How to Evaluate a Pond Builder

A pond is more than just an outdoor water feature. It is a home improvement project that requires planning and proper construction to ensure the safety, longevity and control of the water. A failure to follow basic requirements can result in a pond that is low in water, unstable during storms or overgrown with weeds. If you are thinking about hiring a contractor to dig or construct your new pond, it is important to take the time to evaluate each candidate. Representatives from your county Soil and Water Conservation District, Natural Resource Conservation Service or qualified engineers can help you make sound decisions about pond construction.

The area surrounding your pond needs to be cleared of all vegetation, and any buried stumps or roots should be removed prior to beginning any excavation work. The site should also be surveyed for hazardous locations: pond embankments should not be located near power lines, above roadways, next to off-road vehicle trails or immediately upslope from homes and barns. If a pond fails, the soil above it could wash down slope and flood these structures and nearby properties.

Before extensive pond work is started, dig test pits to analyze the soils. These holes (4 – 6 feet deep), excavated by a backhoe, reveal the soil profile and give you a good sense of what lies below ground. If a pond is planned for an upslope location, consider channeling water away from the site with a trench or shallow ditch.

If you are building a small backyard pond, make sure the rim of the pond is at least 3 inches above the surrounding soil level. If your pond is in a low spot that floods during heavy rains, build a ridge about 3 inches high around it to keep runoff out.

When the pond is filled with water, wait 24 hours to allow the cement a chance to cure. After this time, carefully check the pond dikes and repair any crevices or collapsed sections with a shovel, making sure the fill is compacted. The pond should then be filled again slowly and up to about 0.40 m higher than the previous water level. This process allows the pond to “settle” and reduces the chance of problems such as a puddle or an uneven surface.

Before adding fish to your pond, take the time to learn what they need in terms of water and food. Then, when you add the fish to your pond, they will be better adapted to the environment and less likely to cause you headaches. Besides, it’s always nice to see the fish swim around in their new home. A pond with an abundance of healthy, happy fish is sure to be the talk of your neighborhood!