Build a Soothing Fountain
Inexpensive, simple to build and a great place for the neighborhood birds to freshen up—that's my kind of fountain!
By Spike Carlsen, Stillwater, Minnesota
This quaint fountain is proof that good things come in small packages. I was able to build it in an afternoon for under $80. It's a "disappearing fountain" so there's no exposed standing water. This means there's less maintenance since there's less chance debris and critters will wind up in the water. Yet it provides the soothing sight and sound of running water people love. Another bonus—since birds love moving water, there's a chance you'll attract some of these outdoor friends.
You can personalize your fountain in a number of ways:
- Surround it with any type of rock. We used a natural wall stone, but you can use modular concrete retaining-wall blocks, boulders or flagstone.
- Top it off with any type of small stone. We used a decorative rock called "Western Sunset". You can use pebbles, lava stone or special rocks you've collected in your travels.
- Use any bowl, dish or plate you want for the water to splash into. We used three pieces so the water cascades from one piece into the next.
Let's Get Started
We used a whiskey barrel liner from our local home center for the catch basin, but any large plastic container will do. Some garden centers sell special pond liners just for this purpose.
Regardless of your soil conditions, nestle your catch basin or liner into a bed of sand. This helps protect the bottom of the tub from sharp rocks and makes it easier to level the tub and the first course of rock.
We constructed our fountain so we could gain access to the pump by removing a handful of rocks along with the hardware cloth trap door. This allows us to easily remove the pump for maintenance and for storing it indoors over the winter.
Use a bag of sand as a workbench when drilling the holes in your bowls and dishes. It'll provide a cushion and help prevent breakage.
Many large garden centers and home centers sell water garden pumps and accessories.
Keep your fountain liner full of water and check the level every day or so, especially in hot weather. You can use any thin stick as a dipstick to check the water level.
Plug your pump into a GFCI-protected outlet-ideally one located next to the fountain. If you use an extension cord, leave it exposed so you know where it is, and be careful with sharp garden tools and mowers.
As a precaution, unplug the fountain when you're not around to watch it (or put it on a timer). If the pump runs dry, it'll burn out.
Most pumps will accept a variety of fountainheads. Bear in mind that with some spray patterns, all the water may not drain back into the tub. You'll have to refill your tub much more often with this type of fountain.