What's the most impressive backyard fountain I can DIY?
February 1, 2018 3:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for inspiration impressive and interesting fountain designs I can build myself in my backyard.

The Trevi Fountain is pretty cool, but not something I could do myself. A Shishi-odoshi is DIY-able, but not that impressive or beautiful. So, I'm looking for something in between - beautiful, impressive and achievable.

I'm pretty handy and would be willing to learn a technique or tool if the project required it.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have a look at familyhandyman.com. They have really great projects, both indoor and out.
posted by Enid Lareg at 4:01 PM on February 1, 2018

‘Handy’ isn’t much help. Can you make molds? Can you cast reinforced concrete? Can you weld rebar?

What’s the budget? What kind of footprint are we talking? A fountain that looms impressively in a small space will be lost in a large yard.

And what’s beautiful for that matter?

Semi-lower skill and mid-high budget idea: make a relatively large and artful pile of beautiful boulders, then set up a pump and a basin to make water splash pleasantly out of it. Bonus: could possibly justify renting a bobcat for a day.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:01 PM on February 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Start searching antique dealers, facebook sales, Ebay, estate sales for seated statue or statues. If you can find 3, odd numbers are better visually. If you can find a standing statue which pours...Then set about finding the stones you want them to sit on or stand near. Figure out your scale. How much ground do you have for the holding pond, koi pond, lily pond or all three. You can put a statue way down in the pond to the torso and vessel reflect well. You mentioned the trevi fountain, but there are also animal statues, fish jumping, a bear with a fish, a wild cat lying down, a bird of prey landing with outspread wings. There is an amazing metal bird statue at Chris Vanderlei in Bakersfield. Loom him up on facebook. I don't know about your budget, water themes abound and remember the reflections are important to the aesthetic. Start looking until something grabs you. What a fun project!
posted by Oyéah at 4:31 PM on February 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

To follow up on oyeah's comment, last week I saw a beautiful concrete ornate Italian design fountain on Craigslist for $100. If something like that were to fit your style or your space (it fit neither requirement for me), it would be an outright steal at that price, compared to the cost and work involved in a diy project. Check all your local social media groups to see what might be available.
posted by vignettist at 5:41 PM on February 1, 2018

This is hard to answer since all you technically NEED for a fountain is a water source that can be directed somehow. Given enough time and money and probably bribes to the city/your neighbors, you could build an Eiffel Tower out of old cars and run a garden hose up to the top of it.

Or, if you want to maintain a recirculating water source, you'll need a wait to maintain a clean basin of water and you'll probably want a $5-100 submersible pump with or without a float switch, plus maybe a cover or a filtration system (either mechanical or, given a large enough body of water, both mechanical filtration and biological filtration, same principal as an aquarium).

The mechanics of making water move are really simple and scalable up to a certain degree; impressive is a very open-ended word. It would certainly make an impression if you put, say, a department store mannequin on your roof and plumbed it to pee into a toilet in your garden, and relatively cheap and easy if you've got the mannequin and a spare toilet and a drill. I think something like this glass fountain wall is really impressive for a simple build. If you have the means to build a large stone or cement (or fiberglass) structure, your options get really interesting.

Youtube is where all the DIY is now.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:56 PM on February 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've had an outdoor fountain for over 20 years. It started as a galvanized oblong bucket and a small inexpensive pump, with a few goldfish. When I bought a house, it was upgraded to a large galvanized wash bucket. The biggest limitation has been my imagination more than anything. Several years ago, my wife dug out a place for a commercially made pond liner. That configuration lasted several years, but honestly, I preferred a more mobile version using a large galvanized container.

It's had many variations over the years regarding how the water gets routed. Since my fountain has been more pond than fountain, I prefer a let it be kind of approach. I've usually used some kind of vessel suspended over the main body of water that the initially get the pumped water, where spillways are made for the water to fall into the main pond. These vessels were usually smaller galvanized buckets with spillways punched using a old church key style can opener. Some very water friendly plants were selected to live in the suspended bucket. Goldfish in the main pond.

These days, it's reverted back to a galvanized bucket-sort of. It's a stock tank, for watering livestock. About the size of a large, deep bath tub. The pond liner version was too permanent, and a huge pain in the butt to "clean" and get useable again for our goldfish. We've learned that cleaning a pond is pretty unnecessary unless it got really screwed up somehow. Cleaning it upsets its ecosystem, and may take a pretty long time to get back to normal.

I'm thinking of making a auto siphon from clear plastic pipe for the suspended bucket to give it a little more animation than just the waterfall. I also made, years ago, a concrete fountain that I found again. It's my homage to the L.A. River, being concrete, with some little storm drain gates with kitty faces. (I realize that makes little sense if you're not familiar with the L.A. River.) The stock tank is also on wheels, so that it can be moved easily (relatively easily... it weighs... lots), should we decide to reorganize the back yard, one of the things that made the dug in pond liner version a pain. We've had our three goldfish for years now, started out as feeder fish from a pet store, 10 for a buck. A few die initially pretty quickly, and over the years a few more have died or disappeared. The reminder are quite happy and friendly.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:29 PM on February 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

posted by at at 11:35 PM on February 1, 2018

I built a fountain some years ago. It lasted for a while, until the pump burned out. I would change the setup a bit to avoid that next time. Also, use a pump with an auto shut off.

If you want a fountain without a pool, follow these steps of mine. Get a plastic drum with a removable lid. Take the lid off and brace the interior so that the pressure of ground water does not collapse it. Create an area for the pump, plumbing, and power supply in the drum, and drain holes in the lid so that water can flow back in.

Dig a hole for your drum. Consider how you are going to maintain the pump and muck out the drum. Lay a concrete basin on top of the drum, which will also support your fountain. Create a removable grid on top of the drum for access to the interior.

Build your fountain out of big rocks. With a hammer drill, drill the stones so that the water supply can run up through them. Stack the rocks in the concrete basin, in an artistic manner. Fill the basin with decorative rounded stones to make it seem that the water just runs into the ground.

Fill the drum with water, turn on the pump, see how it works. Considerations include being sure that the water that runs off the stones stays within the basin area.

Have fun.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 10:55 AM on February 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers, y'all. To clarify somewhat; I'm aware that there are many DIY options available "out there" on YouTube and the web at large. The problem is that, well, there are many DIY options available out there. (and a lot of them are just instructions for building a "pile of rocks" type fountain)

I was turning to AskMeFi for help in finding the diamonds among the roughage. I wasn't looking so much for "how to build a fountain" as much as "what's the coolest fountain you've seen?" (that's also relatively achievable).

I hoped for something along the lines of Lyn Never's suggestion of the glass wall fountain. Or, ideally, "I saw this fountain once that was very cool/unique/interesting," followed by a description.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 12:04 PM on February 2, 2018

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