DIY Concrete Pond.
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This pond build will be for fancy goldfish, about 650 gallons. Free form at ground level and made of concrete with a spray in rubber liner. Actually it will be raised up 6" or so to keep rain water and junk from flowing in. Since it will just be for fancy goldfish it will be a shallow pond, about 24" with little water current flow. I'll just be using a drop in filter, later I may move the filter to a out of pond location. If you have never used concrete don't let that hold you back on this build, it's not complicated, just heavy. A concrete pond will last for a very very long time with little care, make sure you give it some thought before starting, they are almost impossible to change or add on to after they are installed. On a free form pond you can make the walls curved, straight or anyway you want them. If you use block you are somewhat limited to the shapes you can make, plus the cost will be much higher, and there will be more work involved. I couldn't even consider block here since the room for the pond was so limited and block would of added a lot of extra wall thickness. You will want to read this entire post before you start your build.
This size and type of pond is inexpensive to make, if you do it yourself. Concrete, rocks, mortor, pump and filter under $300 complete for DIY and you should be able to finish it in a couple weeks with most of that time for the concrete and liner to dry. This was back in 2006 and I'm sure the prices have increased some so check the cost out befor you start. Having someone else install a concrete pond will be expensive, this complete pond & filter installed would be in the $3500 range. If you don't have the time for a DIY and you are local and interested in a installed pond stop by and see what I have available. Do it yourself and you'll save a lot of money and end up with a great pond that will last you for many, many years. At any point in this build feel free to email me with questions, I'm probably leaving out a lot of things you'll be wondering about. email@example.com I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Also this pond is at my location, so stop by and take a look before you start on your project. There are also a number of other type ponds here, no dig ponds, above and below ground ponds, liner ponds, free form and formal, come by take a look and decide what you want your pond to be like before you start your project. Location and hours are at http://www.tadege.com/index.htm.
When digging the hole, you are going to have a lot of extra fill you can use somewhere else, maybe a raised planter or just to fill low spots in your yard, if you just pile it up you'll just end up moving it twice. Here in Florida it will be mostly white sand, so once you get down about a foot you can save this clean sand and with some portland cement you can make some faux boulders or stepping stones, you may also want to put some aside if you are going to build a water fall. If you are on a real tight budget you can mix this sand with portland cement, make your own concrete and save 3/4 of the concrete cost, portland cost about $10 for a 94 pound bag and will make 400 - 600 pounds of concrete, but on the other hand, the bag mix concrete for this pond was under $100 and no messing around mixing every thing together. This pond is very limited in the size since it has stone paths on all sides, but it is intended just for goldfish and won't need the size you would need for koi.
Once you have the hole dug you can give it a ruff measure to calculate the amount of concrete you'll need. Here is the site I used to guesstimate the concrete I needed, plus a lot of good information on other projects http://www.packagepavement.com/qk_concrete_calculator.html This pond will take about 24 - 80# bags for 3" thick walls and bottom, actually this is more than I needed but I know with the uneven hole walls it will be thicker in places. Sounds like a lot, but at under $4 a bag it will cost about what a liner would cost. It will have to be water sealed, more on that later. You will also need some rebar or wire, but this won't have to be real heavy and is very inexpensive. I'll just be using wire fence here, that I already had. If you have to buy something, just get the light wire mesh for concrete, very inexpensive. By the sheets, the rolled up stuff is hard to get unrolled and flat.
After the hole is dug you can figure where you want to run the the pond return, this is not a must, but it makes for a much neater appearance in the finished pond. This will be a 2" PVC pipe that runs from outside the pond to the bottom wall of the pond for such things as electric, pump lines, underwater lighting and such. With this installation you won't have to hide lines running over the top of your pond wall. They're not hard to hide, but with just a hole and 2" PVC pipe you won't have to worry about it later.
I'll just be using a drop in filter, DIY instructions are at http://www.tadege.com/diyfilter.htm these go together very easy and are inexpensive, a little more work to clean and will have to be cleaned more often, but work great for a small pond like this. Later you can change this to an outside filter with very little effort and cost if you have installed the pond return pipe. I don't want a lot of water flow here for fancy goldfish and the fish load will be small so I may just stick to the drop in. I want very little current with fancy goldfish so I'll be using a 2" PVC pipe for the filter return, as I put this together I'll put some pictures in later. You can make this an out of pond filter by building it much as the wakin filter without the air manifold and just using a 5 gallon pail with a bottom drain. Out of pond filters are much easier to maintain and clean, but you'll need to hide them with plants, a small water fall or something else. I don't mind lifting the filter out of the water once a month and I like the idea of having it hidden right in the pond especially with a small build like this.
At this point I use a string level to get the pond somewhat level and then add a concrete border around the top, just enough to give me something stable to work with. I used just 1 bag of of concrete here and the border is about an inch thick, this doesn't have to be anything fancy, you will be putting another coat over this as the walls are cemented. I'll actually be adding a third coat to mine when I set the stone border. Just keep this narrow, about 5" at this time, you can shape it with the later coats. You don't even need this smoothed out, in fact I score mine up a little to give a better bonding surface for the next coat. You will have to use bag mix concrete, the stuff they deliver on the trucks is way to thin and runny to trowel on, if you use delivered type you'll have to build forms to keep the concrete from all running down to the bottom, they both cost about the same, but you can't even get small loads of concrete delivered any more.
Even if you are going to use a rubber sheet liner in a hole without the concrete walls and bottom you'll still need to put a concrete footer around the top of the pond hole or the sides will cave in when you walk near the edge. Trust me, if you leave this footer out you'll be back later to install it, just figure on it right from the start. A footer for a liner pond doesn't need to be anything fancy, you'll be covering it with rock or some other type of landscaping. I just make them 4" thick and 6" wide at the least, with our no frost line you don't even need to use rebar. You can do this concrete with a form or just mix the concrete thick and free form it, you can also dig a trench in the ground before you even begin to do the dig and just fill in the trench with concrete, this is how I did my big pond. You can pile sand or dirt on it to build up the pond edge and level it after putting in the liner and filling with water. Any time you use concrete you'll want to wet it every day for 3 or 4 days so it dries evenly or it will crack. At this point you could just smooth out the walls and use a rubber liner, if that is your choice. Give the shape of the pond some though, this triangle pond would really waste a lot of liner.
The next day after this is dry, mist it down with a little water and shape your inside dirt walls as smooth as you can. I don't put plastic in mine or anything, except the wire. I just used a light gauge fence wire, you could use light rebar, or concrete mesh also. If you are new to concrete the mesh for stucco has a lot smaller grid openings and it is a lot easier to get the first coat troweled on to, although it is a little more expensive, you'll probably make this up in time spent on the first layer of concrete. Hardware cloth with 3/8" - 1/2" may be cheaper and will do the same job. I try and keep the walls as straight up as I can and slope the bottom a little towards the drain or where you intend to put a drop in filter. You don't want a real shallow area, birds and animals will wade in and eat your fish. I don't like shelves built in and just raise planters with supports where I want them, but this is up to you. This is a small pond and the concrete work will go very fast after the wire is set and the concrete is mixed. This would be a whole lot easier if you have someone to mix while you spread the concrete. Plan on getting very dirty while doing this part. You'll want a straight edge to level up the top of the pond while putting on the final coat of concrete, use a board or even a 2" PVC pipe that will reach across your pond and a level while doing this. If your pond is very wide you'll have to use a string level.
After the wire mesh is in I put a thin layer of concrete on the top to hold the wire in place. After this dries you can go back the next day and push the wire against the walls as needed. Keep in mind that your concrete will be 3" thick so the wire doesn't have to be exact all the way around. I know from past experience that unless you have a lot of help you won't be able to do all the concrete work at one time so I don't even worry about the wire in the bottom at this time and will come back after the walls dry and lay the bottom wire. If you only let your concrete dry over night it will tie in very good, if you have to have a number of days between your concrete work you'll want to use a bonding agent between coats. Make sure that you scrape off any extra that goes past the top border you are planning on. None of this concrete work will have to have a great finish at this time. After it is all done we'll come back and put on the finish coat with the water proof coating and then spray a rubber coating on. You'll want a board or PVC pipe that will stretch across the pond when you start on the walls so you can also start to level up the top as you go along. The finish level will be done when you install the top finish border, but you'll want it pretty close at this time. If you used a string level at the start you should be pretty close already. As you trowel the concrete on don't get crazy if it sags some or is very ruff, the second coat will do wonders and the finish coat will make you look like a pro. Have a bucket or something handy so you can scoup up big chunks that fall on the bottom so you don't have to deal with them after it dries.
The second coat will go much easier since you'll have the foundation coat already on for the concrete to grip to. Even with this second coat don't be real concerned with the finish texture, these coats of concrete are just for strength, not water proofing. You'll want a wall and bottom thickness of 3" or more when you're done with the concrete. I finish up the concrete on the walls before I even start on the floor of the pond, but I do cut the wire and put it in before the second coat of concrete so that I can tie it into the walls. Don't worry about walking this down, you can lift it up some before you pour the floor. The bottom is a piece of cake, just mix your concrete a little thinner and pour it in. Later for a smooth finish you can just throw in sand mix or mortar and wet it down until it runs out even. This finish coat will offer very little strength put in like this but you are just looking for a level smooth finish, the strength will be in the first concrete you poured over the wire.
At this point you will be wanting to get your finish coat and waterproofing material together. There are a number of ways you can go here. If you are going to do a final spray in or brush on waterproof coating the finish coat doesn't really matter and just finish up with sand mix concrete, stucco or whatever you find the easiest to get smooth, this doesn't have to be thick, just enough to get a smooth finish. I'll be using portland and sand, it's cheap and very smooth with this sand we have from our dig. 1 part portland to 4 parts sand. After you have the final coat troweled on, let it dry for about an hour and then go back with a damp sponge trowel or even a sponge and smooth out the finish. You can delete this part if you are very good at troweling on the concrete. The next day I just use sand mix on the bottom and spray a fine mist of water on it to get a smooth bottom finish. Keep all this moist for the next 3 or 4 days to keep it from cracking while it dries.
If you are going to use the concrete as a final finish you'll have to waterproof the concrete with the finish coat. This can be done by using 1 part thin set to 1 part mortar or sand mix cement. The thin set is the stuff that they set bathroom tile with in showers and places that are in constant contact with water and mixed 1 to 1 with cement it will waterproof your final coat. This can be colored with concrete dye while mixing it. Later down on this page I'll give you another idea on coloring and sealing that can save you time and money.
I prefer to use a final spray in rubber liner for a number of reasons, first and most important to me is that it not only waterproofs the pond, it will also seal out the lime in the concrete that you would have to deal with if uncoated concrete is used. No wrinkles to deal with as with sheet material liners. Also you can color this to your liking, but light colors will fade fast in our sun. If you are new to ponds, trust me, you do not want a light color. It will develop an algae coat as it seasons in and look very uneven. As always I'll be going with a black coating for this pond and since it is for goldfish they will show up the best with the dark back ground. You may want someone to come in and do your spray in liner to save on the sprayer, materials and clean up. Email firstname.lastname@example.org I'll send you a quote or just do the math, it's $4.00 per square foot of coverage on new or cleaned pond recoat (I'll walk you through the clean up if you want to do that part yourself). I didn't bother to measure the square foot on this pond but it would of been around $200 installed. This is a rather thick coating, about 40 - 60 mills, will cover up a lot of defects and seal cracks up to 1/8" wide, sprayed in 2 coats. There are also a lot of pond liner paints that you can brush or roll on, but I don't think there is much savings, but check and see, I really don't know much about them. I only spray my own material and only black.
Here is the pond with the concrete work finished, ready for the finish coat, in this picture you can also see the pipe that was run through the wall before the concrete work started. The pipe is just a straight pipe run at an angle, no fittings until it reaches ground level. This is not a must, but it is very easy to do and will give you a place to run lines into the pond without finding a way to hide them. Also if you give this pipe a little thought as to the above ground cut off it will act as an over flow, and keep the pond water from staining your hard scape when water over flows from rain.
I have poured out the rock that I'll be using for the border and rinsed it off with water, the next step will be cementing them in place. I'll be using mortar but you could also mix some sand and cement together for this. I lap these over the top inside wall for a couple inches down and also put them across the top and down to ground level on the outside. I'm not going to get into the stone setting for the border here, it's the same as the wakin pond border, so if you are interested in using a stone border like this go to http://www.tadege.com/wakinspondbuild.htm which is the wakin pond build and uses this type of border, just scroll down to the bottom of that page and you'll find the information on the border. Although I'll be using a spray in liner I don't do this untill all the border and concrete work is done. My liner will be black rubber spray. There are any number of coatings you can use for the sealer, even some paints, but I use what I know, you might want to check with paint stores to see what they have to offer and for a price you can live with.
At this point if you don't want to use a spray in liner you can also get some concrete dye if you choose, I suggest black and put it in a mister bottle with water if it's the powder type, or thin the liquid with water and spray it on with the mister bottle, the fresh concrete will really suck it up. The next day for the final sealing coat go to the boat store or car paint store and get polyester coating that is used for fiberglass work, at this time it runs about $40 a gallon, cheaper than anything else you can use. Mix this in small amounts with about 1/4 to 1/2 of the recommended hardner, this stuff really kicks off fast in humid hot weather and you'll end up with worthless junk in the mixing container if you use the recommended hardener or mix to much at a time. This should be applied with a brush, I just use the throw away brushes and don't bother to try to clean them, pick up some of the disposable buckets so you don't have to deal with cleaning them also. One coat will probably do it, but I come back the next day and recoat, the first coat will really get suck into the concrete but it will go a lot further with the second coat. This is clear and they do make colors for it but by misting on concrete dye color before you apply the polyester you'll save money and time. I use the polyester in water fall runs and have never had it break down or leak. If you have been to my place and seen the water fall in the large pond, 1 quart did the water run on that water fall. A big plus is that it seals the lime from the concrete so there is no dealing with that after you are done. To me it seems a win win deal. I don't know if it will work out as well in an area that has a deep freeze every year, it might crack as the concrete expands and contracts. If anyone tries this in a cold climate let me know. This section jumps right to the spray on liners from here so don't let it confuse you, use either one or the other and not both.
After the finish coat of concrete is in I like to let the concrete dry for a few days before putting on the spray in rubber liner. For the next few days you will need to wet the cement each morning to keep it drying even so it doesn't crack. At this point I'll be on the hunt for a couple plants for each end. After the liner is sprayed in I'll let that dry for a few days before adding the water. Don't get in a big hurry at this point, you're almost done. I'll be running the electric for the pump and lights up through the 2" pipe in the side after the liner dries. While this is all drying I'll be putting together the filter, it's just a drop in and you can see a diy at http://www.tadege.com/diyfilter.htm . The only difference with the filter for this pond is that I'll also be spraying it with the rubber coating, just to color it so it will be less noticeable in the pond and a larger return pipe to reduce the current of the water flow.
The spray liner is in and drying, I let them dry for 3 or 4 days before filling with water. You will want to wear a mask while doing this and also save some liner spray or whatever you use, you can bet a cat or something else will be into it before it dries and you may need to do some touch up. There is hardly any over spray since the liquid liner material is so thick and very little masking is ever needed. I'm on my way to the Lowe's store in the morning to figure what I'll need to hook the filter to a 2" return pipe to keep the flow down. The filter was just made from a 5 gallon pail, I always start with a new pail rather than cleaning up a used one. I sprayed it with the black pond liner and it should be dry enough by tomorrow to hook up the return. I'm not sure if I want the return above the water surface or just below, I'll try it a couple different ways before I do the final assembly. By the way, when you are picking out a pump for a drop in filter make sure it has a long electric cord, you don't really want a splice in the electric line that will be under the water if you can help it. If you have to make a splice that will be under the water line, go to Radio Shack or any electric store and get a piece of shrink tube, this is slipped on the electric cord before the splice is made then moved over the splice and when heated (hair dryer) it will shrink up tight to the electric cord and splice, leave it plenty long to extend well beyond the splice. Soak the splice in water for some time before using to make sure it is a water tight seal, if you use clear shrink tube you'll be able to see if there is a leak. If you are ordering your pump on ebay or some place, if it doesn't say 20' cord, it will be a short one and if it says fountain pump it will be short.
Easy Make Drop In Filter
You wont need a monster filter for a pond this size. I'll just be using a DIY drop in filter, very inexpensive and easy to make Everything you'll need are at Home Depot or Lowe's, you can get all the details and free plans at; DIY Filter.
That's it and in a couple weeks you can be enjoying your well built concrete pond. A concrete pond will last for a very long time with little expense to maintain. If you have any questions email me and I'll help with whatever I can. Tadege@bellsouth.net. Happy ponding and enjoy, Tom at Tadege Koi.
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