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Related FAQs: Above Ground Pond Liners

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/Aquatic Gardens, Design, Construction & Maintenance

Above Ground Liner Ponds

by Bob Fenner  
Aquatic Gardens

Ponds, Streams, Waterfalls & Fountains:
Volume 1. Design & Construction
Volume 2. Maintenance, Stocking, Examples

V. 1 Print and eBook on Amazon
V. 2 Print and eBook on Amazon

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

This article further describes the increasingly popular use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) liners in producing inexpensive functional water elements; this time in above-ground settings.

These liners are very appropriate technology. They cost little, are readily available, easy to use, long lasting (most are guaranteed several years), easy to clean & keep clean, and if punctured, simple to repair. (For more background information on liners, see the last two articles in this series).


Above ground liner ponds involve the same considerations as designing any water effect. The introductory pieces on Pond Philosophy, Size and Shape, and Site Selection should be reviewed. In brief, as with in-ground ponds the sides should be as vertical and deep as possible or practical. If people are to sit on or near the edge, something between 18 and 24 inches above ground height is recommended. Anything more than 30 inches is a structural, functional, aesthetic and safety challenge.

Placement near utilities and weather considerations should obviously be planned for.

Structural Frame:

The frame you will provide can be made of wood, rock, block, metal, plastic panels, soil or...whatever! Height or depth will dictate the strength necessary; otherwise choice of structural materials depends on cost, availability and artistic tastes.

A very popular technique involves a sort of "Lincoln-log" approach (see photo). Wood beams are interlocked with notches or doweled/rodded together at the corners. The last tier of logs can be split or otherwise fitted to hold the upper fold of your liner. Landscape timbers can be cut into fancy multi-sided shapes to accommodate any motif. Imagine what you can do with a Skilsaw and a router!

Other favorite above-ground frames are galvanized tubs and half barrels. Some companies provide pre-cut liners just for these shape/purposes.

Try to make your frame true and square; check while it is in-place and shim it up to make it level. A good "two by" and level are most useful.

Liner Installation:

After the frame is constructed, and an adequate piece of liner is procured, comes installation.

It's a good idea to lay your liner out on a clean surface in the sun for thirty minutes or so to make it more pliable. If the weather is too cool, a hair dryer is very handy to gently warm the materials. Warning, don't do this over your lawn, as the heat will kill your grass.

With some gift wrapping expertise, creases and folds can be handily disguised in corners. Drape the excess liner over the edge of the frame: but don't cut it!

As with in-ground liner basins, newspaper or carpet may be used for protection against puncture by placing between the membrane liner and the structural form.


Some people like to place solid supports for objects like plant pots in the basin at this point. Next, get a hose and fill while keeping an eye on and smoothing out creases. If the basin is slightly unlevel, you may want to drain it and wedge up the low area and refill.


If possible, don't! If you can fold the liner out of the way without cutting it, so much the better. With the weight of the water pushing against the edge it is not necessary to fasten it in any way to the sides. Folding allows you greater ease & flexibility in future modification and movement.


Punctures and tears may occur from adventurous canines, children or "mysterious", heavy, sharp objects falling into your liner pond. Don't fret. A small amount of compatible PVC solvent and swatch of liner (trim) can quickly remedy the situation.

Drain the water below the hole, clean, dry, roughen and attach the patch with solvent. Let dry, and refill; done.


As with all water effects, adequate circulation, filtration and/or biological balancing with plants are de rigueur. The value of frequent partial water changes, treating the tap and over-wintering are issues as per any water feature that cannot be overstated.

Much good information regarding construction and maintenance of these non-cementaceous ponds can be obtained from manufacturer, and aquatic garden company mail-order circulars and catalogs. Tetra, Sera, Supreme and Rena in particular have excellent information and products programs. They have several worthwhile circulars, pamphlets and books on water gardening.

No matter where you live or want to put it, you can enjoy a liner pond. I got a call years ago from New York, from a fellow thanking me for writing on this topic. He told me his father had passed on and that they and other neighbors had enjoyed building and talking over these sorts of ponds on their high-rise balconies. What a wonderful acknowledgement.

Don't have room or even ground for a conventional "in-ground pond? Please consider the simplicity of using a structure above grade with a water proof skin. The membranes described here are ultraviolet stabilized and resistant to weather extremes. They are available through the landscape, waterscape and pet fish industries in several sizes as kits and separate components.

They're easily fitted with drains, filters and waterfalls. Unlike concreted basins, they can be easily modified and moved: they're perfect for patios.

Aquatic Gardens

Ponds, Streams, Waterfalls & Fountains:
Volume 1. Design & Construction
Volume 2. Maintenance, Stocking, Examples

V. 1 Print and eBook on Amazon
V. 2 Print and eBook on Amazon

by Robert (Bob) Fenner
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