How to Build Outdoor Waterfalls Inexpensively

How to Build Outdoor Waterfalls Inexpensively

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Project Overview

Total Time:
1 day

Skill Level:

In planning to build outdoor waterfalls, you need to concentrate on two structures: the pool into which the water falls and the cascading structure for the waterfall itself. The latter is often the more difficult to build, but you can learn how to build it in a way that is not only simple but cheap. It involves using rock, which many homeowners have right in their own backyard (or can find readily elsewhere). Once these two structures are in place, you'll use a pump in the pond to keep water recirculating from the pond to the top of your waterfall, whence it can plunge back down to the pond.

Outdoor waterfalls come in all shapes and sizes and make for emphatic focal points. When mulling over your design options, the main consideration is how to achieve the necessary height for the waterfall. Often, a landscape designer exploits a slope on the property, or else (if the whole property is level ground) erects a berm (i.e., an artificial slope) to create such an area behind the pond. Either way, it means a lot of work. And it won’t be cheap, either. When building such large outdoor waterfalls, you must lay down a flexible liner on the ground between the top of the waterfall and the pond to channel the water. Boulders are then placed on the liner to hide it and hold it down.

Unless you're building an outdoor waterfall of large dimensions, such work and expense are unnecessary. Indeed, many homeowners who are landscaping in small spaces would prefer a smaller waterfall, as long as it brings the wonderfully soothing sound that results from water striking water. One alternative is to use pre-cast concrete forms that mimic stone for the cascading structure. They're compact and easy to install, as they're simply stacked up over the edge of the pond. But they cost money. If you have access to natural rocks, why not take advantage of a free resource? That's the route we take in this outdoor waterfall project.

Another alternative, by the way—if all you care about is having cascading water (as opposed to a genuine waterfall)—is to make a cascading clay pot fountain.

You should be able to buy the pump, tubing, and rigid pond liner that you'll need to build backyard waterfalls at major hardware chains. You'll want to buy a flower pot, too, for reasons that will be explained later in the article.

See if you can find 25 to 30 rocks. A mixture of sizes and shapes is fine, but include at least a few large, flat rocks. This is a dry wall project, so it is certainly to your advantage to have flatter rocks whenever possible: They’re easier to stabilize. You’ll use the sand to supply adjustable flooring for your rigid plastic pond liner. Along with a carpenter’s level, this will come in handy when you attempt to get your pond liner to sit level in its hole.

Before You Start

Before doing any digging for outdoor waterfalls, have a certified electrician install a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet near where the pond and waterfall will be if you don’t already have one. You should also call the Dig Safe phone number to make sure your digging for an outdoor waterfall and pond won’t damage any buried utility lines.

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