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How to Build a Pond in Your Backyard

An Aquatic Water Feature is a Relaxing Investment in Your Home Equity

© 2012 by Sarah Harris; All rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without written permission.

A backyard pond with waterfall, photo courtesy Nowis

There are many ways to take a creative approach to landscape architecture in your own backyard. Waterscapes are some of the most popular. Nothing adds a personal, organic touch to a backyard like a working pond.

Ponds can be accented with many exciting flairs like waterfalls, goldfish (koi), and Japanese rock gardens. They’re perfect for lending your yard a “meditative” quality and can even help attract exotic birdlife.

In fact, during periods of draught, such as the one the US is currently experiencing, available water found in backyard water features and the ubiquitous birdbath may be the only option for native birds. This can be seen as an urban and rural responsibility.

How Hard is it to Install a Backyard Pond?

Building a pond in your backyard is fortunately much easier than it looks. If you follow these simple steps, you’ll be enjoying your new backyard waterscape after only a couple hours work.

Before you even begin shopping for supplies, you need to make a decision about what you want your finished pond to look like.

Visit your local landscape or waterscape store and browse catalogues for aesthetically pleasing rocks, complimentary aquatic plants, ready-to-install waterfalls, fish, and outdoor lighting.

Depending on how much money you want to spend, your backyard pond can have one or all of these accessories.

Call 811 to Locate Utilities before You Dig

Contact your local utilities to identify where the electric and gas lines are located on your property. The last thing you want to do is start digging and cut off power to the whole house, electrocuting yourself in the process.

You may call 811 a few days before you begin to dig to “know what’s below”. Your utility representatives will help you avoid this potential malfunction by marking the locations of these utility lines with stakes or flags.

Choose Your Water Feature Location

Select a location for the pond based on lines of visibility from the house. You want to enjoy it after all. Most ponds are placed in clear sight of large windows or near a frequently trafficked patio.

The primary safety concern is for small children who can stumble into even small ponds and drown. Make sure the pond is far removed from common play areas, and consider fencing if you have a small child living at home.

You also want to avoid large, old trees with complicated underground root systems. These thick roots will make your digging much more arduous, and you may even end up killing an ancient tree. This can result in fines and damage to your yard.

Determine Your Pond Size

Koi in a pond water feature; photo courtesy Sarah Harris Although there are many different sizes, a typical pond liner installation requires about 40 cubic feet of space.

This is an entry level size to keep the water aerated and clear.

If you plan to add fish, plan on your depth being a minimum of around 24 inches, and hopefully deeper. Shallow ponds increase in temperature rapidly and unpredictable. These temperature fluctuations can devastate your fish populations.

Dig the Basin and Install the Liner

No bones about it, excavation is the hard part of the job at hand. Begin at the center and work outward. Why? Because that will facilitate moving your wheelbarrow around.

If you are planning some earth contouring (say, building up an area for a waterfall), move the dirt there as you excavate it, but be sure to save some for building an elevation around the finished top edge.

Continue digging outward, first completing the main area, and then any shelves. Any sloping edges work well at about a 20° angle. Next add and spread out sand to level dirt surfaces and take care of irregularities.

Now spread out a pond liner underlayment. This will protect the liner from punctures. Next, spread out the liner material itself, removing any folds. Go ahead and let it overlap the top edge; it will be trimmed off after anchoring it down with rocks.

Edging with Landscaping

Now is the time for decorative work! The first step is to put in a slight dirt mound around the top edge of the pond on top of the liner. This will assist in anchoring it down and will prevent contaminants such as fertilizers from back-washing into the water.

Water wall signs, pumps, filters, landscape lighting, etc. should be completely smooth and water tight. Use stones on the earthen mound to secure the excess liner cropping up over the rim of the pond.

Trim the excess liner and then fill the pond using a garden hose. Allow the water to “acclimate” and dissipate chlorine for a few days before adding fish and plants. After the pond is full, you’ll be enjoying your backyard pond in no time.

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