best practices for creating your very own artificial rocks, ponds, and waterfalls. This is specifically an overview to building man made rock made of concrete. Of course there is always the option to buy artificial rock made of plastic or fibreglass, but it can sometimes be difficult to find where to buy artificial rocks. The only way to have a custom made waterfall design with imitation rock that actually feels like the real thing, is to build it from scratch. The following steps are to be used as a guide only. We have been building artificial rock in Sydney for the last 20 years and would suggest that to obtain the best result, you should contact us directly to design and build your pond, swimming pool waterfall, fountain or whatever man made rock designs you may be considering. This will ensure that your rocks/water feature looks amazing and works perfectly. However, if you are feeling brave and creative, here are the basics to building your very own artificial rocks.
STEP 1: EXCAVATION & PREPARATION FOR BUILDING THE POND
When preparing to build a concrete pond with an artificial rock feature, you must first dig a hole that will provide an ample area to catch all waterfalls and the splash that will come from cascading water. As a general rule, for every meter of waterfall height you should allow for 2 metres of pond or catchment area. If you are planning to turn it into a fish pond then there are additional factors to consider. A minimum depth of 30cm is generally required for the health of the fish. Additional pond filters may be required depending on the size and quantity of fish and these can also be purchased as a self contained unit, or created yourself with a bit of extra effort. Most ponds and waterfalls run with a circulating submersible pump. This pump must be placed in a deep section of the pond and considerations must be given to protecting the fish from injury if they get too close to the pump’s impeller. A plastic mesh surrounding the pump works well to protect the fish and also to keep the pump clear of leaves, sticks, and other debris.
Sometimes a rubber liner may be used as the waterproofing membrane for a Koi pond but generally we prefer to rely on concrete ponds to ensure a robust waterproof structure that will not be damaged from UV exposure, sharp sticks, birds, pets or servicing/cleaning. All of these thing can potentially be disastrous to pond liners.
When digging out the pond, the excavation should include an extra 100mm of depth to accommodate for the thickness of the concrete. Make sure to keep the sides of the pond quite steep. The more vertical the walls of the pond, the less surface is exposed to UV rays from the sun and the less algae will be inclined to grow. Predators like birds and cats will also be less able to ambush fish.
All concrete will require a steel framework. The integrity of all concrete structures relies on the steel infrastructure within it and the design and building of this framework will be a key component to a structural and successful pond and artificial rock project. We prefer to use a combination of various types of steel to ensure an extremely high strength for any rock structure that we build. This will ensure a very long life without problems and will allow the concrete rock to be used for structural applications such as retaining walls, rock stairs, and patios.
Before building the steel reinforcement cage that will eventually become the pond, we recommend that you place a layer of plastic into the hole first. This will allow the steel to be protected from dirt and moisture from the ground. It will in fact keep the entire area clean and dry while working and setting up the steel.
The first step in the steel work for the pond is to build a cage using 12mm reinforcing steel. This cage will form a grid and will have the bars spaced no more than 300mm apart. Remember also that steel bars will need to be raised off of the ground and walls. You can purchase concrete “chairs” that are specifically designed for this purpose. Allow some bars to protrude higher than the top of the pond level. These bars will be used as starter bars for the steel design for the artificial rock waterfall after the pond has had its first concrete pour.
Now it’s time to concrete the pond. This stage will not involve any sculpting of artificial rock at all. This pour will only be to ensure that the pond is in place and waterproof and finished. The mix should be 3:1 ratio sand/cement. Use a coarse sand with small aggregate (rocks) in it. Make sure not to use too much water as this can make the concrete slightly porous and weak. Waterproofing additives should be used, a requisite amount of Bondcrete, and plasticisers will also add workability, and extra waterproofing qualities. The pond should be finished smooth with a metal trowel while making sure no holes or cracks are left in the surface. Once troweled the pond should be left to cure slowly for a few days at least to gain strength and allowed to expel moisture. Concrete should be kept moist with wet hessian, canvas, or blankets placed over it to ensure a slow cure.
STEP 2: BUILDING THE ARTIFICIAL ROCK DESIGN
Once the pond is finished, it is time to move on to the design of the artificial rock waterfall structure. Once again you will use steel reinforcing rod to lay out the basic shapes and design. This will require an artistic vision, an idea for spacial design and a keen understanding of the functionality that you will require. The rebar is bent into rock shapes and contours. Fake rock will indeed look artificial if you do not use what we like to describe as “rock sense”. Rock formations in nature will adhere to certain traits and characteristics and if they are not emulated properly, your artificial rock will look entirely man made.
Once the basic shapes and elements have been created from steel bars, the plumbing and any low voltage electrical commissions for lighting the feature must be run behind the steel frame. The plumbing should always be constructed using pvc pressure pipe. (We exclusively use 40mm or 25mm pvc pressure pipe and pressure rated glue)
STEP 3: SCULPTING THE ARTIFICIAL ROCK
There should now be a waterproofed concrete pond in place and the steel framework has been created for the waterfall design. Now comes the tricky part. This is where experience and practice starts to have a very meaningful impact on the final result. You must cover any exposed steel structure with another base coat of concrete. Use all of the relevant additives that were used when doing the pond. Make sure all steel is completely covered and that any plumbing or conduits are in appropriately positioned so they do not interfere with the creating of the cascade. The basic shapes of the imitation rocks are first shaped with a metal trowel. Powder stencil colours are then distributed over the troweled rock shapes. We tend to use 3 or 4 different colours to get a basic colour palette that mimics natural rock. Once these multi purpose surface hardening colours have had time to absorb into the surface, then texture is applied to the rock. This is done using a combination of tools and techniques. Latex moulds taken from natural rocks can be used to get an overall basic texture. Finer details can be added using sea sponges and brushes. Once the concrete has started to harden slightly, you can begin to use carving tools to cut in sedimentary cracks and crevices.
A second layer of concrete is also added to the walls and surrounds of the pond. All concrete is finished using the previously outlined techniques until the artificial rock waterfall and pond begins to look entirely natural.
The water feature must now be allowed to dry completely. All of the fake rock should kept moist for the first few days to ensure proper hardening process. Once cured, the artificial rock needs to be carved and cleaned with a pressure washer. A concrete staining system is now used to spray on additional colourings. Sometimes a diluted exterior acrylic paint can also be used to add subtle nuances and shadings. Make sure that the mixture is sufficiently watered down so that it absorbs into the dry concrete. Once all of the rock has been finished to a beautiful and convincing finish, then a matte sheen acrylic concrete sealed should be sprayed over the entire water feature. This final sealer should be PH neutral for use in ponds that will contain fish.
Now it’s just a matter of connecting up the pump and lighting. Dressing the bottom of the pond with pebbles also makes the fishpond look natural as well as providing a natural environment for fish. Make sure to incorporate plenty of areas around the pond and waterfalls to plant various shrubs, trees, and flowers. These final touches will make all the difference.
Good luck, and we hope you enjoy your new artificial waterfall and pond.