My father-in-law once told me, “Nothing enhances the value of real estate like a view of water.”

While you can’t magically summon a body of water to appear on your property, you can enhance the enjoyment of your yard, patio or deck with a water feature. It can be as small as a fountain or bird bath, or large enough to dunk a VW Beetle.

I’ve had small fish ponds at my last three houses, and the internet is full of advice on how to build one. I’ve tried all sorts of methods, and I think I’ve come up with a formula that creates a natural-looking pond and keeps maintenance to a minimum.

The first pond I built 45 years ago was made using concrete. I dug a hole in my backyard that was about the size of a two-person Jacuzzi. I lined it with 3 inches of concrete, which I strengthened by adding chicken wire. The day after I poured the concrete, I applied a 3/4-inch-thick layer of cement stucco over the concrete. I pressed thousands of pieces of rounded gravel into the stucco to make it look nicer.

I installed a drain in the bottom of the pond, but it was difficult to reach the drain plug, which made emptying out the water a chore. There was no electricity running to the pond, so I didn’t have a pump or waterfall. It was a maintenance nightmare — the pond would transform to a green swamp in no time, and the fish would often die from lack of oxygen.

For my next pond project, I used a plastic liner with two different water levels. This is a good idea because one of the keys to having clear pond water is to include aquatic plants that work to keep the pond healthy, and different water levels will accommodate a variety of plant sizes.


My current house has a magnificent pond that I didn’t build. The previous owner had it installed. The liner of the pond is a giant sheet of black commercial rubber roofing. It’s been in use for 20 years and has never leaked.

Installing the rubber isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Start by digging a hole that’s the size, depth and shape of the finished pond you desire. Be sure to incorporate different levels. Unroll the rubber and set it in the depression, leaving enough excess to lap up onto the ground surrounding the pond. I have about 16 inches of rubber ringing my pond, and it’s completely hidden with a covering of various plants and large rocks.

The pond also includes a waterfall. This waterfall does three things: it adds oxygen to the pond water; the falling water makes a relaxing sound; and the splashing water makes the surface of the pond move ever so slightly, drawing your eye to it.

It’s very soothing to sit by the pond reading a book or just relaxing as a breeze blows by. Frogs, chipmunks, squirrels and other critters are attracted to this backyard oasis, too.

If you really want to go big with your water feature, you may want to build a small stream that has several small waterfalls within it. The stream will eventually feed into the pond. A recirculating pump in the pond sends water back to the top of the stream.

To keep maintenance to a minimum, think about covering your pond with some type of screen to capture falling leaves. This will prevent rotting organic material from fouling the water.

Tim Carter has worked as a home improvement professional for more than 30 years. To submit a question or to learn more, visit