Rebuilding the Original Pond

As I began to dismantle the original pond, I realized that there was absolutely no underlayment or support for the liner. It had several holes and was likely going to leak forever. Rocks and debris with sharp corners were exposed under the existing liner, making them easy puncture targets.

The 2x4s used to support the edges also supported some 1/4″ cement board that didn’t go all the way to the bottom. When the pressure increased from the water, it would literally run under the sharp edge of the cement board and run the risk of puncturing the liner again.

I removed everything, but kept the liner in case we needed later.I excavated the area until it was flat and added some topsoil to smooth out the base. Next, I took 4x4s and cemented them into the four corners. I wasn’t able to sink them into the ground, so I could only pour about 2″ of cement around each of the four posts.

I then built a frame for the pond walls out of pressure treated 2x4s. I also purchased some “sound-proofing” panels that worked perfect for the underlayment. I used cement board for the walls AND floor and then applied the underlayment.

Since I was planning to go from the original waterfall location to the second pond, I built a platform into the pond to support the structure that would move the water. I also used the underlayment and duct tape to make sure there were no hard edges.

I purchased a new pond liner and spread it out . I stapled it to the 2×4 walls on the opposite side of the water and filled it up. It held the water perfectly with no leaks. I also reinforced the the side next to the new faux-retaining wall to support the rocks.


At some point during this process, I managed to fall and throw my back out. I was unable to work on it for about a month because I literally couldn’t move.

Also, the heat was so bad that I could only work on it at night. And since I was having to lift and move a lot of heavy rocks by myself, progress was slow.

Design 1 – Aristocrat Pond

Waterfall Issues:

Because the water was being pushed about 14 feet up into a waterfall riser, the result was an incoherent stream of water that had 14 feet to fall. Without a significantly more powerful pump to push a lot more water through the fall, it got frayed and it was easily affected by the wind. This, of course, caused the pond levels to drop significantly leading to additional expense of adding water.

Introduce a second pond layer halfway between the initial waterfall and the original pond. Reducing the distance the water had to travel and changing its orientation would allow us to keep the water in the pond and would add a new aspect to the water feature.

Design 1 – I had planned to use a high-quality rigid pond liner for the top pond. From the top pond, a wall of water would fall into the main pond. This would enable us to keep the wall of water feature while adding a more easily accessible pond layer.


Before I did anything with the pond, I cleaned out the bottom pond and got all the debris that I could out of it. I noticed the water level was low, but figured I would address that later.

  1. Excavate an area for the base of the pond, allowing the extruded lip to protrude both under the existing water pathway and into the lower pond. Potentially use the tree to support the pond liner.
  2. Fix the Retaining Wall (see retaining wall below)
    1. Remove existing hardboard and untreated 2x4s
    2. Purchase 4×4 and 2×4 pressure treated lumber
    3. Purchase tileboard and tileboard nails/adhesive
    4. Purchase 3/4 chipboard and underlayment
    5. Purchase cement and lathe
    6. locate large rocks
    7. Install the 4x4s in cement bases with 2×4 crossbars
    8. secure the Chipboard to the 2x4s
    9. fasten the tileboard
    10. fasten the lathe
    11. place the rocks
    12. place the underlayment


  1. Install the pond liner (see Pond Liner below)
    1. Rock/Brick in the pond-liner base
    2. Place the Pond Liner, infill with dirt
    3. modify the liner to facilitate waterfall into the  bottom pond
  2. Re-route the water from the original waterfall origin to the top pond.
    1. Build a wire armature to make a rock structure to reroute the water.
    2. Determine how to support it and seal it.
  3. Implement a filtration system and lights.



This is when I first ran into problems. What appeared to be solid ground was actually mostly chunks of asphalt, cement, discarded construction supplies, etc. It became obvious after a week that there was no way to insert the pond like it was supposed to be installed. The roots of a neighboring tree and the small tree stood in our way as well.

Pond Placement

I had already excavated a huge amount of soil to place the pond liner when I finally hit a large cement block that I could not move. This was apparently the furthest we could go for the pond. After trying a dozen different ways to position the pond liner, I decided to cut the small tree down, but keep it’s stump for support.

Supporting the Liner

Since I had already excavated a lot of soil for the liner, I decided I could place it where I had planned, but extend the overlapping part of the pond by reinforcing the retaining wall and building a small platform on which I could set the liner.

Rather than remove and rebuild the existing retention wall, I figured I would just build a wall in front of it and enclose the old retention efforts with a new wall to support the edge of the pond. This allowed me to keep the majority of the weight on the ground for the base of the pond, so I didn’t need a lot of support under the lip.

I tried to dig a hole to mount the 4×4 posts to support the edge of the pond and couldn’t get very deep because of the debris. I used  2×4 weather treated supports and chipboard base that would rest on the ground, but also extend over the old makeshift retaining wall. Then I would add some lathing to it and fasten rocks to the bottom portion, but use bricks for the top portion as though it was an extension of the existing wall.

Once the new faux-retainer wall was installed, I tried various ways of adding the rocks to the front of it to match the existing rock wall. I was carrying those huge rocks by myself and it wasn’t easy. While I was placing the rocks on the ledge of the existing pond, it began to crumble.

The original pond had been made without any real support for the water. The 2x4s used to make the ledge were worn and had started to decay. Any weight and they started to break. I decided to just reinforce the existing wall and continue with my project.

Placing the large rocks on the edge of the pond where the retainer wall was proved disastrous. The lower pond could not take the weight and completely crumbled, ripping the liner and adding to the existing leakage problem.

At this point it became obvious that I would have to first get the lower pond working correctly, then I could finish with the upper pond. The project goes on hold until the original pond can be rebuilt.


Intro – Aristocrat Pond

The Aristocrat Pond located in the back courtyard of the Aristocrat Lofts has the following characteristics:

  • Rectangular pond with short walls in front and to the left when facing
  • Tall walls in back and on the right
  • a black pond liner has been used to hold the water
  • a sump-pump pushes water up to the top of the back wall for the waterfall feature
  • the waterfall feature contains a waterfall box and a handmade acrylic extension
  • unmortared bricks are used for the lower two walls and rocks are used for the back wall
  • black plastic covers the right wall
  • the back wall is largely overgrown with a creeping vine
  • there are two trees that sit directly on the edge of the pond
  • the pond water is dirty and disgusting and smells
  • the pond has become a breeding ground for mosquitos
  • tall grass (corn?) grows in front of the pond, obscuring its view
  • the waterfall is incoherent and water is lost when the wind blows


  • increase the visual appeal  of the pond
  • fix or replace the waterfall feature
  • clean the water and provide a means of keeping clean
  • make pond more user-friendly and visible
  • maintain the current aesthetic
  • use existing materials where possible
  • keep costs low