How to Build Your Own Backyard Pond

Backyard Pond

No matter how you look at it, having a backyard pond gives your property a more sophisticated and classy look. The truth is that a lot of people want to build one, but the truth is that they don’t know how to go about it.

And if you think about it for a second, a pond shouldn’t be that hard to build since all you have to do is dig a hole and fill it with water, right? Well, in theory this may sound simple, but when you start working on the project, then you’ll realize it’s a bit more complicated than you initially thought.

Backyard Pond Flowers

Yet prior to thinking about the aquatic animals and plants you’d like to populate your pond with, you should focus on the necessary equipment and supplies needed in order to make it. Contrary to what some people may want to believe, this doesn’t really need to be a huge project.

On average, a pond measures eleven by sixteen feet, but the good news is that you can build it as big or as small as you please. Depending on your chosen design, you can also make a pond at the lowest point of a stream so it empties into the pond. On the other hand, if you like smaller ponds, then you can go for a design where water runs over a level rock and then spills into your small pond. Not only does it look great, but it’s also very simple to build as we’re going to see below.

Digging It

Digging your Pond
By Gilles San Martin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Decide on a location where you’d like to dig the pond and then prepare the perimeter by making use of a hose and rope. Use ground limestone for making the outline and then get to work and dig. You should dig to a depth of sixteen inches and make sure that the dirt will be piled at the back of your pond. This is where the cascade is going to be. Now, in the middle of your pond make sure to dig another ten inches in order to create a pit where the pump is going to go.

Use screened mason’s sand (make sure that it is raked smooth) in order to line the pit and the hole as well. Next, add geotextile fabric atop of the sand to protect the pond liner. Keep in mind that the fabric needs to be large enough in order to go over the walls, the pump pit and finally, the hole.

Laying Rubber

At this point you’ll need to consider folding the rubber line lengthwise, centering it over the pit and then carefully unfolding it. Check all sides and ensure that the liner overlaps them equally. Using your bare feet and hands, go ahead and press the liner into the pit. Get a hose if you don’t have one already and fill the middle pit with water.

If you’re going to handle a lot of stone, then you should make sure to move it as little as possible. Better yet, you may want to tell your supplier to deliver it exactly to where you want to build the pond.

At this point you’ll need to stack rocks on the bottom of the pond in 1′ wide layer across the wall. Next, the stones should be overlapped between courses and small rocks should be used for filling the larger gaps.

Now the pump’s hose needs to be set into position in order to extend on top of the pit from the middle pit. The stones should now be laid carefully over your garden hose until they are level with the floor. One layer of level rocks needs to be set over the plant shelf and aligned in such a way that they are flush with middle pit’s edge. After that, 1 flat rock should be placed in the bed of the trench since they’re going to become the pump’s base.

At this point the pump should be connected to the hose. The pump then needs to be set on a level rock in the bed of the trench. To ensure the electrical part of this project is handled properly, you should ask for the help of a qualified and certified electrician.

Turn on the water and make sure the pond is filled with water within three to four inches of the coping rocks.

Use flat and large rocks throughout the perimeter and make sure they are properly stacked at the back of the pit so they create the cascade. A great tip to follow would be to consider building it to approximately twelve to eighteen inches above the water level.

The cascade weir should be set in place at the top of a flat and large rock which needs to be tipped forward a bit. Next, the weir’s hose needs to be connected to the pump’s hose that comes out of the small pond. At this point, the rubber pond liner should be trimmed in such a way that it perfectly matches the opening at weir’s front. Use the screw-on faceplate for attaching the liner to the weir. Now, you should use dirt and rocks to backfill around the weir. You can easily conceal it by putting a stone atop of it.

Use waterproof black foam sealant in order to secure the rocks around the weir and don’t forget that you should also consider applying some sealant as well.

This guy made a very good instructional video showing how to create a pond on your backyard. It’s a bit long one but it shoes many aspects of the process.

Plugging In

Use three and a quarter inch river rock for filling the spaces between the rocks on the bed of the pond. The murky water from the pit should then be bailed or pumped out of it. After that, you can start filling the pond and plug in the pump when it’s done.

Pond Safety

If you decide to have frogs and fish in your pond, make sure that you keep children away from it, since such ponds are a real drowning hazard. Because of that, it’s often recommended that you fence the pond. If you don’t have kids though, then you should at least illuminate the path to it at night in order to prevent tripping hazards.

One more thing, make a welcoming party for the fish and frogs :-)

Backyard Pond Frog

Backyard Landscaping and Drainage

Backyard Landscaping and Drainage

Where the water table is high, the soils are dense or the land is flat, it’s a must that you consider building a drainage system that works properly. If you don’t have a proper drainage system, then undoubtedly water is going to start collecting and drown expensive plants, undermine structures and turn a large portion of your landscape into a wet swamp. The good news is that this can be easily avoided if you hire a landscape architect.

Are You Dealing With Drainage Issues?

Positive yard drainage is a key to moisture control

If you hire a landscape designer, he’ll first of all carefully analyze the nature of your yard and establish a specific topography regardless of the flatness of the system. When it comes to drainage, ground water also plays a major role in it and it’s directly related to rainfall patterns. So if your area experiences heavy rainfall, then your site can easily be flooded if your drainage system is poorly designed. Because of that, there’s a great risk of severely damaging your property.

Test Your Current Drainage

There’s a simple test you can consider in order to learn more about what’s happening underground. So what you should do is get a shovel and dig a 2ft wide and 2ft deep hole. The top should be filled with water and then carefully observed. If in sixty minutes the water drains away, then your drainage is great.

If it takes half a day for it to drain, then there are problems. Lastly, if it takes more than twenty four hours for the water to drain, you’re dealing with a serious issue that can impact the deep root zone of shrubs and trees.

Problem One: Surface Drainage

A home site with clay soils generally has issues with lingering surface water. In theory, lots are graded to drain so that the O2 in the backyard is going to flow through a swale to the storm drain. However, it seems that not all builders get the grades right and in many cases, water will be trapped and create muddy areas in planting zones and lawns.

So when you hire a landscape designer to create a drainage system for you, he’s going to use surface grading to make sure the fall is right for the drain to work properly.

Problem Two: Underground drainage

If your site has hardpan layers, then it will certainly deal with standing water and poor drainage. In this case, you’ll need to consider a side-wide drainage and grading plan that features an underground system of pipes that are fed by either trench drains or drop inlets. Since plastic piping is quite easy to install these days, using them to move water into the storm drain can be very simple.

Wetland Trees

It could be that you have a yard which has poor drainage or a high water table and in this case it can be pretty hard to find trees that can thrive in this environment.

Wetlands landscaping challenges

Problem Three: Use water loving plants or raise it

Landscaping can become very challenging if the area is a low lying type and has a high water table. During the growing season, the plants rooting in the saturated soil will be denied O2 and therefore begin to rot.

However, there are also plants that originate in wetlands and river bottoms and in this case, it’s safe to say they’re going got thrive in a high water landscape. In this regard, some great choices would be riparian species from swaps, fens and local bogs that are perfectly adapted to your soil and climate.

Other great candidates are trees from other wetlands around the world since they offer a much needed diversity to your landscape.

But if you want to consider a different solution for high water table landscapes, you should raise the planting areas. Yes, no one says this is cheap, but it is indeed a very effective option.

Bear in mind that the raised planter heights are going to range based on what your landscape designer has decided to grow there. For instance, if you want to consider large shrubs and trees, then the size of these planters needs to be bigger for keeping the root crown dry and high.

At the end of the day, the main challenge of your designer is to find an equilibrium between the benefits of his proposed planting and the cost of raised beds.

How to Divert Rain Water Away From your House

Diverting water away from your house

If you’ve noticed standing water next to your property’s foundation, then this spells trouble. Not only can it saturate the soil, but at the same time it can also lead to mold growth and water damage if it seeps into basement cracks.

Therefore, if you want to properly drain the water away from your home, you need to not only install guttering for diverting the roof runoff, but also create a sloping yard as well. Depending on your specific situation, you may also need to consider installing a buried drainage system which depends on your budget, building development rules and your yard’s geography.


Maintain functional gutter system on your houseIf you have no downspouts or guttering, then you can have rainwater running off the roof and pooling next to the foundation. Sure, your yard may have the right grade, but that doesn’t mean that the force of the roof runoff from heavy rain won’t be able to dig a trench along the property’s foundation which can then start to hold water.

Therefore, to carry runoff at least five feet away from the foundation, you should consider installing gutters (or properly maintaining existing) and strategically positioned downspouts equipped with sufficient length extensions as well.

There are multiple scenarios where just having gutters installed may not be enough because there is no easy way to extend downspouts away from your house. One of such examples might be large portion of the Chicago neighborhood area where homes are build on small lots, there’s not room for rain water to go. It is virtually impossible to extend the downspout and you can’t use underground drains without risking to flood the basement.

Although you can attempt rain gutter installation and figuring out its extensions on your own, in some cases, complicated roofing system and lack of land around your property my present a challenge while trying to assemble something that will successfully collect water from the entire roof surface and safely push it away from your house. In such cases contacting an experienced gutter installation contractor might save you a lot of stress.

Grading the Yard

For the majority of yards, a 2% grade away from the foundation is a good start and it equals a two ft drop over a distance of one hundred ft. If you consider a steeper grade, then it may be prone to erosion, while a shallower grade won’t drain as quickly.

During the building of your property, the yard will be graded by the contractor only after the foundation is in place. However, for existing properties, in order to raise the level of the soil around your home, you should consider ordering some topsoil.

One thing to keep in mind when you want to raise your yard’s level is that the soil needs not be closer than 6′ from the siding’s bottom. This six inch space is also required by building codes in order to minimize the risk of having wood boring insects infesting your property.

Foundation Drain Tile

Foundation drain tile is crucial for proper site drainageAccording to current building codes, the foundation drain tile should be considered for any new construction. The drain tile is basically a perforated tube that’s located beside or on the footer around the perimeter of the foundation.

The tube empties into a buried bucket and when the water reaches a specific level, the pump will kick in to pump out the water to the surface of your yard. However, if you want to install foundation drain tiles in an existing property, you need to excavate around the property until you reach the footer.

Watch this video for an example of drain tile installation.

Swales and Trench Drains

If you want to add swales to your yard, you should speak to a contractor, but only if the current grading is within 6′ of your siding. In this case, grading your yard’s grade is not a good idea. Excavation contractors can easily create as many swales as you need in order to divert the water away from your property.

In case your property sits at the bottom of a sloping yard, you can opt for installing a trench drain between the yard and the foundation. Trenches generally feature a U shaped trough that’s made from Polyvinyl Chloride and are very durable and sturdy and should last for many years without problems.

Drainage Consideration

Before you start making any changes to your properly, you should carefully check your plans with the municipal code enforcement office or with your housing association. When the subdivision will be planned by a developer, prerequisites are going to be made for installing storm sewers underneath the street in order to create gutters that can carry water away to a storm sewer. In order to carry water to the storm sewers, property lines and easements can also be used.

One thing to keep in mind though is that the fill dirt left in a neighbor’s yard draining or easements onto your yard can lead to quite a few issues. In this regard, the municipal inspector can consult the development plan in order to determine how the adjacent neighbor or municipality should address the issue. On top of that, if your yard grading efforts will cause drainage problems for neighbors, then you’ll need to consider fixing these problems as soon as possible.