Build a Waterfall Garden Fountain

Your neighbors won't believe you built this gorgeous backyard water feature yourself.

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Photo by Mick Telkamp

Make a Stone Waterfall Garden Fountain

A well-placed water feature adds beauty and elegance to any yard or garden. This self-contained waterfall takes up little space, but has a big impact. Bring beauty and tranquility to the yard with this weekend DIY project.

What You'll Need

37-gallon heavy duty trashcan with lid / forty 10-1/2-inch x 7-inch x 3-1/2-inch tumbled stone bricks / twenty-six 7-inch x 7-inch x 3-1/2-inch tumbled stone bricks / seventeen 7-inch x 3-1/2-inch x 1-3/4-inch tumbled stone bricks / 1/2 HP Sump pump with 1-1/4-inch hose / two 12-inch lengths 2-inch pvc pipe / 22-inch plastic flower box / 1-1/4-inch bulkhead / 1-1/4-inch thread adapter / two 1-1/4-inch street 90-degree elbow pipes / 1-1/2-inch x 48-inch perforated angle iron / 22-inch x 39-inch piece pond liner / 26-inch x 7-inch aluminum flashing / silicone sealant / two 1-1/4-inch hose barbs with clamps / 24-inch x 24-inch metal lath or heavy screen / 24-inch x 48-inch slate slab / shovel / level / tape measure / drill with 2-1/2-inch and 1-1/4-inch hole saws / tin snips / utility knife / jigsaw

Dig Hole and Place Reservoir

Select a location and orientation for your fountain. Check with utility companies before digging, then use a shovel to dig a hole just large enough to hold your 37-gallon trash can, leaving a rise of about two inches at the surface. Use a level to make sure can rests evenly. Fill any gaps around the can and cover with lid while working to keep dirt out. This trashcan will serve as a reservoir from which water will be drawn and returned when the fountain is operating.

Level Ground

Use dirt from hole or paver base to level the ground around the reservoir and tamp down thoroughly. It is important the ground be firm and level to establish a sturdy foundation for the fountain riser.

Build Bottom Riser Tier

Using tumbled stone, create a riser tier 39-1/2 x 21 inches, with a long side resting 1 inch from the reservoir at its midpoint. Tumbled stone found at your local hardware stone is designed to provide a variety of configurations that will result in uniform dimensions. Press firmly to set tier and use a level to confirm it rests plumb and level.

Establish Pass-throughs for Water and Power Lines

Remove the tumbled stone resting at the edge of the reservoir and dig a 3-inch-deep trench from the reservoir to the open area inside the riser. Repeat this process on the long edge opposite the reservoir. Measure down 1 inch from the lip on the reservoir at the midpoint of the riser and drill a hole using a 2-1/2-inch hole saw. This hole will be used to create a pass-through for water and power lines from the sump pump.

Insert Raceway

Place a 12-inch length pvc through the drilled hole, hanging roughly 2 inches inside the reservoir. Bury pipe and replace tumbled stone above. Place a second piece of PVC in the trench opposite the reservoir, bury and replace tumbled stone.

Finish Riser

Add five more tiers of tumbled stone, using a level to confirm the riser remains square and level. Vary stone configuration of each tier to create a patchwork look. Finally, add a seventh layer, using 7-inch x 3-1/2-inch x 1-3/4-inch tumbled bricks to create a centered, half-height 24-1/2-inch-wide spillway gap facing the reservoir, as shown.

Attach Bulkhead to Diffuser

Use 1-1/4-inch hole saw bit to drill a hole in the bottom of the flower box 3 inches from a short end. Push bulkhead though the hole and secure with nut. Attach thread adapter to the bulkhead inside the box.

Assemble Diffuser

Attach a street 90-degree elbow to the thread adapter facing the center of the box and finish with second street elbow facing downward. This box will rest inside the riser and serve as a diffuser, alllowing water to pool and flow freely over the spillway to create a waterfall.

Place Sump Pump

Set sump pump in the bottom of the reservoir (pump may be placed on a paver to reduce debris intake, if desired). Water will pump through the diffuser and flow over the riser, returning to the reservoir in a closed system cycle.

Thread Plumbing and Power

Use a hose barb and clamp to attach hose to the sump pump. Push the hose and power cord from the sump pump through the raceway into the riser. Drape the hose over the top of the riser and push the power cord through the rear raceway of the riser where it can be plugged into an outlet to provide power to the pump.

Shape Mounting Bracket

Starting at one end of 48-inch-long perforated angle iron, measure and mark points at 5-1/2 inches, 13-1/2 inches, 34-1/2 inches and 42-1/2 inches. Using a jigsaw, cut one edge of the bracket at marked points and fold into a rectangle with a 10-inch open gap on one side, as shown. Trim edges as needed to allow a secure fit inside the riser. This bracket will rest inside the riser and is used to support the diffuser.

Measure Water Barrier

Place the mounting bracket in the center of a 22-inch x 39-inch piece of pond liner and mark points inside each corner.

Cut Water Barrier

Use a utility knife to cut a large "X" in the liner from marked points. This waterpoof sheet will be used to create a barrier between the diffuser and the riser to prevent overflow.

Insert Mounting Bracket

Place mounting bracket in riser so that the open side of the bracket rests on the back of the riser and the long edge rests inside the spillway (bend as needed to assure a secure fit).

Attach Diffuser

Lay the water barrier over the mounting bracket and pass the hose through the hole. Attach sump pump hose pipe to the bulkhead on the bottom of the diffuser (flower box).

Mount Diffuser

Set the diffuser inside the mounting bracket, making sure the water barrier extends beneath the lip on all sides. The diffuser will pitch slightly forward in the space to allow water to flow smoothly though the spillway.

Shape Scupper

Along one long side of aluminum flashing, mark points 1 inch from each end. Along the opposite edge, mark points 1-1/2 inches in. Use a pencil to connect the points at short ends. Bend flashing 90 degrees along pencil lines. This “scupper” will rest in spillway to direct water flow.

Place Scupper

Center the scupper in the spillway beneath the water barrier with the tall edge at the rear of the spillway. The outer edge should rest evenly along the outside edge of tumbled stones.

Fill Reservoir

Use a garden hose to fill the reservoir with water, stopping about an inch below the pass-though pipe.

Seal Diffuser Assembly

Once desired flow is achieved, turn off pump. Lift and drain diffuser and thoroughly dry diffuser, water barrier and scupper with a towel. Use silicone to line edges where the diffuser meets the water barrier and press diffuser firmly back in place. Turn up front edge of water barrier, draw a line of silicone on the top of the scupper and press barrier back in place. The silicone acts as a seal, keeping components in place and preventing water from making contact with the stone or flowing inside the riser.

Cut Reservoir Cover

Use a jigsaw or utility knife to cut away half of the trashcan lid, leaving a three inch edge to create a half-moon thorough which water may flow. Place the lid topside-down on top of the reservoir.

Cut and Place Reservoir Screen

Use tin snips to cut a half-moon of lath or heavy screen that meets the edges of the trash can lid and extends at least 3 inches beyond the center of the lid. Place screen on lid to cover the hole. This screen allows water to flow freely into the reservoir while limiting debris.

Place Cap

Once silicone seal has completely dried, turn the pump back on to confirm water is flowing correctly. If no further adjustments are needed, place a 24-inch x 48-inch slab of slate on top of the riser to cap.

Landscape It

Place rocks of varying sizes around the edges of the reservoir to obscure screen and add native plants around the site to accent its natural beauty. Avoid placing rocks under the water flow to prevent splashing that will slowly drain the system.

Light It Up

Consider accent lights to showcase this beautiful fountain after twilight.


This peaceful fountain may run full-time or put on a timer to flow only at peak times. To maintain, check water levels occasionally and top off as needed. Drain fountain during winter months to prevent damage to pipes.

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