Creating a small garden pond waterfall in your backyard can transform your outdoor space into a serene retreat.

This guide will walk you through the process, from planning to execution, ensuring you have all the information you need to build your own backyard oasis.

natural backward pond with rock waterfall

1. Planning and Design

Assess Your Space

  1. Choose the Location: Select a spot that gets a balance of sunlight and shade. Avoid placing the pond directly under trees to minimize debris.
  2. Measure the Area: Determine the size and shape of your pond. A typical small pond might be about 6-10 feet in diameter and 2-3 feet deep.

Design Considerations

  1. Style: Decide whether you want a naturalistic look or a more formal design. Natural ponds blend into the landscape with irregular shapes, while formal ponds have geometric shapes and defined edges.
  2. Features: Decide on additional features such as fish, aquatic plants, and lighting.

Gather Materials and Tools

  1. Materials:
    • Pond liner (EPDM rubber is recommended)
    • Underlayment (to protect the liner)
    • Rocks and stones (for edging and waterfall)
    • Sand or old carpet (to cushion the liner)
    • Pond pump (sized according to pond volume)
    • Tubing and plumbing fittings
    • Filter (optional but recommended)
    • Aquatic plants (for a natural filtration system)
  2. Tools:
    • Shovel
    • Wheelbarrow
    • Level
    • Utility knife
    • Garden hose (for shaping)
    • Tape measure

2. Building the Pond


  1. Outline the Pond: Use a garden hose or rope to outline the pond shape on the ground. Adjust until satisfied with the design.
  2. Start Digging: Dig the pond in tiers, creating shelves for aquatic plants. The deepest part should be in the center or where you plan to place the waterfall.
  3. Depth: Ensure the pond is at least 18 inches deep if you plan to keep fish. For colder climates, deeper ponds prevent freezing to the bottom.

Prepare the Base

  1. Remove Debris: Clear any sharp objects from the bottom and sides of the pond hole.
  2. Add Underlayment: Lay down a layer of sand or old carpet to cushion the pond liner. This protects against punctures.
  3. Install the Liner: Spread the liner over the pond, ensuring it overlaps the edges by at least 12 inches. Smooth out wrinkles as much as possible.

Add Rocks and Edging

  1. Place Rocks: Arrange large rocks around the edge of the pond to hold the liner in place.
  2. Secure Edges: Tuck the liner edges under the rocks. You can also use soil to secure the liner and create a natural look.

3. Building the Waterfall

Construct the Waterfall Base

  1. Design the Waterfall: Sketch out the waterfall design. Decide on the height and the number of tiers.
  2. Create the Foundation: Build a mound using rocks and soil where the waterfall will be. Ensure it is stable and solid.

Install the Waterfall Liner

  1. Lay the Liner: Extend the pond liner up the waterfall mound. You may need a separate piece for the waterfall to ensure proper coverage.
  2. Overlap Liners: If using two liners, overlap them by at least 12 inches to prevent leaks.

Position the Pump and Tubing

  1. Install the Pump: Place the pond pump at the bottom of the pond. Connect the tubing to the pump and run it up the waterfall to the top.
  2. Hide the Tubing: Conceal the tubing with rocks and soil, ensuring it blends seamlessly into the landscape.

Build the Waterfall

  1. Arrange Rocks: Start at the bottom and work your way up. Use flat stones for spillways to create cascading effects.
  2. Secure Stones: Use smaller rocks and gravel to secure the larger stones in place. Ensure water can flow smoothly from one tier to the next.

Test the Waterfall

  1. Fill the Pond: Start filling the pond with water. As it fills, check the waterfall to ensure water flows correctly.
  2. Adjust as Needed: Tweak the arrangement of rocks if necessary to achieve the desired flow and sound.

4. Finishing Touches

Install the Filter

  1. Position the Filter: Place the filter in a location that is easily accessible for maintenance.
  2. Connect to Pump: Attach the filter to the pump according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Add Aquatic Plants

  1. Select Plants: Choose a variety of aquatic plants, including submerged, floating, and marginal plants.
  2. Planting: Place submerged plants in the deeper sections of the pond. Marginal plants go on the shelves you created earlier.

Introduce Fish (Optional)

  1. Choose Fish: If you want to keep fish, consider species like koi, goldfish, or mosquito fish.
  2. Acclimate Fish: Slowly introduce fish to the pond water to allow them to acclimate.


  1. Install Pond Lights: Submersible lights can be placed around the pond and waterfall to highlight features.
  2. Safety: Ensure all electrical connections are waterproof and safe for outdoor use.

5. Maintenance and Care

Regular Maintenance

  1. Check Water Levels: Regularly check and maintain the water level, especially during hot weather.
  2. Clean the Filter: Clean the filter as needed to ensure it operates efficiently.
  3. Remove Debris: Skim leaves and debris from the pond surface to keep the water clear.

Seasonal Care

  1. Winter: In colder climates, install a pond heater or de-icer to prevent the pond from freezing completely.
  2. Spring: Perform a thorough cleaning in spring to remove any debris that accumulated over the winter.


  1. Leaks: If you notice the water level dropping, check for leaks in the liner. Repair small holes with a pond liner repair kit.
  2. Algae Control: Introduce beneficial bacteria and plants to control algae naturally. Avoid using harsh chemicals.


Building a small garden pond waterfall in your backyard is a rewarding project that enhances the beauty and tranquility of your outdoor space. By following this guide, you can create a stunning water feature that provides relaxation and enjoyment for years to come.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced DIY enthusiast, the key to success lies in careful planning, attention to detail, and regular maintenance.

Anything worth doing is worth doing correctly. The problem with that, is it makes the pond installation job a lot harder!

If you want a small garden pond waterfall in your backyard that will soothe you for years to come, you might want to give us a call. We can create the perfect water feature for you without you breaking a sweat. Not even once, I promise!