How To Build a Waterfall

IMG_20150419_132056I love the idea of having a water feature in my yard.  It’s unique, relatively simple to assemble, and creates the soothing sound of running of water to help unwind after a hard day at work.

The cool thing about a water feature is that you do not have to stick to the traditional idea of a waterfall or a fountain.  I have included a picture of the water feature in my back yard using stuff I had already had.  The only thing I needed to buy was the pump and the hose.

Despite the prolific DIY websites, I had a very difficult time trying to find a simple to follow how-to when it came to my water feature.  So, I figured I would create my own guide and let it loose on the web.  Remember, you can use just about anything to create a cool, unique water feature for your yard.  Get creative and put some unused item you have lying to good use!

Below is a supply list for the Traditional Waterfall:

  • Pond Liner
  • Submersible Pump (with the correct pressure depending on how big or small your waterfall)
  • Hose for pump
  • Sand (for leveling the pond liner)
  • Shovel
  • Metal paint liner (you’ll see why) or a waterfall tray (you can buy these at home improvement stores where you find the pump and the pond liner)
  • Rocks.  Lots of rocks.

Step 1: Where do you want your water feature to go and what will it look like?

This is step is very important.  You need to find an area that not only looks nice with a water feature, but also is close enough to an outlet for the pump.  If you are making a submerged pool, then the area will need be dig-able (yes I just made up that word).  Take your time planning where you want the waterfall to go, it’s hard to move once installed.  🙂

Step 2: Dig a hole

A really simple way to make sure your hole is big enough is to flip your pond liner over (if you bought the rigid kind, not the plastic sheeting) and trace out the shape of the liner on the ground.  You will need to dig wider than the liner, and deep enough so the liner can be submerged into the hole.

Note: You can submerge partially and line the lip that is exposed with rocks or other garden art to hide it.

Step 3: Insert the liner and make sure it’s level

Once your hole is dug, you’ll need to make sure the liner is level.  We don’t want the water spilling out one side.  This is where the sand comes in handy.  Pour sand into the hole so the liner is level when it sits on top of the sand.

When you are satisfied with the results, insert your liner and use dirt from your recently dug hole to pack in the sides.  Makes sure it’s nice and snug.

Step 4: Place your pump and hose

This is where I originally messed up my waterfall.  I put the pump in last.  NOT GOOD.  I had to disassemble all of my neatly piled rocks in order to hide the hose and the power cord.  If I had done this step before placing my rocks, I could have saved an hour and heavy lifting.

Do not plug in your pump yet (needs water), but make sure the power cord reaches the outlet.  Insert your hose into the correct nozzle on the pump and maneuver the hose so you can place rocks around it and it is hidden from view.

Step 5: Place your rocks

This step is usually the most time consuming, especially if you are using natural stones that are not all the same and vary in shapes, sizes, and colors.

Here are some tips to move this process along.

  • Start with larger stones at the base. I ran a ring around the pond liner and then built up from there at one end.
  • LEAVE AN OVERHANG!  This is very important and another mistake I made when I built the waterfall the first time.  Figure out which part you want to build up for the cascading water.  When you place your rocks on that side, make sure they are hanging far enough over the pond liner so that water will flow into the pond liner and not run outside of it.  Water has tricky properties.  Use rocks that have a natural slant or grooves to direct the flow of water.
  • Don’t forget to work your rocks around the power cord and the hose.  You don’t want rocks to pinch the hose preventing water flow, nor do you want to sever your power cord.
  • Build up tall enough (or keep short enough) depending on your water pump.  The one I bought was $29.99 from Lowe’s and had pressure for a distance UP between 3 – 5 ft.  Remember that this is measuring from the PUMP not the surface of the water.  If your pool is deep, take that into consideration.
  • Pick out a rock that will work well to direct the water that is propelled out of the hose.  If you want the cascading water to hit rocks as it descends, then set the angle of your stones back a little bit and make sure stones the water hits are flat and slanted toward the pond liner.  If you want the cascading water to hit JUST the water in the pond liner, then go more straight up than at an angle.  It’s all about personal taste.
  • If you can’t find a rock the directs the water well enough for your liking, use either a waterfall pan or a metal paint tray.  I used a paint tray and was able to bend it to the perfect shape.
  • Keep a few rocks aside to hide tray (if using) and to use as a capstone (the rock that goes at the top).
  • Most importantly, take your time and experiment with what works best.  This took me a while to work out and I changed the design several times before I was happy with it.

Step 6: Fill your pond and plug it in!

After you have some water flowing in your waterfall, you may need to revisit Step 5 and reconfigure your rocks.  That’s ok!  Don’t get frustrated, just keep experimenting and be creative and flexible with your design.


How To Build a Waterfall — 1 Comment

  1. I too love the sound of running water in the garden. We had a waterfall and a small stream that we created ourselves at our previous home. Our youngest son bought it so we still get to enjoy it when we visit. I wanted one here, but this time we opted to hire it done. It’s a pond less waterfall that flows down at the end of one of our rock walls. I love it! Thanks for sharing these great instructions with SYC.

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