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The Green Scene in Watershapes, Jan. 2011

The Case of the Vanishing Stone
By Scott Cohen

Natural stone is a wonderful companion for just about every type of watershape: It lends a timeless, classy look to just about any setting, generating a sense of sturdy permanence as well as close associations with Mother Nature.

As watershapers, we also know that natural stone can be extremely expensive and often represents a significant investment on the part of the client. This puts a premium on proper stone selection relative to the specific application — and that’s where some people run into trouble.

Here’s a classic case illustrating why it pays to know your stone.

rock waterfall

Scenario: The homeowner contracted with a swimming pool company, asking them to build a backyard pool that included a large waterfall made with natural stone. The homeowner went with the contractor to a local rock yard to pick out the stone, ultimately settling on a local sedimentary type found in the hills in and around the area in Southern California where the homeowner lived.

From a purely aesthetic standpoint, they made the right choice in selecting an indigenous stone that would look natural in the landscape. Unfortunately, however, this was not a stone that had been immersed for centuries and was probably the worst possible choice for this particular application.

Once installation was complete, the homeowner couldn’t help noticing that every time the waterfall ran, chunks of rock material would slough off and fall into the pool. And when the kids went climbing, their hands would break pieces off, and those pieces rapidly dissolved when they came in contact with the water — great sport for curious children, who repeated the “experiment” over and over again.


To read the entire article, buy THE CANDID CONTRACTOR: Lessons Learned From The Construction Defect Expert Witness Files of Scott Cohen

Contractors and homeowners will save thousands of dollars with this new book from Scott Cohen of HGTV fame. Cohen pulls back the veil on common construction mistakes with pools, ponds, decks and associated structures, explaining how to remedy them when they occur – or, better yet, avoid them entirely.


Scott Cohen is president and supervising designer of The Green Scene, an outdoor design and construction firm based in Northridge, CA. He provides consultation for clients nationwide and gives seminars on designing landscapes, swimming pools and outdoor kitchens.