Concrete vs. Liner

jodierdFebruary 22, 2012

I'm going to build a small pond, a rectangle in a flagstone walk. It appears that most people are going with liners. I assumed it's for ease but I have an Ortho book that dismisses concrete altogether.

Since I'm having the walk poured (as an adjunct really since I'm replacing the top of a 1/4 mile long driveway and having a retaining wall and pad for my horse trailer added at the back of the barn) concrete seems an easy, permanent way to go.

Is there any reason not to go this route?

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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Cracks from cold, heaving, groundwater. Maintenance,painting, sealing, initial cost, ongoing costs, permanence. It is very difficult to change if you don't like it the way it is. EPDM is usually rated for 20 years and is more versatile.

I don't know what your geologic situation might be in Georgia. Find someone who has an inground pool in your area and ask about their problems. One person I spoke to said it was a money pit but that was further north.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 1:51PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

tConcrete ponds are built all the time and should last more than 50 years. They're built in every climate.

Going by comments I've read in pond forums I think cost is the main factor. A concrete pond cost is about twice as much as liner. Comments I see are along the lines of "if only I could afford it" type deal.

That said, a concrete pond shouldn't be confused with a hole in the ground with some concrete. Most DIY concrete ponds seem to be done with zero research, or ignore proper building practices. Where a concrete pond calls for 8" of steel reinforced concrete a DIY might do chicken wire an maybe 2" of concrete. For some reason there often seems to be a distrust of standard building methods. The person with no experience just knows in their gut that 2" is plenty.

Most fail to hold water on day one. Cracking happens while the concrete is curing. There are specific methods for reducing cracking but DIY normally ignores those too.

I'd guess virtually all DIY concrete ponds fail within the first year. That's normally when they start doing research and appearing in forums looking for some coating that will stop the leaks. But the problem is the underlying structure isn't right and the coatings fail too. Coatings can be used over concrete as long as the concrete part is built to the spec required by the coating.

The cheapest and most reliable fix is to add a liner over the failed concrete. But most threads I read that option is strongly resisted. Seems to be personal, like admitting a mistake.

Most concrete ponds in the US are structurally the same as concrete swimming pools. Only the mechanics are different. Larger diameter pipes for the bottom drain, etc. Professional pond builders will sometimes hire local swimming pool companies to do most of the work to the pond builder's spec. So if you want to build a concrete pond a good place for info is how concrete swimming pools are built.

In Africa and the Far East concrete ponds are common and they often use different building methods. Mostly it evolves patching cracks as needed and/or new skim coats to fix leaks. So that would be another information source if you liked that type of pond.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 4:58AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

I think you may be promoting cement ponds because you sell them?? lol gary

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 4:06AM
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I have had both concrete and liner ponds over the last 25 years. I'm just a pond nut and not involved in either the sale or construction of ponds so have no bias in any direction.

Concrete is much more expensive than liner, however, if built correctly it is more permanent. If you plan to live where you are for 25 or 30 years that may be important to you. I'm not sure where you can get a concrete pond built for 25 to 30% more than a liner, especially given the specs that you must use. As for concrete adding value to a home, that's depends on where you live. Here in the midwest part of the US pools and ponds,whether concrete or liner, will not add to or detract from your homes value. Most real estate agents will tell you it's better without them. If you live in the deep south or southwest it may be different.

Also in the more temperate climate where the ground freezes and thaws concrete is susceptible to heaving and cracking. Liners on the other hand are susceptible to high ground water and being pushed up as well.

In my 25 years with ponds I have never had a problem with any kind of animal or rodent causing damage to my liners. It is true that some burrowing animals may build a nest close to your liner and could cause damage, I've just not had that problem. I have had animals get into the pond and scratch at the sides trying to get out but none have caused a leak. Most pond builders provide a stepped or layered design (plant shelf) and that has made it easy for animals to get out of the pond without damage. My dogs love to play in the pond and have never caused a problem with the liner.

Pumps and skimmers and the like don't make any difference at all whether you have concrete or liner. Cheap pumps are cheap pumps and will fail no matter what installation you use them on. Good stuff will do the job on either type installation. I don't recommend using a "sump pump" on a pond. They are not designed for continuous operation and that's why they fail. Get a good pump designed for the purpose for which you are buying it. Today's market has very good pumps designed for in water or out of water situations. Both have pro's and con's. Do your homework and decide accordingly.

My advise is to listen to those who own ponds and their experiences and not to those in the business. Those in the business, no matter which business it is, will always have a bias. Those who have to live with the the results of their decisions will provide the most meaningful advise, and as with anything, there will always be those who have had a bad experience with a good thing and those who have a good experience with a bad thing.

No matter which way you decide to go I wish you the best of luck. Let us know what you decide.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 3:13PM
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kashka_kat(z4 WI)

I'd love to do a cement pond - they look a lot better to me and more natural than all those annoying folds the liner has. But I thought the issue was water quality and all that lime or whatever it is that would leach out of the concrete and mess up the water???

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 3:55PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

My largest pond 5x10 is above ground made of stacked 4x4 lined with fiberglass tarp. Has been running continuously since 82 with no leaks. Built as a rainwater collection system though became a growout for tropical fish and aquarium plants . Cost under 250
Most serious problem in all those years was waterbirds, raccoons small boys. lol
have never had a cement or fiberglass
One BIG mistake was putting a 2x6 foot window into the west side . Did not increase the viewing but tripled the maintenence lol
I'm redoing it now but smaller and less depth geared toward a water garden and more aesthetic looking .
Following the original construction method but exterior will be lined with mosaic tile rather than plants
A friend put in an elevated hexagon shaped plexiglass
design which sure looks good right now though I can't imagine spending THAT much money lol My back hurst thinking of the maintenence lol gary

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 6:13AM
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I'm an architect and I've seen lots of water gardens and ponds but I don't quite have the experience of some of the designers here with the construction. I've only built my own two.

One great advantage of the EPDM lined water feature is that it is somewhat adaptable and flexible. You may want your next water garden masterpiece to last a life time so to be your legacy but you also may not.

If you don't like the edge on the one side over there, or you want to make the weir of the water fall a little less wide but increase the depth by a rock or two... EPDM can sometimes accommodate that.

BTW I've written before on this site, much of the design advice given to would-be water gardeners (by practitioners and books on the subject) is to have many tiers for planting ledges within the pond -- since different plants like different planting depths. I took that advice but like many folks I quickly realized that I've had a change of heart, like I want a lower pool within the water garden to be an ALL lily pond pool. Many gardeners have lamented the over-use of planting shelfs / ledges in their ponds.

I think my own expectations have changed as to what I want that THING out there in the yard to be... and sometimes it's better to allow for that recreation.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 2:36AM
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I'm about to upgrade a small garden pond that I dug by hand and lined with the bottom of one of those Walmart 15' swimming pools that a previous owner had discarded.

It leaked in a few spots last year, and I patched it, but this year the plastic is brittle and cracking everywhere. So I ordered a trickerlite liner 15' X 16', which costs about $200, should arrive here shortly. Planning to leave the old liner as an underlayment, and if the rubber one fails (they claim it's good for 30 years), I'll just pour concrete over that.

Speaking of the durability of concrete ponds, I was much impressed as a child by the "kitchen pond" behind Jefferson's Monticello. It's a shallow round pond (maybe 25' across?) that they used for keeping fish they caught alive until needed. That pond has been around for ~250 years, and I'm sure there are other examples.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 6:02PM
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Well, Kashka_kat brings up probably the biggest reason that people have issues with concrete. But, from what I read, the reality is we have the technology to get around Lyme quite easily. However, another point is that concrete naturally develops cracks which allow leaks to occur (in and out)... So, if you want to go concrete and want to minimize maintenance, you can use a coating that seals and protects from small cracks causing leaks. These coatings act as a membrane (almost like a liner). The advantage is that you can build virtually anything you want where with a liner you are limited. You cannot go too deep, you canot have vertical walls, etc... etc... At least not without having concrete as a structural material.

So, if you want concrete, do it. Just make sure you use something like seal tite by flexible lining systems or polyurea or maybe something like RubberizeIt! (just make sure an pro applies the last two).

Here is a link that might be useful: Koi Pond Coating Membrane

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 11:15AM
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