Installing a Water Feature
Photo of a water feature swimming pool by Hickory Hollow Landscapers/Flickr.
Installing a water feature can turn a garden, deck, or patio into a pleasant oasis, add value to a home, and cut down on noise from the outside. Such projects vary in size and complexity, but many can be done in a weekend, especially with a team of people to help out with some of the more physically demanding tasks like digging. For those who want to have a go themselves instead of hiring a contractor for the task, it’s actually quite easy, and can be a great introduction to expanding your landscaping skills.
Start by thinking about what kind of water feature you want and where you want to install it. Take some time to consider whether you want a pool of water that could potentially house fish and aquatic plants, or a more low-maintenance gravel fountain. Other water features can include rocks with cascading falls of water, metal or ceramic vessels that pour water, or simple bubbling fountains. Size is also an important factor; smaller is cheaper and easier, but maybe you want to go big to make a water feature a focal point in the garden.
Positioning is another key issue. If you plan to grow plants or have fish, be aware that a water feature in full sun can get too hot, and may be a hostile environment. Predators can also be a concern with fish; you may need to place your water feature in a hidden area of the garden, or cover it with netting, to make it less appealing to birds, raccoons, and other interested visitors. You should also set up your water feature well away from tree roots, as they can gradually grow into the liner and cause leaks.
You may find it helpful to bring in the rocks and other materials you’ll be using and loosely arrange them in the spot you’re considering to see if they look and feel right. Once you start feeling confident about the placement of a water feature, you can outline the area you’ll be using in spray paint, lawn chalk, or a similar material.
Whether you’re building a pool or a gravel reservoir, you’ll start by digging a hole and lining it with underlayment and then material specifically designed for water features, to prevent leaks. You can also pour concrete, although that will require more time and some extra skills—as well as commitment, because uninstalling your water feature will be a tough job with hardened concrete in place. Make sure to remove large rocks, roots, and debris that might poke through the liner. For a basic gravel reservoir, you can keep the hole relatively shallow and line it with buckets and gravel, with a hidden pump to recirculate the water. For a proper pond, you’ll want the hole to be deep, at least on one end.
Using the rocks you’ve gathered or purchased, you can create an artful array of stone and other materials, if you like, above the water line. For a pool with no running water, you’ll still want a bubbler or aerator to help keep the water clean. For running water, you’ll need a pump with lines running to the place where you want the water to emerge. One option is to run line through a drilled stone so water bubbles out at the top of the water feature, pours over the rock, and recirculates through the fountain. You can also set up a spray fountain or other design to get water moving.
Make sure to use pumps, wiring, and lines approved for use in landscaping and water features, to ensure that they won’t break down over time. Protection of the electrical wiring is especially important, as electricity and water are not a friendly combination. If you want your water feature to run independently, you can set up a solar panel to power it, which can also eliminate the need for running wiring from the house or a nearby structure.
If your pump starts making strange sounds, it may be clogged or in need of more water. Try adding water to the water feature to see if that resolves the issue, and if it doesn’t, you’ll need to turn the pump off, pull it up, and clear any filters and grates. Installing pumps inside a crate or filter cage can help reduce the risk of clogs to keep the pump running smoothly.
s.e. smith writes for Networx.com.
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