Building a Naturally Filtered Rec Pond

Materials: Stone; Gravel; Pond Equipment; Landscape Lighting; Drainage Parts; and Mulch.

Chemical-Free and Naturally Filtered Swim Pond

Would you swim in a pool without chlorine? Would you swim in a pond with natural filtration? Let’s dive into the world of recreational ponds, specifically one that’s naturally filtered, making it safe and enjoyable for swimming without harsh chemicals. In this project recap, we’re taking a look at the step-by-step construction of a naturally filtered rec pond in Gloucester, Virginia, offering you an enchanting escape into the beauty of nature while enjoying a chemical-free swimming experience.


Step 1: Crafting the Perfect Design

Creating a rec pond is not just about building a pool; it’s about crafting a masterpiece that blends seamlessly with the client’s lifestyle and surroundings. Extensive consultations with the clients are undertaken to understand their desires, how they plan to use the pond, and the experience they wish to have. Every detail is taken into account, from envisioning the flow of the pond to integrating captivating elements like a tanning ledge, external pumps, jets in the deep end, and boulder walls. The goal is to develop a design that not only pleases the eye but also provides an experience that feels harmonious with nature. The design is also thoughtfully made “budget friendly” by economizing wherever possible.

Step 2: Building the Master Plan

Behind every successful project lies a well-thought-out plan. Estimating the necessary rock quantities, determining the ideal liner size, and addressing soil disposal logistics are vital aspects that require thorough consideration during this phase. A comprehensive plan ensures the timely availability of materials, reducing delays during construction and facilitating a smooth implementation. After all, no one wants a giant hole in their backyard for months because the right materials weren’t ordered on time! Having a detailed plan also lays the foundation for future projects, and now this project is the basis of our replicable design that can be packaged as a kit for others.

Step 3: Laying the Foundation - Excavation

With the master plan in hand, excavation marks the next stage of the project. An excavator with laser guidance is employed to carefully grade the pond’s base, making adjustments to accommodate the envisioned hardscape. The excavation involves creating ample space for both the wetland filter and the actual pond, including designated areas for a tanning ledge and retaining wall blocks. The soil generated during excavation is efficiently hauled away to avoid potential drainage issues.

Step 4: Safeguarding the Pond with Liner Placement

To ensure the longevity of the pond, meticulous liner placement is crucial. An extra-large liner, spanning the entire pond, is chosen to avoid seeming the liner and created two pieces with potential for future failure. We use multiple layers of underlayment to protect against potential damage from rocks and sharp objects. Underlayment layers are added above and below the liner. Ensuring the liner is tucked away neatly is a key detail that adds to the pond’s overall aesthetics.

Step 5: The Heart of the Rec Pond - The Filtration System

The soul of the naturally filtered rec pond lies in its ingenious filtration system. The wetland filter, a system of Aqua Blox, three sizes of cobble, and aquatic plants, beautifully cleans and polishes the water. As the water journeys through the rocks and cascades over the waterfall, the debris and sediment adheres to the rocks, providing a source of nutrients to the plants. This harmonious process creates a serene and eco-friendly environment. The wetland filter can actually create cleaner water than a chlorinated system. 

Step 6: Artistry and Safety - Setting the Rocks

Creating an oasis of beauty and safety is a prime concern during the rock-setting phase. Expertly positioned rocks are seated on soil, ensuring they do not pose any hazards for swimmers. Unlike stacking rocks on top of each other, this method uses the stability of the compacted soil giving me and the homeowner peace of mind. Proper rock placement also enhances the natural look and feel of the pond, the layers give places to place plants or jump off.

Step 7: Keeping it Pristine - The "Skimmer" System

Maintaining a clean pond surface is essential, and a well-designed skimmer system does just that. The intake bay creates a gentle vortex that prevents debris from clogging the pumps, effectively preserving the water’s clarity. The thoughtful engineering ensures a harmonious coexistence of nature and functionality. The intake bay is a great system to replace a traditional skimmer and it is a crucial component that contributes to the pond’s low-maintenance appeal.

Step 8: Aesthetics and Stability - The Wall System

The final touch to this masterpiece is the masterfully constructed retention wall. Precision is key as the wall is built using a pin and groove system, creating an elegant and stable structure. We chose this wall for one side of the pond due to its rapid construction compared to individually placing large rocks and boulders. When gazing out over the pond from the back porch, the wall becomes almost invisible, allowing the splendor of the boulders and waterfall to shine brilliantly.

An Oasis for Every Season

This rec pond is a true masterpiece – a blend of artistry, functionality, and ecological harmony. Its naturally filtered system promises a safe and enjoyable swimming experience without the need for chlorine. Whether gazing at its beauty while sipping on a cup of coffee in the cooler months or jumping into its inviting waters in the summer, this rec pond is a year-round delight.
We would love to hear your thoughts on this naturally filtered rec pond project. Are you inspired to create one in your own backyard? If you have any questions about the filtration process or design, please share them with us in the comments below!