How To Winterize Outdoor Water Fountains

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Here are eight steps to winterizing your outdoor fountain so it can provide peaceful pleasure again next spring.

Fall is the time to protect your fountain, before winter arrives. It’s important if you live where humidity levels drastically change, and especially so if temperatures stay below freezing. The latter can lead to burst water pipes and cracked basins.

“Unfortunately, some people think about winterizing during the first spring after installation, because something broke and there were leaks,” says Vince Christofora, owner of Woodstock Hardware in Woodstock, New York.

Don’t let that happening to you. Here’s how to winterize your outdoor water fountain.

Drain the Water

Timing this task is often a tough call. You want to get the most out of your fountain season without waiting too long.

“Do it around the first freeze,” says Kevin Lloyd, quality manager of Campania International, a Pennsburg, Pennsylvania manufacturer and distributor of garden accents. “One night of freezing won’t be a problem to your pipes and system, but then don’t wait. Use that first freeze as an alert to get it done.”

Be sure to take these steps:

  • Remove fish and plants, if needed.
  • Drain and disassemble portable fountains before storing them in a garage or shed. Portable fountains often weight less than 30 pounds and come with a basin, pump and tubing. With the unit disassembled, take a few minutes to clean the pump (see below) and the rest of the unit so it’s ready for spring.
  • For stationary fountains exposed to winter’s freezing temperatures, it’s a must to drain the pipes or tubing.
  • Pull the drain plug on the basin. If there’s no plug, run the pump but redirect the water away from the system.

Clear Water From Pipes

Use a small air compressor to blow water out of pipes, which prevents them from bursting during freezing spells.

“An alternative is a wet/dry vac for small jobs,” says Christofora. “Disconnect the hose from the vacuum side and attach it to the discharge side. Then configure a way to connect the vacuum hose to the piping. Your hardware store can help with connectors. Heck, duct tape works.”

Add Non-Toxic RV Antifreeze To Pipes

Drained pipes may collect water during the winter, and non-toxic RV antifreeze is added insurance against pipes bursting in winter. A small garden hose transfer pump facilitates pumping RV antifreeze into your pipes and other areas of the system where water collects.

Disconnect Power and Remove, Clean and Store Pump

“Algae and slime can cake up inside the pump,” Christofora says. So in a bucket or sink, run a solution of cleaning vinegar and water through the pump until it runs clear. Drain the solution, then store the pump in a climate-controlled environment for the winter.

Clean and Do Maintenance

A leaf blower works well to clean leaves and loose debris from in and around your fountain. Clean the basin and let it dry for 24 hours.

“This is a great time to inspect and maintain your fountain,” says Christofora. “Every three to five years, you can apply a coat of water-based natural looking clear sealant or pool paint to the surface to help protect it through the winter and into the next season. If your fountain is home to exotic plants or fish, make sure to use non-toxic products.”

Repair Cracks

To fill concrete cracks, use a hydraulic cement to stop water leaks or structural epoxy paste for anchoring and concrete repair. To secure dislodged stones so that water flows over and not under them, use non-toxic Great Stuff Pond & Stone Minimal Expanding Foam. Finally, to fix polyethylene and PVC liners — “and just about everything else,” says Christofora — there is Flexseal.

By the way: Don’t wait until spring to repair cracks. You may forget by April. Plus, as moisture collects in cracks and freezes and thaws in winter, cracks can widen.

Elevate the Fountain

Fountains may freeze to the ground and cause cracking in the base when left outside in the winter. If the fountain can’t be stored inside or in a dry covered location, Lloyd says it’s best to raise it above ground supported by boards or bricks.

Cover the Fountain

Fountains and bowls are often made of concrete. Lloyd says covering them stops the material from absorbing moisture and cracking in the winter. He recommends a UV-stabilized, breathable — not plastic — cover with a drawstring, especially if temperatures fluctuate above and below freezing. That can cause condensation to form inside the cover.

“That’s when we have problems,” says Lloyd. “The expansion and contraction of the freezing-and-thawing water can crack the concrete.” Make sure the fountain cover is taut so no snow or water can pool in the cover. Tie the opening at the bottom of the cover around the fountain.