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How to Build a Backyard Waterfall

beautiful waterfall cascading over stones

Waterfalls add an element of transcendence to any space. If you've dreamed of adding the sights and sounds of a waterfall to your backyard then you're in the right place. In this post, we'll share tips for creating the diy backyard waterfall of your dreams.

FYI: This post is about pondless waterfalls. (If you're looking for tips on adding a waterfall to a pond, reach out to our pond techs for advice.)

Benefits of Backyard Pondless Waterfalls

A pondless waterfall is a great way to get your feet wet in the world of water gardens. You get to enjoy the beauty of moving water with little maintenance. In general, they add so much allure and wonder to a landscape.

Design Inspiration: Waterfall Landscape Ideas

Get Out in Nature

Before you start on your waterfall, you need to get an idea of what you want. Look for natural streams and waterfalls in the wild for inspiration—especially pay attention to natural rock formation. State parks or conservation areas are great muses for backyard waterfall ideas. Ideas pulled from nature are going to help you create the most natural looking waterfall at home.

man taking a photo of a waterfall

Look for Backyard Examples

Do you know someone that has built a backyard waterfall? Ask them to see it or to send you photos. Also, check out the examples below from some of our customers and pond tours we've attended.

landscape waterfalls build by professionals

These examples were built by professional contractors, but they are great inspiration for your DIY project! The waterfall on the left was built by Chris S. of Nature's Re-creations, and the feature on the right was built by Casey L. of Leemon Waterscapes.

beautiful diy waterfall

This waterfall was built with the Aquascape Backyard Waterfall Landscape Fountain Kit. Photo submitted by customer Cindi R. who gives all the credit for this work of art to her sister-in-law Gail M. Kudos to you both on a job well done!

Building Your Waterfall

First: Choose an Ideal Location

The first decision you'll need to make when building your waterfall is where to put it. Choose a location where you will have the most viewing enjoyment.

Think of the views from the windows in your house. Is there a location where you will be able to see the waterfall from several windows, from a feature window or from your bedroom?

Also, you're totally free to put this waterfall anywhere in your yard. Of course backyards are a popular location, but many people build waterfalls in their front yard, too. They make for great sidewalk appeal.

Avoid building your waterfall in low spots. These areas can collect excess water, leading to poor drainage and potential flooding of the area. It's best to choose a location with good natural drainage or to incorporate proper grading and drainage features during construction to prevent these issues.

The Underground Reservoir

Every backyard waterfall (that's pondless) needs an underground reservoir. Reservoirs catch the falling water in a pool beneath the base of your waterfall. Then a pump located within the reservoir pushes the water back up through your system.

Burying your reservoir at the base of your waterfall allows for endless circulation of water. This also makes your feature appear more natural.

Reservoirs for Smaller Builds

If you are working on a smaller build then you can utilize a fountain basin. These are solid plastic reservoirs that typically come as a part of a kit.

The reservoir houses your pump and can usually hold up to 100 gallons. On average a plastic reservoir like this can support up to a 6' stream.

Reservoirs for Larger Builds

Bigger systems require more excavation. Dig your hole in a square or rectangular footprint. As you're digging, pile your dirt next to the project. You'll need this later to build your waterfall.

When digging is complete, line the space with underlay and then a rubber pond liner. This will hold the water.

Initially, you'll notice a lot of negative space. Fill the remaining space with matrix boxes. Matrix boxes are mutli-panel plastic blocks (similar to a milk crate).

These boxes/blocks occupy the space without displacing much water. They can hold 1000s of pounds, so you can put heavy landscaping rocks on top. Use a pump vault to hold your pump in the reservoir space. (The vault should come with plumbing options and will have a lid to use for easy access to your pump.)

Once you have your pump placed and your space filled with matrix boxes, cover the reservoir with river stones and gravel. Make sure your gravel size is large enough that it won't fall through the holes of the matrix boxes.

hand built water feature

Impressive cascading waterfall built by our customer, John H.

Creating the Waterfall

Form your Structure

Use your dirt pile from the reservoir to build up your waterfall. Tamp it and cut in stair-steps with a flat shovel. Once you're happy with it, add liner on top.

Add Waterfall Liner (Pond Liner)

Think of this as a stairwell. If you run water down it, the water is going to run off the sides. Bring your liner up along the side walls. Ensure it will run down the waterfall to the reservoir.

Most of the time 6" brought up and over is enough, but it depends on your build and the stone size you are using. Just make sure you bring it up enough to channel the water down to your reservoir.

Add a Spillway/Diffuser

Add a waterfall spillway at the top of the waterfall. These are flat plastic diffusers that will project water off the entire width of the mouth piece to create a beautiful flow of water. Lay your spillway on top of your liner, connect it to your plumbing and then use boulders, gravel and plants to conceal.

aquascape large kit

Waterfall Kits

Buying a backyard waterfall kit is in your best interest if you haven't built a water feature before. A kit is going to provide all the supplies you need except rocks and standard tools (like a shovel). We carry kits that range from small backyard waterfalls to waterfalls with a 30' stream! See our large range of options here.

All the kits we carry are fantastic, but here are a few of our favorites.

Small Waterfall Kits

In the small waterfall kit category we love the Aquascape Backyard Waterfall Landscape Fountain Kit. This kit comes with the AquaBasin 45 which simplifies the reservoir setup. Drop it in, and you're done!

Medium Waterfall Kits

For medium kits we highly recommend the EasyPro Just-A-Falls Kits. These come with a low profile diffuser that have plumbing options on the left or right side (making for easy plumbing). Just close up the side you don't use with the provided plug.

Flexible PVC comes in this kit. Compared to kink-free tubing, which can split over time, flexible PVC is rugged and durable.

We also like that the kit comes with reusable waterfall foam. Because the foam in this kit has a straw applicator you can pull it back and cap for reuse. Most foam is not reusable, so this is a bonus.

Large Waterfall Kits

Aquascape offers four large packages that we enjoy. Three different pump options are available. This gives you autonomy to choose your preference. And each includes a 26' stream!

They also offer a deluxe kit that comes with color changing lighting and app control. Change anything in the app from the speed of the pump to the light display.

Rocking

Let your creativity shine with your rocking. Before making anything permanent, it's best to dry stack your stone. Play with your arrangement until you're happy with it, and then outline stone placement with chalk.

Move the stones then spray down expanding waterfall foam. Place your stones back in their spots on top of the foam. Then use foam to fill in negative spaces between stones where you don't want water to leak out.

Use gravel to hide the drying foam. Throw it on while the foam is still tacky and tap it into the foam for secured placement.

Pro Tip: For moving heavier stones, use an extra piece of underlayment kind of like a sling. For your smaller stones, just have a 5 Gallon bucket available for moving around.

Maintaining your Waterfall

After some time you will likely see green algae form on rocks in your waterfall. Granular algaecides are a great solution for this. When using, first turn off your pump. Then sprinkle the granular algaecide on the stones while they are still wet.

You'll see bubbling on your stones as an oxidation reaction occurs. After about 15 minutes, turn the pump back on and watch all the green release down from the stones.

Lay a net or old beach towel at the base of your waterfall, and allow the net or beach towel to catch the newly released algae debris. Then remove and shake the dead algae out away from the waterfall. This will prevent the debris from entering your reservoir and potentially clogging your pump.

Summary

Waterfalls in the backyard are a wonderful way to elevate the ambiance of your outdoor space. We recommend using one of our kits and the directions provided in this post to make the process a breeze.

If you have any questions along the way don't hesitate to reach out to us. We have highly trained techs that love talking water features. They'll help you create the waterfall of your dreams!


Feature post photo courtesy of Casey L. of Leemon Waterscapes.

Article Posted: 03/19/2024 03:56:21 PM

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