Asked on May 16, 2013

Our Front Yard Pond and Other Projects

Kris Lee
by Kris Lee
We just purchased this house and it has a great 3/4 acre yard with a pond in front. It has a fountain, w/a spray fountain (see white pvc pipe in pic). We like it OK, but it is dirty as it is under the trees and gets lots of leaves in it. The fountain leaks in back and the water keeps getting lower and lower, probably a hole in the liner somewhere.
So we are thinking of filling in the pond w/small red lava landscaping rock on bottom (lots of this in a garden we are redoing and I dislike it), then river rocks on top w/the fountain still bubbling up in the middle. Any suggestions on how to do this properly so that the water will not leak out, and we don't have to continue to refill the water level? Thanks for any ideas, I live in Wyoming so there is LOTS of snow in the winter and it is only used in the summer months.
Now we are also going to redo the front of the house w/a full length deck (eventually a roof over it). Have some cinder blocks, and thought about using wood decking over them w/the blocks as support. Do we need to place the blocks in sand to level? Or how should we proceed?
q our front yard pond and other projects, concrete masonry, decks, landscape, outdoor living, ponds water features, This is the pond in front of our house Built by previous owners Fun but dirty w the trees surrounding
This is the pond in front of our house. Built by previous owners. Fun, but dirty w/the trees surrounding.
q our front yard pond and other projects, concrete masonry, decks, landscape, outdoor living, ponds water features, Front of house w large garden in front and to the side Entry gate is to the left of the corner of the house Hoping to build deck along the length of house
Front of house w/large garden in front, and to the side. Entry gate is to the left of the corner of the house. Hoping to build deck along the length of house
  22 answers
  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on May 16, 2013
    Ponds are not my area of expertise, but I am thinking it is not a good idea to mix lava rocks and pond liner together. The lava rocks are very abrasive and will make your leaking issue even more egregious. Have you given any thought to maybe just filling in the pond you have and rebuilding with maybe a 'pondless' fountain and or water fall? That way you wouldn't have to deal with the dirty water/leaves issue and only have it on in the parts of the year you want to. I am thinking you are going to have to invest more into repairing the leak that might not be worth it?

  • Patricia W Patricia W on May 17, 2013
    My hubby is sitting next to me, he has built dozens of water features as a landscape construction contractor. First thing you will need to do is either fix any holes in the liner, or pull it and replace it. You will not want to put any sharp rocks in it or around it. Keep it natural, cover all exposed liner with river rocks. A "Savio" kit with a skimmer will take care of the leaf and debris problem, it is installed in a box which is buried with a lid, there is a pump, and intake sucks the water in, goes through filters, then through the back of the box to a 2" to 3" supply line to the water fall. 4 feet after the box is a valve that controls your waterfall flow. Regulate the flow and set the pipe tubing under the rocks on the top of the falls, so you cannot see it, set up the waterfall in a couple or three stages and so it flows naturally. Fill in all exposed areas of liner, again so it looks natural. There is a fill valve kind of like whats in the toilet tank that keeps the water level corrected, with a dedicated water line to the water feature. You can get a bio organism to keep the algae under control, safe for birds and fish if you want to add those to keep mosquito larvae under control. Hubby cant figure out what the pvc is doing at that level? Most "fountains" are just at water level. If you would even want water shooting up in the center of the riverbed.Fountains are generally used in a bowl type feature, not a river/creekbed. A beautiful water feature should look as natural as you can make it. . You can get all of your supplies online or go to a landscape supply place where the people know what you need and can walk you through each step. if you go to a big box store for supplies, do your research first, alot of times the employees really do not know what you need unless they were a contractor. They are there for the paycheck and don't know the product. Nothing worse than getting home and not having what you need and parts that do not work with other parts. Go to Savio water feature kits online, those folks know their stuff! I know it sounds like alot, but its not hard at all. Id love to see it when its finished! You CAN do it yourself!

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on May 17, 2013
    If you want just the fountain part you might be able to install a smaller "bucket" or ready made rigid Pond liner. This would need to be big enough to catch the fountains "fall". the rest of the pond area could then be filled with the lava rock. You would basically loose the "pond" but keep the fountain.

  • First thing that I would do is look for a Certified Aquascape Contractor in your area. Go to the Aquascape website and they will have a list of contractors by entering your zip code. I agree with Donna, a pondless waterfall would look beautiful and be much less work to maintain... It looks to me that it is concrete. Am i correct? If so, because of movement in soil and the ground, concrete isn't always the best answer, I think a liner would serve your purpose much better. I will be happy to answer any questions that you have.

  • TRD Designs Ltd. TRD Designs Ltd. on May 17, 2013
    After you find a CAC, he will suggest that you rip it out and rebuild. That water feature is not what a CAC should fix. Look for a CAC in your area. Let them show you the possibility's for your home..

  • Kris Lee Kris Lee on May 17, 2013
    Thank you all for your extensive comments. So many things to think about. RMW the pond is not concrete, it is a black liner. The rocks on top were set in concrete as is the waterfall. There is a small plastic tube maybe 3/4" that feeds the waterfall, it is kinked and I believe it has a hole somewhere in it that makes it leak. We have a rigid pond liner at another site, (in the house picture it is in front of the large raised garden) I think it also has holes but may be able to salvage it. Patricia, the PVC is a spray that squirts straight up. I don't like it at that level and want something that is more of a bubbler. You have given me lots of great options and information. Donna, I had not thought of the lava rocks being so abrasive, so I will definitely re think that. I am not certain we could afford a CAC, but it sounds like a great option. I'll check around the area. I do want a pond less waterfall feature. Hopefully when it is finished I'll post pix of the new version.

  • Lorna Schripsema Lorna Schripsema on May 17, 2013
    Here we go, to "reuse the pond and not have to fix the liner, (they make the drop in type of formed ponds that are hard black plastic) pour sand into the bottom of your current pond to level, then put in the "pond". Get heavy duty grid welded wire to place on top of the pond (make sure it's large enough to hang over the edges) Add soil around the pond and plant in some plants that are hardy for your area, (if they need good drainage , drill through your current liner or remove it all together before starting)Then set the pump inside your new pond and decide what type of feature it's going to house; there are many ideas, rocks with a hole drilled through it to run the line from the pump up through the rock, use an old bird bath form that has a pump to run a line through it, a large piece of heavy wood with a hole drilled to run the line... the possibilities are endless. Then you can put the item in the pond and run the line through your new "fountain". Once you ensure that it is running and working right, lay the metal grid all around the item and take large stones and cover the grid. Then when you plug in the fountain it will look as though the water is running into the rock but there is no viewable pond or pool of water. If your rocks are too heavy put some blocks under the grid to support the weight. So you'll be left with this nice sound of running water out of a rock or wood or ????? flowing down the sides and into the rock below it. The entire thing is surrounded by plants. The plants need to be watered a little less because of the liner and you're done!!! In this way you can use lava rock as long as it is large enough not to fall through your grid. In the winter, you simply unplug your fountain. If you'r concerned of it freezing and ruining your pump then get the kind of pump that sits outside your pond and only the water lines sit inside the pond and run out of your pond, through the pump, and up through the flowing rock feature or whatever you choose. You can empty the lines before winter or you can put in a ceramic bulb heater (like the ones used for reptiles) inside your "pump area" to keep it from freezing and bursting. In Idaho I would not run the pond in the winter it would freeze. I can run it here in Washington State.

  • Sia@South 47th Sia@South 47th on May 17, 2013
    Having lived with a pond under trees for 10 years (not there anymore) I say NO way with the pond. Fill it in. The pumps never worked for us and it was a messss trying to keep that thing clean. Life's too short! xo

  • Backyard Getaway Backyard Getaway on May 18, 2013
    Kris, As a pond contractor for nearly 10 years I agree that hiring a pond contractor is a good idea for most people but if you are at all handy you can do this yourself. The very first thing you need to do is find out where the leak is. When you say the "fountain" leaks in back are you referring to the waterfall? If so your liner may not be the issue. When the pump is off does the pond still go down or is it holding water? If it is holding water than the waterfall is your only leak. Lava rock not only is abrasive but they "decompose" over time and can clog your pump. Look into Atlantic Water Gardens Ecoblox for the bottom of the pond and a pump vault to protect your pump. then cover the top with the gravel/river rock. If it was me I would knock down the waterfall and once you have "pit" filled in where the white pipe is install a bubbling urn or a large boulder with a hole drilled through it for the pipe. It will give you more of a focal point. As for the preform plastic "drop in" types of ponds they tend to crack and break much more frequently than you find tears in rubber liner. Can't wait to see what you come up with for this space.

  • Carla Champlin Carla Champlin on May 18, 2013
    Fill it in???? It's beautiful. I would put a new liner over the old liner. It will fix any leaks and give you extra protection against leaks/punctures. No sharp rocks in the pond itself. River rocks are okay but when it comes to keeping it clean the rocks make it impossible to do a good job. We hand dug ours 6 years ago and I am in CT so we have winter weather as well. We have trees all around our pond and in he fall it can make a mess unless you put a net over it. You can use bird netting but I suggest something stronger. You are going to get leaves in the pond even without nearby trees rom the wind blowing around. As far as the fountain. You can buy what you are looking for. We used an upside down plant pot that was the right height (we put holes in it so it would stay sunk then put the pump on top of it Hope this helps!

  • Kris Lee Kris Lee on May 18, 2013
    You guys are all awesome. Backyard Getaway, I didn't know that lava rock decomposes. Thanks for that tip. Will have to do away w/the lava rock another way. We are very handy and so will attempt to do this ourselves. Yes it is the waterfall that leaks in the back, but I like that part of it, though it wasn't really done well to begin with. So maybe we will knock it down and create a different type of water feature. I have accumulated several pottery style lamps (minus the electrical parts)in various heights and shapes. I have painted them and was going to use them as a varied level water feature. I was going to put them in front of the raised garden in the front yard and eliminate that plastic pond liner there, but maybe I'll just put them on top of the river rock fill in and make it a focal point.....hmmm, you have me thinking now. Thanks for all your helpful comments.

  • Jill Jill on May 18, 2013
    Kris, without more details on your pond, such as how deep it is, is there a filtering system, do you have fish, it would be hard to answer what is exactly wrong. Yes, planting around trees is never a good idea because they drop leaves, bird droppings, and in some trees, pollen. It's always best to have a pond away from those things. Also, if you live in an area where you have a great deal of wind, that too will bring a lot to your pond by blowing dirt, dust and debris into it. Make sure if you mow your lawn, to have a bag on the mower as that too will blow in. A filter is essential to help, also a way to oxygenate the water helps. Waterfalls are great, but only if they are really moving over the rock and churning up the water to allow that air into it. Fish are important. They help to balance the ecosystem. Some eat algae, some eat mosquitoes, some just eat food pellets, but most fish need an oxygen source. I agree that a pond contractor might be best for you, if you don't know about ponds or if need some help. Some might just come out and tell you what is wrong, and what to do to make it right for a fee. That will help if you want to do the job on your own.

  • Kris Lee Kris Lee on May 18, 2013
    Jill, thanks. We do not have fish as the pond freezes solid in the winter. We do keep a bagger on the mower so the grass clippings are kept to a minimum. Thanks for your suggestions.

  • Backyard Getaway Backyard Getaway on May 19, 2013
    I love the idea of the waterfall too but if it is leaking it may be best to tear down and start fresh. The pottery idea sounds like a great idea! I can't wait to see how it turns out. Have fun!

  • Carla Champlin Carla Champlin on May 19, 2013
    Our pond freezes in the winter too but our fish are always fine. As long as it is 18" deep. Whatever you do ...... DO NOT put goldfish in your pond. If they breed you will have so many fish you won't know what to do with them! We had three goldfish and they had 104 babies. What a time we had getting those out.

  • Kris Lee Kris Lee on May 19, 2013
    Carla, That is hilarious. I'll definitely keep that in mind. Does your pond freeze solid? Or do you have water at the bottom that does not freeze so the fish can swim. How do they eat and stay alive? do they go dormant?

  • Kris Lee Kris Lee on May 19, 2013
    Backyard getaway, I have seen lots of planter pot water features, and hated the idea of having the pots fill up, so decided that a pottery style lamp base would eliminate the wasting of the water, so will put tubing up through the lamp base and create a bubbler. I will post pictures when it is finished, but it will be a while as we are just getting the yard free of snow in the last month.

  • Lorna Schripsema Lorna Schripsema on May 19, 2013
    Can't wait to see the finished product. Please take photos of the before, during and after. Good luck Kris.

  • Backyard Getaway Backyard Getaway on May 20, 2013
    The lamp base is such an original idea I love it. The Koi do go dormant in the winter under the frozen ice, normally a pond doesn't freeze all the way to the bottom but it is very important that there is a hole in the ice to allow the gases to escape.

  • Carla Champlin Carla Champlin on May 21, 2013
    Our pond freezes the entire top and a couple of inches deep at times. The entire top of the pond was under 2 feet of snow for almost a week this winter and the fish are fine. When the water gets to 58 degrees or lower you need to stop feeding them so they will stop being active. They stay at the bottom and don't move much to conserve their energy. You will also need to provide them a place to hide. Some sort of cave. I used a preformed plastic waterfall ( You can get at pond supply stores) and attached a plastic plant pot to the bottom of it with a screw and a few holes in the pot so it would sink. I just placed it in the corner of the pot with a few good rocks on top to keep it sunk. They hide there in the winter and get protection from the hot sun in the summer. I have 2 of them. My fish are 5 years old and doing great. They are Koi.

  • Kris Lee Kris Lee on May 21, 2013
    Carla, thanks for the info. However, in Wyoming our winters last for 6 months, at least. The pond freezes to the bottom solid, so I don't think the fish would survive. I am attaching a couple of winter photos of a couple of years ago, the snow just would not stop.

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on May 22, 2013
    As a fellow Rocky Mountain Resident...I know exactly what you mean. We have 9 months of winter ( I define winter as any month I have had to shovel snow) ...the last patch of snow melted from my yard last Thursday ( 5-14-13). Many of the smaller alpine lakes around me have the same issue, and it is fun to rib some of the tourists that come up here to vacation and "fish". Most of these folks are clueless that the majority of these small mountain lake do not have any fish in them at all due to freezing...solid. Ice here is often measured in feet and not inches. We had a cold snap two years ago that bottomed out at -40 or so. My tool trailer pictured in the above post is a bit over 7 feet high.