How to Make a Garden Fountain

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easy and simple way to build a water fountain for your garden

easy and simple way to build a water fountain for your garden

My fountain built in 2005, algae aged and still running.

Garden Fountain: An Earthly Delight

What’s my sign? (I thought you’d never ask.) As a card-carrying, water-bearing Aquarian, my home is not a home if not within sight or sound of water. In 1888 with the land cleared of towering trees and groomed for farming, the view from my front porch included a sweeping panorama of Puget Sound and Mount Rainier. Thanks to a mild climate and the vigor of Northwest flora, the forests have returned to obscure the once spectacular views.

COPY CODE SNIPPET

I may have lost my look at Puget Sound, but I can capture the magic of flowing water on smaller scale in the form of a garden fountain, one that never sleeps but always soothes, as seen and heard in the video below:

How I built my garden fountain

Materials:

  • Vessel: the handsome container from which the water will overflow
  • Pump: don’t skimp, buy a good pump; they last longer and tend to be very quiet when running. And remember the higher the water has to be pumped vertically, the larger the pump that is needed.
  • Holding pan or basin: the container that houses the pump and the water source that is recirculated up through the fountain vessel.
  • Bricks or stones to cover up, hide and beautify.
  • Flexible tube: one end fits on the pump output and the other end up through a hole in the bottom of the fountain vessel.
  • Water: locate the fountain near a water source since evaporation will require refilling in dry hot months.

wading bulldog in a kiddie pool

Boz had a great idea: use a kiddie wading pool for the holding pan. A standard large fountain basin can run about $200. For  $16, I was able to substitute it for the larger version of Boz’s spa pool.

Step 1: Dig a hole the size of the pool to hold and support the basin pan. Line the sides with bricks and the bottom with flat rocks to hide the cartoon goldfish emblazoned on the kiddie pool’s fine plastic surface.

Step 2: Smooth out the soil surface around the sunken pool and lay brick or stones on outer perimeter of the pool to hid its plastic rim. Plants like ground covers will fill in the gaps in no time.

Step 3: Build a brick platform in the basin to set the vessel on. This provides clearance for the flexible pump tube to move up through the drain hole of the vessel and also creates great sound as the water trickles down from a higher point.

Step 4: Connect the flexible pipe to the pump in the holding basin, and the other end up through the platform to the fountain vessel’s drainage hole. If more than one hole, stop up the remaining ones with wine corks or drain stoppers so the water will fill up the vessel and move over the top rim.

sketch of how to build a fountain

Step 5: Plug in the pump once the basin is full of water. Remember to keep filling as the pump will move water out of the basin and into the vessel until it ultimately flows over the edge and begins to recirculate.

Step 6: (optional) I wanted to hide the electrical cord so I ran it through a hollow PVC pipe  under my brick walkway. My pump had a 16 ft. cord.

Step 7: Keep an eye on the water level. And you want to ensure good water movement to thwart mosquitoes from using the fountain as a breeding ground.

Step 8: In the winter be sure to turn off the pump during long periods of freezing weather, as cascading water will freeze on the outside of the vessel and dry up the holding basin which will burn out your pricey pump.

Alright, this Aquarian’s work is done (for now). Perhaps it’s time for a break in the hammock, where the fountain babble (and mine) is at home and at its best.

When I lived in Seattle, I fashioned this giant Jardiniere into a fountain, but when I moved it to Vashon, some bad handling ended a water tight career. Now it sits retired on a large madrona stump, a lovely relic well suited for a new role as garden sentinel.

Filters are also a nice option to help keep the water clear and clean. I use a box filter which the pump fits into like a shoebox and the pumping action creates a suction which draws all the water through the filter.

69 COMMENTS

  1. That might just be the coolest looking fountain I have ever seen. Well doned! I built a similar fountain for my mother-in-law who lives in Arizona, but we just used the pot, put the pump and fountain nozzle in the pot, covered the unsightly pump with some leftover tiles, and, voila! Instead of spilling over it just sprays up a bit and back into the same pot. Oh, we had to seal the pot first. Yours is a masterpiece. Mine, pretty simple.

      • Ilove your fountain.Ihave fish tanks.thats very comforting.I want to try the fountain this summerPut fish in it .i love listening to water flowing .your garden and home look great.bet it smells good to.i saw some wonderful ideas for bird houses intertwined in some kind of limbs..your place lookes very calming.looking forward to more love this web site excellent ideas.pintrest thank you

  2. The question is, how does poor Boz feel about losing his wading pool right before the start of summer!? Poor Boz. Clever though, and much cheaper than the basin we used for the fountain we installed recently, although it did have to hold up a massive fountain rock. I agree, don’t cheap out on the pump. A good pump, that’s a little more than you need, prevents a lot of headaches. I think the wine corks for plugging up the extra drainage holes are quite clever too…that’s something we have no shortage of here 😉

  3. Tom, I love love love your fountain! Genius to use a kiddies pool and surround it in bricks – so gorgeous! I will show this post to my DH (who happens to have a ton of Aquarius in his chart) so we can put our heads together to make a fountain too! Thanks for sharing!

  4. What a beautiful fountain! I love the design — especially the brick surrounding the pool of water. I cannot imagine my backyard without a fountain. It’s where I go at the end of the day to relax.

  5. Tom, you are so clever! I love it! Do you have any problems with raccoons dirtying up the water and clogging your pump?

  6. Anne I don’t have a raccoon problem as the vessel is to tall and slippery for them, but the one I had in Seattle became a food wash basin for crows. The bottom of the vessel looked like Tales from the Crypt when I cleaned it out. Apparently the crows loved fried chicken.

    There is a filter that I now use and really like: box filters. You simply place the pump in the box and run the electric cord through it and the outtake hose out of it to create a suction filter. I added a link to post as an example.

  7. so nice to find this sweet blog. great fountain Tom. Can you tell me what brand of hammock you have found to be good? Since you are a pro and all. thankzzzzzzzzzzz

  8. You are so lucky to be able to make such wonderful things! The Arabs always had a fountain in their courtyards, it is a tradition I really miss; the sound of the gentle water trickling down is such a soothing one. Lovely work Tom. You can start a business with this!

  9. Hi Marcia, the hammock is from Hatteras Canvas company. I bought it online about four years ago at hammockcompany.com.

    Been a great hammock, just bring it in the winter for longer hammock life.

  10. I put together a very similar fountain. I was worried that critters would fall into the basin and drown. I used grate and now stack rocks over the grate to hide it. Looking at what you have there makes me believe I should have just let nature take care of itself. Very pretty.

    • Hi Norah, you know I’ve never had any animal drown in the vessel or fountain, slugs notwithstanding. I once had a fountain that raccoons and crows used as a prep kitchen sink for their prey, but it was shaped differently with a convenient large lip at the top for sitting and eating.

  11. This fountain is gorgeous….I have a large vessel and wanted to do a water feature with it ,.,,but my options for electricity are very limited without unsightly cords showing or a major electrical job. Do they have solar powered pumps I could use?

    • Hi Karol, thank you for the nice compliment. I have tried a couple solar fountains and was disappointed with the output of each. They were better suited to a birdbaths or shallow vessels than to power a gurgling tall fountain. But I should qualify, I live in a very cloudy area with a lot of trees. And the ready made ones, fountain and all, tend to be a little cartoonish. Maybe check with a nursery or garden center and see if there’s one the staff is satisfied with in function, and one you’re satisfied with aesthetically. Good luck!

      • Hi! This is beautiful! I want my husband to build me one but we don’t know what pump to get, which brand would you recomend?? Thank you!!

        • Hi Gisela, thanks for the compliment. As far as pumps go, I really like a pump company called Beckett and I have used one called little giant and it worked fine too but hummed a little when pumping water.

  12. I would love to give this a try in the spring! However, I must admit that I know nothing about water features. What type and brand of pump do you use? I would hate to buy the wrong one. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Hillary, I really like Beckett pumps; they’re quiet and powerful. Look at the rating of flow based on height of the water, as is seen in a diagram on the box. I think I used a pump made to pump 90 gallons per hour (gph)for a three foot rise in water to the top. The higher the gph, the greater the flow and force of water.

  13. Beautiful! My only question is, do you leave it constantly running and if so, does it eat up alot of the electric bill?

  14. Thanks so much!! At my workplace, they are tearing down an old brick wall to made room for new equipment. I have been loading up the truck with re usable bricks for future garden projects….Now I have one!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  15. Hi Tom,
    Thanks so much for posting this info.. Beautiful! How do you feel about solar pumps? I’m thinking they’re a good solution to electric lines and usage but not sure they’re strong enough to make the water flow well in this situation.

    • Hi Paula, you know I’ve tried solar pumps and in the Pacific NW I’ve had minimal success. The ones I did like were simply used to circulate bird bath water so the birds would take splash baths regularly, such a fun thing to watch. There may be better ones on the market now, something I’ll likely check out in the near future. Take care and thanks for the kind words. Tom

  16. That is amazing! I will add that to my to-do list ( bullet point #869). I wonder if I can just do it on an existing pond already. You know the plastic ponds. I got several on Craigslist for free. I love the blue vase one too. My favrourite color. You are quite the builder I must say : ) !

  17. I reccomend a solar pump for constructions like that! You don’t need a plug and don’t have follow-up costs… :o)

    • I would love to find a solar pump that could manage to pump up three feet of water. I’ll keeping looking until I find one. Thanks Boory

  18. I love this idea for the water basin!!! For months now I’ve wanted to build a fountain with a water basin large like this one but it was just too pricey, SOOOO I ended up making an inexpensive fountain out of an old wheelbarrow instead, which turned out pretty cute:

    http://www.teediddlydee.com/make-cute-wheelbarrow-waterfountain/

    BUT, now that I’ve found a great inexpensive water basin idea from you, my original fountain idea is back on track! Thanks for the great tutorial! Beautiful fountain! LOVE!!! 🙂

  19. Love it Tom! I am going to do one myself this weekend. One quick question how did the kiddie pool hold up? Did you lay sand or something under it?

    • Hi Joe, the kiddie pool is still fine, and no leaks ever. The idea of sand underneath is great, but I didn’t do anything other than rake out any rocks and level the area where the pool was placed. I just kept the original soil there. Good luck!

  20. WOW!! I just love this fountain, thank you so much for your very detailed directions. I found it on Pinterest just today and I pinned it to my DIY board. I think I have the perfect spot in my back yard for it. I always put water for the birds, chipmunks and squirrels and I think they will absolutely love this.
    Thank you again for all the pictures and directions.
    Have a wonderful day!!

  21. Beautiful fountain! I love the sound of trickling water in the garden and how it attracts birds. I will have to try this in my garden. Thanks for the step by step tutorial!

  22. What did you use for the decoration on the top of the urn in the first photo? It looks like bamboo, and did you get the water to run through those as well?

    • Hi Amber, yes those are bamboo sticks which were hollow. I cut a crescent notch in the bottom so when it touch the lip of the vessel, water ran through it and out, and drip melodically in the recirculation basin.

    • Amanda I got it at a speciality pottery place in Seattle years ago, called AW Pottery. It was a second so it discounted deeply. Good luck!

  23. I am installing a 3-tiered garden fountain and the electrical cord comes up through the base in the bottom which has a 1 in pvc pipe. Once I run the electrical cord through what is the best method to use seal off so I do not have a leak? I was thinking of using some type of rubber stopper with a hole drilled for the electric cord or is there some type of plumbers putty (etc) that w0uld be better?

    • Hi James, I’m assuming the bottom tier holds the pump as a retaining “pond” and the water does not leave the lowest tier; it acts as the ground basin. With that assumption, I say use silicone caulking. The stuff is amazing, it’s super sticky, adheres to just about anything and remains pliable. Just make sure you get 100% silicone. I’ve used it in my fountains for years and also to repair cracks in vessels as well. Just make sure everything is dry when you apply it and you allow 24 hours to pass in temperatures over 50 degree Fahrenheit. Good Luck James! Example of silicone product: http://amzn.to/1Zu50Lc

  24. Hello Tom. I have the pool and a fountain from one of the big box stores. Do I need to use the bricks on the bottom or will river rock due ? I’m just worried about water getting all green. I can put it on north side of house or on east side. Do you have any suggestions as to which would be better and how to keep the green slimes from growing.? Please reply to email …
    Leaha.leef@att.net as I rarely come to Pinterest lately. Thanks so much

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