This is probably the most important step in building your pond. You will be investing heavily into your pond building, choose a wise place to do so. Pick a place in your backyard that is close to a seating area such as your deck. You can also select an area in your yard that has high visibility through a window of your home. Try also selecting a place where you will be able to enjoy you pond at night as well as the daytime.
Once you have selected the area you wish to build your pond, you will want to determine the size and shape of your pond. First use a garden hose. It is the best way to mold the shape of your pond. You can get creative with the shape and the possibilities are endless. Do keep in mind however that an extremely irregular shape can cause pockets of stagnant water. Circular, tear drop, kidney, and hour glass shapes are among the more common pond styles you will see and work well. One you have the outline with your garden hose use a spray paint to mark the line on the floor.
Next, layout your pond filtration equipment. A good working pond will have both a pond skimmer and a biological filter. There are complete pond kits that you can get that will take all of the guess work out of issues such as compatibility of components and size calculations. You want to start with the biological filter especially if it is a waterfall filter as you will want to have the waterfall positioned in the most highly visible area. Once that has been determined, you will ideally wish to place the pond skimmer opposite the waterfall to allow a nice current of water for floating debris. If this is not possible, try to place the pump as opposite as possible but also as important in an area where you will be able to reach it easily for maintenance and service.
Now its time to begin to excavate your pond. This stage is perhaps the most laborious stage of pond building. If you can find the help, get it!! This is even more true if the pond you are building has a hard ground or is larger in size. If you have rocky ground rent a chipping hammer. If you must do it alone and we suggest you get a back hoe for the bigger project. This will greatly speed up your digging time.
You can use the earth that you are excavating to build up a waterfall. This is somewhat optional and is dependent on how tall you want your waterfall and if your land is flat. You can place you biological waterfall filter simply on ground level and still give you dramatic effect. Do remember the higher you go on a waterfall the more complex and bigger the rocks you will need to get for your waterfall. This is of course if you want your pond waterfall to look natural. Boulders that do not need machines to move around are small so if you have to go high, small boulders begin to just look like a pile of rocks rather than a hillside spring.
Finish shaping your pond. It is important to include multilevel plant shelving. If you plan to build a koi pond, these shelves are a good way for interaction with you. These shelves also are necessary for certain marginal plants where the center depth is too deep for them to thrive. Overall what you want in an ideal pond building situation is plant shelves that are about 1 to 1.5 feet deep and a center core depth of 2 and no more than 3 feet deep. No one is stopping you from going deeper but if you are building a koi pond it is not necessary and will only create needless maintenance.
Dig now for the pond skimmer. make sure all dirt is removed up to what will be the ponds edge. It will essentially be part of your pond when you are done.
Find the shortest possible rout from the pond skimmer to your pond filter. You will dig a trench about 6 inches deep where you will lay down your flexible pipe.
Underlayment is very important component in the pond building process. Not only does this geotextile material substantially increase the puncture resistance of your pond liner from the downward pressure of the water weight, but it also discourages borrowing animals from chewing through your liner. It also acts as a way to prevent the formation of air bubbles that can come from ground gasses. Your underlayment should always match the square footage of your liner and can be one piece or in several pieces.
You can now place the pond liner into your excavated pond. There are 2 common types of pond liner. PVC and EPDM pond liner. We only use and recommend EPDM liner as it is far superior in strength and longevity. Spread the EPDM pond liner preferably in one piece which in most applications you will be able to find one size liner. On bigger jobs (those exceeding pond liner sizes of 50 feet) paneling may be required. To best determine your liner needs you can use our pond liner calculator is located at the bottom of this page link. In most cases pre cut liners will already come in fully packaged pond kits with a pre determined size pond.
Attach the liner to your biological waterfall filter. Almost every waterfall filter attaches to the liner in the same way. Typically under the spillway lip and with a press strip, fish safe silicone, and screws, and almost always will have specific instructions on that particular filter on how to do so.
You will also do the same liner attachment now with the pond skimmer. Same principal, there is a press plate, silicone, and screws that hold it all in place and every pond skimmer will carry specific instructions on how to do so. Pictured above is the Savio pond skimmer
For more on liner attachment please see the short video below
You are now entering into the really fun yet challenging part of your pond building process. That is the placement of the rocks in and around your pond and waterfall. It is very easy to of course begin to cover the pond liner with rocks. The challenging part is to bring it all together and make it look like a real and pretty pond. You will start at the bottom and work your way up. Use the most plain boulders for the bottom as these will not be visible. As you work your way up you will start to use your more uniquely shaped rocks and boulders. As an installer I always like to use the rounder rocks on the edges of the pond so you have your peaks and valleys and give it an irregular shoreline much like you will see out in nature. Some people like to use flat stone all around the edge of the pond and make a real definition of your pond shore. There is no right or wrong way to do this only a matter of preference. I personally like to use flat stone on the shelf edges and on the flow of the waterfall and I also like to use nice character boulders round in shape framing the waterfall. edges. After you have placed all of your boulders and stone fill in the gaps and plant beds with gravel. Some people will spread the bottom with gravel and other do not. There are advantages to not having gravel at the bottom particularly when it come to cleaning. Bottom line is whether you place gravel or not at the bottom of your pond dont bother with anything pretty or expensive as you will really never see anything down there it will look like your liner. There will be "experts" out there that will criticize not putting gravel. They will say you can see the bottom. If you are someone that will be constantly on top of cleaning your pond several times a week and you do the recommended treatment regiments , then yes what you will see is a silty gravel bottom. Most however will clean only periodically in that case your gravel will be covered in muck which will look just like the liner and when you decide to go an clean that you will be continuously be bothered by scooping and obstacles by large amounts of gravel that will still look black when you are done. If you ahve a situation where you have a lot of leaves it makes matters much worse. No gravel means clean up is much easier and much faster. You decide.
For more on rocking your pond please see the short video below
The last detail to be done in pond building is foaming around rocks with expandable foam. The main reason to do this is so that water stays in front of the rocks for visibility. So where exactly are the critical places to foam? Pretty much your waterfall area and particularly where the rocks meet the spillway lip of your waterfall filter. You can lose as much as 50% of the water visibility going behind the rocks so the expandable foam is an important item to have to prevent and maximize the water-flow. If you have multiple drop offs cascading down a stream, you will want to focus on forming at those drop offs as well so that again the water flows over the rocks and not underneath them. Also if you are building a pond stream, expandable foam is useful in some edges where the rocks take op a lot of surface and this the foam helps keep the water flowing in the middle of the stream where you will see it the most.
You are almost done!! Now is the time to begin to place your plants and if you go the extra step of nighttime enjoyment, your lighting as well. Plants can be placed in pots around your pond or during the excavation process you can create a series of well placed potholes throughout your pond. If you took the latter approach your liner will have sunken into these holes in which you can fill with soil and plant your aquatic plants. The big advantage to doing this is that the roots are not pot bound and thus will network throughout the pond and act as a powerful natural filter for decomposing sediment, i.e. fish food, fish waste, dead bugs, leaves, and etc.. It is this organic waste that is the main reason why ponds have algae blooms and other clarity issues. Now fill uip that pond with water. At first you may see some cloudiness due to the dust of your rocks and gravel. Do not panic. This will settle and your filters will do the rest in a matter of hours or few days. Remember a pond is like fine wine, it only gets better with age. ENJOY!!!