A pond is an absolutely worthy addition to your yard. It will not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of your yard but also help create a calming and relaxing environment. Spending some time in a yard with a pond is an effective way to wash away stress and relax after a long day.

Follow these steps courtesy of Sweetwater Landscapes to build a beautiful backyard pond.

Choose a Location

First and foremost, you need to choose the right location for your pond. Choose a spot with a slight incline for a waterfall into the pond or where the ground is flat where a stream may be created.

Avoid the Low Spot! Often homeowners choose the wet spot in the yard or low area thinking that’s where the water naturally pools. The low spot is most often the area to avoid because of the accumulation of stormwater, which may cause problems with runoff and groundwater issues under the pond.

Another consideration is bringing the pond as close to your outdoor living areas such as patios as possible. This will allow for easier interaction with the pond and with the fish. Often times bringing the pond in close allows for better viewing from inside the house as well.

Keep in mind the location of utilities such as buried electric lines, gas lines, main water lines, phone, cable, and other utilities as these can turn a simple project into a very difficult one.

Layout Shape

A garden hose along with a marking paint can are great tools to visualize the size and shape of your new pond.

When considering the shape of your pond it is important to also consider the water flow of your pond. For optimal performance, the stream should enter at one end of the pond and the pump located in a skimmer should be located at the opposite end. This will create a positive water flow that will aid with the overall skimming action and performance of the pond. Avoid dead areas where there is no water circulation.

Excavation (Digging)

Whether by hand or machine, care should be taken while excavation your pond. We will discuss shelving for aesthetics, plant location, and safety. Smaller ponds may only have two shelves with a total depth of 18”-24”. Larger Ponds may have three shelves with a total depth of 24”-36”. Very large ponds will be deeper yet. It is very important to scale depth with the overall size of your pond.

Working with the above layout and shape excavate your first shelf, this will be the overall shape of the pond. Next, mark a second shelf within the boundaries of the first shelf and excavate.  Create a third shelf if the scale of the pond dictates and excavate.

Lastly, it is a good idea to excavate fish caves into the design to help protect your fish.

Sound like a lot of work? Yes, it is! You can also hire a professional to construct your new pond so your only job would be to enjoy it.

Install Biofilter, Skimmer, and Pump system.

Excavate and install your Skimmer at the pond’s edge. Place your Bio fall filter (waterfall start) either at the edge of the pond or further away to construct a stream or waterfall.

Install your pump in the skimmer and trench your piping from the skimmer to the bio fall filter.

Line and Rock  

The fun part is just about to begin. Remove anything sharp such as rocks and roots before going forward. Install a Geotextile non-woven filter fabric as an underlayment between your liner and native soil. You can double or triple up your filter fabric if in very rocky areas. Install a 45mil EPDM rubber liner. The EPDM will shape itself to your excavation, make sure you measure and add an extra buffer.

Now is the time to rock your pond. If you feel extra protection is needed you can cut pieces of filter fabric to create a cushion between the stone and the liner. Place rock on top of liner working from the bottom shelf up to the top shelf. Make sure you have a little slack in the liner as you go. Working from the bottom up provides stability and allows you to keep an eye on the liner slack. Don’t worry about outside edges at this time and do not trim liner at this time.

Add Water

After your rough rock is in you can add water to the system. It is important to know your pond’s water volume for future water treatments. This can be done by timing your water hose into a 5gal bucket to get an idea of how many gallons a minute you are putting into your pond. Keep track of the time the water is filling and this will give you an idea of how much water your pond holds.

Next, add the appropriate amount of a de-chlorinator to the water to bind harmful chlorine or chloramines in the water.


After adding water start your new pond up, you may have to add a little more water as the water begins to move and fill the system. Initial startup is done before finishing edges in case you need to make adjustments within the top shelf and overall shape.

Edging is an Art 

Edging is the finished work also known as an edge treatment. As you finish your edge it is now time to cut your liner. Cut liner a minimum of 6”-8” above water level as you go. The liner can be folded and tucked behind the perimeter stones on your top shelf. Stones and soil can be used on the outside of the pond to hold up and hide the liner edge. By doing it this way you elevate the worry of groundwater infiltrating your system. Gravel can also be used in places to help hide the folded liner.

Do Nots:

  • Cut the liner short, better to cut two or three times than once too much.
  • Roll liner flat on the perimeter edge. Groundwater will get in and cause water quality issues.
  • Create a gravel ring/pearl necklace around the perimeter of your pond which will create an aesthetic issue

Do Be:

  • Looking forward as you go. Anything you do in one area affects another area.
  • Creative by using different size stones and boulders.
  • Creative by mixing up your edge treatments such as soil areas, gravel areas.
  • Creative by using drift would as an edge or in the feature to naturalize.

Sweetwater Landscape is a leading pond builder near you, Santa Rosa. We have mastered the art of balancing aesthetics and functionality in our landscape designs. For inquiries, call (707) 887-0140.