Installing a Fountain Tips

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Easy Fountains to Install

Avid garden enthusiasts dig into installing complicated in ground garden pond fountains and intricate landscaping schemes. For those who prefer a more simplistic approach for a beautiful backyard setting, free-standing fountains, statuary fountains, bamboo fountains and patio tabletop or wall mounted fountains offer almost instant sensory appeal to an outdoor setting with minimal installation time and labor.

Picture sipping a glass of wine or cup of coffee or tea in a tranquil Zen-like garden with a bamboo fountain. Water creates a soothing background, flowing trough the bamboo chutes and into a bowl of natural river stones. Installation involves minimal assembly, filling the basin with water and plugging it into a GFI electrical outlet. Add elegance to any garden setting with a statuary fountain. Introduce the rich patina of a three to nine leaf sculpted copper fountain to a sunroom or covered patio. Fill, plug in and enjoy. Or, install a custom water fountain and treat patients or customers in a waiting area to a soothing respite from the clamor of the outside world.

What considerations do I need for a tabletop fountain pump?

Considerations For Your Tabletop Fountain Pump

If you're purchasing a tabletop fountain, it should come with its own pump. However, if you're planning to make your own fountain, you'll have to find your own pump. So what things do you have to consider when you get a pump for a homemade tabletop fountain?

  • Get a submersible pump that has two speed settings. That way, you have some room for adjustments and flexibility.
  • Remember to read through the instructions and follow the safety recommendations. You should always use a grounded outlet for your submersible pump.
  • You'll need to conceal your pump in some manner to make your fountain more attractive. A container placed upside down will do. But if you want to go the decorative route, you can use thin, wide rocks to create an enclosure. Slate will work well if you want to create a den for your pump.
  • Take care to make sure your pump is protected from the weight of the rocks and other items above. Whatever enclosure you decide to use should be fairly stable and protect the pump from any pressure.

Do I need to address any specific concerns about the base of my outdoor fountain?

Getting Your Outdoor Fountain On A Steady Base

Because of the size and composition of an outdoor fountain, you want to make sure that you position it in a sturdy location. You don't want to face the problem of a fountain that could suffer damage or injure someone around it. That's why we've put together a few things for you to consider to get your outdoor fountain on steady footing.

  • Unless your outdoor fountain is a wall-mounted version, you'll want to make sure you're placing it on solid, level ground.
  • If you have a smaller outdoor fountain, installation will be easier and you won't have to worry as much about supporting it. You probably only need to place the fountain on a precast concrete walking path pad.
  • If you have a larger fountain, you'll need to consider the support. Large fountains can weigh over a ton. In addition to their size, they hold more water, further adding to the weight. Large fountains typically need a steel-reinforced concrete base.
  • If the concrete base doesn't agree with your sense of aesthetics, you can cover it with brick paving or natural stone to soften the effect. Adding color pigments to concrete or using a stamping kit to add texture to concrete is another option.

How do I deal with supplying electricity to my outdoor fountain?

Supplying Electricity For Your Outdoor Fountain

When you install an outdoor fountain -- unless you have a solar version -- you'll need to supply power to the pump. We've got a few guidelines to help make sure your task of running electricity to your outdoor fountain goes smoothly.

  • Keep in mind that many outdoor fountains require high voltage electricity. Most outdoor fountains will run on a minimum of 120 volts.
  • If you plan on doing the work yourself, make sure all the circuits and electrical components meet the National Electrical Code. That way, you know all the parts meet the minimum safety standards for use.
  • Because the mix of water and electricity presents a possible safety hazard, before you turn the power on or operate your outdoor fountain, make sure you've inspected your work thoroughly and that you've cleared the area of any possible electrical hazards. If you're in doubt, have your work inspected by a professional before you start the operation of your outdoor fountain.

How do I locate the center of a fountain I’m building?

Building A Fountain - Finding Your Center

When building a round fountain, you'll want to locate placement of the fountain's central feature. If you're wondering what the best way to do this is, we have one idea that'll ease your dilemma.

Once you've dug your pit and laid out the pond liner, tie string to stakes at the perimeter of your pit. You should have two strings running perpendicular to each other. The result would be that your pit would be divided into four equal pies. The intersection in the middle would be the center point of your fountain.

You can mark the center without damaging your pond lines. Simply attach a PVC pipe to a small piece of wood and you have your center point at the base of the pit.


Do-It-Yourself or Hire a Professional?

Installation may be as simple as unpacking, adding water and plugging the water fountain to a power supply or letting Mother Nature provide solar power. Other water fountains, require wall support, landscape expertise, plumbing or electrical service. Shop with an online water fountain retailer that specializes in all types of water fountains, custom fountains and water fountain accessories and parts. Contact customer service. Ask lots of questions and rely on their recommendations to help choose the best fountain for your needs and preferences.

Know your limits. If you are a garden enthusiast with an eye for layout and logistics, determining the best location and preparing it for a fountain is a breeze. If in doubt, about location feasibility or landscape aesthetics, rely on guidance from a horticulturist or landscape architect. If you are an experienced do-it-yourselfer, you can probably handle installation on most fountains by following the manufacturer's detailed how to install a fountain instructions. Preformed fountains that only require filling with water, monitoring water level and adding water to offset evaporation require no plumbing experience. However, if a dedicated water source is required or pipes behind a wall are required for a wall patio fountain, call a plumber.

And, if a nearby power source is not available and you have no electrical know-how, a licensed electrician is a must. Mistakes can be costly and dangerous. Installation of an electric line from a central power source must be done safely within local electrical codes and restrictions. Some city and county codes require a not only a permit, but that work is done only by a certified electrician with a follow-up inspection.

Are there specific considerations for an outdoor fountain pump?

The Pump For Your Outdoor Fountain

The pump is the behind-the-scenes workhorse in an outdoor fountain that is important to creating the overall effect with the water. How else would the bubbling sounds of moving water or the brilliant splash of a steady stream punctuating a fountain make its presence known? If you're purchasing your outdoor fountain, you'll likely have a pump assembly which comes with your fountain. Even so, there are just a few considerations you should be aware of.

  • Most pumps require electricity to run it, so it can push water up through the fountain and then allow gravity to bring it back down to the fountain base. The exception to this is a solar-powered pump. However, solar-powered pumps do need daylight, so if you want to continue running your fountain into the night and through cloudy days, you'll need batteries for that.
  • The manufacturer of the outdoor fountain typically provides a pump to go with the fountain. If for some reason you need a replacement, keep in mind that the pump needs to be waterproof and durable. The pump also needs to have the appropriate water flow rate for the fountain it will be used for.
  • A nice feature to have on a pump is a water flow regulator. It allows you to specify the water flow's strength.


Powering Water Fountains

Fountains require a power source to keep water flowing. This power comes from one of two sources: electrical power or solar power compliments of Mother Nature.

The closer you locate a water fountain is to the electrical outlet, the easier and less expensive installation will be. Electrical power for a safe water feature also requires a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFI) outlet. GFI outlets have a sensor that automatically shuts off the electrical power if they come in contact with moisture. Voltage for water fountains and water fountains accessories also differs. Most fountains require 120 volts to operate the pump, filters and lights. Extensive project with a large pond or lake fountain feature may require a 240-volt supply. Both 120 volt and 240 volt cables must be buried in protective piping and usually require a permit and installation by a certified electrician. (Note: Some fountain accessories, like outdoor lighting, only require low-voltage via a cable connected to a plug-in transformer that reduces household electricity to 12 volts.)

Solar powered fountains and solar powered fountain lights operate off sun's energy. No electrical wiring required, installation is easy and power is free. To produce electricity through solar energy, fountains and fountain lights need a solar cell or solar panel. The cell or panel simply sits and collects photons within sun rays and transforms them into conduction electrons that carry an electric charge through a circuit to the fountain pump or light. Sounds simple. However, location is the key to efficient operation. Solar cells need direct sunlight and lots of it. Shady locations cannot support solar power. Climates with more clouds and rain than sunshine, especially during shorter winter days typically have a deficit of solar power. Avoid disappointment; before installing a solar powered yard fountain, ensure that an adequate supply of sun power is available.


Pumps Keep Fountain Waters Flowing

Fountain pumps keeps water flowing through water fountains and it's hard work. Installing a commercial water fountain or a home garden fountain requires the right type and the right size fountain pump. There are two types of fountain pumps: submersible and external. External pumps are located outside of garden pool or pond, like the pump that operates a swimming pool. Submersible pumps are placed directly into the water. Some fountains contain a built-in pump; others have a separate pump that sits in the fountain basin.

When purchasing a fountain pump, it pays to go for quality above price. Saving a few dollars with an inexpensive pump, may cost more in the long run when the pump fails to work efficiently. It is also important to get the required amps/watts to pump the right number of gallons of water per hour (GPH) to the desired height above the water surface. Finding out how much power a pump needs can be complicated. You must first know the volume of the water in the pond or garden pool. Typically, a pump should move about half of the total volume per hour.

Pump filters are also a necessity. Some pumps feature pre-filters and others require a separate filter. For large garden ponds, the filter size must be sized for the fountain volume and pump power. If a separate pump and filter is required for a garden water feature or custom fountain, follow manufacturer's how to install a fountain pump instructions. Fortunately, most preformed indoor and outdoor fountains come with the correctly sized pump and filter, taking guesswork out of pump and filter requirements.

What items do I need to create my own tabletop fountain?

Everything You Need To Create Your Own Tabletop Fountain

If you want to create your own tabletop fountain, regardless of the fountain type, there are some basic features that all of these mini-water features need. This guide will get you started on ideas.

  • You need a container to house the fountain. This could be a ceramic bowl, a pan enveloped by Styrofoam, or a terracotta pot. Whatever it is, it needs to be watertight.
  • You need a small submersible pump to circulate the water.
  • You need a spout to deliver the water. This could be carefully hidden tubing. Or the spout itself could be part of the fountain's design.
  • You need a device to conceal the pump. This can be as simple as a plastic container placed upside down with openings to allow for the tubing access and water return.
  • You need decorative items for your tabletop fountain. These can include rocks, plant life and fish.
  • You need a small copper elbow to direct water downward.
  • Finally, you need water. Distilled water is better than tap water for keeping your fountain free of spots caused by mineral deposits.


Fountain Installation Begins with Planning

An amazing range of fountain types, sizes, styles and materials make it easy to find the best fountain for virtually any location inside a home, on porches, patios, balconies, decks and outdoor gardens. Along with diversity, come different space and installation requirements. It pays to plan ahead before choosing an ready-made or custom fountain. Here are some how to install a water fountain preplanning factors to consider:

  • Purchase books on fountains or visit and study the myriad of choices.
  • Measure the space where the water fountain will be located. Diagram it several times on sheets of graph paper and experiment with placing different types and size fountains on the grid.
  • Establish a budget for the fountain purchase and additional installation expenses.
  • For outdoor fountains, study the terrain to determine whether an in ground or above ground fountain is best.
  • If installing a garden pond fountain, consider the pros and cons of adding plants and fish. Learn about sunlight requirements and consider seasonal temperature changes.
  • Give some thought to how to ensure the safety of children and pets around the fountain.
  • Research different options for powering the fountain. Will you need outdoor electrical outlet or an interior outlet at eye-level for a wall mounted fountain? Is there adequate sunlight for a solar-powered fountain?
  • Before digging, check the location of phone, cable, electric and gas utility lines.


Above or Below Ground?

Among the many decisions when choosing the best backyard water fountain is deciding whether to install a ground level ground garden pond fountain, an above-pond fountain or a ready-made garden fountain. Both of in-ground pond fountain and above ground pond fountains require do-it-yourself or hire-it-done expertise and labor.

To dig or not to dig; that is the question. Ground level fountain ponds obviously require digging and moving soil. The larger the garden pond the greater the labor. Once the digging is done, the pond must be lined. Measure, cut and line the in ground pond with flexible lining or save time and effort with a preformed rigid garden pond liner. Edging and landscaping the outside rim, determining fountain pump/filter requirements, adding lighting and filling the garden pond with water are finishing steps.

Above ground pond fountains work best in locations where digging is not possible or difficult. Sides of the above ground fountain are usually made from brick, tile, stones or pressure-treated wood. Otherwise, lining labor steps are similar.

Ready-made or preformed fountains take most of the work out of owning a fountain. Location is still a consideration in installing a ready-made fountain. However, free-standing outdoor fountains, tabletop outdoor fountains, outdoor statuary fountains and wall mounted outdoor fountains offer plenty of choices for virtually any location and manufactured water fountains come with easy to follow “how to install a fountain” instructions.

How do I choose a bowl to make my own tabletop fountain?

How To Select A Bowl To Make Your Own Tabletop Fountain

Making your own tabletop fountain is cost effective and lets you use your creative skills. The bowl of the fountain is the most prominent item in the assembly, so it's always important to select this piece wisely. Here are a few ideas to help you select the right part.

  • Keep in mind that your bowl will be part of a room, table setting or an area. Think about coordinating the style of the bowl with its surroundings. You don't want to pick a sleek, modern bowl for a traditional antique desk.
  • Think about what angle your bowl will be viewed from. Will your fountain be at eye level or below? The slim, vertical container might look great straight on, but a view from above might not be as attractive if your fountain is placed on the ground.
  • Think about the size and scale of the bowl. Will it be high enough to cover the pump completely? Also, a larger bowl that holds more water will require less water changes than a smaller one.
  • Consider the shape of the bowl carefully. The bottom needs to have a flat plane. You also need to have enough room for the pump, as well as the attached cord.
  • Beyond the aforementioned considerations, your choices are wide open for selecting a bowl for your tabletop fountain. You can consider glass bowls, ceramic planters, plastic containers, or metal tins covered with camouflage material.


Lights Add Magic to Fountains at Night

Sunlight adds natural sparkle to fountain waters by day. At night without light, fountain waters lose their visual appeal. Installing a fountain light brings fountains and backyard gardens to life at night. Different types of lighting create striking effects in garden settings.

Consider these pointers when installing fountain lights:

  • Lights highlight flowing waters, illuminate the entire garden pond from within, float on the surface of the water and spotlight garden accessories and special plants.
  • Subtle lighting is best for fountain settings. Lights aimed directly at the surface of a garden pond or fountain water basin create an unpleasant glare.
  • Use in water lighting to create special effects. White fountain lights and colored fountain lights are dramatic and appealing. However, don't overdo. Colored lights used in excess create an amusement park ambiance and turn gaudy rather than gorgeous. Less is typically more when it comes to lighting.
  • Lights with dark casings are less noticeable and more easily disguised than white or stainless steel light casings.
  • Install a timer to save energy and avoid manually turning fountain lights on and off.
  • Like water fountain pumps, outdoor fountain lights require a ground fault interrupter (GFI) outlet. Unlike most pumps, they also require a transformer to step household current down to 12 volts. Solar fountain lights rely on power from Mother Nature rather than electric outlets. Many outside fountains also come with built-in lighting that saves time and money.

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Christina Chan