Planning and Digging Ponds for Dummies

Our Team of Experts

Basic pond construction for dummies...and useful hints for the rest of us.

Go dig a hole! That is if you are planning to put in an in-ground pond, but if you are planning on putting in an above ground pond then...or maybe you are planning to have a combination of in ground and above ground then... or what if planning to have an outdoor pond or planning to have an indoors pond or... or... or...
If you get the drift of the above paragraph then you realize that the key word in it is planning. Planning was something we did not do much of when we put in our first pond. In fact we said something to this effect. "Hey, this looks like a nice place for a pond, go get a shovel."

SKIPPY SEZ: Do some planning. If nothing more than a rough draft on notebook paper. Then ask someone to look at the draft and the site. A second opinion can often uncover basic design flaws. This is important in the fact that in our haste to enjoy the pond, even before the work of putting it in is complete, we have a tendency to over look a few things like: The long term coperation of the pond, the effect the lay of the land will have on the pond, the ease of maintenance, etc.. Let us give you an example of what happened when a small flaw in the design of a pond was overlooked. We have a friend who for the most part is reasonably intelligent, he has the good fortune to live above a nice golf course. We say above, because his house sits on a high hill over looking the course. He decided to build this huge two level 7000gal pond on top of the hill next to his deck. He even designed his own flow through filter which would handle the capacity of the pond and then some. For ease of maintenance he installed a 1 and 1/2 inch drain hose leading down the hill. When he wanted to clean his filter he could just close off the valve to the inlet of the filter and open the valve on the drain hose which led down the hill. The idea being he could flush out all the trapped waste. Semi good idea. The flaw was where he put the valve for the drain. He put the valve at the end of the hose, which ended near the bench where golfers waited with nothing to do as others teed off. One day a bored golfer opened the valve to see what would happen. 7000gals of our friends water was used to wet the thrust of the seventeenth fairway. Oh yes, one other thing, it seems our friend had put his pump in the lowest possible point of his pond system, therefore the entire pond got drained. OSkippy's not put your pump lower than you ever want your water to get to. Nothing is worst than an mad koi flopping around.

What all that means is that planning is important. Ponds drawn on paper are a lot less costly than real ponds mistakenly built. When ever we start a new pond, before we take the first shovel full, etc., we take the basic design which we have done on paper and sit in a chair near the site we are going to use and try and imagine the pond in operation. We ask ourselves several questions. What is the meaning of life?, just kidding... But we do ask this: 1) How are we going to clean this pond? and 2) How are we going to get around this pond for routine maintenance?

Can we get to the working parts of the pond? Waterfall, fountain, filter, etc.? Is the pond in the right place? How is the sun over the course of the day going to effect this pond? Is there anything that can fall into this pond? Is the pond in harms way? i.e. under a drain pipe or overhang etc.? How are the seasons going to effect the pond? Falling leaves, snow drifts, etc.? How hard is it going to be to get electrical and water to the pond? How is the pond going to effect the rest of the yard? AND... any other question we can ou get the idea. After you thought about this for awhile and answered all your questions then...dig a hole.

Well maybe, what you should do is think about doing something that will hold water........The hole........
Dry ponds are not what we are discussing here. Water wet and wild is the topic, so you will need something to hold it. From a simple oaken barrel on up to an in-ground, thousands of gallons, small lake you will need something to keep that water were you put it. There are all kinds of ways, but we will talk about only a few. The reason being is that we are not writing a book here, just a short (maybe) text on some pond building tips. Let's talk about the two most popular ponds or better put, ways to keep water where you put it, which will become a pond... pre-fabs and liners. A prefab (prefabricated) is the hard sided shells which are sold at all the BuildersquareHQHomedepot garden centers. They come in a vast variety of sizes and shapes. What they all have in common is that they are not flexible. What you see is what you get. For all their shapes and sizes, the fact remains that someone has predetermined for you the choices you have. Which is fine for some, but in our opinion there is a better way, that being a flexible liner, which we will talk about in a moment. Prefabs might seem at first the way to go because the sales clerk may have said "this pond is easy to install, just dig a hole and drop it in." Well, we have never figured out why digging a hole for a prefab is easier than digging a hole for a flexible liner? Also if you put a pencil and calculator to it, a prefab loses in the "bang-for-your-buck" category. We will go out on a limb here by stating that with the same money you can build a pond that will hold at least twice the gallons by using a flexible liner as you can with a prefab. Now that being said we recommend prefabs for above ground installation. Double talk, right? No not really, using a prefab as a deck pond, indoor pond or as the first pond in a cascading series of ponds leading down to a in-ground pond can save a lot of time and work.

Whether you have an established pond or are just thinking about putting your first one in, check out our FREE ADVICE PAGE and then we invite you to call our Help Line:
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Last updated Jan 26, 1997
Page Creation by Carl W. Richardson (