How to Make a Lily Pond

Use treated lumber and a pond liner to create a soothing water feature in your backyard

If you want to add a touch of Zen to your patio or garden, here's a pleasing solution as compact as it is easy to care for. The simple box construction is plenty sturdy, a thick pond liner contains the water, and a plug-in aerator provides the circulation and oxygen that plants and fish need to thrive in a small space. Lower in several hardy waterlilies, and the perennials will send up shoots that keep you in daily blooms of pink, red, white, and yellow from June through August. Come fall, just shear off the shoots and they'll come back bigger and bolder next spring. As long as the water doesn't freeze solid in winter, these lilies will survive in place. Follow along as This Old House contributor Christopher Beidel, owner of Pernt, a handmade-furniture store in Brooklyn, New York, walks you through the step-by-step of building this aqua-gardener's starter project.

Aerator: Water Feature Bubbler Kit, about $20; from Lowe's

Lilies: about $12 plus shipping; from hardywaterlilies.net

Download and print the lily pond cut list.


Steps // How to Make a Lily Pond
1 ×

Overview

 
Step One // How to Make a Lily Pond

Overview

lily pond overview illustration
Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Project Timeline:

Day 1: Assemble the box (Steps 2–11).
Day 2: Install the liner and the lilies (Steps 12–18).

Download and print the lily pond cut list.

Cut List
½x6 pressure-treated stringers: two @ 34⅝ inches
½x6 pressure-treated floorboards: six @ 33⅝ inches
½x4 pressure-treated skirt boards: four beveled @ 37⅝ inches, long point to long point
½x4 pressure-treated cap pieces: four mitered @ 37½ inches, long point to long point
½-inch pressure-treated plywood panels: four @ 18½ x 34⅝ inches
1x4 pressure-treated panel frame rails: eight @ 29⅛ inches
1x4 pressure treated panel frame stiles (four ripped to 2¾ inches): eight @ 18½ inches
1x4 pressure-treated interior battens: two @ 30½ inches
1x4 pressure-treated interior battens: two @ 29½ inches

 
2 ×

Cut the Parts to Make the Base

 
Step Two // How to Make a Lily Pond

Cut the Parts to Make the Base

cutting the base parts with a miter saw
Photo by Kolin Smith

On your miter saw, cut the ½x6 floorboards and stringers, 1x4 panel frames and interior battens, and the plywood side panels according to the cut list.

 
3 ×

Attach the Floorboards to the Stringers

 
Step Three // How to Make a Lily Pond

Attach the Floorboards to the Stringers

attaching floorboards to the stringers with a drill/driver
Photo by Kolin Smith

Lay out the two stringers on your work surface and place the six floorboards across them. Use ⅛-inch spacers to keep an even distance between the floorboards, clamp them together, and adjust the assembly so that you have a ½-inch reveal on the stringers. Use a drill/driver and 1½-inch deck screws to secure the floorboards to the stringers.

 
4 ×

Bevel the Pieces to Make the Skirt

 
Step Four // How to Make a Lily Pond

Bevel the Pieces to Make the Skirt

bevelling the skirt pieces with a miter saw
Photo by Kolin Smith

On a miter saw, cut opposing 45-degree bevels into the ends of each of the four skirtboards.

 
5 ×

Mark the Arches

 
Step Five // How to Make a Lily Pond

Mark the Arches

marking the arches
Photo by Kolin Smith

Clamp a skirtboard onto your work surface. Make a mark for the top of the arch along the center of the board, 2 inches from the bottom edge. Then mark the bottom edge 3 inches in from each end, and use a hammer to drive a finishing nail at each mark, as close to the edge as possible. Now, bow a straightedge between the nails to the top mark, as shown, and trace a line for the arch. Cut out the arch with a jigsaw, use the piece to trace the arch on the other blanks, and cut them out.

 
6 ×

Attach the Skirtboards

 
Step Six // How to Make a Lily Pond

Attach the Skirtboards

attaching the skirt to the base
Photo by Kolin Smith

Flip the base assembly upside down on your work surface. Set ½ spacers at the corners to even up the top edge of the skirtboards with the stringers. Arrange the skirtboards upside down, framed around the base. Use a combination countersink bit to drill pilot holes, then drive two 2-inch deck screws through the skirtboards and into the ends of the stringers, as shown. For the skirtboards parallel with the stringers, drive screws every 6 inches into the stringers' edges.

 
7 ×

Cut the Frames to Make the Sides

 
Step Seven // How to Make a Lily Pond

Cut the Frames to Make the Sides

cutting the frame pieces with a circular saw
Photo by Kolin Smith

Two of the panel frames need narrower stiles to account for the overlap from the sides that sandwich them. So you'll need to rip four stiles down from 3½ inches (the actual width of a 1x4) to 2¾ inches. To do that, clamp a straightedge to a stile blank, as shown, and rip it with a circular saw. Cut three more the same way. When the structure comes together, all the stiles will appear to be 3½ inches wide.

 
8 ×

Apply the Frames

 
Step Eight // How to Make a Lily Pond

Apply the Frames

gluing the frame pieces
Photo by Kolin Smith

Align a ½-inch spacer along the short edge of a side panel to set the overhang for the plywood of the abutting panel. Apply construction adhesive to the plywood, as shown, then press one of the ripped-down stiles in place. Use your drill/driver to secure the stile with three evenly spaced 1¼-inch deck screws. Make one more panel this way. To make the two panels that sandwich the first two, use a ¾-inch spacer to set the stiles' overhang. Glue and screw the rails between the stiles.

 
9 ×

Attach the Panels to Assemble the Box

 
Step Nine // How to Make a Lily Pond

Attach the Panels to Assemble the Box

attaching the panels with a drill/driver
Photo by Kolin Smith

Fit a panel with full-width stiles onto the notch at the base, parallel with the floorboards. To secure it, drive 1½-inch deck screws through the panel and into the edge of the floorboard, as shown. Install the opposite panel, then install the panels with the ripped-down stiles between the first two. At the corners, countersink pilot holes and drive three evenly spaced 1½-inch deck screws through the faces of the full-width stiles into the edges of the ripped-down stiles.

 
10 ×

Reinforce the Corners

 
Step Ten // How to Make a Lily Pond

Reinforce the Corners

attaching corner brackets to the inside corners with a drill/driver
Photo by Kolin Smith

Install two 3-inch stainless-steel or galvanized corner brackets inside each corner, using the screws that came with the brackets.

 
11 ×

Protect the Liner

 
Step Eleven // How to Make a Lily Pond

Protect the Liner

attaching landscape fabric to the inside lining with a staple gun
Photo by Kolin Smith

The pond liner is tough and plenty thick, but it's still a good idea to protect it from contact with the wood. Use a staple gun to fix a layer of landscape fabric inside the box. Then use a handsaw to make a V-shaped notch, about 1 inch deep, in the top edge of one of the panels so that you'll be able to snake the pump's cord under the cap. You will need to make a matching V-shaped notch in one of the interior battens in Step 14.

 
12 ×

Lay Out the Liner

 
Step Twelve // How to Make a Lily Pond

Lay Out the Liner

laying out the pond liner
Photo by Kolin Smith

Unfold the liner material, and gently set it over the box. Work the liner into the bottom and corners, then make a pleat at each corner so that the liner is folded neatly, not bunched.

 
13 ×

Cut to Fit

 
Step Thirteen // How to Make a Lily Pond

Cut to Fit

cutting the pond liner to fit with a straightedge and a utility knife
Photo by Kolin Smith

Use your staple gun to tack the liner in place every 6 inches along the top edges of the panel frames. Then use a straightedge and a utility knife to cut the excess liner at the outside edges of the side panels, as shown.

 
14 ×

Install the Interior Battens to Secure the Liner

 
Step Fourteen // How to Make a Lily Pond

Install the Interior Battens to Secure the Liner

attaching the interior battens with a drill/driver to secure the pond liner
Photo by Kolin Smith

Use a handsaw to make a matching V-shaped notch in one interior batten, which will be secured to the similarly notched side panel. Clamp the batten in place, and use 1½-inch deck screws to secure it, as shown. Clamp and screw the other battens in place.

Tip: For tight joints, miter one end, line up the miter's short point with the corner, and mark the short point at the other corner. Cut the line.

 
15 ×

Cut the Caps

 
Step Fifteen // How to Make a Lily Pond

Cut the Caps

cutting the cap pieces with a miter saw
Photo by Kolin Smith

Use your miter saw to cut the first cap piece. Now place the aerator in the center of the box, and snake the power cord through the notch.

 
16 ×

Attach the Cap Pieces

 
Step Sixteen // How to Make a Lily Pond

Attach the Cap Pieces

attching the cap pieces with a drill/driver
Photo by Kolin Smith

Clamp a mitered cap piece in place on top of a side panel. Countersink pilot holes and secure it to the panel's top rail and interior batten with 1½-inch deck screws every 12 inches. Miter and install the other cap pieces as you work your way around the box.

 
17 ×

Stain the Pond

 
Step Seventeen // How to Make a Lily Pond

Stain the Pond

applying stain to the outside of the assembled pond
Photo by Kolin Smith

With the pond built, apply a good-quality exterior-grade stain to the exposed surfaces.

 
18 ×

Plant the Waterlilies

 
Step Eighteen // How to Make a Lily Pond

Plant the Waterlilies

planting the waterlilies
Photo by Kolin Smith

Line a 12-inch plastic or terra-cotta pot with landscape fabric to keep the soil from escaping. Place a lily rhizome in the pot, fill the pot with wet topsoil, and cover the soil with a layer of gravel to hold the soil in place. (Don't use potting soil—it floats.) Place three or four pots at the bottom of the pond. Fill the pond with 16 inches of water. Then turn on the pump, and kick back and enjoy your new water feature.

 
 
 

TV Listings

Find TV Listing for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.