Pre-formed vs Custom Pond Liners for Recreational Ponds

Backyard pond design is particularly challenging for homeowners that need to work on a limited budget. It’s easy for small backyard ponds to cost nearly as much as larger retention or detention ponds just due to the extra features and decorative details added to the design. Buying a pre-formed pond liner may seem like a way to limit the cost of installation, but it has far more downsides than benefits. A custom pond liner, made from a flexible geomembrane, is a better idea than a pre-formed design for these reasons and more.

Limited Options for Design

The biggest drawback to using any pre-formed pond liner, whether it’s rigid or just a square-shaped flexible liner, is the obvious limitations on design. All pre-formed, rigid ponds look the same in the end, even once you’ve added your own unique touch with plants and rocks. When ordering a flexible liner, cut and shaped into a round or square basin ready to drop in place, there’s still no option for adding underwater shelves or other natural contours. In contrast, a roll of flexible liner or a custom fabricated sheet can cover any excavated design, creating a custom residential pond that is truly your own unique design.

Steep Sides and Limited Shelves

Pre-formed, rigid pond liners do make attempts at offering shelves under the water. Unfortunately, these shelves are almost always too shallow. This means they’re located near the surface of the water. If a fish-eating predator like a heron or raccoon visits the pond, a shallow shelf area allows them to reach every part of the pond to scoop out all the fish. Steep sides give fish nowhere to hide and make it hard to get in and out of a recreational pond without damaging the banks. By choosing a flexible pond liner instead, you can mold any shelves, sloped sides, and easy-to-access banks and then cover them with a flexible cover of geomembrane.

Difficulty of Installing Drains and Skimmers

Custom pond liners, made of flexible materials, are often misconstrued as being difficult to pair with drains, skimmers, and pumps. However, all that’s required is some extra sealant and gaskets to ensure these penetrations through the material won’t cause a long-term leak. In contrast, rigid liners will usually include openings for these features but limit you to using one size of plumbing and equipment. If you want to change the equipment for your pond later, it’s far easier to make new penetrations through a flexible liner than a rigid, pre-formed unit.

Size and Shape

In addition to being limited in design and pond maintenance equipment choices, sticking to pre-formed pond liners also greatly limits the total size and shape. Pre-formed liners simply aren’t available for the largest ponds that hold tens of thousands of gallons. They’re limited to ponds that are a few hundred to a few thousand gallons at most. It’s simply impractical to manufacture or ship a pre-formed, rigid liner long distances once it’s over a certain size. If you’re trying to build a community residential pond rather than just a backyard project, stay away from pre-formed liners to get a wider range of size and shape options.

Dealing with Uneven Ground

Some people make the mistake of thinking a rigid, pre-formed liner requires less ground preparation than a custom liner conforming to every curve of the soil. However, the reverse is actually true. Rigid liners must be perfectly supported by the soil, despite their complex shapes and many edges. Voids or humps of soil left under the rigid liner will only result in the liner tipping, cracking, or rocking back and forth. Yet, getting a perfect fit to support the rigid liner is more work than most people assume. Flexible liners just need a smooth surface, free from rocks and roots. If it’s slightly uneven or undulating over the surface, it will only add character and natural appeal to the pond.

Pre-formed pond liners aren’t generally worth the trouble, even for the smallest backyard ponds. Make sure that your residential pond design is resilient enough to last through the seasons by using a tough, flexible, liner material. Here at BTL Liners we have all the pond liner materials you need to avoid the rigid pre-formed liners that limit the size and design of the water feature. Shop our selection of affordable pond liner products to find the right fit for every residential design.


Liners by BTL

AquaArmor Pond Liner

The most versatile liner on the market today, AquaArmor maximizes protection from harmful UV rays, tear resistance and punctures that cause leaks. Simply the best liner on the market.

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