Introduction

how to build a backyard pond
Photo: Kolin Smith
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Dan Gibbon may have spent the last three and a half decades around Wisconsin's flat farmlands, but the lapping waters of Lake Superior, where he grew up, were always on his mind. So recently he got out the shovel and started making a pond. His wife, Gloria, had her doubts ("I wasn't that excited with the idea of digging up the backyard," she says). But her hesitance melted away when she saw the fruits of Dan's labor.

Dan's pond attracts birds, frogs, butterflies, and crickets (no mosquitoes, though, thanks to the moving water). It also attracts Dan and Gloria. The couple often sip their coffee there while watching the sunrise, and lounge by the gurgling water after dark. "My wife is actually really glad I did this," says Dan. "And so am I—it's so relaxing."

Now, we figure if a retired schoolteacher can build a pond in a weekend, so can you. So we asked This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers to show you how to make the one you see here—just like Dan's. All you need is a shovel and a few materials, and before you know it, you'll have your own little "great lake" to enjoy.
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    Tools List

    • pointed shovel
      Shovel
    • four-foot level
      Level
    • 30-foot tape measure
      Tape Measure
    • utility knife
      Utility Knife
    • garden hose
      Garden Hose

    Shopping List

    1. Pond Liner, which is available off the roll at garden centers or precut in kits. Buy one 4 feet longer and wider than your pond dimensions to fit 18 inches deep.

    2. General Purpose Sand to cover and smooth over stones or roots. Three or four bags should be enough.

    3. Newspaper or Burlap to cover the sand.

    4. Scrap 2x4 to help level the pond.

    5. Pea Gravel to create drainage for overflow.

    6. Large Rocks to create the border and waterfall. Gather them from around the pond or buy them at a stone yard. 7. Submersible Recirculating Pump to keep water aerated and to create a waterfall. Get one that pumps 200 or fewer gallons per minute for a gentle flow.

    8. Air Line Tubing to carry the water to the waterfall. Available at hardware stores or pet stores that sell fish tanks.

    9. 2-inch PVC conduit to protect the buried pump