Building a Raised Pond from the Ground Up

Building a Raised Pond from the Ground Up
There are several good reasons to build a raised, rather than a recessed or in-ground, pond. The first and most obvious is that, for one reason or another, you’re unable to dig your pond into the ground.

Perhaps you have young children in your family or neighborhood and don’t want them playing around a recessed pond. Maybe you don’t want the runoff from surrounding lawns working its way into your pond. You may want a raised pond to butt up against the house or some other architectural feature.

Whatever the reason, to build a raised pond, begin the same way you would if you were building a recessed pond. Locate the pond area, sketch out the design, and get started.

The simplest way to build a raised pond wall is to use manufactured landscape bricks. They come in all sizes, colors, shapes, and finishes. Some bricks have a lip on the back, which is a great aid in helping to interlock the bricks so that they don’t move under pressure.

Once you have settled on the type and style brick that’s right for you, make sure you order enough of them to complete the job. There’s nothing more frustrating in the middle of a project than to run out of bricks and have to bribe your spouse to run to the store for three more. If math isn’t your strong suit, your home-supply store should be able to determine the number of bricks if you tell them the height and length of the perimeter.

The bricks will be delivered on palettes that will be removed from the truck with a small forklift; so, you’ll need to have an accessible space where they can be stacked.

One word of advice before you begin stacking bricks. If your property is not level, add sand, dirt, pea gravel, or even kitty litter to get the pond footprint as level as possible. That will make things easier and keep the construction rolling smoothly.

After you’ve laid out the first course of bricks in your pond’s perimeter, step back and take a look at your future pond. Is it large enough? Too large? Shaped just right? Situated in the right spot? If not, now is the time to make adjustments—not after you’ve laid six full courses.

Also, if you’re going to use a skimmer box/filter/pump combination (best for all but the smallest of ponds), you’ll need to leave a “cutout” or opening in the wall where the skimmer box will sit. The pond liner will run up and over the top of it, just as if it were part of the wall. If you’ll use an underwater pump and separate filter box, you won’t need to make any special concessions.

Once you’re satisfied with the placement and size of your pond, begin laying the second course of bricks, overlapping the centers with the edges of the first course to produce a stronger wall.

After you have finally reached what you assume will be your top course of bricks (which means, in effect, that you’ve probably run out of material), stretch a string from one end of the pond to the other. Crawl into the pond and use a carpenter’s rule to measure the deepest part. If it’s 3 feet deep or deeper, your pond will be just fine. If not, add more bricks to the wall or dig the center of the pond down deeper.

Decide where you’re going to place your water plants. Keep taller plants toward the back and sides of your pond and shorter plants in front. Build up some shallow areas inside your pond, using stacked bricks, rocks, or even plastic buckets turned upside down. Everything is going to be covered with pond liner before the water goes in, and the liner will be covered with pebbles and rocks; so, don’t worry about the “look” of your shallow areas now.

Just remember that, wherever you set the depths of your shallow areas, that’s where they’re going to stay. Once you lay the pond liner over everything and start pumping the water in, it’s going to be too late to make any adjustments; so, do all of your homework and fine-tuning now.

Next, if you’re installing a bottom drain in your raised pond, lay it out now. Run the drain pipe beneath the brick wall and out to a spot where the water can run freely. If you're not installing a drain, stop right here. Take a deep breath. And get ready. The big moment has arrived. The thing that turns a bunch of stacked bricks into something much, much more. It’s time to install the liner.

Check out D. J. Herda's two latest gardening books, Zen & the Art of Pond Building and From Container to Kitchen: Growing Fruits and Vegetables in Pots, both available from

SPECIAL! Click on the author's photo above to request a personally inscribed copy by e-mail!

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