How Do I Set Up a Backyard Waterfall?

Many people enjoy natural settings, such as a forest or stream, and try to replicate that with landscaping projects in their yards. Many people plant trees, flowers and gardens, or put up bird feeders to attract birds. You can also install water features like a fish pond, fountain or waterfall. Installing a backyard waterfall can be a fairly expensive, time-consuming project, but once you have built it, you can sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of your own private waterfall.

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You can build a small waterfall in your backyard.

Step 1

Check with your local zoning board to acquire any permits you'll need and find out local building codes.

Step 2

Decide the location for the waterfall. Build it near your deck or patio if you want to be able to sit nearby and enjoy it on a regular basis.

Step 3

Design your waterfall. Take into account how loud you want the waterfall to be. If you want to drown out sounds from the street or your neighbors' yards, use drops of at least 10 inches. To simulate the sound of a quiet stream, use drops of 2 to 4 inches. In this example, the waterfall will be built running down a hill.

Step 4

Determine the capacity of water that you will need to contain in the upper pool and lower basin of the waterfall. To do this, multiply the depth of the stream and the width of the stream to get the total number of linear feet. Multiply that number by five to get the capacity of the stream. The pool at the top and basin at the bottom of the waterfall should hold at least enough water to fit the entire capacity of the stream, although adding a little more storage to account for rain is a good idea.

Step 5

Call 811, the "call before you dig" number. This will allow your local utilities to mark any buried power lines, water and sewer pipes, natural gas lines and phone and cable lines that are buried in your yard so you know not to dig there. Besides the risk of potential injury from striking an electric or gas line, you can also face fines and have to pay for repairs to any utility lines that you damage.

Step 6

Lay down a rope or string to mark the outline of the stream and pools and paint a line following it with spray paint. The stream should be 2 to 3 feet wide.

Step 7

Dig the holes for the upper and lower pools. They should be 2 feet wider than the basin and 6 inches deeper than the basin.

Step 8

Divide the basin into thirds by drawing chalk lines around the outside of the basin. Drill holes every 4 inches in the sides of the basin. Drill 2-inch holes in the bottom third of the basin, 1-inch holes in the middle third and 3/8-inch holes in the top third. This will leave the sides of the basin covered with the different-sized holes. The holes allow water to flow freely between the basin and the surrounding pool so that the pump has an adequate supply of water to draw upon.

Step 9

Cover the holes that will hold the upper and power pools with landscaping fabric followed by a rubber liner, making sure that you remove all sharp objects from the holes first. Use enough liner material so that it extends about 2 feet out on all sides from the top of the holes. Put the basin into the bottom hole.

Step 10

Put the pump into the lower basin and connect the water line to the pump. Fill in the holes around the basin with stone. Run the other end of the water line up to the top pool.

Step 11

Dig out the areas where you want to install the waterfall. Dig vertically down to the depth of the waterfall (if you want a 10-inch-high waterfall, dig 10 inches into the ground). The top section of the waterfall should be a plateau 6 to 12 inches long.

Step 12

Dig out the streambed following the path that you marked with the paint. The stream should be 6 to 8 inches deep. Dig small pools about a foot long underneath the waterfalls to slow the flow of the water.

Step 13

Cover the streambed with landscaping fabric, followed by rubber liner on top. Use enough of both materials so that they go about 2 feet past the edges of the streambed.

Step 14

Put boulders on the edges of the streambed next to the waterfalls, putting an extra piece of the rubber liner under the boulders and at the bottoms of the waterfalls.

Step 15

Apply black expanding foam sealant to the bottom of the flat spill stones, which will be used for the water to fall onto, then put the stones on top of the liner at the bottom of the waterfalls.

Step 16

Fill the gaps between the flat spill stones and the sides of the streambed with stones and gravel. Apply the foam sealant to all of the remaining gaps so that the water is forced to flow over the top of the spill stones. Allow the foam to dry for about a half-hour, then test for leaks by running your garden hose down the waterfall. Fill in any leaks with foam.

Step 17

Put boulders around the edge of the streambed and stepping stones inside the streambed. Cover any exposed liner with gravel and small stones to hide the liner and give the waterfall a natural look.

Step 18

Spray down the streambed with your hose until the bottom basin is full.

Step 19

Take the water line from the pump out of the upper pool and turn the pump on. Keep spraying the streambed with the hose until the water from the pump is clear.

Step 20

Put the water line from the pump back into the upper pool.


Carson Barrett

Carson Barrett began writing professionally in 2009. He has been published on various websites. Barrett is currently attending Bucks County Community College, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in sports management.