Stone fountains make a wonderful focal point or conversation piece for your patio landscaping. They sometimes consist of granite pieces (as in this project) with holes drilled through the rock to accommodate the tubing. My 24-inch-tall granite column cost $250 (U.S.) and has a circular "window" sculpted out of the rock, about 3/4 of the way up. The hole into which the tubing will be fed resides at the very bottom of the granite; the other hole, through which the water will spout, is found at the bottom of the circular window.
Such stone fountains typically stand on a grate spanning a pond, with both grate and pond concealed by rocks. As a cost-cutting measure, I improvised by using a firewood grate (the kind that holds logs near a fireplace) that I happened to have lying around, rather than going out and buying a grate specifically for this project.
- Preformed pond liner
- Tubing for the pump
- River rock
- Other assorted rock
- The stone fountain piece, itself
- Carpenter's level
- Back brace
This project is simple, but not easy on the back; thus the inclusion of the last supply mentioned. Those not in good physical shape are advised to have someone else move granite rock pieces of this sort into place, as they are quite heavy.
Since some people refer to such water features as "rock fountains," I use "stone fountains" and "rock fountains" interchangeably in this article.
In Step 2 we'll excavate to begin the stone fountain installation....
How to Install Rock Fountains: The Pond
Installation of rock fountains begins by excavating for the preformed pond liner, but excavation begins by establishing a safe power source for your pump (unless you already have one). Have a certified electrician install a GFCI outlet on your outer house wall, near where the rock fountain will be.
Speaking of safety, another step precedes the installation proper: calling the Call Before You Dig phone number. Why take a chance on severing a utility cable?
As said on Page 1, the granite piece will rest over a pond, supported by a grate. To create the pond, insert a preformed pond liner into the ground. I already had my preformed pond liner in place, since I merely swapped out a prior fountain I had in this area for my new rock fountain.
Here's how to install the preformed pond liner:
- Excavate the pit into which the preformed pond liner will be inserted. To begin, flip the preformed pond liner upside down and trace around it so that you'll know exactly how big a circle to dig out.
- How deep should you dig? Use the depth of the preformed pond liner as a guideline. I would not worry excessively, however, over being off slightly, since we'll be using sand later to make any alterations deemed necessary.
- Insert the preformed pond liner.
- The top rim of the preformed pond liner should stand about an inch above ground level. Don't worry about its showing: you'll be concealing it with rocks in step #9. I have placed some rocks around it temporarily in the picture above just to give you a foretaste of that concealment.
- Check that the preformed pond liner is level, using a carpenter's level. How did you do? Is it even? If not, take out the preformed pond liner and make the necessary adjustments by moving the sand around (or adding or removing sand).
With the excavation for the rock fountain's pond out of the way, in Step 3 we'll move on to what goes on top of that pond....
Metal Grate: Some Improvising
Stone fountains such as the granite piece I used have a hole at the bottom, where you insert the pump's tubing. But the stone fountain, for that reason, needs to be elevated off the pond's bottom (so that you have access to this hole). The solution is to use a metal grate that will support the stone fountain. The tubing needs to be able to move freely underneath both the stone fountain and the metal grate.
A number of different kinds of metal grates would work here. Some might run across the top of the pond liner; unless very sturdy, this type might need to be supported by cinder blocks placed in the pond. Depending on the material of your grate and on your personal preferences, you may wish to paint the grate to prevent rusting (thanks to reader, Carole for this suggestion).
My grate (shown in the picture here, along with the pond liner) is a bit different because, as mentioned earlier, I improvised and used a cast iron grate meant for holding firewood. As you can see from the picture, this metal grate will fit nicely within my pond liner. I had it on hand and figured, "Hey, after spending $250 on a hunk of rock, why not save a little money?"
In Step 4 you'll see the metal grate in action....
Installing the Fountain Pump
Now we begin the stone fountain project in earnest! Place the fountain pump (with its tubing attached) on the bottom of the pond liner, and place the grate over it. My grate has legs to keep it elevated, providing a nice "housing" for the pump and allowing me to maneuver the tubing at will. Further facilitating access to the tubing is the fact that the grate doesn't cover the entire surface of the pond: there's room for me to slip my hand underneath the grate -- both at the front and at the back.
In Step 5, we'll place the stone fountain on the grate, and in Step 6 we'll thread the tubing through the grate and on up through the granite piece's bottom hole....
Placing the Granite on the Grate
The last major element in building the stone fountain needs to be moved into position now: the granite piece.
Position the stone fountain in the approximate center of the grate. Now reach under the grate to check for the hole at the bottom of the granite piece. If the grate is blocking the hole at all, move the stone fountain slightly -- until you have clear access to the hole.
With the stone fountain now situated properly, in Step 6 we'll thread the tubing through it....
Plumbing Rock Fountains
If you've done everything correctly up to this point, plumbing the rock fountain will be easy:
- Just reach down under the grate and locate the free end of the tubing.
- Thread the tubing through the grate and up into the hole at the bottom of the rock fountain.
- Guide the tubing the rest of the way through the rock fountain, until it reaches the top hole (in the picture I have the tubing sticking out even further, just to make it easier for you to see it; I pushed it back down some prior to moving on to the next step).
In Step 7 the project really gets fun: we turn the water on....
The Fountain Jet: A Bubbling Spring
With the plumbing in place, now it's time to fill the pond liner with water and turn the pump on, just to verify that everything is in order before proceeding.
As my picture shows, the fountain jet isn't high. In this case, the fountain jet is meant to remind one of a bubbling spring.
In Step 8 we'll begin to provide the finishing touches on the stone fountain project....
How to Make a Stone Fountain: Finishing Touches
While the stone fountain will be perfectly functional at this point, it needs some finishing touches -- for decorative purposes. People generally don't want the grate to show, because it isn't especially attractive. The idea is to hide the grate and make it look like the stone fountain is rising out of the ground. So the final steps in making a stone fountain usually involve concealing the grate with rocks.
I began by laying out two types of rocks in the driveway and hosing them down, to clean them: polished river rocks that I had bought and other rocks (mainly flat rocks) I already had around the yard.
In Steps 9 and 10 I'll discuss the uses for each type of rock....
A "Pondless" Rock Fountain
This rock fountain is a "pondless" water feature in the sense that, at the end of the project, the pond will be totally hidden from view and serve merely as a reservoir. Pondless fountains are safer to have around children than are open water features. Not only the pond, but the grate, also, will be concealed.
How is this concealment accomplished? Through the rocks I showed in the prior step: flat rocks and river rocks. The picture in the present step shows what the project looked like before I added river rocks. The flat rocks take up a lot of space, quickly concealing most of the pond and grate.
Incidentally, concealing the pond in this way with stone to make a pondless rock fountain creates a sort of "cavern," which improves the quality of the sound of the cascading water.
I reserved my river rock for the area where the water cascading down from the fountain will land; we'll see the river rock in Step 10....
Adding the Polished River Rock
If I had wanted to achieve a "Zen" fountain look, I would have created a neat, solid circle of the polished river rock around my fountain. To do so, however, would have required far more polished river rock than what I had. Instead, I used other rock (mainly flat rocks) that I had at my disposal to fill up most of the space around my fountain -- and to cover my grate, so that the polished river rock wouldn't fall through (see Step 9).
The river rock serves as an accent at the base of my stone fountain, but it would also serve a practical purpose if I were using a more powerful pump: having smaller, rounded rocks in that spot would mean less splashing and, consequently, less water loss. The cascading water would gently strike the polished river rock and ease back down into the reservoir of the pond liner underneath the fountain.
The following link will take you back to Step 1, where you can review my picture of the completed stone fountain. Or if you do not need to review, maybe you would like some ideas for water garden plants suitable for small ponds.