Pond Boss
Posted By: Steve_ Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/18/21 11:51 PM
Hello folks, if you don't know me, I'm that guy that got ripped off for $8500 on a new pond build. He basically cleared most of the land, dug a basic bowl shape (with no dam), and left me high and dry. I'm starting to get out of the massive depression I've been in since the incident last October, and trying to make a new plan to finish my pond, which will be between .4 and .6 acres. I don't have the $6-8k that some people have been quoting me to finish the job, so I've been thinking about someone's suggestion of renting equipment and doing it myself. I have never ran any kind of earth-moving equipment before, however, my neighbor has, and he said he might be able to get me started on it.

Here are some rental prices from a business near where I live: https://ma.cookerentals.com/equipment.asp?action=category&category=16

I'm just trying to get some feedback on the prices, learning curve to these types of equipment, and which type of machine you'd rent if you were in my shoes. Seeing some of these weekly rates in the $600-700 range has got me motivated to pursue this type of project (excluding fuel costs, of course). I can burn a week of vacation and really put a lot of time into this to maybe get it done.

Any thoughts, suggestions or feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Posted By: liquidsquid Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/19/21 01:12 AM
I was told an experienced operator can get the job done faster and cost less than rental trying to get up to speed. That entirely depends on if you are a fast learner or not, and the complexity of the job.
Posted By: Bobbss Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/19/21 02:57 AM
Steve, tell us more about your plans. How long and tall do you plan on the dam being? How deep do you plan on digging. How good is your dirt? Do you have to do more clearing? The more information the better. Give a detailed plan.
Posted By: Steve_ Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/19/21 03:36 AM
Originally Posted by Bobbss
Steve, tell us more about your plans. How long and tall do you plan on the dam being? How deep do you plan on digging. How good is your dirt? Do you have to do more clearing? The more information the better. Give a detailed plan.

Sure. Using the measuring tool on Google Maps, I estimate the dam would have to be around 75' long and I have a max of 10' for the dam height, per NC regulations. I'm aiming for a min of 10-12' of depth, which I think I already have, maybe more in some locations. The dirt is fantastic, nearly all clay. After a good rain, I can form it into a ball rather easily. I have a few trees that are laid down in the bowl of the pond that need to be cleared, but I'm 95% positive that no more tree work (cutting) needs to be done.

Here's a youtube video I did, kinda showing what I'm working with: https://youtu.be/xzLFToj-0lw
Posted By: Bobbss Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/19/21 04:47 AM
I would start with burning up all that brush since you need to do that anyway you go.
Do you plan to build it by the book or just build a dam and hope it holds water? By the book is a bigger job but is the best way to get it to seal. I know there is a lot of ponds out there that was just a dam built and they hold good but it is a gamble that way.
A 75' x 10' dam isn't a real big job. I would mostly be worried about compaction.
Posted By: esshup Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/19/21 05:53 AM
This place isn't too far from here, and it's who I use when I need something.

https://www.wakarusaequipment.com/--rentals-equipment

Bigger is better, you can move a lot of dirt quicker. An excavator is better than a backhoe if you have to dig and move dirt, it can place the dirt 180° from the hole while a backhoe can't.

Remember you need to grease all the pivot points every 8 hours, they should be greased every 4 if you are digging in water.
Posted By: CityDad Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/19/21 02:09 PM
Ooooh please make some videos as you go along learning the equipment!

I'm going to be doing somthing similar looong term
Posted By: BrianL Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/19/21 04:22 PM
It will probably cost you as much or more to do it yourself, but you are paying to learn to run equipment. You need to know what you are doing, or know someone to ask, when you run into problems, and that is were experience comes into play. .It takes a while to learn to push a full blade of dirt and cut a smooth path. You will find that out really quick.. It can be fun and rewarding, but still cost. However already having the land cleared and a "bowl" is a pretty good start

I don't see any equipment big enough in the link you posted. I would say a cat D4 at the smallest, D5 would be much better, D6 even better
Posted By: RAH Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/19/21 04:36 PM
I was fortunate to acquire a backhoe and small dozer. I would have preferred to hire the pond work out, but have had mixed luck getting what I want from contractors. I was very lucky that my first pond was dug by a very good contractor, but he soon retired. My second pond took 4 contractors and I was still left dealing with a very steep dam. I tried to hire out work on my then acquired machines for my 3rd pond which again was a mixed bag, and my son and I finished it up. It turned out well. I am still working on my 4th pond, so time will tell on that one. I don't like using the machines, but at least there is no communication issues. I think that even with my rudimentary skills, I end working as quickly as some others because I don't end up moving dirt multiple times due to poor planning. This will likely be my last fish pond, but I will probably continue to construct wetlands and vernal pools. My brother laughs at me since he uses construction machines like they are a part of his body, but he lives 600 miles away. He has been operating construction equipment for 40 years and he sometimes scares me when I see what he does on them.
Posted By: gehajake Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/19/21 06:05 PM
I just finished a 3/4 acre pond last week but it was on a slope, no valley or bowl to work with, which made quite a bit more dirt to move.
Having done that kind of work for the last 25 yrs, a few things you will have to take into consideration when you do undertake the equipment rental and do it yourself plan. First of all the equipment that you have on your rental brochure is all undersized for the project, but it will work with plenty of time and effort, way more time and effort for an inexperienced operator, as in an experienced operator will probably be able to move double the amount of dirt in the same amount of time with the same equipment, a good portion of that will be the ability to know where to land the dirt where it will not need moved again.
Secondly a plan will need to be worked out for dewatering a bowl when you get several inches of rain during construction, which is one of the bigger reasons why working swiftly with bigger equipment is much easier then working for an extended time with smaller equipment, way more time for rain and water to become a problem, the longer the project lasts, not counting how much more wet materials doesn't hamper bigger equipment nearly as much as smaller equipment, after a 1/2 inch rain a dozer will drop the blade and remove the soft ground in front of him in a pass or two and be back to working full throttle, where as a 1/2 inch rain will incapacitate a skid loader for a good period of time before you get all the mud off and gotten rid of and back at it.
Not meaning to completely discourage you, it can be done, just make sure you calculate all the things that can make the job more difficult and therefore more expensive, if you had access to an old timer, equipment operator, to sit under a shade tree and give you pointers could be invaluable. Good Luck and keep us posted!

Cody Note: Experienced advice is very valuable. It is always best to heed it.
Posted By: Steve_ Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/19/21 09:36 PM
Thank you all for the replies. I'm still weighing all of my options, and I know a pond isn't something you want to do half-assed. With the quality of dirt I think I have, I'm very confident in its ability to both hold water and stay compacted. I'm leaning towards just having someone pile up some dirt to create a dam, compact it really good, and hope for the best.

I definitely need to do some burning, thank you for that recommendation. Some guy wanted to charge me $2500 just to push all the downed trees and brush into the bowl and burn it. Yes, he's a reputable contractor, but that's a lot of money in my opinion. Either way, that will probably be step 1.

Looking at the prices I posted, I guess I was thinking to myself, for $700 a week, even if I only rented a smaller piece of equipment, that I could get it done in that time frame. I'm not sure what the going rate would be to hire an equipment operator but I'll probably figure that out before I embark on this new endeavor.
Posted By: Bill Cody Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/19/21 09:42 PM
Build a good well compacted keyway under the dam or it will leak and may be wash out during a flood event. Experienced advice is very valuable. It is always best to heed it.
Posted By: CityDad Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/19/21 09:51 PM
In my area operator with his own equipment is 1300/Day
Posted By: Dave Davidson1 Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/20/21 12:22 AM
Steve, half-assed can also occur with. “Professional”
Posted By: Bobbss Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/20/21 01:45 AM
Have you looked for larger equipment for rent in your area.? As everyone has said, the equipment you posted is on the small side. Have you read jk96's thread? I think he built a 1 acre pond with his skid steer but it is a large one. You might want to pick his brain on how long it might take. Not sure how he compacted it.
Get on YouTube and watch some videos of people operating different equipment and see if you think you would be comfortable operating equipment.
I've operated a skid steer for about 31 years, but I mostly just used it to unload trucks and fill hoppers so I'm not sure how fast you can dig and push dirt with one. I operated a wheeled front loader for about 11 years doing the same thing. Both of them didn't seem to hard to get the hang of. I've played a little bit on a small high lift down at the farm and you could move some dirt with it but it was harder to get the hang of. Maybe some of these guys that know more can say which equipment is easier to get the hang of. I've been planning on renting a tracked skid steer to do a few small things and play around with it just to get an idea what I can do with one.
Posted By: esshup Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/20/21 04:35 AM
Steve, don't push dirt into a dam and hope that it holds. It won't. And the cost to fix a leaky dam is the same cost as doing it right in the first place so do it right the first time and save yourself a bunch of $$.
Posted By: Bobbss Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/20/21 05:20 AM
I probably wasn't very clear with what I meant by, by the book or just build a dam and hope it holds. To me by the book means lining the whole bowl of the pond with 2' of compacted clay done in 6" lifts, after
the dam is built with a keyway with the trench for it dug down at least 3' into good clay and then a good core built and compacted all the way up. If just building a dam and not lining the bowl, I still meant for the dam to be built right. Sorry if I'm confusing. Lol!
Posted By: gehajake Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/20/21 05:45 PM
Originally Posted by Dave Davidson1
Steve, half-assed can also occur with. “Professional”

Not so much with a true professional, but with an equipment cowboy that bought a piece of equipment and therefore thinks he became an immediate pro, it happens way more then you think.
Posted By: RAH Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/20/21 06:32 PM
A lot of operators simply do not know that building a pond is more than digging a hole. I was fortunate that my first pond was built by a pond builder and that I watched and asked questions. Then I learned a lot more from knowledgeable folks on this forum.
Posted By: liquidsquid Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/20/21 07:20 PM
Rent equipment for dealing with the brush, get something with a grapple. At least with that there is low risk of goofing it up and it is fun! Certainly costs less than $2500 and IMHO is one of the small pleasures in life... burning stuff.

A question for others: Is it OK to have a bunch of ash in your basin? Wont that promote algae?

The dirt work is risky IMHO, and I don't want you going into a fit of despair when things don't go well. Especially if you suffer a breakdown or unforeseen problems with the equipment.

I would make an attempt myself if I had time and rental costs were not chewing into my retirement while it sat there on rainy days. Would love to give it a go. In fact I may go into building ponds as one of my retirement options, but I would like to get some training from someone who knows what they are doing first.
Posted By: Bobbss Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/20/21 08:11 PM
I wonder how many people actually build their pond 100% by the book with a proper dam and the whole bowl lined with 2' of clay and everything compacted with a sheepsfoot? How many Just build a proper dam? How many just push up a dam? How many compact with a dozer vs a sheepsfoot?

My pond was not built 100% by the book, and I hate to say it but it shows. It is being slow about sealing up and filling up. a sheepsfoot was not used but I think the dam was built good and holds good. The bowl was not lined and I feel that is my problem. To have built it 100% by the book with lining the bowl with 2' of clay would have more than doubled the price which I would never been given the ok on by the wife. My builder said he builds very few 100% by the book because not many want to spend that much. My pond isn't great but I would rather have the pond I have than no pond. lol!
Posted By: Steve_ Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/20/21 08:17 PM
Originally Posted by RAH
A lot of operators simply do not know that building a pond is more than digging a hole. I was fortunate that my first pond was built by a pond builder and that I watched and asked questions. Then I learned a lot more from knowledgeable folks on this forum.

You'd be surprised at how many ponds we have in this area that are literally just holes in the ground, and they seem to hold water just fine. I drive by about a dozen of them on my way to work. One is literally on a hilltop! It's small, maybe 1/10th of an acre, but it still amazes me.

@Bobbss: Yeah, I got what you meant lol. By "half-assed" I pretty much just meant that I would do the bare minimum to have a pond. I would still do a core trench/keyway and go from there. I don't need anything fancy, and I'm already happy with the depth it currently has. I just need a damn dam wink
Posted By: Bobbss Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/20/21 08:53 PM
Steve, did they dig test holes to see how for down you have to go to get to your clay and how deep it goes? I assume you plan to get the dirt for the dam out of the bowl area? How far do you think you'll have to move the dirt? That can make a big difference. Some of my dirt came from about 300' away and we ran out of dirt to hit our goal of a 26' tall dam and settled for 21'. You will be surprised at how much dirt it takes.
Posted By: Bobbss Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/20/21 09:03 PM
As Liquidsquid said, maybe rent a tracked skid steer for a day to help with clean up and play around a little so you can get a taste of what it would be like to operate one.
Posted By: Steve_ Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/20/21 11:42 PM
Originally Posted by Bobbss
Steve, did they dig test holes to see how for down you have to go to get to your clay and how deep it goes? I assume you plan to get the dirt for the dam out of the bowl area? How far do you think you'll have to move the dirt? That can make a big difference. Some of my dirt came from about 300' away and we ran out of dirt to hit our goal of a 26' tall dam and settled for 21'. You will be surprised at how much dirt it takes.

No test holes, but the entire area is pretty much all clay. Yes, the plan is to use dirt from the bowl and surrounding sides to build the dam. From north to south, the pond will be about 180' long, so that would be the max distance the dirt would need to be moved. I've heard it takes a lot of dirt, but the end of the pond furthest away from the proposed dam location is very shallow, and I know the sides can be widened quite a bit. A lot of dirt can be pulled from those locations. Worst case scenario, I'm left with a smaller pond, which isn't the end of the world. I just want a hole with water in it to raise some Blue Cats, and possibly get into a small scale aquaculture business. "Blue Cats by Mail" is an idea I've ran through my head.
Posted By: John Fitzgerald Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/21/21 04:11 AM
I think it would be hard to do with a skid steer or small excavator alone. You need to rent a Cat D5 or equivalent dozer, plus the skid steer with large bucket for moving dirt rapidly. Plus, a pull behind sheepsfoot roller would be nice, also. The pond guy around here has a well equipped Cat D6K-XL with ripper on the rear. A skid steer would probably take two weeks to do what he can do in a day, maybe even longer, or never if big rocks are involved. I don't think they rent anything that big, for transport reasons.
Posted By: esshup Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/21/21 02:27 PM
Originally Posted by John Fitzgerald
I think it would be hard to do with a skid steer or small excavator alone. You need to rent a Cat D5 or equivalent dozer, plus the skid steer with large bucket for moving dirt rapidly. Plus, a pull behind sheepsfoot roller would be nice, also. The pond guy around here has a well equipped Cat D6K-XL with ripper on the rear. A skid steer would probably take two weeks to do what he can do in a day, maybe even longer, or never if big rocks are involved. I don't think they rent anything that big, for transport reasons.

That D6K weighs around 30,000#. Here they will rent up to and including a JD850K, which weighs around 47,000#. Here for an excavator, you can get up to a Kom PC490LC-10 that has a 38' reach, 25' dig depth and has either a 48" or 72" bucket. Weight is 106,000#.
Posted By: John Fitzgerald Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/21/21 04:01 PM
The guy with the D6K-XL told me it was the largest practical dozer for him to have. Lots of bridge weight limits around here, and width limits, would severely limit the transport of a much larger machine. He has to turn his blade to the max to get inside the width limit.
Posted By: esshup Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/22/21 03:10 AM
Originally Posted by John Fitzgerald
The guy with the D6K-XL told me it was the largest practical dozer for him to have. Lots of bridge weight limits around here, and width limits, would severely limit the transport of a much larger machine. He has to turn his blade to the max to get inside the width limit.

Understood, here there aren't too many bridges and the ground is almost like a pool table.
Posted By: John Fitzgerald Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/22/21 04:16 AM
There are a huge number of small bridges around here. Can hardly go two miles without crossing one. County roads, which must be used to get to much of the work, are curvy and narrow too.
Posted By: gehajake Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/22/21 04:31 PM
A late model Cat D6 is a lot closer to 50,000 lbs then they are 30,000 lbs. actually 48 and change is the shipping weight.
Around here you can rent any size machine you desire from any equipment company, and they will do the delivery and pick up or hook you up with a trucking company that will, it may be a little expensive the bigger the equipment is because like somebody indicated, they may have to go a lot longer distance to avoid, bypass a weight restricted bridge.
Posted By: liquidsquid Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/22/21 05:23 PM
Sometimes you forget the logistics of moving large equipment. Interesting thread! Here in NY I always wondered why bridge weights seemed so excessive. Now I know. It is to accommodate construction.

The old neighbor across from me built his pond using several of those massive earth movers to dig 5 acres. When they were delivered, they closed the roads for them to pass. My neighbor had an in as he was the son of a large building and maintenance firm, so I am sure it cost someone big $$$ to transport the equipment, probably not him.

Saw/felt those machines running around, and was scared to think a large housing tract was going in. They were running 12 hours a day for several days. The pond turned out nice and held water, apart from they didn't preserve the topsoil. Nothing grows around it well so it looks a bit dumpy.

The new owners are fixing things up.
Posted By: Steve_ Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/22/21 10:27 PM
Originally Posted by liquidsquid
Sometimes you forget the logistics of moving large equipment. Interesting thread! Here in NY I always wondered why bridge weights seemed so excessive. Now I know. It is to accommodate construction.

The old neighbor across from me built his pond using several of those massive earth movers to dig 5 acres. When they were delivered, they closed the roads for them to pass. My neighbor had an in as he was the son of a large building and maintenance firm, so I am sure it cost someone big $$$ to transport the equipment, probably not him.

Saw/felt those machines running around, and was scared to think a large housing tract was going in. They were running 12 hours a day for several days. The pond turned out nice and held water, apart from they didn't preserve the topsoil. Nothing grows around it well so it looks a bit dumpy.

The new owners are fixing things up.

Just noticed you're from NY. I'm originally from the Watkins Glen area. Living in NY actually gave me my first pond fishing experience. My friend I went to school with had a pond and the Bluegills were so big, you didn't know if you hooked one of them or a Bass when you got a bite. If I knew then what I know now, I would've tried to stock some CC in there (didn't previously know that CC could live that far north).

I've been in NC now for about 12 years, but I still miss NY.
Posted By: esshup Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/23/21 03:54 AM
Not having CC in the pond isn't a bad thing. They can grow VERY large, and then they will eat the larger Bluegills. Once they surpass about 3# they will compete with the bass for fish to eat. Then if you catch one and release it, I'd place money on you not catching it again on hook and line.
Posted By: Steve_ Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/25/21 08:52 PM
Originally Posted by esshup
Not having CC in the pond isn't a bad thing. They can grow VERY large, and then they will eat the larger Bluegills. Once they surpass about 3# they will compete with the bass for fish to eat. Then if you catch one and release it, I'd place money on you not catching it again on hook and line.

True, but if you like Cats more than Bass, is that a bad thing? wink

When my pond gets finished (someday), it'll strictly be blue cats and hybrid stripers as it's main predators. I've slowly lost my love for LMB over the years.
Posted By: esshup Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/26/21 05:39 PM
Originally Posted by Steve_
Originally Posted by esshup
Not having CC in the pond isn't a bad thing. They can grow VERY large, and then they will eat the larger Bluegills. Once they surpass about 3# they will compete with the bass for fish to eat. Then if you catch one and release it, I'd place money on you not catching it again on hook and line.

True, but if you like Cats more than Bass, is that a bad thing? wink

When my pond gets finished (someday), it'll strictly be blue cats and hybrid stripers as it's main predators. I've slowly lost my love for LMB over the years.


Not a bad thing at all. I am trying to transition my personal pond over to HSB and SMB from LMB. Just remove every LMB that is caught and hope for the best.
Posted By: Steve_ Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 01/27/21 03:15 AM
Originally Posted by esshup
Originally Posted by Steve_
Originally Posted by esshup
Not having CC in the pond isn't a bad thing. They can grow VERY large, and then they will eat the larger Bluegills. Once they surpass about 3# they will compete with the bass for fish to eat. Then if you catch one and release it, I'd place money on you not catching it again on hook and line.

True, but if you like Cats more than Bass, is that a bad thing? wink

When my pond gets finished (someday), it'll strictly be blue cats and hybrid stripers as it's main predators. I've slowly lost my love for LMB over the years.


Not a bad thing at all. I am trying to transition my personal pond over to HSB and SMB from LMB. Just remove every LMB that is caught and hope for the best.

Sounds like a fun endeavor. I hope it works out for you. Someone on here once said that "If HSB could jump, no one would care about LMB anymore" and I believe it. Pound for pound, gotta be the hardest fighting fish I've ever encountered, and SMB are right up there, too.
Posted By: Xterro2021 Re: Learning to run heavy equipment - 03/02/21 04:11 AM
For example, I myself made my own pond, of course, it is small in size, it is somewhere 100 meters by 50 meters. I did it in order to breed fish in small quantities and arrange a fishing trip in order to relax with my family. The construction of the pond is not cheap and long, first, you need to start with good equipment, it is best to keep an eye on the shoes because the wet ground will just spoil it for you. I on the advice of the Internet bought a model from the top Most Comfortable Work Boots and they were very resistant to such conditions. To be honest, I was even a little shocked.
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