How To Build A Small Backyard Pond

|January 3, 2023
How To Build A Small Backyard Pond

We are all looking for ‘value add’ projects for our homes and this isn’t always about improving the dollar value of our properties. More often it’s about taking our existing outdoor spaces and adding new layers to enrich them, making them more relaxing, enjoyable, and interesting. One of the most gorgeous, and easiest, ways you can do this is by adding a pond. 

In the past, this may have been a complex, confusing and laborious process but not today. The easily accessible range of ponds and equipment has made the process simple and budget-friendly. Here’s a look at what you need to do to add a beautiful water feature at your place.

Scale is everything for building backyard ponds.

When you select a new piece of furniture for your home or artwork for your walls once you’ve settled on style then the size or relative scale of the piece is your next main consideration. It needs to work with the space, not disappear into the room or, conversely, overwhelm it. 

It’s no different when you are deciding on a water feature. It should work with the existing or planned design of your space and most importantly with the size. With a range of pre-formed liners in different sizes, shapes and textures offered by Oase, PondMAX and AQUAPRO, we have you covered. Even when you have an irregular shape or challenging design ideas you can easily create your custom design using a flexible pond liner.

Pick a spot for your small backyard pond.

In most cases you’ll want an area that is reasonably level or, if sloping, one where landscaping can be added for support. Most liners, pre-formed or flexible, will require support from soil all around. If you do have a need for a pond that is only partially in-ground then look at the rigid or free-standing pond shapes in the ranges.

Ideally, the location of your pond should serve a design purpose – it becomes a focal point or feature, it draws the eye through the landscape or perhaps it’s a whimsical secret, hidden away in a corner, only discovered when exploring the garden.

Ponds can be placed in any situation from full sun to shade, the location will however govern its uses and care. Most flowering pond plants, such as water lilies, won’t perform in anything but full sun and maintenance requirements may be a little higher in a sunny spot.

If you’re digging your pond in then you also need to make sure you have an adequate depth of soil in your chosen spot.

Cascade or fountain pond?

Every water feature, small or large, should include a pump to keep water circulating, healthy, clear and clean. There are two main ways you’d achieve this that will give you different styles of features and it’s wise to decide on your style before you get building as it may impact the amount of space you need. The two ways are: 

  • Fountains are the most traditional style, water is discharged from the pump generally straight upwards. You will find that most pumps come with a range of fountain outputs and adapters making them virtually plug-and-play. You might decide to instead add an elaborate fountain or an ornamental ‘spitter’. Fountains don’t require extra space or any great level of advanced planning in your design or installation.
  • Cascades, including spillways, are a very different look. They involve moving water, generally to one end of the pond, and having it running in from a seemingly external source. A cascade could be as simple as a pre-formed cascade unit or a spillway module to a custom-designed natural-look stone waterfall or rill. They will require some extra space outside of the pond itself, this will, of course, vary with your design. 

Pumps should come with a range of outlet adaptors for connecting the outlet pipe you need and you should find the ribbed, anti-kink tubing, available as an accessory, as the hassle-free way to move your water around to where you need it.

Building a small backyard pond.

When we talk about building a pond it sounds more complex than it actually is! We’ve made the process simple – prepare, position, fill and switch on!

Tools you’ll need:

  • garden or digging spade, 
  • landscape rake, this isn’t essential but can be handy for spreading and smoothing soil, 
  • wheelbarrow or large buckets for material from excavation, 
  • spirit level long enough to go across pond shape from side-to-side and back-to-front (tip – if you don’t have a long level you can position a shorter one on top of a straight edge – a straight piece of timber or similar.)

Materials you’ll need: 

  • pond of your choosing,
  • pump to suit with additional tubing if needed,
  • fountain outlet or spitter or materials for cascade etc. if using these,
  • a couple of bags of paving sand,
  • bag or two of river pebbles, around 20mm or larger, for pond bed if desired.


Clear the area of any unwanted plants or landscape materials. Bring to roughly level. Position your pond in the area you plan to add it and mark a line around its edge, you can just use your spade to do this.


Dig out in the area of your pond roughly to the shape of the liner. Remove any rocks or roots as you do. You may need to drop your pond in a few times to get the shape and depth right. If you have rocky soil or clay soil that’s difficult to shape make the hole a little bigger all-round and use the sand to line it.

The final position of your pond needs to see the top lip at least 5cm above finished soil level to prevent wash in of material in heavy rain.


Drop your pond in and use the spirit level from side-to-side and front-to-back to check the pond is level. If you need to fine-tune the level just use sand to pack it up. Once you’re happy with the level use sand as fill to pack in around the sides.

Before you fill:

If you plan to plant and mulch around your pond do it before filling with water and sweep the pond base clean afterwards. If you’re adding pebbles to the pond bed thoroughly rinse them before adding. Position your pump with supplied fountain riser and nozzle fitted or any tubes needed. If you’re adding a cascade or different fountain head then set them up now.

Fill and turn on:

Now it’s as easy as filling with water to around 5cm from the top and turning your pump on. You may just want to fine-tune the way your fountain is running but that’s it! A beautiful water feature in just a few hours.

Small backyard pond inspiration.

Build Your Pond has many more inspiring small backyard pond ideas to spark creativity and show you how to liven your small or large space.

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