What do you need to build a pond?

Every backyard garden pond is different, but they all require the same parts to function. The exact size of each component varies depending on the size of the pond but a pump is a pump, a skimmer is a skimmer, and so on. Here are the different pond parts and how they work together. 

1. The liner

If you build a water feature but don’t provide a way to keep water in it, you haven’t built a water feature. You’ve built an inefficient lawn sprinkler. Most backyard ponds utilize a 45mil EPDM rubber liner. This liner is super tough, conforms to the shape of the pond underneath it, and lasts for many years. Rubber pond liner is often sold in rolls, with widths in 5 ft increments. 

To ensure that the liner doesn’t tear or get punctured, after digging the hole we rake out any rocks and roots. We then install a layer of sand. Next is a fabric underlayment, and then the liner. The sand and the fabric help to cushion the liner and protect it. 

2. The skimmer

The skimmer is a large (usually plastic) box that is attached to the liner via a compression gasket. A pond skimmer does exactly the same thing a pool skimmer does. Water is drawn into the skimmer where large pieces of debris are stopped by brushes, and smaller particles are caught in a net. With the manufacturer we use, the lid is a lightweight piece of plastic made to look like a flat rock. What draws the water into the skimmer is the pump. 

3. The pump

Inside the skimmer sits the submersible pump*. Water is drawn in through the bottom of the pump and is discharged into the flexible PVC that feeds the waterfall. We like to install a quick release, so that the pump can be easily removed for maintenance or winter shutdown. We also install a check valve. When the pump is shut off, the check valve prevents the water in the PVC line from flowing back downhill into the skimmer and overflowing the pond. 

* = there are, of course, other types of pumps, but submersible pumps are the most common for this application

4. The PVC plumbing

For centuries, humans have worked to find the best way to get water from point A to point B without losing any. We use flexible PVC pipe for that. Flexible pipe means we can avoid using a gazillion elbows and fittings. That’s a good thing because every time we ask water to make a hard “turn” we lose a little pressure to friction. The flex pipe is what connects the pump to the waterfall. 

5. The waterfall box

We need a way to filter and clean the water and we need a way to move water into the stream. Waterfall filter boxes are the industry’s way to solve two problems with one product. Water enters the box through a fitting towards the bottom. As the water rises it passes through several layers of filter media. These both help grab smaller particles that got through the skimmer, and provide a site for beneficial microbes to live. These microbes play a huge role in keeping the water clean and clear. When the water reaches the top, a spillway either IS the waterfall, or directs the water towards the next drop. 


There are other components you can add like ultaviolet filters, underwater lights, and more, but these are the basics every pond needs. If you’re looking for help creating a beautiful pond in your backyard, contact us today!

Dave Marciniak is a landscape designer and speaker. He lives in Culpeper, Virginia and can be found via his website and on Twitter.

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