The 3 Golden Rules to Pond Building You Don’t Want to Skip

The three golden rules of pond building not to be missed include having a proper overflow, successfully hiding pond liner, and never placing a pond at the lowest grade of the property. If you skip any steps in the pond construction process, do not skip these important three rules I consider golden.

The pond construction process

There are many key points to pond construction and all have their place in what it takes to successfully build a pond. There are three particular steps I consider most important due to the serious implications it may have on your pond if not done correctly or completely avoided. I speak through personal experience on these matters so don’t take them lightly.

In the end, I just want you to be successful in constructing your pond and not make the same mistakes I made. In the case of the following three golden rules, not heeding my warning will lead to you having to replace the pond liner, and in some cases, the entire pond itself. When such a crisis occurs, it’s very stressful on you, and sometimes even your family. Let’s begin with the three golden rules of pond building that should never be skipped during the construction process.

Golden rule # 1 – The pond overflow

Having a proper pond overflow is very important for many reasons. I’m not a big fan of overflows which depend on pipes to take care of the excess water during torrential downpours or flooding conditions. The reason why? Simply because piped overflows always get clogged by dead leaves and other organic matter which causes such problems.

The 3 Golden rules to pond building not to be skipped
Building an overflow that works.

WATCH THIS: The pond overflow

Such overflows may work for a while, but eventually, they become clogged. In some cases, you might be able to clear the excess organic matter with your hands or a long net when the clog is found at the overflow. On the other hand, if the clogs are somewhere inside the pipe, you’ll probably end up calling in a pond maintenance person and that’s going to cost you money.

Secondly, such overflows can suck down fish and other pond inhabitants. Even beneficial plants that you need for your pond often grow around the overflow to the point of clogging it.

The pipe overflows I’ve seen sit in the middle of the body of water. I’m referring to larger ponds but the same problem can also occur with smaller garden ponds. The pipes are capped off at the top with a ball, or something similar in shape. It collects excess water through slot openings when the waterline becomes too high. As I said, this may work for a while but eventually, it’s going to need maintenance. This might include anything from unclogging the filter just above the water line. In a more extreme case, deeply clogged pipes may need to be dug up or even replaced. This is an exhaustive and expensive endeavor easily avoided by going with a natural overflow.

Solution – an overflow that works every time

I have an entire page dedicated to making a proper overflow that works. It is found HERE.

It’s also important to note that if your pond doesn’t have any kind of overflow, a torrential downpour will help make one for you. Often with disastrous results. While it never happened to me, I saw a guy on YouTube who built a fairly sizable pond. Unfortunately, he forgot the most fundamental rule in pond construction. Without an overflow and spillway, the pond flooded, but not before busting a hole in the side of his pond. Reconstruction is your only option in such a situation. A long, hard road indeed. I had to reconstruct one of my ponds but for a different reason. I’ll cover that next.

Golden rule # 2 – Properly burying, securing, and hiding your pond liner from animals and weather elements

A well-documented story covered in this website in several areas tells the story of when a pond contractor laid an EPDM pond liner down on my first pond. The problem was, he didn’t bother to properly bury the liner, leaving it exposed just above the waterline.

Speed bump in pond construction.

This left it unprotected to nuisance animals such as raccoons, opossum, and bobcats. They had their way with it during nighttime hours. The liner ended up getting pulled up because it was damaged beyond repair.

Problems with three different pond contractors

To this day, I still have an extremely poor opinion of this person. It’s not worth mentioning his name or company. This happened four years ago so I can’t imagine that this guy is still in business. From what I was told, he already had other problems with his business. All the pictures of the ponds he built posted on his website were fake. I dedicated an entire page to professional pond contractors HERE

I also have a full page dedicated to properly burying and hiding your pond liner which is found HERE. Out of the six ponds I have now, all the liners are properly buried and secured and I haven’t had an issue yet. Nocturnal animals still come around, often I might add. We have a camera security system where I monitor each of my ponds 24/7. These cameras also have night vision and I highly recommend them. 

Golden rule # 3 – Pond placement. Never place a pond at the lowest point of your property

It seems logical to place a pond at the lowest point of your property to collect excess rain. It’s also logical to think you won’t have to top it off as often in doing so. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have six ponds, all placed correctly above the grade around them. I rarely need to top them off. The rain by itself does a great job and I don’t need the excess water from the rest of the property draining into my ponds.

Another tip, never redirect a downspout off the gutter of your roof directly into your pond. That’s way too much water in a short period of time and a really bad idea. Even an overflow correctly installed is heavily stressed by the volume of water rushing its way.

Flooding is also a concern when you have a pond situated at the lowest point of the property. Excess water can’t drain away. The only way to go from there is “up”. That means your yard and possibly even the structures on your (and your neighbors) property might end up flooded. The idea is to have a pond well above the grade of the lowest point. Have a spillway directed to an area where it can drain without doing any damage to you or your neighbor’s property.

The effect of excess nutrients in ponds 

Finally, I’ll discuss excess nutrients flowing to the lowest point of your property and into an unfortunate pond placed there. It doesn’t matter if its organic matter such as leaves, sticks, grass, or chemicals leaching into the pond. Such chemicals include lawn fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. All of these cause extremely troublesome algae blooms and fish kills. They kill plants and cause poor water quality. If that weren’t enough, they also kill off your beneficial bacteria.

When a pond is at the lowest point of the property, excess nutrients have no other place to go. Don’t think of the term “nutrients” being used as something positive in pond lingo. This is why planning ahead is so important in pond construction.


Although there are many other important steps to take when constructing a new pond, these are the three you mustn’t skip over. I have all the steps listed in great detail under the pond construction tab. I highly urge you to check them out.

It’s important to gain as much knowledge on the subject as possible because reconstructing a pond is even harder than the original job. In fact, it’s a miserable experience, especially pulling up the pond liner.

Best of luck to you! Take your time and avoid any shortcuts.

The 3 Golden Rules to Pond Building You Don’t Want to Skip