What Does a Pond Liner Cost?
Establishing the cost for a large pond liner requires more than simply choosing the cheapest material per square foot. All elements of the project need to be considered, including obviously the size of the pond, but also the use of the pond, longevity expected, slope and depth, whether water is still or moving, and also shipping the liner to the site and who is handling the installation. See our review of Costs to Consider with Every Pond Liner Project.
It’s easy enough to establish the cost for a small garden pond liner: typically sheet material such as EPDM will cost around 75 cents per square foot, and this is probably the most common retail option for a garden pond measuring around , say 12′ x 12′.
As we go up in size and move away from retail, we can start thinking in terms of perhaps one-third of the cost for liner materials, but obviously the other related costs are a large factor too. Once we get away from the small garden pond, we also find that other materials will out-perform EPDM by a large margin – notably Reinforced Polyethylene (RPE) and also PVC in many applications.
In terms of pricing, RPE and PVC can be close to the same cost for a large pond liner. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is sometimes suggested because it’s a cheaper material by the square foot, but it has significant drawbacks in the actual field installation, which is where the true cost of a liner becomes apparent. See our review of Why RPE is Often Better than HDPE for Pond Liners.
The cost-effectiveness of the pond liner is obviously a component of its true pricing. You want non-toxic material for a fish pond, and you want something that won’t degrade quickly with a long-term project. If the ground is less than ideal, you may either need to use an underlayment to protect the liner from tearing, or you may need to cover the bed with a layer of soft soil or sand before setting the liner in place.
The area needed to be covered is simple enough to calculate – see our pond liner size calculator – allowing enough for an anchoring trench around the perimeter. The ruggedness of terrain is a factor in materials choice. A gently sloping, custom-excavated pond on a golf course or for irrigation may use PVC. Burying this liner to protect from UV degradation will extend its service life from a couple of years to as much as twenty or more.
For more durable, non-toxic and tough applications, RPE is the optimum material. This is a case where the material itself is less a factor in strength and puncture-resistance than the reinforcement, which comes from the weave. At Western Environmental Liner, we’ve pioneered the tightest weave in the industry for our reinforced products, and our 30-mil Aqua Series of pond liner will out-perform much heavier materials. We thus produce greater strength combined with lighter weight, in a flexible material suited to conform to different ground conditions.
More cost savings from the correct choice of optimum pond liner are reflected in shipping and installation. Large pond liners must typically come from specialized manufacturers such as Western Environmental Liner. With three factories across the country, we are able to supply custom fabricated panels up to 300′ x 300′. Lightness and flexibility of the liner material helps avoid damage during transit to the site, and during the unpacking for installation.
Installation can be the weakest link in the chain of steps required to create a durable pond liner. While we use our own installation crews, many projects will often give less thought to this, sometimes using less than skilled labor on the project. It’s obviously important not to stress the liner during installation. If it’s going to be buried under a layer of soil or sand, this needs to be done carefully, not putting weight on unburied parts of the liner. And if the panels need to be heat-welded in the field (and they should be, rather than taped or glued), this needs to be done well, or the liner may fail at the seams. See our guide to Pond Liner Installation Tips and Pitfalls for more on this. In summary, it is largely impossible to determine the pricing of a pond liner simply on the basis of cost per square foot of the liner material. All the other factors mentioned here must form part of the final equation.