Do It Yourself Backyard Water Gardens: How To Build A Waterfall

Building a backyard waterfall can be done with the correct preparations.

Nothing is more relaxing and beautiful than the soothing sounds coming from a waterfall. Adding this feature to an existing pond or a pond under construction will pay off for years to the homeowner. Not only are they relaxing, but also they are beneficial to any fish that may reside in the pond by aiding in the aeration of the pond. Even though each site is different and requires site-specific techniques, having a beautiful backyard pond complete with a waterfall is possible.

Studying the design and choices available for the waterfall is an important first step when planning for the perfect waterfall construction. Reviewing different waterfalls, real and manmade, in person or in pictures, while taking notes and or pictures, is a good way to get a feel for different types of waterfalls available and to decide on the perfect one. The waterfall should match the pond in relationship to size and should fit into the environment of the backyard. The homeowner or designer of the waterfall must decide on a waterfall with a more formal appearance or a more natural appearance and should sketch any thoughts. When designing a waterfall, try to incorporate a slight turn or two into the design for more interest. Catch basins or plateaus are also important when designing a backyard waterfall. These catch basins or plateaus actually hold water when the falls are not in service making things look better. Another design element to consider is the height of the waterfall. The backyard waterfall should not be extremely high, especially if the pond is one of smaller size, which would include ponds up to 120 gallons. A waterfall of about eighteen inches above the pond surface is excellent.

Selecting a site for the waterfall is important as well. When choosing a site, choose one with level, well-drained soil. The site should have access to a direct line for electricity. Most pumps are use electricity so this is important. Do not choose a site over any existing underground pipes, cables, sewer lines or septic lines. The site will also need a nearby faucet in order to add water when needed. Other things to consider are the proper balance between sun and shade, especially in the pond area, as the plants and fish will need both. Avoid placing the waterfall and ponds to near large trees; large trees often produce large amounts of leaves, which make cleaning the pond and waterfall a fulltime job. Avoiding areas with strong winds is important to prevent debris from falling into the waterfall and causing problems. It is always a good idea to choose one or two alternate locations incase the original site does not work out.



Building the waterfall can occur after the site is determined. To begin, it is necessary to build up the ground on a level area measuring approximately six foot square. Use the displaced soil from the pond area to build this elevated area. Several rocks, placed on this newly elevated area will form a U shaped, rough trough. The bottom of the U is the highest point of the falls and the U will open toward the pond. Set the stones in dirt so they will not move. Add more dirt between the rocks, causing the dirt to slope down toward the pond. Next, a flexible liner placed over the dirt will form the catch basin for the falls. This liner will overlap with the pond liner at the base of the falls keeping any leaks running into the pond. Constructing a concrete trough is next. Do this by placing wire mesh over the liner as reinforcement for the concrete, and then creating a three-inch thick trough over the liner. Let this cure for at least a week. After curing, use mortar and rocks to cover the concrete trough and to make it look natural. After that, build a pool at the top of the falls using mortar and flat rocks. To the edges of the trough, add small fieldstones set in mortar to hide exposed concrete and build up the sides of the trough to avoid too much water loss from splashing along with any bare spots. When the mortar work is finished, add loose fieldstone on top of the original base stones to fill any areas where concrete is showing through or to create a more natural shape to the whole mound of rocks. Finally, a four-inch black ABS pipe from a biofilter carries gravity flowing water or water from a correctly chosen pump to the upper pool built into the trough and hidden by more fieldstones in the pool. For maintenance, installing a three-inch drain at the lowest pool on the waterfall prior to the water returning to the pond provides the owner with the ability to open this drain and literally hose down the waterfall. Eliminates waste collected in the waterfall from entering the pond. Use a simple ABS male threaded cleanout plug in this drain.

Building waterfalls can be fun whether you build it as instructed above or use a fiberglass unit complete with synthetic rocks. Either way, all will enjoy the beauty and soothing noises that provided by the waterfall as well as the extra aeration for the fish.

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