A backyard pond DIY is the ultimate in tranquility.
If you read our previous post on how to create a small water feature to add curb appeal to your front garden, you’ll know that we were just warming up. For our next pond, we’re building a zen water feature! That first little pond in the front was just a practice run for this bigger one we built in our backyard:
By using a drop in liner, the mechanics of building this one was similar to the front pond. However, it’s a lot more tricky because it has to be integrated into the travertine patio. The finished patio had to precisely end at the beginning of the pond. That’s so we could incorporate an accent border of stone around the perimeter.
This is a tale of two ponds. Today, we’re showing you the first version of this pond. It has a bowl that acts as a centre piece (Plan ‘A). We’ll also have a second simplified version of a fountain without the bowl (Plan ‘B’).
Backyard Pond DIY Liner
To start, we bought a pre-formed rigid liner – 4 feet x 6 feet and 2 feet deep.
Hubs dug out the hole to the exact width and length of the liner. To calculate the finished depth, we had to consider the finished height of our travertine patio. The lip of the liner has to finish even with the underside of the travertine border. That way, it will support the stone and hide the liner.
Hubs built the wooden structure you see below to fit into the hole for the liner so we could lay in our underbase – about 18″ of High Performance Bedding (HPB) – while we worked on the patio.
Backyard Pond DIY Retaining Wall
We built a retaining wall of sorts around the pond to take the frost line into consideration and hold back the HPB aggregate from falling into the pond once the liner was installed. We built the height of the retaining wall even with the HPB so the travertine border could float over the top of it.
In the view below, you can see that there are actually three layers of cement block that mesh together to form the retaining wall. This ensured that the patio would be less likely to shift during the winter and also gave a solid support to the edge of the liner. If you are not incorporating your pond into a patio – or don’t live in a cold climate – this extra step of building a retaining wall won’t be necessary.
As you can see in the picture below, we also installed metal edging between where we ended the travertine patio and started the retaining wall. Beyond the metal edging is where I installed the accent colour of travertine around the pond to tie in with the patio (which you’ll see later).
Backyard Pond DIY – Overwintering
That’s as far as we got during our first season of construction. Hubs re-inserted the wooden frame back into the hole, because winter was soon approaching, so he could install the pond liner in the spring and finish it all up then. He sealed it up with a plywood cover to prevent snow/water from getting into the prepared hole over the winter.
In the spring, Hubs removed the wooden frame so he could continue with the liner installation.
Backyard Pond DIY – Liner Prep and Install
To prepare to install the liner, make sure the bottom of the hole is dry (if not pump out any standing water) then add sand to the bottom and tamp it down. A good bed of sand helps nestle the liner into the ground and keep it level. Keep adding sand until the liner stays steady without any rocking motion.
Continue to put the liner back in and check for level as you build up the sand. Making sure the pond is level is the most important step because water won’t stay securely inside the liner, where it belongs, if it’s tilted at all.
Once you’re satisfied with the fit, pop the liner in and start to fill it with water from a garden hose and continue to make sure the liner is sitting level as it fills. If you notice any puckers in the liner, you’ll need to backfill with some of the dirt you removed to fill any air pockets if there are any (you can also use some sand). The liner needs to be a fairly tight fit so it doesn’t buckle under the pressure of the water.
When the liner is filled about halfway with water, backfill around all the edges with dirt or sand. We used a plastic hand trowel to direct it around all sides. A deep dustpan works well for this purpose too — place it away from the gap between the side wall and the liner (under the lip), then brush the backfill into the gap to fill up the sides and secure it all around the edges.
For more about liner options and installation, here’s an excellent video to watch.
Backyard Pond DIY – Incorporate the Patio
Once the pond was filled up, I was then able to complete the travertine accent stone all around the edges. I leveled each piece as I went, adding in HPB aggregate underneath as needed. As you can see below, the accent stone extends over the edge of the liner by about an inch in the front. I was happy to see that our measurements worked out perfectly!
As I came around the edges of the pond and back, to finish it off, I added in metal edging (held in with spikes) all along the edge of the stones to keep them in place.
Here’s how the accent border looked once I was finished; a nice blank slate for finishing touches!
Hook Up Electrical
It was time for hubs to turn his attention to hooking up the electrical and then the pump and water feature. Here’s the electrical service to the pond Hubs installed before he finished the final connections.
He designed this cedar cover to hide the ugly utilitarian look of the plastic pole and electrical box. The cover is both attractive and functional: even though the electrical box is waterproof, it doesn’t hurt to shelter it from the rain!
Over time the grasses we planted in back of the pond grew so large, and the cedar shelter greyed, which blended it into the background of the fence. You can barely notice it anymore – but it was a nice touch up until everything around it matured!
Plan ‘A’ – Bowl + Fountain
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Materials and Budget for Plan A:
- Pond Liner and Sand: $490
- Aquasurge 3000 Pump: $326
- Stainless Steel Foam Effect Fountain Nozzle (Oase Schaumsprudler 35-10E / 50984): $120
- Concrete Bowl: $72
Total Budget (without electrical hookup & custom filter system): $1008 / $1140 with tax
For the water feature itself, we purchased a concrete bowl, a pump and fountain. We used a powerful AquaSurge high efficiency pump to achieve the water fountain height that makes this version such a centrepiece for the pond!
We drilled a hole into the bottom of the bowl so we could install the water fountain through the middle:
To house the pump and raise the bowl out of the water in the pond, Hubs designed a cedar casing that the bowl could sit on:
To start, hubs built a box that was connected with angle brackets and screws on the inside corners. He drilled a hole in the top right through the centre (big enough to fit the pipe for the fountain). On the outside of the casing he L-brackets to all four vertical sides – for a very good reason that will be revealed below. All the metal was stainless steel so it wouldn’t rust in the water; the cedar is also durable under water.
He cut a piece of travertine (left over from our patio) to the same size as the top of the box and also drilled a hole through the centre. The travertine has two purposes: to weigh the box down in the water and to add a decorative element that coordinates with our patio. The wooden circle you see in the picture was an extra piece hubs cut in case he needed to raise the height of the bowl further out of the pond, however he didn’t end up needing it so it wasn’t used.
The reason for the L-brackets? To install filters!
Hubs wanted an extra measure of water filtration. As you can see here, the L-brackets hold the filter cloth to the front and back of the box. The filter cloth just slips in and out of the channel. Shown below is the back of the box.
Hubs turned the box around to face the front and added the piece of travertine onto the top. He then inserted the pump into the bottom of the box and connected the tubing from the pump through the hole in the top of both the box and travertine.
Before adding the bowl, hubs cut a circular piece of rubber gasket (a bit smaller than the circumference of the bottom of the bowl) and placed it around the tubing so the bowl would be cushioned where it sits on top of the travertine.
He placed the second piece of filter cloth over the front opening and then dropped the box into the middle of the pond, leaving the electrical cord out of the water to one side. Hubs was able to straddle the sides of the pond to lower the bowl onto the box until it was sitting on top of the travertine. As the bowl is HEAVY, this is an awkward way to do it so I’d suggest adding a strong piece of plywood across the pond and even getting two people to help lower the bowl onto the box.
Water Fountain Nozzle
Once the bowl was seated, he then hooked up the foam effect fountain nozzle to the tubing inside the bowl:
Once it’s all installed, it looks like the bowl is floating on top of the travertine!
Hubs plugged the cord into the electrical post (seen at the back of the pond on the right side) to test out the pump and set the height of the flow. Once the pond was up and running we finished off the landscape and plantings around it (like the grasses and day lily you see behind the pond).
Each fall, we dissassemble the bowl and take the pump/box into the garage for the winter. In the spring we bring it back out again and re-connect the pump.
When the risk of frost has passed, we load the pond up with tropical pond plants!
Plants and Decor
A backyard pond DIY is nothing without a little embellishiment! So introduce some flowering plants into the pond as part of the focal point!
Have fun accentuating around the pond with decor items – like the yoga frogs and starfish. I also faux finished the mirror/shelf combination that you see on the fence. It adds some sparkle and depth to our small space – and also another surface for display!
The height of the water in the fountain is fully adjustable; we generally have it higher when we have guests visiting but keep it lower when it’s just us enjoying the back.
With the addition of a canopy umbrella, we can relax in our zen-like outdoor space in rain or shine 🙂
Subscribe and Pin
Stay calm and relax on this summer! At Birdz of a Feather, we’re feathering the nest… one room at a time. Follow our blog here for DIY projects, in and around the home. You can also follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
Pinning is always welcome and appreciated. If you like Plan A, pin for later:
If Plan A seems a little too complicated to achieve, join us next time for a more simplified version of the same backyard pond!
In the meantime, if you want to start out with a smaller project first, like we did, check out our post on how to create a small water feature: