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Fountainscaping with an Aquabasin


Today there are primarily two basic means used in constructing an outdoor pond - flexible EPDM or PVC liners or rigid preformed shells. The flexible liner gives you greater design creativity, while the rigid shell is sturdier.

Illustration of how to place your equipment in the pond


This is your most important decision. There are three key factors to consider - sunlight (you want some sun and some shade), leaf-shedding or pollen-emitting trees (you want as few as possible) and drainage or runoff (you want to stay away from low-lying areas). Using these guidelines, location selection becomes a decision based on your property and what you are looking to achieve - visually and aurally. Because, besides being wonderful to look at, the addition of a stream, waterfall or fountainhead gives the added dimension of sound. Take your time and plan carefully - repositioning a pond is a major undertaking!


First thing is to determine the size and shape of your pond. Try drawing pleasing shapes on paper before beginning. This will give you a bird's eye view and will help giving you a direction. Rectangular shapes are formal, free-flowing are more casual and natural.

Illustration of how to dig out the pond

When designing your shape, allow room for a plant shelf 10-12" wide, 8-10" below water level. Allow enough length and width to accommodate sloped sides. The sides should be sloped inward up to approximately 65-70� (50-55� with sandy soil). Incorporate an edge deep and wide enough to accommodate edging material. Depth is determined by your location and use. If you plan to have fish and you live in an area where there is winter freezing, you should have a portion of the pond at least 24-30" deep, otherwise an average depth of 18" is enough. Next, get a long garden hose, string or rope and layout the shape on the ground. Bigger is better because a pond seems to diminish in size when viewed from eye level. When you are satisfied with the location, size and shape, you are ready to begin the actual construction. Take your time, make this a fun, family project. Just follow these easy steps:



How to map out the shape of your pond Step 1

Begin excavating the soil, digging from the center outward. Put the soil on a plastic tarp to prevent damage to the outlying area. Do not dispose of the sod or dirt until you have finished. You may need the soil for backfilling or raising the level (See step 2, below). You may need the sod to fill sandy sections. Dig the hole, sloping the sides and forming the shelf area. Extend an edge about 12" wide outside the perimeter as a base for your rock edging.
How to stake out the perimeter of the pond Step 2

Check the ground level. Place a number of stakes around the perimeter. Select the "Key Stake", the stake that appears to be the average ground level. Mark that level with a piece of tape or marker pen. Using a straight 2x4 and a carpenter's level, go from the Key Stake to Stake #1 and mark it when the 2x4 is level. Similarly, continue around the perimeter from stake to stake marking the level spot. If possible, check the measurements by stretching the 2x4 across the width or length. Run a string around the pond at the level mark and use this as your guide for raising the ground level. If you need to raise areas, build up fill at least 4-6" above level to allow settling.
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After the hole has been dug, remove any stones, rocks or tree roots, and smooth the surfaces. To protect the liner from puncture holes, use about 1" of sand, indoor/outdoor carpeting, carpet padding or 2-3 layers of damp newspapers.
How to place the liner on the pond Step 4

Drape the liner in the hole. It should extend at least 12-18" outside the top edge. Place rocks or other heavy objects temporarily around the outside to hold the liner in place. Some curves or corners will create excess material. Fold the liner on itself to take up the material, the pressure of the water will keep it in place.
How to edge your pond with stone and filling with water Step 5

Begin filling with water. Check to be sure everything stays in place and the liner doesn't get pulled away from the edging area. By running the liner under the edging and extending it you can accommodate varying water depths. Stop filling when the water is about 1-2" below ground level.

Step 6

Cover the excess liner material with decorative stone or other material. Apply your edging. This can be free-form rocks, slate, brick, or any other material that suits your design. Overhang the water with edging by at least 2" to hide the liner.
Step 7

Before adding plants or fish, let the water settle for two weeks (for treated city water) or use a pond starter chemical. This is not necessary with natural well water.

Step 8

Ponds normally require some sort of aeration and filtration to promote healthy plant and fish life.

Note: You may want to check the local building code for the depth which is considered a pool. You will need to make the depth of your pond less than the depth the building code considers a pool.

For example, if the building code states a water cavity 30" or more is considered a pool, then your pond will need to be less than 30" deep at the deepest end.


Rigid preformed ponds Rigid liners are available in a multitude of sizes and shapes. Select your pond site and measure out the maximum dimensions you can fit at the location you have chosen. After you get it home, follow these steps:
Step 1

Position the shell where you want it. Put a series of stakes approximately 12" apart around the perimeter (inexpensive vegetable stakes will do). Remove the shell and put string, rope or a garden hose around the stakes to create the digging pattern. Check the ground level.

Step 2

Measure shelf width, shelf depth and total depth. Begin excavation from the center outward. Try to dig matching the contours of the shell using the measurements taken above. Check your progress by occasionally putting the shell over the hole. Retain the soil and sod for possible later use.

Step 3

When the hole is finished, remove any protrusions such as rocks or roots. Put the shell in the hole and fill the gaps with soil.

Step 4

Cut back the sod 10-12" from the shell's perimeter for edging material. Use free-form stone, slate, brick, or any combination.

Step 5

Fill with water and let it stand for two weeks (for treated city water) or use a pond starter chemical.

Step 6

Speak to your local dealer about plants and fish. Most ponds require aeration and/or filtration to help support plant and fish life.



Tub and patio pond Tub ponds (small, self-contained, movable) are easy to construct and maintain. Just choose any suitable container and add water. If the container is not waterproof, use a small tub liner (typically 5' x 5') and drape it inside. Secure at the edges using trim material. Tub ponds may require aeration and/or filtration.

Pond Building

Step by Step

Step #1 After deciding on the placement of the pond, next is the shape. By laying out a garden hose or a rope, you can play with the shape until it’s exactly what you want.

Step #2 Dig the outer edge of the pond before removing your perimeter marker. This will ensure that you don’t lose the shape.

Step #3 Continue to excavate the hole. Here I’m removing the sod for the flat rock border.

Step #4 It’s important to note that I’m leveling just the front part of the pond, because we’re doing a flat rock border. By using a large 2x4 and a spirit level, I can get the pond level to within an inch or two, which is close enough at this point.

Step #5 We are going to put a shelf on the back wall of the pond. This shelf is for marginal plants as well as boulders. Here I’m making sure that the shelf is approximately ten inches deep and ten inches wide.

Step #6 Now it’s time to prepare the excavated hole for the pond liner. Here I’m using two to four inches of sand on the bottom and old burlap sacks on the sides.

Step #7 Now put your pond liner in. Be sure that there is plenty of overlap all the way around. Because of this pond’s unique shape, it will be necessary to make some creases; as I’m doing here.

Step #8 Because of the free form shape, there will be some excess liner. Some of this excess can be cut (stay at lest twelve inches away from the edge of the pond) and used inside the pond as a buffer between the boulders and the pond liner.

Step #9 Put the pump and the waterfall plumbing into place as you begin to cover the inside of the pond with rock. Use some scrap pieces of liner underneath the rocks. Covering the inside of the pond with rocks is and optional step.

Step #10 After all of the rock is carefully placed inside the pond, you may begin filling the pond with water.

Step #11 Once the pond is full of water, you can trim back the excess liner being sure to stay at least six to eight inches back from the edge of the water.

Step #12 If you choose to do a flat rock border, this is the most important step. The water will show you the exact level. When the water is cresting the entire area that you want level, you know it’s perfect.

NOTE: To do a flat rock border, you will need some of these elements. A shovel for carrying the mortar, a garden hoe for mixing, a hand trowel for finishing work, pre-mix mortar, and the rock of your choice.

Step #13 Drain the pond down six inches or so to keep the mortar out of the water. To begin, lay a bed of mortar about one inch thick. Note: Always wear gloves when working with cement type product.

Step #14 When placing the first rock in the bed of mortar be sure that it has two to three inches of overhang.

Step #15 After placing the second rock you can backfill any gaps with the mortar. Pat the mortar with a wet glove until you get a smooth finish. Make sure the front of the rocks are lined up.

Step #16 Let the mortar set up for about an hour and then, using a trowel, make a nice smooth cut along the back. This gives the border a finished look.

Step #17 No pond is complete without landscaping. This includes water plants as well as plantings around the pond. Landscaping around the water feature might best be described as putting the icing on the cake.

The final result of your work is a beautiful pond that will bring you and your family years of enjoyment. The pond will be the focal point of the entire landscape; it will never go unnoticed.


Installing a Preformed Pond

Step #1 Before evacuating the hole, set the pond on the proposed site, turn the pond upside-down and mark the outer edge using ground marking paint or flour.

Step #2 Begin evacuation. Dig slightly wider and deeper than the pond requires, If the preformed pond requires. If the preformed pond has a shelf, dig to that level.

Step #3 Place the pond back in the partially excavated hole and mark around the deeper level.

Step #4 Finish the excavation . Now put one to two inches of clean sand on the bottom of the hole and on the shelves. This will protect the liner shell from rocks or any other hard objects in the soil.

Step #5 Level the excavation area as much as possible before placing the pond in. It’s best to use a spirit level and a straight 2x4 board.

Step #6 Fill the pond slowly, constantly checking level. As the pond is filling with water, backfill around the pond with a sandy loam or plain sand it is important to pack the backfill material firmly to avoid any settling.

Step #7 Now the pond is full and completely level. Hide the edges using a flat stone or plantings that will overhang, concealing the edge of the pond. Add the pump, filter, plants and fish.


Waterfall Building

Step #1 By using a retaining wall behind waterfalls, there’s no need to worry about settling or washing away.

Step #2 Now carve steps into the hillside. Dig the entire stream down six to ten inches. Behind the first drop at the top is a small holding pool. This pool, where everything starts, is to ensure that the water doesn’t shoot down the falls straight out of the pipe.

Step #3 Put the liner in place to contour the falls. Make sure there’s plenty of liner overhanging the edges. Make sure the waterfall liner overlaps (shingle effect) down over the pond liner. This is to make sure, that if it ever leaks, the water still ends up in the pond.

Step #4 The cement work is done right on top of the liner. You can use pre-mixed mortar, or if you would like to mix your own… (3 parts sand / 1 part cement).

Step #5 Thin slate is good to use for the falls. The slate is placed onto a thin bed of mortar, Then leveled both lengthwise and widthwise.

Step #6 Because the slate is laid in mortar, the water will be forced over the top. Next, by mortaring small stones of each side of the slate, the water will be forced down the middle of the rock.

Step #7 Follow this procedure with all the steps (falls) and allow to dry for at least forty-eight hours. Now all the mortar work is done.

Step# 8 After waiting a couple of days, start the waterfall. This is a very exciting moment. Always run the stream before cutting any of the excess liner. This way you’ll know what your water level is beforehand.

Step#9 Now trim the excess liner off, staying for to six inches away from water level. Place the rest of the rock in the stream to cover up the existing liner.

Step #10 Add the surrounding landscape, and the job is finished. What you now have is a beautiful waterfall that is built to last.

Read more detailed information on how to build a beautiful pond on a budget !



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