Foundations of Long-Lasting Ponds: Material Selection Facts and Myths

Foundations of Long-Lasting Ponds: The Importance of Correct Material Selection: Facts and Common Myths

Pond Perfection: The Truth on Thriving, Long-Lasting Ecosystems

Ponds, often viewed as serene and picturesque additions to landscapes, are not merely “holes in the ground.”

They are intricate ecosystems that demand careful planning, design, and construction to ensure longevity. One of the most critical factors in pond construction is the choice of materials. ✅

 The correct selection and utilization of materials can make the difference between a thriving, enduring pond and one that constantly requires costly repairs.

*Find videos, links, and more resources/references below.

Large Pond Construction Project
<strong>Soil can exhibit diverse characteristics including varying colors textures and porosity<strong>


This short blog explains in simple terms why building ponds with the right materials is essential, including examples regarding poorly constructed ponds and the misconceptions associated with pond construction.

This information is based on Bulletproof Pond and Lake’s confirmed experience with pond and lake construction and information supported by official and credible resources.

Topsoil-Built Ponds

One common pitfall in pond construction is using topsoil as a primary building material. Topsoil may seem like a cost-effective “easy” option initially, but it is highly porous and unsuitable for retaining water.

One of the most common assumptions (doomed for failure) goes like this:

“I think we can just dig a hole with the soil we have. It’s cheaper than bringing in or sourcing the materials, and we have good runoff. It should work fine, right?”

  Over time, topsoil-built ponds are prone to leakage and erosion, leading to a never-ending cycle of maintenance and repair. The costs associated with such repairs often far exceed the initial savings, making them an impractical choice. 

Foundations Of A Long-Lasting Pond
Erosion and seepage can lead to many adverse effects, rendering a dangerous environment and making it nearly impossible to manage the affected area. Regardless of temporary “fixes”, your pond or lake will most likely succumb to seepage and erosion as time progresses unless the foundation is constructed with the proper material.

Foundations Of A Long Lasting Pond
<strong>Dangerous Soil Erosion Cliffs<strong>

We present a real-life video example of a leaking pond project in 📍 Missouri.

The leaks are attributed to common causes, such as a dam filled with topsoil containing tree roots.

Additionally, we highlight a less common cause: seepage through gravel materials within the dam.

This video serves as a valuable visual demonstration of why choosing the correct materials for pond construction is essential, offering insights into potential issues and solutions when planning, building, and repairing ponds or lakes.

Large Pond Construction Project
<strong>Footage of leakage due to poor material from Bulletproof Pond and Lake YouTube video <a href=httpsyoutube8 tOKD2dIgIsi=4NkddaO RIhqViUbt=26>Why is Your Pond or Lake Leaking<a> in Missouri<strong>
Large Pond Construction Project
<strong>Footage of non porous clay material from Bulletproof Pond and Lake YouTube video <a href=httpsyoutube8 tOKD2dIgIsi=NH01BemgQiqKB94et=217>Why is Your Pond or Lake Leaking<a> in Missouri<strong>

Ponds Built in Porous Materials

Like topsoil, constructing a pond in porous materials like gravel or sandy soil can result in water loss and instability.

Water seeps through these materials, causing the water level to drop significantly. Additionally, porous materials do not provide the structural integrity needed to withstand environmental factors such as heavy rainfall and groundwater pressure. 💧

Common (example) FAQ’s regarding pond owners whose ponds’ total foundations are built with porous materials: 🗣

“Our pond filled up during heavy rain, but the water level quickly dropped. We even added a new compacted clay core to the dam, but it doesn’t seem to help.”

“The pond just will not fill up, and we’ve even put a hose in it for weeks, it just all disappears into the ground. What’s going on?”

Large Pond Construction Project
<strong>Ponds with improperly constructed foundations often exhibit similar characteristics<strong>

Common (example) regarding pond dams built with porous materials: 🗣

“The pond will fill up, then drop to a lower level that it seems to stay at. It won’t fill up completely, no matter how much consistent water it gets. Why?”

* Disclaimer: Every pond is unique. The examples provided is based on common conversations often associated with ponds constructed using porous materials. Accurately identifying the precise issue behind a particular pond problem necessitates further in-depth investigation and assessment.

 In one of our many short videos below, we casually highlight a real-life instance on a job site in 📍 Bonner Springs, Kansas of a poorly built dam. –

This pond was initially constructed using a combination of topsoil and permeable materials. Nonetheless, in this particular case, the pond was rehabilitated with a robust synthetic HDPE liner. Frequently, when dams are reconstructed and cores are installed, this addresses significant problems related to seepage and water retention.

** One of the growing trends in the pond construction world is the common oversight of using clay material for most of the pond while neglecting the installation of cores in dams. **

If the pond’s foundation and the dam are not constructed using the appropriate materials from the outset, subsequent reconstruction or core installation will not resolve the underlying issue, and additional problems will endure. Find more videos like this on our YouTube channel, social media, and information center.

Bulletproof Employee
Topsoil and incorrect material installs are common TOP culprits for pond build failures💧 <a href=httpsyoutubecomshortsEP9xGGuKu4Msi=cQMy52yayILlMdyd>On Site Short Video Footage on YouTube<a>

The Importance of Correct Material Selection

Structural Integrity

Choosing the right materials is essential for the structural integrity of the pond. Quality liners and non-porous materials, such as clay or synthetic pond liners, prevent water from seeping into the ground. This ensures that the pond maintains a consistent water level, reducing the risk of erosion and leaks. 

Large Pond Construction Project
<strong>HDPE 40 MIL Pond Liner Installation Construction Footage Bulletproof Pond and Lake<strong>

Water Quality

Proper materials also play a crucial role in maintaining water quality and clarity.

Porous materials such as topsoil have been known to especially affect water clarity, oftentimes resulting in more murky-like waters.

Properly compacted and installed non-porous materials such as clay and synthetic liners help maintain water clarity.

Although porous materials and additions may be added after the foundation build of a pond, it is crucial not to use these porous materials until after the pond’s foundations are first complete.

Large Pond Construction Project
Bulletproof Pond and Lake Constructed Pond Foundation and Core Lined with proper Clay Material and dressed with topsoil Find the FULL <a href=httpsyoutubesxYxx2AaqCssi=BQs aqNUWLLNW3EY><span style=color 993300><strong>project video on YouTube<strong><span><a>

Misconceptions about Pond Construction

“Ponds are Just Holes in the Ground”

This misconception oversimplifies the complexity of pond construction. A successful pond is more than just a dug-out hole filled with water.

It requires proper planning and designing to begin with, to name a few major factors: water run-off, pond usage/purpose, and environmental laws and regulations.

Successful pond builds include a multitude of components, including but certainly not limited to; Proper excavation levels, precise compaction, suitable liners or materials, other structures such as aerators, filtration systems, aquatic stocking or breeding structures, and erosion control.

Along with all these, it additionally includes careful attention to water management and upkeep. Neglecting any of these aspects can lead to a multitude of problems, including water quality issues, habitat degradation, and structural failures.

Find additional credible resources below:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE): The USACE often provides guidelines and resources related to water management and pond engineering. Their district offices in the Midwest and Great Plains regions may have specific regional information.

USDA:  Provides vital information and resources for pond and lake construction and management, offering technical assistance, financial support through conservation programs, regional expertise, and credible guidance. While they emphasize conservation and environmental aspects, other specialized objectives may require additional expertise that they often have reliable sources for. Overall, the USDA is a valuable source for conservation-focused pond and lake projects, with accessible educational resources reflecting best practices.

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