How to build a “Pond-Less” Water Fall

by Kerri Bailey, The Pond Pad

1. Select your site, somewhere you can enjoy it.  Avoid installing a pond on the low side of the yard or where water collects (water can get under the liner and cause problems). Be mindful of the surrounding landscape-leaves from trees and shrubs that may collect in your pond in the fall or evergreens that may shed year round.

2. Mark out your basin with a garden hose or landscape paint.  Dig your hole 2-3 feet deep.  Build a berm using the excavated soil and add more if needed. Compact your berm area well, it will sink over time.


3. Add an underlayment or some other protection down prior to adding your basin liner piece.  To figure out your liner:  Length=Length  (Depth x 2) + 2  Width=Width (Depth x 2)+2  Place your pump vault / canyon in the lowest end of your basin.  Insert your pump inside the vault and connect your plumbing and hose.  The hose then goes to the top of the berm to be connected to the weir or biological filter.


4. Fill the basin with larger cobble stones graduating to smaller gravel near the top.  Hide your pipe along the outer edge, burying it with soil, then cover with liner.  Stair step your berm with a curve to it for multiple views and for a more natural look.

5. Install the waterfall / stream liner piece and over lap it with the basin.  You should have at least a 6 inch rise to avoid the water wicking under the liner creating a leak. Install the weir or biological filter inside the top of the berm. Attach the liner to the weir, use silicone to seal the faceplate. Place larger rocks or boulders along the curves of the waterfall.

6. Place the rest of your rocks along the sides and edges of your waterfall and basin area. Start to fill your basin with water. Finish building your waterfall and use waterfall foam sealing around the rocks.  This allows the water to go over the rocks for more sound and better water flow.  

7. Adding decorative rocks along the edges and on top of the gravel in the basin- large stones add character and break up the look of the of small rock. When the basin is full, plug in your pump and continue to fill with water until it is entirely full.

8. Add soil to your berm and install plants along the edges. Use plants with staggered bloom times for year round enjoyment.







Pond and Waterfall Calculations

Figuring out what you need to build your pond is an important factor to determine it’s cost and efficiency.  The following guidelines should help you. Ask for help at

                          How to Estimate Gallon Capacity

Circular Pond: R2 x 3.14 x Depth x 7.48 = Approx. Gal. R2= Radius x Radius (Radius is ½ of the total length)

Irregular /Rectangular Pond: Length x Width x Ave. Depth x 7.48= Approx.Gal.

Irregular Pond w/shelves: Length x Width x Depth x 7.48 x .66= Approx. Gal.

Streams: Length x Width x .25 (Depth) x 7.48= Approx.Gal.

How to Calculate Pond Liner Size.

Length= Length + (Depth x 2) + 2      Width= Width + (Depth x 2) + 2

Example: 8 x 10, 2′ deep L= 10′ + (2×2) + 2= 16′ W= 8′ + (2×2) + 2= 15′ 

                                    Electrical Conversions / Consumption

WATTS= Volts x Amps AMPS= Watts / Volts 1HP= 745.7 Watts

Approximate Electrical Cost to run a pump, etc.

Amps x Volts x 1000 x .10(KW per hour) x 24hrs x 30.4 days=$ / month

                           Aquatic Plant Calculations

Water Lilies: 1 per every 45-60 Sq F

Marginal Plants: 1 plant per every 3′-4′ shelf margin

Bog Plants: 1 plant for every 2′ of bog


                            Rock Calculations- For Gravel & Boulders

Boulders for Pond Basin:

Length x Width / 65 Tons of Boulders Use a 1:2:1 ratio

For every 1 Ton of 6”-12” rock; get 2 Tons of 12”-18” and 1 Ton of 18”-24” rock

½ Ton of 6”-12” of rock will cover 20 linear feet

1 Ton of 12”-18” of rock will cover 10 linear feet

1 Ton of 18”-24” rock will cover 5 linear feet

Boulders for Stream– For every 10′ of Stream, Use 3/4 Tons of rock using ratio above.

Boulders for Waterfall– Use 1 Ton of rock per each 3′-4′. Choose some larger stones for support, and some rocks with flat or interesting faces for the waterfall.

Gravel for Pond Basin– Use 40% total tons used for pond boulders calculations

Gravel for Streams– Use ½ Ton for every 10′ of stream

Pondless/ Disapearring Waterfall– Length x Width x Depth = Cubic feet

Use 90lbs of rock per each cubic foot; Use Ratio of: 40% 4”-6” Rock

(for the bottom of the basin) and 60% of 1 1/2” – 2” rock (for middle and top layer). Add decorative gravel / rock as a top dress.

These are guidelines to help you, always over estimate whenever possible. Any left over rock can be blended into your surrounding landscape.