Wading Through Solutions For Peeling Fountain Paint

The Yards Park is an open space in Washtington D.C.'s Capitol Riverfront neighborhood.  In the middle block of the park, there is a monumental fountain that is 20 feet wide and 135 feet long.  The canal basin is only 11 feet deep with a splash/ water feature on one end.  The fountain doubles as a play pool.  However, this stunning fountain wasn’t so stunning just over a year ago.  But in the summer of 2015, the fountain re-opened to the public after Membrane Concepts came in to cover the entire fountain with a stylish, black PVC material that repaired the flaking, peeling paint and cracked surfaces of the fountain/ play pool.  “It’s an unusual fountain because it not only acts as a beautiful architectural element to the park, but it also is a place where small children regularly come to play and cool off,” says Ron Melbourne, owner of Membrane Concepts.   When Membrane Concepts was called into the project, there were floating paint chips in the water, the walls and floor had cracks and the overall fountain was not an appealing or safe place for bathers.

The fountain-pool itself was originally built 4 years ago and has distinctive black granite walls around the entire perimeter. “In order to make the liner be in keeping with the stunning black granite, we chose to use the black PVC material provided by i2M for this project,” notes Melbourne.  The material provided was manufactured by i2M in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, and is a 60 mil, reinforced PVC material that is welded together on-site and used primarily for the renovation of commercial aquatic facilities.  In the case of aquatic facilities, the overall color typically used is white or light blue.  But the racing lanes applied in commercial pools are black, so this material is available in black, though it’s not normally used for an entire pool.  The black material very much complemented the overall aesthetic of the park area and was the perfect choice.

Membrane Concepts was approached by the Director of Parks, Otis Williams. Otis Williams is the Director of Parks for Capital Riverfront that manages Yards Park and Canal Park in Washington, DC.  The concept of lining the fountain came to Mr. Williams from Cascade Fountain, the local fountain maintenance company that services the cascading water feature of the fountain.  While researching Membrane Concepts, Mr. William learned that the company had also lined a fountain at the White House, which also happened to use the black material and where Mrs. Obama keeps koi fish.  This reassured Mr. Williams that Membrane Concepts was a reputable company providing a reputable solution.

Melbourne explains that on this particular project, he wanted to maximize the visual impact of the black material with its black granite surrounding.  To do so, he terminated the PVC membrane under water, sealing the strip to the top then finishing with a black plastic strip to ensure watertight seal that will still esthetically pleasing. The surface covered was about 8,000square feet and with this added finishing touch, has a stunning visual effect.

Benefits Of PVC Lining

Mr. Williams explained that, not only has the PVC liner solved the original problem of floating paint chips and cracks, but it has provided additional benefits to his park as well. 

“The new PVC lining has really helped in terms of holding water,” explains Williams.  “In the past we had to fill up the fountain with water every other day.  Now we add a little water every 2 weeks at most.  So we are also saving on water.  I am guessing that we had a slow leak somewhere within the fountain that was corrected by the PVC lining.”

Another added bonus of the black PVC lining is that it absorbs sunlight that helps heat the water so the heater doesn’t work as hard or consume as much energy.

The water is also treated with UV and a filter system with a controller to control the chlorine and pH level.  Like a pool, we also clean the fountain and check the chemicals daily. 

“As the director of parks, I’m extremely pleased with the PVC liner,” says Williams.  “I used to get a lot of complaints about the floating paint chips in the fountain that were both ugly and contaminated the water.  Now the complaints are gone and people are happy.   In fact, park users regularly complement us on the lined fountain.  They tell us it is really comfortable to stand in, the floor has a cushioned effect, which comes from the felt lining under the PVC itself.  And the toes of small children don’t get scratched anymore.  I personally go to the park every day so I know exactly how the fountain is used and how people feel about the park and the fountain.”

“The fountain is central to all the events we have here in the park,” says Williams.  “For example, we hold concerts every Friday night in the summer, in which 2,500-3,000 people attend and wade in the fountain.  It’s not unusual to have 400 people in the canal basin fountain.” 

Roman Laufer is an accomplished artist with over 15 years of experience in the vinyl sheeting design market.  He is a currently head designer at i2M, a vertically integrated manufacturing facility that produces vinyl sheeting material for various markets including the swimming pool industry in a state-of-the-art manufacturing complex situated in Mountain Top, Penn.