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A Splash Pad Serves Triple Duty


Jerry Romano and his company Liquid Designz, LLC of Washington Township in Bergen County, New Jersey, were asked to design and build a splashpad and fountain that could also serve as a seating area as needed to extend an existing Belgian block patio. The material selected to accomplish that was Porous Pave XLS, a pour-in-place permeable paving material made from recycled rubber chips with a liquid binder.

As a contractor who specializes in water features, Jerry Romano, owner of Liquid Designz, LLC in Washington Township, N.J., can take on just about any commercial or residential landscape project that involves water. Streams and waterfalls, pondless waterfalls, koi ponds, water gardens, and even rainwater harvesting -- Romano does it all. Yet even he was surprised by the "hybrid" water feature envisioned by a homeowner in Bergen County, N.J. Could he design and install a water feature with the flexibility and versatility to serve as a patio and a fountain and a splash pad?

The easy part was designing an aesthetically appealing and visually integrated extension (12' x 16') from an existing Belgian block patio. The challenge was figuring out how the new space could fulfill three such different functions: additional space for extra seating, a relaxing water feature, and a safe, non-slip splash pad for active play.


Forty rain tanks with a total capacity of around 1,300 gallons were installed on top of a 45 mil rubber pond liner that was sandwiched between layers of geotextile fabric. The waterworks included a 5PL submersible pump, a 2-amp pump, and a Snorkel Vault, which serves as a pump housing and part of the filtration system. The perimeter consists of irregular shaped pieces of 1.5" flagstone that provides a transition from the existing patio.

The design fit the new patio-fountain-splash pad into a space defined by the edge of the existing patio, a wading pool/pond, and a new ledge created on the two other sides with rock bench seating. "The excavation aspect of any landscape design and installation is critical. In this case, even more so," said Romano. "In contrast to the typical water feature, the floor bottom had to be perfectly level and tightly compacted because of the seating space and splash pad functions."

Once the excavation was finished, Romano and his crew installed a 45 mil rubber pond liner between layers of geotextile fabric. They then situated the rain tanks (40 blocks) and snorkel for the water reservoir. For added compressive strength to support the surface they would install above the reservoir, they zip-tied large panels over the top of the constructed rain tanks. This increased the strength of the tanks by 50 percent while decreasing the size of their openings.


To keep the pliant paving material from falling through the openings in the rain tanks while it hardened, Romano put newspaper on top of the tanks. The newspaper then disintegrated over time.

An edging consisting of pieces of flagstone establishes the perimeter of the patio-fountain-splash pad. The flagstone provides a transition from the existing patio and to the new rock ledge. Romano decided on irregular shapes for the flagstone so that the floor of the new area would have a more interesting and natural appearance.

The paving material selected for the patio-fountain-splash pad had to meet a lengthy set of requirements:
  • permeable to allow water to flow through and back to the rain tank water reservoir below

  • durable and strong enough for normal foot traffic and patio furniture

  • non-slip for safety

  • comfortable under bare feet

  • flexible in application to conform to the shape of the design with the irregular edges and varied corners


Rock bench seating was installed on two sides of the water feature, and one yard of beach gravel was added.

Romano selected Porous Pave XLS, a pour-in-place permeable paving material that is 100 percent recycled rubber chips mixed on site in a mortar mixer with a liquid binder. Before getting started, the Liquid Designz crew put on gloves and coated their tools with vegetable oil to keep the binder and material from sticking. Romano had to figure out how to install the material without it falling through the openings in the rain tanks while it cured. "Based on the training I received from the manufacturer to become a certified installer, I simply put newspaper on top of the rain tanks," said Romano. "It kept the material out of the tanks while it cured, and the newspaper slowly disintegrated."

With the permeable paving material establishing a surface meeting all the requirements, Romano had a multi-purpose, hybrid patio-fountain-splash pad. Challenge met with an innovative solution.

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June 18, 2019, 6:41 pm PDT

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