How to Build a Backyard Pond and Waterfall

A pond and waterfall.

Building a pond takes time and detailed planning. Here is a basic overview of the steps involved from conception to completion of a backyard garden pond and waterfall. And just in case if you are wondering, yes, it is a project you can DIY.

Step 1 - Research

Start off by researching ponds. Before you start to build, know what you want to build. Get a good understanding of the different styles and design options. You should decide on the design of your pond and the types of aquatic life you want in it.

Once you know what type of pond you want, buy a pond kit that fits your specifications. A water garden pond kit will set you on the path success. The kit will include all the supplies you will need for your project. The equipment is designed to work well together as a system. If you choose to purchase each piece separately, it will cost you more money.

Step 2 - Pick a Location

It is important to decide where in your yard you would most benefit from a pond or waterfall. Walk through your home and yard, the places you spend the most time and try to visualize where you would get the most enjoyment for the water feature, both indoors and out. You will also want it in an area that has some shade and does not receive direct sunlight all day long. A little sunlight is fine, but too much sunlight will promote algae growth and can dry out aquatic plants. You want to choose a location that receives approximately 4 to 6 hours of sunlight a day. But be aware that trees may be difficult to dig around because of their roots, and the leaves that fall will clutter your pond, in turn creating more work for you.

Step 3 - Measure the Placement and Distances

Before you pick up that shovel, use a hose or rope to mark where you'll be digging and the general shape of your pond. This is also a good time to educate yourself on the placement of gas and electric lines in the yard. After getting the okay from local utility companies, outline the layout with marking paint or stakes.

Step 4 - Excavation

Now it’s time to excavate your pond. You should make several tiers to your pond so you have a sturdy siding. One steep wall is more likely to collapse than several shorter ones. This is also appealing to the eye, and beneficial to the plant and aquatic life who like different depths of water. When you dig the soil from the ground, place it where you need to build up the landscape for your waterfall. Dig out your pond to the desired depth and width within the stakes and markings. It is important to make sure that the pond and waterfall you are building are level.

Step 5 - Install the Liner

Line the dug out pond with sand, raked smooth and then lay a protective underlay before you place the liner on the floor of the pond. With the help of a few other people, spread out the unfolded liner in an open space, and carefully pick it up to carry it to the pond. Avoid dragging the liner on the ground; this could cause scratches or punctures. Lay the liner in the pond, fitting it into each corner appropriately.

Step 6 - Install the Equipment

After the pond lining is in you'll want to install any water pumps, filters, and a skimmer for the water garden. The use of electricity in the pond will usually require the aid of a licensed electrician. You won't be able to run an extension cord out to the pond in order to run these features. It’s not practical or safe, so you'll need the electrician to install an outdoor outlet with the safety of a GFI safety switch.

Step 7 - Add Rocks and Gravel

Now it is time to lay some excess underlay on top of the liner and place small boulders to keep the liner in place and cover up the edges. By placing the underlay on the liner you are protecting the liner from friction and the potential of being punctured by the rocks. Do not pull the liner tight so it lifts away from the ground. If it is not supported from underneath it will cause issues when you fill the pond. Trim the liner back after all the rocks are in place. By adding rocks, boulders, and gravel to the entire bottom of the pond you will give plant and animal life great resting places. This also creates a more natural looking pond.

Once the rocks are in place, spray them clean. Use a basic sump pump to pump out the dirty water. This will help get your pond off to a cleaner start. Repeat this cycle until the water you pump is clean water.

Step 8 - Fill with Water

After everything is complete you can fill your pond with water. Town and city water is treated with chlorine and other chemicals that are very dangerous to natural aquatic organisms. A de-chlorinating product is recommended to neutralize the chlorine and chemicals so it does not affect the eco-system you are creating.

Step 9 - Add Aquatic Life

Once the pond has been de-chlorinated, fill it with pond plants. Plants are your first line of defense against poor water quality and act as natural water purifiers. Wait at least 2 weeks for the nutrient cycles to begin before you add fish. This will give your fish a healthy start.