Sept. 1 2006 12:00 AM

At some point in your landscaping career, you decided that it was time to dive into the ever-growing, highly profitable, dont-be-afraid-to-make-a-buck pond industry.

What have you done? You dont have the slightest idea how to build a pond. Of course, it looks easy enoughjust dig a hole, put in a liner, add a few rocks and some water, and BOOM. You have an amazing pond. Right?

Not quite. Many people think building a pond is that easy. However, they fail to realize that theres a lot more to it than the description above. While these are the basic steps, there are many gaps that should be filled in along the way.

Lets assume youve dug your hole. What next? Stop Everything. Its not as simple as it sounds to dig the hole. In fact, many contractors dig the hole too small.

As an example, heres a true story. A lawyer asked a pond contractor if he could install a ten-foot by ten-foot pond. Eager as the contractor was, he told the client he could do it. He provided a price and the bid was accepted. The contractor proceeded to dig a ten-foot by ten-foot hole that was two feet deep. He went to the distributor to purchase the liner and got a piece of rubber that was fifteen feet long and fifteen feet wide (the extra area meant to accommodate the depth of the pond and a little extra for anchoring the liner). He installed the liner and added some rocks to make the job look nice and finished.

When the client returned home to see the pond, she loved it, except for one small problem. Something was just not right. She took out her tape measure and soon found that the pond wasnt ten-by-tenit was only seven-by-seven!

In the contractors zealousness to get the project completed on time, he failed to take into consideration the size of the rocks he would be using on the sidewalls of the pond. The average diameter of the rocks he purchased was 1.5 feet. When they were placed along the sides of the pond, it suddenly became three feet smaller than what his client had wanted. However, because he chose his rocks after he dug the hole and purchased the liner, he was stuck.

The contractor argued with the client that the pond really was a ten-foot pond because he dug a ten-foot hole. However, this was not acceptable to the client, who only saw a seven-foot hole when she measured from side to side on the inside of the rocks. So what happened? Well, remember that the client was a lawyer. The contractor lost and had to refund the client the difference between a ten-foot pond and a seven-foot pond.

How can you avoid this contractors mistakes?

Step 1: Pick out the rocks in advance! Then, take them on-site to determine which rocks will work best for walls, waterfalls, and streams. Theyre all a little different.

Step 2: Once youve determined how much space the rocks will take up along the edges of the pond, you can excavate the hole. If the client wants a pond thats ten feet wide and ten feet long, and your rocks are 1.5 feet in diameter, dig a hole thats about 13 feet wide and 13 feet long.

Step 3: Purchase the liner. Always purchase enough liner for the depth multiplied by two. If your pond is two feet deep, buy a liner figuring two feet multiplied by two feet, or four feet. Then, add an additional two feet of liner for edge detailwhen purchasing liner, you want to be more than covered. In this example, the equation would look like this: 13 4 2=19. Round up and purchase a 20 foot by 20 foot piece of liner. Its much easier to cut away excess liner than to have to go back and reduce the size of the hole you dug. So whats the moral of this story? Know the materials youre working with. (And watch out for customers who are attorneys.)

Editors Note: Don Leyn is president of Irrico Sales, Inc., Englewood, Colorado. He can be reached at

Photos courtesy: Savio