Every pond construction project needs to have a carefully crafted budget. As someone not nearly as famous as Abraham Lincoln once said, "Any project lacking a spending limit will have unlimited spending."
The basic requirements for building a fishpond include:
- A source of water.
- A hole in the ground.
- An impermeable liner.
- Life support for the fish.
Inconsequential matters like decorations and the actual fish can come later. Life support for the fish includes a filter, pump(s), aeration, and a skimmer. That topic needs to be handled in much more detail elsewhere, and it may even deserve its very own budget. You never want to be caught making a compromise between your pump or your pond liner. Skimping on either side could mean a dry pond and a lot of little fishy funerals.
Lovely lines, carefully selected native species, and an unimpeded view from the back deck deserve careful consideration. Still, in the end, nothing will matter if the pond doesn't function. Many misplaced design elements can be adjusted after the fact, and even a major error like a poorly placed Bradford Pear can be mercifully removed before it has a chance to bloom again. The urgent, overriding concern at this point is to create a pond that holds water.
To that end, let's consider the question of pond liners. A hole dug into any random plot of ground is very unlikely to hold water on its own well enough to make a pond unless it's already, well, a pond. Water naturally soaks into the soil and down toward the water table. If your plot of ground remains wet for a week after a good rain, you may have soil with high clay content. Still, unless you're happy with an ephemeral pond that appears and disappears with the rainy season, you're going to need something more substantial holding in the water.
Pre-cut retail liners
It's tempting. You're in your local home improvement store, and you discover that you've wandered haplessly into the pond aisle. Here are shelves and shelves and rolls of plastic, all labeled rather unhelpfully as "pond liner." Can you resist, or will you throw caution to the wind and buy a few cheap pre-cut sheets of something that will probably work?
Liners purchased in retail stores can be convenient if you can find the specific type of liner that can handle the challenges you've identified. In almost all cases, you'll find various pre-cut PVC or EPDM brands, but polyethylene liners will be conspicuously absent. Additionally, these pre-cut sheets may not fit the shape or size of your pond and will require seaming as you install the material, using tape or glue. Field-applied seams are one of the most common sources of costly and troublesome leaks, and every panel you connect or cut adds another potential failure point, not something you want to introduce at the outset of your project.
In an ideal world, any pond liner could be ordered and shipped to your home, seamless and pre-cut to the size and shape of your pond. You wouldn't have to deal with glues or tapes or cutting to make the liner conform to the contours, and installation would be quick and easy. However, most liner materials can't be customized due to their inherent chemical properties or other factors like weight and stiffness.
Top-quality manufacturers like BTL Liners offer RPE liners in huge panels that can be custom fabricated to conform to your pond's shape and seamed in-factory, if necessary, ensuring the highest quality weld. RPE can also be conveniently packaged and shipped directly to your pond site, thanks to its flexibility and low weight. A customized liner saves money in materials, shipping and in ease of installation.
Once you're starting to draft your budget, it's time to consider the cost of the liner, and that's often more complex than figuring the dimensions of your pond. Take a good look at your site, setup, local weather, and how long you expect the pond to last. Will it be used only to hold a few decorative fish, or are you planning to swim in it? What about pets? Don't forget to include shipping costs and any complications that may involve. Do your research and make your selection based on everything you know about your project's challenges. Choosing a liner that's not ideal for your particular pond equals poor performance and more expense in the long run.
Most liners are sold by the square foot, so it's relatively simple to establish the cost for a small, regular-shaped garden pond. Measure your pond carefully and use a tool like BTL's pond calculator, which automatically adds an appropriate allowance on all sides to allow for anchoring the liner. Multiply the result by the cost per square foot of your chosen liner, add any shipping costs, or just give us a call, and we'll do the math for you. Unless you're using an RPE, don't forget to include the cost of underlayment and seaming materials! It's generally a good idea, in this case, to speak to an experienced pond liner expert who can quickly evaluate your needs and calculate an exact price for you. The experts at BTL Liners have decades of experience in the field and are happy to answer any questions and provide a no-obligation quote for your project.