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Build This Soothing Fountain in an Afternoon

Updated: Mar. 22, 2023

Inexpensive. simple to build and a great place for the neighborhood birds to freshen up!

soothing fountain complete backyard projects
This quaint fountain is proof that good things come in small packages. You can build it in an afternoon for under $80.

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This soothing fountain is a “disappearing fountain” so there’s no exposed standing water. This means there’s less maintenance since there’s less chance debris and critters will wind up in the water. Yet it provides the soothing sight and sound of running water people love. Another bonus—since birds love moving water, there’s a chance you’ll attract some of these outdoor friends. Check out these other ponds, fountains and waterfall projects you can DIY. You can personalize your soothing fountain in a number of ways:

  •  Surround it with any type of rock. We used a natural wall stone, but you can use modular concrete retaining- wall blocks, boulders or flagstone.
  • Top it off with any type of small stone. We used a decorative rock called “Western Sunset.” You can use pebbles, lava stone or special rocks you’ve collected in your travels.
  • Use any bowl, dish or plate you want for the water to splash into. The fountain shown incorporates three pieces so the water cascades from one piece into the next.

Multiple Spray Patterns:

soothing fountain small spray pattern

soothing fountain medium spray pattern

soothing fountain tall spray

soothing fountain spray pattern

All four of these interchangeable fountainheads, which provide different looks, came in one package. It only took part of an afternoon to build this soothing fountain, and it didn’t take any fancy tools.

Let’s Get Started:

The soothing fountain shown here utilizes a whiskey barrel liner from our local home center for the catch basin, but any large plastic container will do. Some garden centers sell special pond liners just this purpose. Regardless of your soil conditions, nestle your catch basin or liner into a bed of sand. This helps protect the bottom of the tub from sharp rocks and makes it easier to level the tub and the first course of rock.

Construct your fountain so you can gain access to the pump by removing a handful of rocks along with the hardware cloth trap door (Photo with step 5). This allows you to easily remove the pump for maintenance and for storing it indoors over the winter. Use a bag of sand as a workbench when drilling the holes in your bowls and dishes (Photo with step 6). It’ll provide a cushion and help prevent breakage.

soothing fountain step 1

1. Place the Water Tub

Select a location where you’ll enjoy your fountain, hollow out a 2-inch-deep area, then level in a bed of sand large enough to accommodate the plastic tub and the rock or block that will surround it.

soothing fountain step 2

2. Find a Flower Pot the Same Height as the Tub and Add Pump

Locate a sturdy plastic flower pot the same height as your plastic tub, cut a hole in the side near the bottom and feed the cord for the electric pump through it. Position this pot right side up in the center of your tub.

soothing fountain wire cloth

4. Add Hardware Wire Cloth

Cut a hole in the wire hardware cloth (available at home centers) large enough for the pump to fit through, then position the cloth over the tub and bend the edges over the tub lip.

soothing fountain add stone block

4. Add Stone Blocks Around Fountain

Surround the tub with flagstone or concrete retaining-wall blocks to match the rest of your landscape. The upper course should be about 2 inches higher than the top of the tub to help contain the decorative rocks.

soothing fountain removable trap

5. Create a Removable Trap Door

Cut a small piece of hardware cloth a few inches larger than the access hole to create a removable trap door, then cut a small opening for the pump stem. Cover the top of the hardware cloth with decorative stone.

Soothing fountain plate dish

6. Drill into Fountain Dish

Drill a hole in your fountain dish by first scoring the glaze in the center of the bowl with a light tap of a nail (we said light!), then boring a hole using a ceramic tile bit. If you need to enlarge the hole, use a larger bit or small file.

*Tip:  Have a little fun selecting your fountain dishes. It’s the perfect opportunity to use those I-never-use-’em-but-I-can’t-bear-to-throw-’em-out bowls, plates and even teapots.

Soothing Fountain add fountain head

7. Add Fountainhead of Your Choice

Install the fountainhead of your choice. Most pumps can accommodate a range of heads including mushroom-shaped, cup-shaped and fan-shaped patterns. Then fill the tub, plug in the pump and relax.

soothing fountain complete

Many large garden centers and home centers sell water garden pumps and accessories. Or you can contact:

Operating Tips

Keep your fountain liner full of water and check the level every day or so, especially in hot weather. You can use any thin stick as a dipstick to check the water level. If you run your fountain frequently and it splashes water outside the tub, you may need to refill it daily.

Plug your pump into a GFCI-protected outlet—ideally one located next to the fountain. If you use an extension cord, leave it exposed so you know where it is, and be careful with sharp garden tools and mowers. As a precaution, unplug the fountain when you’re not around to watch it (or put it on a timer). If the pump runs dry, it’ll burn out.

Most pumps will accept a variety of fountainheads. Bear in mind that with some spray patterns, all the water may not drain back into the tub. You’ll have to refill your tub much more often with this type of fountain.

Plus, check out how to build pint sized water gardens!

Project PDFs:

Click the links below to download the construction drawing for this project.

Figure A