How to Install a DIY Rock Water Fountain

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Follow these easy step-by-step instructions to add some style and ambiance to your outdoor space with a lovely DIY rock water fountain!

Welcome back to week 6 of our One Room Challenge backyard patio makeover project!

We’ve come a long way in the last 6 weeks and I can’t wait to share the entire space with you in just 2 short weeks…

For today, we’re going to talk about one major part of the project – our rock water feature!

If you’re just joining us, be sure to catch up on our project here:

RELATED: DIY PATIO FURNITURE MAKEOVER WITH PAINT

This is our fourth season participating as guests in the ORC and you can read the reveals for our other seasons here:

Farmhouse Bathroom Makeover
Moody Dining Room Makeover
Traditional Living Room Makeover

As we’ve discussed, we’ve got just a few more items on our to-do list before this project is complete.

Thank goodness, because the rain has returned here in Oregon and we don’t have much decent weather to work in!

Our biggest achievement this week was definitely the rock fountain!

Ready to see how it turned out? Here’s a sneak peek:

We got the bark in that area last night and I LOVE how finished it makes it look!

No more ugly dirt or septic lid! 😉

Pretty much all we have left to complete is putting bark around the rest of the space and painting the chairs/loveseat and pillow covers.

Other than just an update on the project, for today’s post I wanted to share a tutorial for installing your own simple DIY rock water fountain!

YOU WILL ALSO LOVE: BACKYARD DECK MAKEOVER REVEAL

DIY Low-Maintenance Rock Water Feature

For a printable copy of the materials and instructions, scroll down.

Materials Needed:

Tools Needed:

How to Install a DIY Rock Fountain

STEP 1: Design around the large fountain rocks.

Start by going to a rock fountain supply store and selecting your rocks and plants.

We knew our water feature had to be small (because it’s on top of the septic) and so we chose to go with two small fountain rocks – one with a small bird bath cut into the top.

Before you purchase anything, mock up your fountain there at the store.

Place your rocks together, add some plants around it, get a feel for how it’ll look when it’s been installed in your space.

Then bring it all home and mock it up again in the actual spot where it’ll be installed.

We measured off the area here to center it in the space and then made sure we liked how it was looking before we moved onto the next step.

STEP 2: Install the basin.

After you’re confident with the placement of your fountain, dig a hole deep and wide enough to fit your water basin.

Ours was a 30″ diameter basin.

Made sure it’s level all the way around with the top of the basin flush with the top of your dirt.

Then place both the inner support and lid on top of the basin before pushing dirt in around the sides to hold it in place.

STEP 3: Install the water line.

Once the basin is installed, it’s time to install the water line.

In order for your fountain to be “low-maintenance,” it has to have a way to keep itself full of water.

Some of the water will splash out or evaporate during the day (especially on hot days) and you definitely don’t want to risk running your pump dry. It’ll ruin it!

So, by installing a water line with a ball float valve, you’re allowing the opportunity for your fountain to self-fill when it needs more water.

Start by trenching from your water source to the closest edge of the basin.

Then cut a 3/4″ hole into the side of your basin with a spade bit. You’ll want to make sure it is towards the top of the basin to allow the most water possible without backflow problems.

At this point you’ll want to stop and put teflon tape on all the threaded adapters. This helps seal the water from leaking out of the joints and creating issues down the road.

Next, install the ball float valve on the inside of the hole and the nut (that comes with the float valve) on the outside, pinching the wall of the basin.

Use pliers to tighten the nut.

Next, thread a 1/2″ NPT coupler onto the end of the threaded pipe after the nut on the outside of the basin and tighten again.

After the coupler, thread on the barbed tube adapter.

This is all needed to get it from a standard fitting to your drip irrigation tubing size.

With the ball float valve, coupler and adapter all installed, shove the irrigation tube onto the barb until it fully seats.

One trick is to use a mug of boiled water to warm and soften the tube before shoving it on.

This ends up creating a very tight connection that seals really well.

Gentle backfill the dirt around the connections and pack it tight to keep things from moving around.


STEP 4: Install the pump.

Once you have your water line installed, it’s time to move on to the pump.

Place the pump inside the main inner support piece with the cord coming out the side of it into the main basin towards the outdoor electrical outlet.

Water fountain pumps usually come with 15ft cords, so if your outlet is further than that you’ll need to make other provisions.

It’s always worth checking before starting.

Now you are on to the fun stuff – building the water manifold to get the water up the rocks!

For our water fountain we used two rocks which each needed water.

First we cut a short stubby piece of tubing, installed it on the top of the pump and attached a 90 deg barb fitting.

We then cut and install a T fitting and two 90 deg fittings to get our tubes to the approximate spot of the rocks.

If you are using a single pump with multiple rocks it is nice to add ball valves to each line help control the flow of water to each rock.

Otherwise one rock might be a geyser and the other a small dribble.

The ball valve is the green faced knob in the photo below.

Make sure to cut the tubes that go into the rocks long since you want them to be as high as possible inside the rocks (don’t worry, they’ll be trimmed once the rocks are installed.)

STEP 5: Install the fountain rocks.

With the pump position and manifold built it’s time to install the fountain rocks.

This part might require a little trial and error depending on your setup and how straight forward it is.

First, place the lid back onto the basin with the tubes sticking through pre-drilled holes that lines up with the estimated placement of the rocks in your design.

Place the first rock next to one of the tube that is going to go in it.

This will help you measure how long the tube needs to be cut at.

You want to end up with the tube about a 1/2″ below the surface of the rock.

As shown above we started with our main bird bath rock since we were pretty positive where we wanted it positioned.

After cutting the tube to the correct height (1/2″ below the top) we slid the rock onto the tube.

We then placed the larger second rock onto its tube and evaluated how it was positioned. We found that the pre-drilled hole we used was in the wrong position and putting too much strain on the tube.

And since there wasn’t a pre-drilled hole where we knew we wanted that rock to be positioned, we drilled our own hole in the top of the basin and BINGO we got it all to line up.

The fountain basins are designed to be drilled into so no worries is you need to do it more than once.

You simply want to do your best to avoid the support ribs on the bottom side of the lid.

One trick to get a better idea of where the second rock should go it a SHARPIE. Oh yes a SHARPIE.

Position the rock right where you want it, drop a sharpie with the cap off down the hole, allowing it to make a mark on the lid.

If it’s close to a pre-drilled hole and you can make it work then great.

Otherwise bust out the handy drill and drill your own.

After doing this ourselves we would suggest even doing this before installing the pump.

It’d be easy to mock up all the fountain rocks, mark, drill and then build the manifold.

We got excited and made it a little harder than it needed to be – but that is part of the fun of a project. Right!? 🙂

Once you have the rocks positioned with the tubes installed we suggest giving it a test run.

Turn on the water that’s connected to your fill valve and make sure it fills the basin above the pump before plugging in the pump.

After the water is high enough, plug the pump in to start it up and adjust the ball valves (on the lines to the rocks) to get the desired look.

Use the small access lid to get inside without fully disassembling the fountain.

Simply remove, reach inside and turn the knobs.

STEP 5: Install the river rock and plants.

Once you have your basin filled, your pump working and your large fountain rocks all in place, it’s time to install the rest of the pretty details!

Begin by placing weed fabric around the edge of your basin.

We let ours overhang the rocks because we were planning to put bark down around the outside edge – if you’re not, simply trim it up to line up with the edge of your river rock when you’re done assembling.

Place a semi-large rock over your basin’s access hole (to make it easy to get into, should you need to) and surround the large rocks with river rock.

Be sure to add a few medium-sized rocks throughout the river rock and make the edge of the river rock uneven (not a perfect circle) for some visual interest.

For the plants, if you’re planting it on top of the basin (like I did for the succulents) simply take them out of their pots, lightly loosen the soil and set them atop the basin before surrounding their base with rocks.

For the larger purple plant I did behind the tall rock, I actually buried that one down into the dirt beside the basin.

Just make sure your river rock covers your entire basin plus at least 6″ around the edges.

And that’s it! Pretty simple, don’t you think?

Here’s how ours turned out:

I love the sound of the running water!

My kids helped me pick where the succulents went and my son insisted on having one next to the large flat rock on the bottom. 😉

For all of the plants, we chose are ground-covers that will spread or bushes that will get larger, so over the years it will develop too.

I’m glad we added two water spouts – it definitely adds to the ambiance!

This little part of the overall project has me REAL excited to finish it all up and use our backyard patio space all summer long. 😉

As promised, here are the printable instructions:

Yield: 1 Fountain

DIY Rock Water Fountain

DIY Rock Water Fountain

Add style and ambiance to your outdoor space with this easy DIY project!

Prep Time: 1 hour
Active Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 7 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Cost: $500

Materials

Instructions

  1. Design your fountain around your large fountain rocks at the store.
  2. Mock up the design in your space and verify the placement of everything.
  3. Dig a hole large enough for your basin and install it level, with the top lined up with the top of the dirt.
  4. Drill a 3/4" hole into the side of your basin, install a ball valve joint and connect the water line.
  5. Install your pump inside the inner support piece and add fitting necessary to get 1/2" irrigation lines up out of the top of the basin in position for your large fountain rocks.
  6. Place the lid on the basin and trim the irrigation line to about 1/2" below the top of the fountain rocks then slide them onto the line into place.
  7. If needed, drill new holes into the top to position the irrigation lines exactly where you want your rocks to go.
  8. Test the water system by turning on your water line and allowing the ball valve joint to fill up the basin.
  9. Once the basin is full, plug in the pump and test the lines - adjusting the water flow as needed.
  10. Surround the large fountain rocks with river rock, covering up at least the basin plus 6" more around the edge.
  11. Plant water-liking greenery around the fountain as desired.

See you next week with a pillow-painting tutorial and then check in on the 25th for our final REVEAL!!

And don’t forget to check out the other One Room Challenge projects from both the featured designers and the guest participants!

DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW ALONG!

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