We had a fish pond in our backyard for many years, and have always taken precautions to protect the fish from hungry animals. In the warm season, we would use a motion detector sprinkler, that would spray water on any animal that came near the pond. During the winter, we put a net over the water. This spring, though, an animal, probably a raccoon, broke through the net and ate all of our fish :-(
So, we decided to get rid of the pond, and install a new, contemporary water feature. For ideas, we searched online, and found this modern design that brings to mind a cooling rain shower on a hot summer day. If you want to take a look at the original, just do a picture search for “contemporary water features”.
We wanted to adapt this design for our small garden, and, to make it more durable, we decided to make it out of solid, pressure treated lumber, which has been drying in the sun for about a month to minimize shrinkage. If the lumber you picked is very wet and heavy, you should let it dry out as long as possible before doing this project. From the original picture, it looked like this fountain was constructed from a frame, surrounded by plywood, with the plumbing hidden inside. Since we were going with solid 6” x 6” lumber, the piping would be exposed, so we went with copper pipes, which is nicer looking than PVC.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
1 . (3) 6”x6”x8’ pressure treated lumber
2. 10’ 1 ¼” copper pipe
3. (2) 1 ¼” copper elbows
4. Blow torch and copper solder OR copper epoxy
5. 3’ of 1 ½” ID plastic tubing and (2) 1 ½” elbows
6. 2’ of Toro Blue Stripe ½” Drip Tubing
7. Pondmaster MDWP-20 Waterfall pump
8. 1 ½” PVC Ball Valve
9. Drill with ¼” drill bit and 1 ½” hole saw bit
10. Router with 1” Dish Carving router bit and ½ “ straight router bit
11. Miter Saw (you can also do this without mitered corners to make things much easier)
12. Oscillating Multi tool OR wood chisel
14. Exterior wood stain: we used Behr Premium Solid Color Weatherproofing All-in-One Stain Sealer 7.75 oz. sample sizes: (2) Padre Brown, (1) Slate, (1) Colonial Yellow and (1) Ponderosa Green
15. (5) bags Sakrete 50lb Fast Set Concrete
16. Post hole digger or shovel
17. HDX 55 Gallon Tough Tote plastic storage container from Home Depot
18. 40 mil pvc pond liner 5’ x 8’
19. (8) pcs 3/8” x 6” Landscape Timber lag screws
20. 200 lbs Black Mexican Beach Pebbles
Step 2: Prep the Area
We removed the rocks, old pond, cut down the existing trees and bushes, and leveled the surface.
Step 3: Cut and Miter the Beams
The finished size will be 65” wide x 80” high (this is the exposed size – remember that there is an extra 16” height buried in the ground). This makes our 2 vertical beams 96” each, and the horizontal beam is 65”. Mitering the corners was difficult, due to the size of the beams, so this is optional. If you decide not to miter, just stack the top beam onto the vertical ones – it will still look good, and save you quite a bit of work. If you do this, though, just remember to cut 5 1/2” off the vertical beams to make up for the extra height, and to keep the same height/width ratio of the finished product.
Step 4: Make the Horizontal Beam With Water Pipe Assembly
If we’re facing the fountain, our water supply line will be on the RIGHT side. So, we’re going to start on the LEFT side of the horizontal beam, and cut a channel into the underside of the beam to hold the copper pipe. Since the wood is pretty dense, we’re going to do this in progressive steps. First, use a straight ½” router bit and make a channel ¾” deep. Stop about 1” from the RIGHT end. Then, run a 1” dish carving bit along the left edge of the channel. Finish by running this same bit on the right edge of the channel. This will provide enough space for the 1 ¼” copper pipe.
Next, we’ll finish off the RIGHT end by cutting a 1 ½” hole so the pipe can pass through.
Step 5: Drill Water Flow Holes for the Copper Pipe and Insert Into Routed Beam
Insert copper pipe into beam. Then Drill ¼” holes into every 1” of the copper pipe. Blow out the metal shavings and make sure inside of pipe is clean. Solder a cap onto the LEFT end of the copper pipe,
Step 6: Cut Right Side Vertical Beam for Pipe Fitting
Now we have to make a cutout in the RIGHT vertical beam to make room for the pipe. Using a 1 ½” hole saw, cut a channel for the pipe.
Step 7: Finish Copper Pipe Assembly
Solder the connections. Note that we placed a rag soaked in cold water on the pipe, a few inches from the connection. This keeps the pipe cool enough to prevent damage to the wood while soldering. Next, we take ¼” Toro Blue Stripe drip line, and cut into ½” pieces. We insert a piece into each hole of the copper pipe. This is important, because the tubing causes the water to flow straight down. Without it, the water will flow in uneven directions.
Step 8: Dig Holes for Beams and Water Container – Check for Proper Fit
We’re setting the beams 16” into the ground. The water container is actually a 55 gallon storage bin from Home Depot. You can use whatever size you have available, preferably over 20 gallons so you’re not constantly refilling with water. Make sure your holes are equal depth and the height of the beams are identical.
Step 9: Stain the Beams
First, apply base coat of Padre Brown. When dry, lightly sponge on some Ponderosa Green follow by Colonial Yellow in random patterns. Finish by sponging Slate to form your desired pattern.
Step 10: Set Beams Into Concrete
It’s easier to set one beam at a time. Make sure it’s straight, level and properly positioned, then pour in the fast setting cement. It only takes about 30 minutes to dry, then you can do the second beam, carefully aligning it to the first.
Step 11: Install Top Beam
Once the concrete base has fully set, you can install the top beam. Secure it with 3/8” x 6” Landscape Timber screws. BE CAREFUL NOT TO SCREW INTO COPPER PIPE!
Step 12: Prep Container Lid
The storage container we used has a lid, so we just cut a hole in it for the water flow and plastic tubing. If you’re using an open container, you’ll need to put a grate over it to hold the pebbles.
Step 13: Put Water Pump Into Container and Place PVC Liner Over Container
Put pump inside container, running tubing and cord out through the hole in the lid. Then cut your pvc pond liner to fit. This fountain does splash a lot of water, so just be sure to allow enough room to catch the water and direct it back to the container. With the pvc liner in place, cut a hole to correspond with the hole you cut in the container lid.
Step 14: Connect Copper Pipes and Water Line
Now we solder the last pipe – notice that we used a flame shield to protect the wood while soldering. If you don’t want to solder, there are also epoxies that are made for copper pipes. That would be much easier, but we’ve never used them, so not sure how well it will hold up.
Step 15: Connect Water Pump and Cover With Beach Pebbles
We connected a valve to control the flow of water. Without it, the water flow is too strong, so this allows a range of adjustments.
Admire your hard work!
Here’s a shot of our Contemporary Rain Shower fountain at night!