How to Build a Concrete Pond

Ruthanne Boggs and two dozen of her friends constructed a backyard concrete pond for irrigation and swimming, proving that hard work can be fun and rewarding.

| July/August 1978

One year here in northern California, there was a severe drought, or so I'm told. While other folks were cutting down on the number of baths they took and letting their garden plants wither in the blazing summer sun, I was irrigating my vegetables freely and frequently, using the water that was stored in our 6 inch-deep by 40 inch-wide "built it ourselves" backyard concrete pond.

Now I admit, digging a 10,000-or 15,000-gallon hole in the ground and lining it with 4-inches of concrete is an ambitious undertaking. But it can be done (and, perhaps, should be done if you need extra water for irrigation, aquaculture, swimming, or firefighting.) All you need to build a backyard concrete pond is some advance planning, $600 to $800 in materials, and a little help from 15 or 20 friends.

Begin Your Concrete Pond With a Level Site

Ideally, you should plan to have your backyard pond dug with a front-end loader, rather than a backhoe (which will leave a rough surface that must be smoothed out by hand), and if the site isn't level, it should be graded first. After that, you can dig your pond in whatever shape the lay of the land allows. Our pond (see drawing in image gallery) has a generally ovoid cross section with a flat bottom and sides that slope at 45 degrees (except near the top, where they flatten out to an incline of only 10 degrees.)

When the excavation work is completed, survey your private "water hole" carefully and level its rim with itself all the way around, then make a slight dip in the edge where the overflow or spillway is to be. We didn't do this as carefully as we should have, and — as a result — our mini-lake's overflow is nearly a full foot lower than the rest of the pond's rim. (This seems like a waste of concrete and space now, because a good deal of surface area near the spillway never even gets wet, except during a rain.) On the side of the pond opposite the overflow, there's a slight hill (see drawings in the image gallery) against which we built a sort of retaining wall. (This wall — like the excess concrete area around the spillway — helps funnel extra water into the pond during a rainstorm.)

Be sure, too — when excavation is complete — to remove all loose dirt from the freshly dug hole. This was easy enough for us to do: The tractor driver we hired was more than happy to [1] leave his tractor at the bottom of the pit, with the boom down, while we shoveled dirt into the bucket then [2] drive around the top of the pond to pack down any remaining loose soil. When he was done, we took still more dirt out by hand (in pails) and smoothed out rough spots before wetting and tamping down the loose fill along the pond's rim.

Wall Reinforcements for Your Concrete Pond

To strengthen our pond's walls (and give the wet concrete something to "grab onto"), we lined the entire excavated area with 4-mil plastic, then laid down light gauge woven wire fencing (which we bought cheap as "seconds") in 6 inch-wide rows that overlapped each other by 6 inches. (At the overlap, we bound the segments of fencing together with tie wires spaced 8 inches apart.)

6/18/2014 4:26:02 PM

The pond is 6 FEET deep (not inches) and is 22 FEET across (not 40 inches). The area concreted may have been 40 FEET across, but not all of it retains water.

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