The number one, most asked question that I receive about water features is “How do I build a waterfall?”
The design of your falls will depend on topography, pump and pipe size, length of water flow from pump to falls, pond size and possibly other site-specific factors. If your pond is just 4′ x 6′, you certainly don’t want a large, three foot wide falls – keep the elements of your water feature in scale.
One of the most common mistakes results from the desire for a tall waterfall at a level building site…large amounts of soil are imported to build the falls up to a three or four foot height. Yes, you will achieve a dramatic waterfall, but the total effect will look more like an out of place volcano. A falls of just two feet will produce a very satisfactory effect both visually and audibly.
To build a waterfall on a level site, with an “average” size pond of 11′ x 16′, the amount of soil needed to surround the biological filter and create the berm is just about equal to the amount of soil excavated from the pond…it works out quite well. To further enhance or enlarge the berm, you may want to import a little more soil, large boulders or other features.
Build a Waterfall on a Slope
If you are working on a slope, you have the option of placing the biological filter (waterfall source) uphill from the pond and creating a series of cascading waterfalls.
Learn to build a waterfall in my free ebook available here.
It was definitely an exercise in visualization to determine exactly how the water would flow down the falls. I made a slight underestimation of the total flow and could have widened the falls somewhat, but the effect is very acceptable.
Even on a level site, it’s a good design strategy to place the falls six to eight feet from the pond. This will create a short stream to the pond.
Be sure to use a wide EPDM rubber liner under the falls and/or stream…this will allow for twists and turns in the course of the water and also contain splashing. A ten foot wide stream liner is recommended. Underlayment under the falls and stream liners is usually not required.
Using Stone to Build a Waterfall
When satisfied with your arrangement, use black waterfall foam to direct the water over the stone instead of under it. That is, stone that is directly in contact with the liner should sit on a bed of foam so the water goes around or over the stone instead of underneath it. Caution – the foam expands greatly…don’t use too much!
It’s a satisfying, joyful experience to build a Waterfall
Though it requires some creativity and patience, when you build a waterfall you will find it extremely satisfying. Though you should give some time to preliminary research, you’ll learn most when you actually build a waterfall- just do it! You’ll find that your water garden is the most relaxing and enjoyable part of your yard.
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About Dan Eskelson
Dan has had his hands in the soil for most of his adult life as a gardener, landscaping contractor, golf course superintendent and landscape designer. When the ground freezes, he builds websites, produces video and plays the hammered dulcimer. Full bio here.