How to Build a Pond

Pond Building Tools and Equipment

With common household and garden tools, first-time do-it-yourself pond builders can manage the excavation and construction of ponds ranging from 100 to 800 gallons (379 to 3,028 liters) [source: Barber, Better Homes and Gardens].

To prepare the pond site, you'll need:


  • Rope or garden hose
  • Chalk or spray paint
  • Square spade
  • Rounded shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • A straight board long enough to span the width and length of the pond
  • Rake
  • Fine sand

To construct the pond, you'll need:

  • Underlayment
  • Pond liner
  • Bricks or heavy rocks
  • Pump
  • Filter
  • Tubing, pipes and fittings
  • Skimmer (optional)
  • Aerator (optional)
  • Heater (optional)
  • Lighting (optional)
  • Water
  • Material to finish pond edge

Now it's time to get started building your pond. First, you have to know how deep it's going to be. That all depends on what type of liner you bought. The liner keeps your pond from seeping into the ground. There are two types of pond liner: pre-formed and flexible. You've probably seen the pre-formed type at home and garden stores. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and depths, but they limit your creativity.

Flexible liners are giant sheets of plastic or rubber that can be manipulated to create an infinite variety of sizes, depths and shapes. The most recommended flexible pond liner material is EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer), a synthetic rubber that's stable and safe for plants and fish. EPDM can contract and expand to stretch over growing roots under your pond or cope with earth shifts. It's highly resistant to ultraviolet radiation (UV rays from the sun) and atmospheric gasses that cause plastics to break down, and it can be installed in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees Celsius). If you go with a flexible liner, you'll need to know the area (total size) of your pond before you purchase the liner and underlayment, and the volume of water it will hold to make sure you choose a pump and filter system powerful enough to circulate and clean the water.

To figure out what size liner you need, measure across the longest part of the pond, then across the widest part and down to the deepest part. Plug your numbers into this formula:

  • Liner length = pond length + (2 x pond depth) + 2 feet
  • Liner width = pond width + (2 x pond depth) + 2 feet
  • Liner area (total size of liner) = liner length x liner width

[source: Better Homes and Gardens]

Now that you've decided what kind of pond you want and found the right spot for it, it's time to build. Start by outlining the shape. If you're using a pre-formed pond, put it upside-down on your pond site and trace around it with chalk or spray paint. If you're using flexible liner, use a rope or garden hose to shape your outline.

Keep reading to find out exactly how to dig and line your new pond.