From Expert Pond Excavation Contractors: What are the 7 Things to Consider During Pond Excavation?

Many people wonder if it's necessary to work with pond excavation contractors to excavate ponds for them. It might seem basic, but knowing how to excavate a pond properly is extremely important.

We all know that pond excavation contractors could do the job properly, but do you know the benefits of doing it right?

Before your pond excavation contractors start digging, there are some things that need to be done first to ensure the smoothness of the project. First, assess the pond's property and consider all the existing utilities and structures.

Second, with a site or laser level, determine the low and high areas where the pond would most likely be positioned. That gives you a better idea of any challenges or obstacles you might have to overcome when installing the pond.

Remember to also look at construction access points for the establishment; this would help you determine your options for the excavation process. Are there any narrow walkways, gates, or steps that would block equipment access?

Site Assessment

As you walk surrounding the pond perimeter, determine the high and low areas of the main viewing area. Most ponds are found next to a patio, so the patio would be the starting point. We would like the water to come up to the viewing area and typically set the water level two to three inches below the patio level.

When the water level is established, make the whole pond perimeter a minimum of 2″ above the water level. The level would be much higher at the back edge of the pond where the waterfall is located, depending on the final waterfall height. All measurements from this point forward will directly relate to the water level.

Building Ledges

Ledges serve as a safe staircase as opposed to a slippery slope. They also add stability and strength to the pond. Terracing is less likely to collapse and much more stable than a tall, steep wall.

In addition, ledges provide aesthetic appeal. If you want a good ecosystem pond, the water will be clear, and the pond floor will be visible. Ledges provide contours and layers, adding interest to the pond's interior.

Pond ledges also offer shelves for aquatic plants; different ledge depths are ideal for planting the many species available. For example, marginals will grow in 1-12 inches of water, while water lilies and oxygenators prefer 12-36 inches of water.

Pond Shelves in a Man-Made Pond

The first pond ledge is usually 6 to 10 inches deep and must be dug around the perimeter of the entire pond. Note that this ledge should be covered in gravel, so a ledge that is six inches deep will become a ledge that's four inches deep after the gravel is installed. Ledges can vary according to usage, but they do not have to be perfect.

The goal of creating a pond is to copy nature, and natural ponds don't have perfectly level or symmetrical ledges that graduate towards the bottom of the pond. When the first ledge is finished, your pond excavation contractors can mark out the next area to be excavated.

The background area is where the pond will transition into the surrounding landscape; the wide shallow ledges are ideal for mass plantings of aquatic plants to assist with this transition.

Consider the Waterfall

The other area that requires careful consideration is where the stream or waterfall enters the pond.

The waterfall, or stream, is important for many reasons, from aesthetics to function and costs. From an aesthetic point of view, what water entry point type is desired? A small riffle zone or a large dramatic waterfall?

The water's depth at this entry point greatly impacts the design's success. If, at this point, the water is deep, it would dictate the size of the boulders necessary to frame the waterfall; it would also change the sound of the waterfall (deep=base tones, shallow=treble tones).

Shallow water at the point of entry of a swift-moving riffle area will create a natural rippling impact on the surface of the water and aid in the overall pond circulation. Defaulting to shallow water near the waterfall or stream entry gives you the greatest options.

From a cost and function standpoint, deep water near the waterfall requires larger boulders and more time. Water quality is usually better with shallow water as it would help with overall pond circulation and debris removal.

Berm Building

During the excavation phase, the filters and piping are laid as well. It is always first to set the biological filter, and the flexible piping follows. The excavated soil could be used to produce a berm around the biological filter, and its size must be equivalent to the size of the pond. In other terms, if the pond is 11′ x 16′ and 2 feet deep, the berm should be 11′ x 16′ and 2 feet high.

If the biological filter is higher, more soil will be needed to disguise it, and it may seem out of place. The berm will need more spread if it's set lower to use the soil. Each site should be evaluated for how high or low the waterfall should be.

Soil usage is typically an overlooked part of the construction process, and you do not want to be left needing to remove soil from a project.

If the soil's quality is poor, organic topsoil could be brought in to be used for future plantings. The broader and larger the berm, the easier it would be to incorporate plantings naturally to help a water feature seem as natural as possible.

Challenges of Poor Soil Conditions

Many soil types can cause all sorts of pond excavation challenges.

Clay Soil: Fall and spring are the best times for excavation since the clay is softer, while mid-summer requires a pick-ax to chisel through the hardened clay. The clay soil in certain areas is notoriously bad, and the selling price of the job must reflect the extra time needed to complete the excavation in difficult soil.

Rocky Soil: In addition to longer digging time, rocky soil has other challenges. One of them is a hard sub-surface to deal with after the digging is complete.

In this instance, your pond excavation contractors can lay down several layers of underlayment to serve as an additional cushion under the liner. In serious cases, they can place a layer of the fabric above the liner where larger boulders will be set.

Bedrock is the toughest because it takes much longer to dig than other soil conditions. Based on where the rock layer is found, the pond may need to be built completely above grade or half and half. The deeper you could dig, the better the pond would look. It's hard to make a pond look natural when sitting 18″ above the surrounding soil.

In some parts of the country, jackhammers are necessary equipment. It is the only way to cut through the hard layers. It could be a slow process, but extreme conditions require creative solutions.

Sandy Soil: In loose, sandy soils, the digging is a piece of cake, but it is virtually impossible to cut a ledge into it. The easiest way to deal with this problem is to dig the pond using a flat bottom, with its side gently sloping into the middle.

When the pond is dug, there are two options: Place boulders on the sloping sides, and put gravel on the bottom – or place boulders on the backfill and bottom behind the rocks creating boulder and gravel terraces. Planting areas and irregular ledges could be created with this method.

Considerations for Large Projects

On larger projects of 600 square feet or more, large equipment is needed to help excavate, large boulder placement, and material handling.

Backhoes and skid-steers are the two most common equipment, but cranes and loaders can also be used. A skid-steer could effectively excavate the pond's top shelves, but the bottom and final shaping should still be done using hand tools. Your pond excavation contractors like us here at Shilling Excavation could maneuver around enough to do a bit of digging; however, some handwork is still needed to clean things up.

Advantages Of Hiring Professional Pond Excavation Contractors

Aside from saving time and not having to get your hands dirty, several other benefits are gained by simply hiring pond excavation contractors for your excavation project. Many pond excavation contractors would want to perform every aspect of the project themselves.

Novices won't be familiar with various nuances of pond excavation, such as level, shaping, and depth, and professionals also understand the significance of structural integrity. Some areas may have to be refilled, increasing the project's cost. While anyone could dig a hole in the ground, only professional pond excavation contractors like us could excavate it in a manner that can suit a pond.