Laying a firm foundation is crucial for all garden ornaments

With proper installation, your garden ornament will last generations.

The first and most important step is ground preparation. All ornaments need a proper footing for stability and longevity. The footing should be level and firmly fixed to avoid winter heaving and other sinking or movement in soft soils.

We typically recommend a concrete pad sitting on packed crushed stone or rock dust. The depth of the footing will depend on your specific conditions. If drainage is poor, then the footing needs to go deeper in the ground to prevent heaving in the winter season or sinking in the spring thaw. Any tilting or leaning of an ornament may eventually cause stress fractures.

The footing should be several inches wider than the statue base and the depth of the footing will depend on the water drainage in your particular area.   If there is a lot of water retention in the soil then the footing should be deeper.  This can be filled with rock dust or crushed stone and then the surface stone or concrete pad can be applied on top. 

The key issue is to make sure that the ground won’t heave under the statue in the winter and that the piece remains level.  If the piece is not level, then cracking may occur over the years.  

Container preparation preserves integrity

Create a suitable footing for the urn or planter to be installed and ensure that the site remains level. (See “Laying the Foundation” above for more information.)

The base of the urn or planter should be level. If the piece wobbles, add shims or crushed stone to level. Make sure that drainage holes are not blocked.

Add two to four inches of small stones, styrofoam peanuts, broken terra-cotta or other drainage material to the bottom of the bowl or planter.

Place landscape mesh or burlap completely over the stones or your chosen material. This allows the water to drain and prevents the dirt from collecting and blocking the drainage hole over time. Fill the rest of the urn or planter with dirt or compost (but skip the coconut husk which will stain the stone), and you’re ready for planting!

Have a seat

Benches must be sited on an appropriate footing for your area (See “Laying the Foundation” above for more information). Generally, this will be a concrete or stone surface laid on sand and crushed stone to a depth that will avoid winter heaving. It’s important for the footing to be level.

On the prepared footing, the bench supports should be positioned as needed and set on a soft mortar bed to make sure that the supports are level. Soft mortar is a mixture of 1 part cement or mortar/6 parts washed sand. Soft mortar can be broken without damaging the bench itself if the bench needs to be moved in the future.

The supports must be leveled out between each other, from side to side and front to back.

A soft mortar bed is then applied to the top of each support and the bench top is laid upon the supports. Make sure that the bench seat is level as well, check front to back and then side to side.

We strongly recommend that the above directions are followed to ensure trouble-free use of your stone garden seat for generations.  Faulty installation of a stone garden seat may lead to stress fractures in the stonework over time.

Cast stone Hawthorne Bench offers elegant seating.

Water fountains step-by-step

Each centerpiece fountain or water feature is typically supplied in component form: such as fountain base, shafts, supports, fountain bowls, plumbing kit and pump (if self circulating). Unless otherwise stated, all building materials other than the stonework are to be supplied by others. Consult a qualified electrician to ensure the electrical supply conforms to all regulations/codes.

The centerpiece fountain should be in the middle of a shallow pool or basin that has been prepared for the fountain centerpiece. Typically, we recommend that the pool should be twice as wide as the largest bowl of the fountain; for example, if the fountain bowl is 36” diameter, then the pool should be minimum 72” diameter. If splash is an issue, then you will want a larger pool to minimize splash.

Once the basin has been built, an appropriate pump house or support should be set up prior to the installation of the centerpiece fountain.

Support the foundation: The fountain or water feature should be assembled on a suitable support or pump house, elevating the base of the fountain or water feature to the water level. For ease of cleaning and maintenance, the pump should be sited within easy reach.

Bed and level: The fountain base should be leveled on soft bedding mortar. We recommend adding a waterproofing agent to the mortar.

Secure the fountain shaft: The fountain shaft should be secured using a polyester or epoxy resin adhesive.

Support the bowl: Temporarily support the fountain bowl above the shaft, ensuring the the fountain bowl design lines up with fountain support. design. Connect the plumbing and feed down through the core of the lower support.

Level the bowl: The fountain bowl should be leveled so the water flows out evenly from the bowl and then secured with resin. To level the fountain bowl, temporarily block the pipe outlets in the fountain bowl, fill with water and level by eye.v Packers can be used to assist in leveling the fountain bowl. Once the resin has hardened the packers should be removed.

Subsequent levels: Subsequent fountain levels are installed as previously described, and again ensuring the fountain bowl design and fountain support design line up and that the fountain bowls are level.

Once the water feature stonework is installed, the pump and plumbing can be connected. The valves and pump should be set to minimum before the water feature pump is turned on. Adjustments can then be made to suit your specific fountain, water feature, pool and location.

Three tiers with three supports
Here you can see the joint between the support and bowl.

Spout or mask installation: For a spout or mask installation, you’ll typically need: 5/8 copper tubing, rubber tubing (length varies), hose clamps, pump, screwdriver, utility knife, and in some cases, mortar or construction epoxy.

Hold the mask or spout up to the wall to mark where the water pipe should be located. With some of masks, you’ll need to mark where the dowel will be as well.

Drill a hole in the wall where spout will be placed. Insert the copper tubing (5/8) through wall so there is at least 1 1/2 inches of tube in back and at least 3 inches protruding through the front. This length will vary depending on the type of mask or spout. Take the appropriate size rubber hosing and slide it onto the back of the copper pipe. The rubber hose should be snug to the copper pipe. Take one of the hose clamps and slide it on the copper pipe and move it towards the back of the wall as close as possible.

Tighten clamp using flathead screwdriver so the rubber hose is tightly around the copper pipe. Connect your rubber hose to your pump and secure with another hose clamp. (Make sure your pump meets set-up requirements.)

Place the pump completely submerged in the water basin and run the cord, preferably out of sight, to a standard 120w outlet. Plug cord in.

Once you’re sure that the plumbing is secure and there are no leaks, place the spout on the copper piping. You can also add a mortar or epoxy to the back of the wall fountain to secure for added support.

Up on a pedestal

Select a site that is fairly level and prepare an appropriate footing.  (See “Laying the Foundation” above for more information.)  Make sure the footing is a few inches larger than the pedestal base on all four sides and level.

Use a hose to thoroughly wet down the pedestal pieces.

Put dry mortar mix in a disposable cup.  Add just enough water to reach the consistency of DAMP/CLUMPY sand. Add water slowly, stirring with a small knife or popsicle stick as you add water. If you add too much water, add dry mortar mix to achieve desired consistency.

Spread a thin layer of the wet mortar mix on top of the concrete pad, where the pedestal base will sit.  Install base of pedestal. Gently/firmly press the base of the pedestal down onto the concrete pad.  Ensure the mortar mix is evenly spread between the base and footing as this serves as a joint – filling in any gaps, alleviating any pressure points.  Check level.

Repeat steps for the joint between the pedestal base and pedestal column. Check level.

Repeat steps for the joint between pedestal column and pedestal cap. Check level.  If the cap of the pedestal is not level at this point, remove the cap, repeat steps for the joint between the pedestal column and the pedestal cap with a generous portion of mortar mix in the low points to achieve level.

Proper installation will ensure the longevity of your pedestal. Failure to follow these instructions may cause your pedestal to crack over the course of time due to uneven weight distribution.

Sundial basics

Here are the basics to help set up your pedestal and armillary. The most important installation aspect is keeping the pedestal absolutely level over the years. Listing to one side can cause the stone pedestal to crack over time. Review our ground preparation tips before starting with armillary sundial installation.  (See “Laying the Foundation” above for more information.)

Pedestal parts: Before installing the pedestal, you’ll need to prepare the pedestal capital. The pedestal comes in three pieces: the base, column and capital. The armillary will sit securely on the capital.

Armillary parts: Our armillarys typically have two base types: One that uses a central rebar, or one that uses screws to secure the armillary to the pedestal’s cap.  For example: our Captain’s Armillary with a bell base uses a central rebar; and the Iron Armillary uses 3 screws to secure the base.

For securing down sundials on bell bases with a central rebar, a hole of approximately 1/2” should be drilled in the center of the pedestal top. If the pedestal has a removable top, the studding can pass through the top with the nut and washer, provided the bell can be tightened down securely. For pedestals without a removable top, a 1/2” inch (12 mm diameter) hole should be drilled in the center of the pedestal top.

If the armillary base is secured using screws, then you’ll need to point the armillary north so you know where to mark the drill holes on the pedestal top. Most pedestals are made from reconstituted stone and are usually easy to drill with a masonry drill. Once the holes are drilled, set masonry anchors in the holes.

With the pedestal’s cap prepared for the armillary, you are now ready to install the pedestal on site.

The pedestal pieces should be mortared together with a soft bedding mortar so that the weight is evenly distributed across the base and column. Once the pedestal is level and secure, you are now ready to place your armillary.  For more information on installing your pedestal, please see our pedestal installation tips above.

Setting the armillary: The time is shown by the shadow of the central rod – usually an arrow – passing over the hours on the time band. The time band represents the celestial equator and is known as the Equatorial Ring. The central rod runs parallel to the earth’s axis through the poles.

To set the dial: Simply point the arrow towards the north. This is best carried out at noon when the shadow of the arrow shaft and the Meridian Ring (vertical ring) come into line and fall on the XII mark.

Once you know the right direction, then fill the hole in the pedestal cap with a construction epoxy or mortar type material. Place the rebar in the armillary base into the hole to secure the armillary. Once dry, fine adjustment can be made by slackening the central domed nut and swiveling the sphere.

Armillary sundials with base screws can simply be screwed down once the pedestal has set.

For more information on armillary sundials, please read our blog post.

Unloading and installing large lead garden ornaments

Lead planters are heavy – large urns could weigh 400 pounds and large cisterns could easily weigh up to 600 pounds! They can be moved by hand labor with difficulty. It’s recommended that a lifting device, such as a forklift be used for these types of pieces. 

Large urns are often shipped upside down in individual crates for stability. When removing them from the crate, it’s necessary to roll them to a vertical position. Roll onto a piece of thick carpet or several layers of cardboard to prevent damage to the outside surface.

If the surface is marred or scratched in transportation or installation, apply a very small amount of the finish using a paint brush or soft cloth.  Let it partially dry and then blend into the surrounding area with a dry soft cloth.