Terra Cotta Fountain





Introduction: Terra Cotta Fountain

About: Emeritus Professor of Mathematics.

If you have been looking for a substantial size fountain for your garden, Terra Cotta planters available at your local garden center offer a lot of possibilities and have a pleasing natural outdoor look.

The fountain we made for our front garden stands about 32" tall from the ground to the very top.  The upper bowl is about 21" in diameter, and the lower basin is approximately 32" in diameter.  The fountain holds a generous quantity of water.

Step 1:

The fountain pump is located in the large basin.  Its power cord is fed through a plastic pipe plug which was drilled to accept the cord and sealed with silicone. To thread it through, the electrical plug was cut off the end of the pump power cord , and a new plug put on afterward.  One does not want any cuts and connections in the power cord which may be under water because of a possible shock hazard.  And for general safety, the fountain is always plugged into a GFI receptacle.

A pipe bushing glued into the bottom hole of the terra cotta bowl accepts the pipe plug.  In this way, the pipe plug can be unscrewed to remove the pump with its complete power cord intact for winter storage. 

Step 2:

The pump is positioned in the center like this and loosely held in place by the rigid plastic pump output tube passing through the the parts of the fountain that are placed above it.

Step 3:

An inverted planter goes over the pump.  This planter supports the upper bowl of the fountain.

Step 4:

The pump tube passes into the upper bowl through a garden hose fitting.  The fitting is soldered into a large brass washer which is in turn glued into the bowl. 

Step 5:

The nipple in the upper basin accepts a 1/2" copper riser pipe which slides over the plastic pump tube.  A female garden hose connector is soldered to the lower end of the pipe; with the usual rubber gasket inside, it forms a leak tight seal for the upper basin.

A shouldered bushing on the  top of the riser pipe supports a small terra cotta dish.

Step 6:

The upper dish catches water bubbling out of the riser and spreads it to drip into the basin below for aeration.  The dish simply fits over the bushing at the top of the riser pipe and rests on the shoulder of the bushing. The inner plastic pump tube is just a bit shorter than the copper riser; an O-ring stretched around the pump tube (visible in steps 2- 4) effectively blocks water from leaking down the space between the pump tube and the copper riser pipe. The O-ring is not at all a tight fit inside the copper riser - it just blocks a little unnecessary leakage.

Step 7:

Another view of the fountain after fully set up for the summer.

You can see a short video of the bubbling action at:

Hmmm...while working on this instructable, it occurred that with a more powerful  pump, another level could be added!!!  The list of future projects never ends !!!!




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    31 Discussions

    Can't seem to find any pots big enough... where did you find them?

    Sorry, I don't know the rating. It was purchased from a surplus seller as a replacement for fountains. It looks to be about the smallest size fountain pump commonly available. It has been doing a good job in the terra cotta fountain for about five summers now.

    Hey, Nice looking fountain, I have builded 3 of them and solded to friends,
    anyways I am writting to you because your fountain can be used indoors too,
    and you dont have to put it away in winter time

    Thanks anyways for your instructable it gave me some ideas

    God Bless you

    Superbly nice! would like to make this at my garden too. Would appreciate if you could guide me on some queries. Do you have a constant water supply through pipes? If no, may I know how would we make sure the water won't run dry and damage the pump? Thank you for sharing :)

    2 replies

    Thanks for the interest, nicolenic.
    There is no water supply to the fountain - the pump just recirculates. The capacity is quite large and the loss of water due to splashing, wind, evaporation, and bird drinks is very small. We simply top it up with a gallon or two every other day. And every week or two we give it a good flush with the hose if it needs freshening up.

    I built something similar out of a rubber basin (cattle feeding was its original purpose), and concrete stepping stones. I applied about 4 coats of weatherproofing concrete sealant to prevent water from absorbing into the material and destroying it prematurely. It's 6 tiers of the same size 14" stone separated by cut pvc 4" pipe, about 2 1/2" each to create a trickle-fall. Water is diverted at the top by a peice of pipe with radial holes drilled in it, then a clear glass cover is placed on top to evenly disperse the water outwards. I used electrial tape where the author used an o-ring to prevent unnecesary water trickling back down the feed hole. Great ible! Were any steps taken to waterproof the terracotta? I know it inherently is 'waterproof' but it does absorb water.

    3 replies

    Wow - six tiers - That sounds like a real fountain ! In our little fountain, no waterproofing was applied - please see the reply to Kaelessin's comment below for more information on that.

    Very nice instructable. If I built one like this, I would like to use the solar powered water pump sold by Harbor Freight for under $20. I keep trying to buy the pump but they are consistently out of them. I don't like running AC current across a yard. I like this very simple design.

    1 reply

    Solar would be the ideal way to run an outdoor fountain. I too am not totally comfortable with line voltage AC, but it seems to be the norm for commercially available fountains these days. Apparently the pumps and line cord are made sufficiently watertight to be safe, but I always connect to GFI outlets when using any tool or appliance outside. I'm not familiar with the solar outfit sold by Harbor freight. We had a small solar pump in a traditional birdbath one summer, but it was too weak to be really effective.

    I used a shallow terracotta "plate" as the top tier as a sort of bird bath. The birds seem to like it and some of the water drips into the lower bowl adding a nice sound to the garden. I'm going to try inverting a bowl or two for different sounds

    1 reply

    Yes, birds need a shallow place to use for "bathing". Our terra cotta fountain is too deep for that. But birds are attracted by the sound of the water, and will perch on the edges to take a drink. Never have seen one on the uppermost level.

    Wonderful! This is such a great idea and just beautiful!