We explain how to choose the perfect pond liner in today’s guide. Get that fish pond built in no time with our comprehensive guide.
Lining a pond is the key stage in its creation. Get this wrong and you’ll have big, expensive problems somewhere down the line.
We’ve put together this comprehensive guide so that you you can make sure you get this stage correct.
We’ll cover the 3 critical stages in the process:
1. Choosing the right pond liner material
2. How to size the liner
3. How to install it correctly
With our guide, you’ll have your pond full of fish and wowing the neighbors in no time!
Stage 1: How to Choose the Perfect Pond Liner
Pond liners were not all created equally and there are a few choices that you’ll need to make here depending on your situation.
A good lining needs to be impermeable and strong enough to last for years to come. Furthermore, it should be able to withstand environmental effects like UV light and severe weather conditions.
Poor quality materials will need replaced every few years as they succumb to wear and tear. It’s worth paying the price for a durable liner that will save you money in the long-term and from doing maintenance work.
There are a few popular materials that fish pond liners are made from. They each vary in cost, lifespan, and durability. In this section we’ll give a brief description of each material and why it might be a good fit for you.
What’s the best pond liner material?
Fish pond liners are generally split into 2 groups. There are those that are flexible and those that are pre-formed or already molded.
In this section we’ll explain the pros and cons of each type and why it might suit you. We also recommend some of the top performing liners on the market.
Let’s start with the most popular type, the flexible option.
1. Flexible pond liners
These types are large sheets of material that can fit almost any shape of pond. It’s the most common choice as it allows you to be creative with your pond design. These types of pond liners come in a variety of materials that offer different levels of flexibility and durability.
The big trade-off with liners of this type is between thickness and flexibility. The thicker sheets last longer and are very durable, however if you have an intricately shaped pond then you’ll find it difficult getting them into place.
There are 3 choices to be made with flexible liners: EPDM, PVC, or LPDE?
Let’s start with whats generally considered the best material, rubber.
- EPDM pond liners – the popular choice
These days rubber liners are made from a substance called EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer). This relatively modern rubber is popular in liners due to its incredible durability.
It’s waterproof and extremely resistant to UV light and Ozone. UV light resistance is really important in a pond lining material as without it, the lifespan of the liner will be substantially reduced. Ozone (found in air) has a similarly damaging effect and can cause the rubber to crack.
EPDM pond liners are generally much denser and heavier than the alternatives (coming up next). This means they don’t offer the same flexibility. They also tend to cost more.
|UV resistance||Not as flexible as alternatives|
- LDPE pond liners – the most flexible option
LDPE (low density polyethylene) liners are much cheaper than EPDM and offer a much greater degree of flexibility. If you have a complex pond shape then this material will hold the contours better than the other choices. However, it isn’t as durable as the aforementioned EPDM.
|Flexible||Not as durable as EPDM|
- PVC pond liners – the budget choice
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is the cheapest of the flexible options. It’s generally a bit thinner than the others and that means you must be very careful when laying it. It is possible to tear PVC so extra care must be taken rid the site of sharp objects and also to lay an under-layer of something like sand. Though this is good practice with all materials.
|Cheap||Least durable of the three|
2. Pre-molded liners
Also called preformed pond liners or rigid pond liners, as you may have guessed they are already constructed.
They resemble a bathtub and are usually made from high density polyethylene. This stuff is really strong but doesn’t offer any flexibility whatsoever. The ready-made nature of these types of liner brings the big downside: your pond isn’t unique.
These are quite popular for smaller ponds and for those who want the whole process made as easy as possible. The liner is dropped into the hole with a layer of sand providing cushioning and filling any gaps. The liner has contours already created, with different depths and degrees of sloping to add character to the pond set-up.
But like I said, ease of installation comes at the cost of originality.
|Easier installation||Unoriginal pond|
|Good value||Design is set|
Before choosing the material for your pond lining there are a few points to consider. In this section we run through the key considerations to be made and which material we think is best for each scenario. In this section we will discuss:
- Extreme weather
These things aren’t too keen on extreme weather conditions. If you live in a place where frost or freezing temperatures are commonplace, or if you’re likely to see extreme heat in the summer, then the durability of the lining should be your primary concern.
What we recommend: EPDM liners are the toughest of the bunch and will withstand extreme weather to a greater degree than the others. A solid pre-formed liner made from layered high density polyethylene should also stand up to testing weather conditions.
If you’re running a tight-ship and money is an issue then the type of lining you choose will make a big difference to your expenses. Straight away I’d discard EPDM as they’re a bit pricier than the other options. This may seem obvious but the smaller your pond the cheaper it will cost to line too.
What we recommend: PVC is probably the cheapest material used for pond lining. Just beware that it’s usually thinner than the rubber options, and will take a bit more care on installation.
Pre-formed liners are almost always small in size. They’re a great bet for a small garden pond, but for anything larger then a flexible sheet-type lining will need to be used. Remember that the larger your pond, the more weight in water it will be supporting, and the harder it will be to repair incase the worst happens too.
What we recommend: For larger ponds of more than 300 gallons in volume I’d go with something pretty durable. Smaller ponds (up to 100 gallons) can be made with pre-formed liners.
Let’s deal with installation first. By far the easiest type to install is the pre-formed liner. It’s already in shape, complete with contouring, and sometimes even a shallow end for a water fountain/feature. This saves you the hassle of straightening out wrinkles and making sure the liner hugs the ground as tightly.
The hardest type to install is the thicker material like EPDM. They can be quite heavy and getting them to lie in position could be more than a one man job. Conversely, PVC is quite flexible, thin, and light, making it easier to manoeuvre into position.
Maintenance-wise the tough, durable materials like EPDM are going to last the longest and have the least issues with weathering, UV light, and Ozone wearing.
What we recommend: If you can withstand a slightly more difficult installation, EPDM will pay off in the long-term. Pre-formed liners make installation much more straightforward and faster.
As we touched on before, the pre-formed liners give you a basic pond design. It’s a bit like buying furniture from IKEA. You’re assured of pleasant, functional stuff but your living room has no originality and looks just like your friend’s. If you can deal with that, then you’ll save yourself some time and money.
Otherwise, if you’re looking to be a bit creative then you’ll need a flexible liner. A plastic pond liner like PVC is best for fitting irregular shapes.
What we recommend: The flexible the better for a truly creative and intricately shaped pond. PVC is the material for you if this is the case. But, in all honesty even the thicker materials can probably be bent into shape with a bit of muscle.
In this section, we recommend a few pond linings that we think deserve your consideration. We’ve been careful to choose the best representations of each material and type. We’ve got EPDM, PVC, and even a pre-formed liner for you to take a look at.
You can compare the key features in the table below, before we review each liner and why we think it’s worth taking a look at a bit later.
|Firestone PondGard||Flexible EPDM||45 mm||$$||- UV resistant
- Ozone resistant
- Very durable
|TotalPond Pond Skin||Flexible PVC||14.5 mm||$||- UV resistant
- Puncture resistant
- Textured for positive bacterial growth
|TotalPond EPDM||Flexible EPDM||40 mm||$$$||- Handles extreme weather
- UV resistant
- High tensile strength
|MacCourt Ponds Basin||Pre-formed||N/A||$$||- Very strong
- Easy installation
The Firestone PondGard is a flexible rubber EPDM liner of some distinction. It’s one of the most durable pond liners on the market, and it’s definitely built to last.
It’s one of the thickest liners we have included in our recommendations and measures 45mm. That makes it pretty heavy and not exactly the most flexible of choices. If you’re going for a pond with lots of nooks and crannies then you might want to give this one a miss.
If not, then this liner deserves your attention. It’s among the most robust and long lasting available and will stand up to testing weather conditions like frost. By nature EPDM rubber is highly UV and ozone resistant too. These naturally occurring phenomena are bad news for rubber and can cause it to dry and crack, however EPDM is prized for its ability to withstand their effects.
However, EPDM liners like this are more expensive than the thinner liners out there. There’s also the trade-off between durability and creativity in design. A thick liner like this is more difficult to fit into shape, but there’s no risk of tearing.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a small pond liner that lasts then the Firestone PondGard is a great choice. It’s thick and sturdy, and built with durability firmly in mind.
Pond Skin by TotalPond is our PVC liner of choice. It brings the benefits of PVC with regards to flexibility but is a bit more durable than most PVC materials you’ll find on the market.
It measures in at 14.5mm of thickness which is just a 1/3 of the size of the PondGard EPDM rubber liner that we previously discussed. This makes it much easier to manage upon installation. It can be molded to fit awkwardly shaped ponds and is much lighter in weight.
However, the thinner cut does mean that it’s not as strong. Special care needs to be taken at installation to ensure that no tears or holes are made. This can be easily achieved by using a good pond underlayment material that protects the waterproof liner from damage. An underlayment like those made by Beckett works very well, or even a more natural material like sand.
Pond Skin have given some thought to the fragility of PVC by reinforcing the multiple PVC layers with a strong polyester weave. This makes it much stronger than the average PVC pond lining. They actually state it as being puncture resistant (as well as UV resistant), which seems a bit fanciful, but it’s definitely stronger than average.
Unique among our recommended liners is the textured surface that it has. TotalPond see this as a significant feature, as it promotes beneficial bacterial growth on the liner. They say this is necessary for an environmentally harmonious habitat.
Bottom Line: The best PVC pond liner out there. It’s stronger than usual but remains flexible and willing to be molded into awkwardly shaped ponds. It’s really well priced too.
This is the second of our recommended EPDM liners. To be honest, there isn’t much to tell them apart. They come from different manufacturers but are very similar in their construction. The big difference here is the size. While the Firestone PondGard liner that we first discussed is suitable for the smaller sized ponds, this EPDM liner from TotalPond is capable of lining much larger ponds of up to 15 x 20 feet.
Being an EPDM liner it has durability and strength firmly in mind. At 40 mm in thickness it won’t easily be breached and will outlast most other materials. It’s the ideal material for extreme weather conditions too, and won’t become compromised by frost or high temperatures. It’s also resistant to damaging UV rays.
Bottom Line: The go-to large pond liner for big installations. Long-lasting, strong, and weather-proof.
This preformed pond liner (also called a plastic pond tub) from MacCourt streamlines the whole pond making process. As a pre-molded liner, it doesn’t need to be obsessively laid in placed. The installation process is easier, faster, and less stressful.
As you can see in the picture, the liner comes complete with a shallow end for placing a water feature like a fountain and also shelves for placing water plants. While this does make life a whole lot easier when contouring the hole for the pond, it does mean that you can’t have the pond as you would like it. You are stuck with McCourt’s design, and that may mean having the same pond as your neighbor.
It’s made from multiple sheets of high density polyethylene which renders it pretty strong. It shouldn’t crack or chip. MacCourt also say that it shouldn’t be affected by UV light either. The fact that it is a strong, rigid material means that cleaning it is an easy task too.
Bottom Line: Makes installing a pond a much simpler task. It’s also very well priced. This is a great choice for a small garden pond installation.
2. How to size a pond liner
Sizing a pond liner isn’t as hard as you might think. There’s no need for a fancy pond liner calculator, it just takes some basic math and a bit of planning for the worst case scenario.
Step 1: Measure the longest, the widest, and the deepest points of your pond to be (in feet).
Step 2: Use the following formula
Length needed = Max length + (2x depth) +1
Width needed = Max width + (2x depth) + 1
This formula gives you a bit of extra overlap at the sides to fasten the lining down.
Our pond measures 9 feet at it’s longest point. It measures 5 feet at its widest point. It is 4 feet deep at its deepest.
That gives us:
Length needed = 9 + (2x 4) +1
Length needed = 18 feet
Width needed = 5 + (2x 4) +1
Width needed = 14 feet
This gives a minimum size of 14′ x 18′.
You’d be looking at a flexible liner of 15′ x 20′ feet for this installation (always go a size up). That’s a standard size for pre-cut PVC and EPDM linings.
Note: You’ll need pond underlayment too. This layer cushions the liner from sharp objects in the ground (usually made from soft polypropylene). Use the same measurements to size this layer too. Underlayment usually comes in narrower rolls of material so you might have to lay a few together.
3. How to install a pond liner
It’s really not that hard. Just make sure you’ve done your math right and got underlayment and lining that are large enough to cover the pond basin.
What you need:
- Scissors or box-cutter knife
Step 1 : Dig your hole. Remember to stick to the measurements you used when sizing your liner. It doesn’t have to be exact as there’s a bit of leeway with the liner size. Just don’t push things too far.
Step 2 : Place the underlayment over the whole. This could be a store bought, specialized material or something like sand or old carpet. If using sand you’ll need to use about an inch in thickness.
We want an overlap over the top edges of the pond and a bit of ‘give’ at the sides. Make sure it’s not too tightly packed in.
Step 3 : Lay the liner over the top of the underlayment. Just like the last step, allow plenty of ‘give’ in the bottom and don’t stretch it. Allowing some ‘wiggle room’ means it can spread out a bit when filled with water.
If you need to stand on the lining, be sure that your shoes are free of sharp stones or gravel that could damage it.
Step 4 : Place large stones and bricks over the edges of the lining to hold it in place. These should be places around the outline of the pond, where the lining comes out of the water and overlaps onto the ground.
Step 5 : Fill the pond with a few inches of water. This is a test to see how your work holds. It allows the lining to settle into the ground in its more natural position.
Note how it reacts. The lining should not be stretched or under any tension. If this happens then remove some of the rocks and bricks that are holding it down and relieve the tension.
Step 6 : Repeat step 5 until the pond is full of water. Add a few inches of water each time and note how the lining reacts.
Each time you can trim some of the excess lining of the edges using your scissors or knife too. Keep these trimmings as they can be used for pond repairs should it ever get punctured or damaged.
Well that concludes our guide to pond lining. You should have a pretty good idea now of what type of lining you need, how to choose the correct size, and how to install it in your garden.
If you have any questions about this then leave a message down below or over on the contact page. We promise to reply promptly.
If you enjoyed this then you’ll love our guide to gardening gifts next!
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Extra image source: By A.Fiebig – Own work, Public Domain, Link