Category Archives: Technical

Neptune Panels: Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions

By Jonathan Allard 

waterfalls, waterfall, backyard waterfall, water feature, fountain, facts about neptune panels, what is neptune panels, how to install neptune panels, hardscape, hardscape design, aquascape, aquascape waterfall, neptune panels

Q. Do I need a permit or engineered plans to install a water feature?

A. That all depends on your local ordinances. You should check with your local building inspector before work begins.

Q. What is the proper care that I should take for my molds?

A. There are several things you should do. First, you should seal them. Keep them out of direct sunlight. Never use mineral spirits as a release agent on them. Don’t let the panel mix start to build up on them. Clean and re-seal as needed.

Q. What should I do if the mix is too wet or too dry?

A. If the mix is too dry simply add clean water slowly a couple ounces at a time and remix. If the mix is too wet you can let it stand for several minutes in which it should start to stiffen up or you can add a small amount of Portland cement and remix.

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Q. Can I build a water feature below 32 degrees?

A. Yes you can, providing you take all the industry-standard precautions for below freezing concrete installations. This would include, warming blankets on the ground before you pour, as well as keeping the entire feature above freezing temperatures for at least seven days and nights after you pour.

Q. What is the desired thickness for each panel?

A. You should try to keep you panel 1/2” thick.

Q. How many bags of Neptune Panel mix will I use for each panel?

A. You can figure an average of three bags for 2 panels. This is based on a ½” thickness average. This will vary slightly + or – based upon the individual molds.

Q. Do I really have to apply sealer to my molds before use?

A. Yes you do. By sealing the molds you are closing any little pores that the panel mix might be able to penetrate into. By allowing the composite to penetrating into the pores of the mold, it will not allow you to release the panels without ripping the molds apart.

Q. Can I make my panels outdoors?

A. Yes, just be sure to cover be freshly poured panel mix with a light plastic sheathing. This will prevent rapid evaporation of the water and will mitigate the amount of cracking you could get.

waterfalls, waterfall, backyard waterfall, water feature, fountain, facts about neptune panels, what is neptune panels, how to install neptune panels, hardscape, hardscape design, aquascape, aquascape waterfall, neptune panels

 

Q. How long do I have to wait until I can use my Neptune Panel after it has been demolded?

A. We recommend you wait at least 24hrs before using or hanging your panels after they have been demolded.

Q. Do I have to color my project immediately or can I wait?

A. You may wait to color your project as long as you do not seal it. When you are ready to color you will need to make sure that you remove any dust or debris from your project so you will get a good bond with the color.

 

Do you have any Additional questions or concerns? (Check out our FAQ’s page for more)

Click here if you would like to learn more about Neptune Panels

 

Neptune Panels: Coloring Your Water Feature

By Jonathan Allard
water feature, waterfall, fountain, waterfalls, how to color a water feature, neptune panels, how to color a waterfall, how to color a neptune panel
With the construction phase of the water feature now complete, you’ll want to do a general site cleanup of all tools, construction material, and debris to give you a clean environment to start coloring. To protect the area around the water feature from any overspray or drips from the color, you will want to hang or lay plastic over it. This should include any finished flatwork, buildings, and plants or trees. You should also use a leaf blower to remove any dust or fine particles from the water feature to ensure a good bond by the stain.
It is now time to bring your water feature to life. We will do that with color. A lot of dealers
start out very concerned about not being very artistic. There is nothing to worry about; coloring your project is about technique that requires just a little practice and having no fear. You see, as with nature, nothing is perfect. There are no two stones or rocks that look exactly alike or have the exact same coloring or even texture. Since nature doesn’t color every stone perfectly consistent, neither should we.

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Note:

All Neptune Panels colors come in a concentrated form. You will have to dilute the color by using distilled water only. In order to get two or three shades of each color use the ratio of distilled water to color as follows; 3 parts distilled water to 1 part color, 2:1, or even 1 to1. This will allow you a greater range of color and more natural looking shading. By diluting one color and using all the different shades of the color you will be less likely to have a checkerboard style, coloring pattern. The checkerboard look will typically occur when the installer does not dilute down the color and uses it in a concentrated form.
There are some basic principles that you should follow that will allow you to have success immediately after training.
The key to coloring all projects no matter where you are in the country or what colors you may use is as simple as starting with the lightest shade, to the darkest shade. When you typically color a project you will probably only use three or four colors. The key to realism is when you dilute each one the colors and you’ll end up with 8 to 12 colors and/or shades.
Once you have chosen the color scheme you are going with, dilute to the lightest color first, and then begin brushing it on your project. Once you have finished coloring your rocks, you can move on to a darker shade. With Neptune Panels color you do not have to wait for one coat to dry before applying another coat, even if it is a different color. There is an acrylic added to the color that allows it to bond to each other whether or not the bottom coat is dry. This is very beneficial to you, the installer, as it saves time and money as it allows you to continue working.
water feature, waterfall, fountain, waterfalls, how to color a water feature, neptune panels, how to color a waterfall, how to color a neptune panelAs you continue coloring from the lightest to darkest shades, you should also be swapping out and using other colors at the same time, in the same fashion. One way to think about coloring is you are actually low lighting the cracks and crevices as opposed to highlighting all the ridges and peaks. Just remember, you can always go darker but it’s not so easy to go lighter. If you’re stones look perfect close up, odds are they may look fake from a distance.

When coloring, as long as you don’t seal the feature you can always tweak the color. If the customer is very specific in what they are looking for, make sure you get approval on the coloring before you seal the project, you will save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.

Helpful Hint:
When you sell a water feature to a homeowner, do not let them pick the colors, but simply pick a color scheme only. Let them decide if they want to have for example; blues and grays, browns and tans, or even the South West reds. Odds are, you will never have color corrected photos and even if you did, every stone you color is different so you would never be able to match it exactly anyway.

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Neptune Panels: The 5 steps to Constructing Water Features

By Jonathan Allard
How is a Neptune Panel Water Feature constructed?
Maybe you have read through our 5 Step Process, which is also listed below, and still not sure how the system works. Here is a quick video on the 5 steps in application.
 
 
Here is the overview of the 5 step process that is listed in the video:
Step 1: Making panels 
Neptune Panel molds are made from true stone textures to capture the most realism on the market today. With a simple mixing procedure panels are made by casting the mix on top of the Neptune mold. By adjusting the way the mold lays, you can produce countless different shapes with just one mold. Panels can be de-molded after a minimum of 4 hours, and reproduced several times a day to allow for a stockpile to be built up to be ready for any project that comes your way.
Step 2: Prepping the site.
To prepare for a typical medium-sized stand-alone water feature you will need approximately a half day to excavate and install rebar. Your pond will be excavated and at the same time you will excavate for your footing. After that you will install your rebar in grid fashion and tie at all intersections. This typically can be done with a 2 man crew and minimum tools. Your plumbing will also be done at the same time.
Step 3: Pouring the catch basin and frame footer.
With a small crew you can expect to be able to pour your pond and footer area for the frames in a matter of 3-4 hours. You will wet set the frames into the footer area as well plaster, carve, and texture the pond.
Step 4: Hanging panels.
Once you are ready to hang your panels you will want to start at the lowest area of the front of the feature. Work in rows around the entire structure moving upward. After all your panels are hung you can begin to mud the seams and do all your patch work. This can take anywhere from 5-6 hours or several days depending on the size of the feature.
Step 5: Coloring and Sealing.
Now you are going to color your feature using the Neptune stains. Choose a color scheme and use sprayers and brushes to apply. Just as with nature, nothing is perfect. There are no two stones or rocks that look exactly alike or have the exact same coloring or even texture. Since nature doesn’t color every stone perfectly or consistently, achieving perfection on your project requires a degree of randomness.
If you would like to see more photos of projects and the panel system in action, “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Pinterest!
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References:
http://blog.neptunepanels.com/2013/02/25/how-to-build-backyard-water-features-with-neptune-panels/
 

5 Important Strategies When Building A Backyard Water Feature

 Strategies When Building A Backyard Water Feature

When you build a backyard water feature, using your imagination and creativeness can result in some of the most breath taking features. Along with these attributes you also need to keep in mind some of the basics to keep your project working correctly and efficiently. Here are a few things to always keep in the back of your mind as you are building.

1.            Controlling the water

Water will always find the path of least resistance when traveling down your falls. Keep the sides higher will keep the water from spilling off areas that are not intended. The pitch should always carry the water towards the pond and depending on the angle it can slow or speed up the flow. Be sure that your reservoir is higher in the back and sealed up tight. You don’t want water leaking of the backside of the waterfall. Creating ridges and crests can help divert water into the designated areas or simply break the flow up.

2.            The drop

Depending on the desired effect will determine the face and angle of the cantilever. Some features are designed to flow down the face and then drop into the pond while others are meant to sheet or “spill” from above. By having a predetermined goal before construction will allow you to set your panels in the correct position and make for less adjusting later on.

3.            Leveling the Pond

When pouring the pond make sure you keep a levelness to the outside stones. You can still create different size rocks just ensure they all “flow” in the same manner. If the pond is poured at an angle and because water is always level, your unevenness will be highlighted.

4.            Pond Size

The size and depth of the pond can plays a big role in safety and efficiency. For one, if you are not adding decorative stone to the bottom to build up the actual depth make sure there will not be an issue with children or pets falling in. The size of your pond will be determined by the height and flow of water of your waterfall. Make sure that it is not to close otherwise you may get splashing of the pond rocks which can make the feature less enjoyable to those around it.

5.            The Shape of your Waterfall

The outline of your backyard waterfall should always have a natural look to it. With many different styles of stones and boulders to replicate it is easy to lose track of the final shape. You may have a feature full of the greatest textures and coloring but if it does not appear feasible in nature then most times it will not look right. Always step back as you are building to get a whole view of the project. Look at it from different angles to make sure they all coincide and look pleasing.

No two backyard waterfalls look the exact same and building styles are unique from person to person. Letting your creative side take over can ensure that your water feature will be an expression of your skill and artistic ability, just remember to fall back to the basics to keep on the right track to a successful project.

 

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3 Steps To Pouring the Pond For Your Backyard Waterfall

Before you start hanging the panels for your backyard waterfall you and your team will have to pour the catch basin. This step can be completed quite fast so attention to detail is important. Excavation should take a couple of hours including installing steel and plumbing. Make sure to have equipment, rebar, plumbing, and frames on site as you will need them for the prep.

First on the list is digging the pond. Be sure to remove all organic material when excavating. You will want to keep the sides of the pond at a slope and not straight up and down, this will help when you are stacking the mud and also help with the freeze/thaw cycle when the pond has pressure on it. Keep the area where your pump is going, the lowest point so that water will drain towards it when cleaning or winterizing.

preparing to pour a pond for a backyard waterfall

Tying the rebar will be the next step. Bend and shape rebar along the contours of the pond in a 12” x 12” grid. Tie off each intersection so that there are no loose ends to worry about. Candy cane the ends off the rebar up over the edge if the pond for reinforcement of the borders rocks. Once you have all the steel tied you can put broken bricks or stones under the cage to lift it off the ground about 3-4 inches to allow the concrete encompass the steel. You can also set your frames and plumbing in at this point. Be sure to tape any open ends of the pipe so no mud gets in. Set the frames according to your design and you can tie some rebar into them for sturdiness during the pour.

building a waterfall pond

Now for the fun part! The pour. You will be pouring a 4500 psi grout mix for the pond. Ideally you will want to get the ready mix truck right next to the pond. A majority of the pouring will be into the bottom of the pond and you will shovel it into place. Work up the slopes and onto the edge of the pond with the mud. You will want to make sure you put enough concrete on the edge to carve your rocks out when the mud has set up some. While some of the crew is taking care to carve and texture the outside stones someone in the pond will be making sure to have a depth of about 8” everywhere.

Be sure to keep the pitch in the bottom heading towards where the pump will be. Pile up concrete around the frames as well and make sure to lift them up into the middle of the concrete. Let it set up some and then add any additional you need for a good footing around the frames. Once you have cut and textured all the edge stones, Plaster the inside making sure to close up all the pores while you work your way out of the pond. After you have poured all the mud you need and everything is textured spend time with a brush detailing the joints and textures.

carving a backyard waterfall pond

Once you have cleaned up all the excess mud and all detail work is done let the pond cure overnight before doing any more work on it. By the next morning you will be ready to start tying rebar around the frames and hanging panels!

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How To Design A Backyard Waterfall

how to design a backyard waterfall

 

So you have decided to build a water feature to enhance your client’s outdoor living area. The concept of a backyard waterfall has your customer intrigued and excited but now you have to come up with a design. Following a few simple procedures you will have a design that will functionally and aesthetically be pleasing to the consumer.

Step 1. Planning and Layout

Take a look at your surroundings and see what is workable and what isn’t. Take advantage of slopes or existing rocks that can be incorporated. Look at the size and height you are planning on and see where it will fit best. Is it a feature that you want people to be up close and personal with? Or is it simply for viewing and background noise? Try to use the environment to your advantage.

Step 2. The Spillway

Your spillway will play a big part in the entire design for the waterfall. The flow of water will impact the visual attributes of the feature greatly. If you are looking for a quieter and less dramatic fall then a cascading effect should be the goal. For a more emotional and breathtaking fall you will want to have sheer cliff faces and cantilevered design. Find out which side you are leaning to or somewhere in between that compliments the desired outcome.

Step 3. Catch Basin (Pond)

The ponds shape and design will coincide with the flow of water and size of the feature. Usually the most popular design is the pond less design. This helps when children are present or even family pets as the pond is filled with a decorative aggregate close to the water surface. Kidney shapes are also quite common as they break things up from being perfectly circular. Depending on the height of your falls you will need to keep in mind how far out the spill will hit and how much splash will go over the edge

Step 4. Aesthetics

4. This can be very important as there are several things that can be easily overlooked. The loudness of your feature can be very relaxing but also turn a beautiful waterfall into an area where people can not kick back and conversate because of the noise. Splash is another key thing to be aware of. If your feature is a butting a patio or hang out spot you don’t want water splashing all over admiring guests. Being situation-ally aware is also very important. Where can the backyard waterfall be seen from? Is it going to be enjoyed from more than one spot in the yard? Keeping these in mind will keep you project much more visually pleasing and functional.

Step 5. Special Circumstances

You will want to know how your client intends to use the feature. If they are planning on fish or any habitats then you will need special filters and chemicals and be sure to make sure the sun will not be an issue. If nighttime is a big use for them you may need electrical conduit for accent lighting. Take into consideration everything beforehand so that you are properly setup and not dealing with after thoughts that can be very costly and time consuming.

waterfall design for garden

As always, being innovative will set you apart from the competition, just don’t forget the basics and you can take your design in any direction you wish.

 

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How Strong are Neptune Panels?

strength of gfrc panels

As the world of GFRC has progressed, there has always been the demand for lighter, thinner, and stronger panels. These demands start with the mix and even know all GFRC is somewhat similar in design, subtle differences can create varied results in the end product.

GFRC is as defined: Glass fiber reinforced composite materials consist of high strength glass fiber embedded in a cementitious matrix. In this form, both fibers and matrix retain their physical and chemical identities, yet they produce a combination of properties that cannot be achieved with either of the components acting alone. In general fibers are the principal load-carrying members, while the surrounding matrix keeps them in the desired locations and orientation, acting as a load transfer medium between them, and protects them from environmental damage. In fact, the fibers provide reinforcement for the matrix and other useful functions in fiber-reinforced composite materials. Glass fibers can be incorporated into a matrix either in continuous lengths or in discontinuous (chopped) lengths.

HPIM0846

At Concrete Developments we wanted the same thing; lighter, thinner, and stronger. To get there we have countless hours experimenting with different mixes aimed at creating a panel that would hold up to the standards we had set in place.  As we are largely in the business of producing resort style water features, we know that these projects will be played and climbed upon and need to be able to support this and whatever mother nature has to throw at us as well. With the results came the birth of Neptune Panels.

We now have a panel mix that cures out at 8500-9000+psi, accompanied by a flexural strength of 1675 psi. This creates one of the strongest systems on the market, including architectural GFRC systems used in commercial buildings. It contains a proprietary blend of fibers and is used in conjunction with an all acrylic, co-polymer dispersion (51%) specifically formulated for GFRC production. This drastically improves long-term durability of the GFRC composite, especially in the maintenance of the long-term flexural strain.

Strength being one of the key components to GFRC, it is a common goal of designers to find the right ratios of size and composition of the fibers added to maximize the flexural strength. We continually are looking to keep innovating and designing along with the rest of the industry to further advance the possibilities of GFRC.

Please feel free to comment or share with us your GFRC project!

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How To Build Caves And Grottoes With The Neptune Panels System

The trend in outdoor living areas continues to grow as homeowners seek to make the most use of their property.  Resort style features like backyard waterfalls, caves and grottoes are becoming accessible to these customers as new and advanced systems are being developed to replicate the look and feel of these elements found in nature.

swimming pool grotto

The Neptune Panels system is a new system that enables contractors to help homeowners realize their resort fantasy in their own backyard.

Neptune panels have a wide diversity of uses, and one great example is constructing grottoes and caves. These methods can take your water feature or outdoor living area design to a whole new level. Using some of the basic methods for creating a Neptune water feature with a few additional steps you can produce a gorgeous, resort style feature right in your own backyard.

building a swimming pool grotto

  1. Start by making your Neptune panels from your molds while you are working on other phases of you project so that when it is start time you can work in a productive manner and there is no wasted time. Remember by using the molds to make different shapes in the panels it will be easier to find the “fitting” piece when building and help in making a more powerful feature.
  2. Depending where your grotto is being built will determine the amount of time needed for prep work. Generally you will need at least a day min. and quite a bit of steel with a varying amount of gauges. Typically sonotubes are used with rebar inserted and concrete poured inside for a structural base. Using higher gauge steel where needed continue to bend and tie your rebar together to create a structural steel grid.
  3. Once you have secured all of your rebar and poured any footers/sonotubes required for your project you can begin to attach your panels to the grid. Start and complete the inside before moving to the outer panels. This will allow you to cover the backs of the panels with concrete to give the extra structural strength needed. Continue with the same method for the outer panels.
  4. With all the panels tied and secured you can mud and seam all the joints and openings. Be sure to texture the fresh mud and brush in all seams. You will want to hydraulic cement all areas that will be covered by flowing water. It is also smart to do the same to the entire top even where water will not be, this will help seal out any rain or weather from seeping in and causing drips below.
  5. Now it is time to color your feature. Using Neptune stains and a color scheme in mind spray and brush on stains. When you have completed coloring, be sure that you and your client are happy with the look before sealing as it is very difficult to fix the color after it has been sealed. Once you have agreed on the look go ahead and apply a coat of sealer to finish up your project!

swimming pool grotto

 

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What is Neptune Panels?: Behind the Waterfall

By Jonathan Allard

Here are a Few Examples:

waterfalls, waterfeatures, aquascapes, neptunepanels

waterfalls, waterfeatures, aquascapes, neptunepanels

 

Since 2010 Concrete Developments has tried to develop ways to re-invent the way custom backyard waterfalls are built. In the construction industry there are two popular methods of installing water features; real stone and modular GFRC systems.

Real stone is very time consuming and can also be very expensive. Heavy machinery is needed to lift and place stones and cantilevered features are tough to construct. Modular GFRC systems offer a lighter and faster way to resemble real stone.  While easier to install than real rock, the design is limited to what kits the company offers. That means the waterfall that spills into your pool could be the same exact one that your neighbor down the street has.

The goal of Concrete Developments was to produce a panel system that would be light weight, high strength, and have true, defining textures. Using a long lasting, durable mold material we took impressions of stone from around the country.  This offers a wide variety of texture themes to work with.

Our first goal was to produce a panel that would be light weight, high strength, and have true, defining textures. Consisting of impressions from real stone a long-lasting, durable material was used to create the panel molds. This gave us a wide variety of texture themes to work with.

Next was to develop a panel mix. We worked closely with a renowned GFRC leader, who created a mix that is on the cutting edge of lightweight concrete. Not only does it have a compression strength of over 9000 psi , it has a flexure strength of over 1650 psi. This combination along with a light weight frame provides a solid foundation to work from.

Neptune panels are now used in a variety of different applications. They can be used indoor and outdoor, and have truly changed the thought process on waterfall design. Cantilevers are now created with ease, sheer drops and cascading falls are simply achieved. Not only has the waterfall section of a feature changed but the textures around it now are complimentary to the falls themselves by having the ability to make in and out clefs, jagged shelves, and protrusions that are true to nature. No other product allows for such versatility and creativity.

Tell us your thoughts below about our unique product, we appreciate your feedback.

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Neptune Panels vs Modular Waterfall Systems

There are several methods available on the market today for creating faux rock waterfalls and outdoor living features.  Quality, functionality, simplicity, realism, and of course customer satisfaction are some of the reasons to make a valid comparison between the different systems available. Which is the most efficient in producing pool-side, stand-alone, and other styles of water features? The following is a brief comparison of the Neptune Panel system versus other leading modular Kits

 Modular System

 

  • No need for heavy equipment
  • Quick install time
  • Limited designs
  • Panels are purchased not made
  • Good for around pools
  • Limited sizes and textures
  • Held together with only a mortar joint
  • Expensive for the size kits available
  • Small selection of colors
  • “boxy” design looks

garden waterfall

Neptune Panels

 

  • Very affordable
  • Moderate to fast installation
  • No need for heavy equipment
  • Unlimited design configurations
  • Panels attached to a structural steel frame
  • Indoor/outdoor uses
  • Cure out at over 9000 psi
  • No effloresence
  • Can be pre made to accommodate any design feature
  • Molds are made not purchased
  • Can be used for grottos and caves
  • Each mold can be used to make thousands of panels
  • Unlimited styles with just an adjustment of the mold
  • No need for kits to be in stock

 

Neptune panels is a solution to those who are looking for a truly unique design that will set there feature apart from the rest. Hundreds of Neptune Panel features have been constructed and no two look the same. With a completely customizable design there is no limit to what can be achieved through the use of the Neptune Panels system.

By not “pre-fabricating” the design of the panels you are not restricted in what your projects outcome will be. The same panels you might use for a water feature will be the same panels that will be used to create a grotto or man cave as with other modular kits you will have to purchase varying panels and products. All of the designs are based around a structural steel core to ensure that all projects whether big or small maintain our goal of quality and integrity.

What is your experience in working with either system?

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