Terra Cotta Fountain

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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:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hg-3LoLoORQ

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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    37 Discussions

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    WednesdayR

    11 months ago on Step 7

    Looking at this again, it is so pretty!

    and so clever! even more impressed than at first viewing...

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    WednesdayR

    Question 11 months ago on Step 4

    Marvelous! for years I have had a large pot with fountian using the nozzle for water disbursement... recently visited a large nursery and fell in love with the sound of water dripping out of a tiered fountain, trying to figure out if I can turn my big terracotta pot into something like that....

    and, here is the answer!

    can I ask.. what kind of glue? will e6000 work or some kind of special plumbing glue, thinking... needs to handle both sun and water...

    thanks for your great instruction!

    2 answers
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    TinkerJimWednesdayR

    Answer 11 months ago

    I used silicone sealer. Its water resistance is excellent and adheres well to the terra cotta, but not so well to the PVC fittings - letting go after a few seasons. I have limited experience with e6000.

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    WednesdayRTinkerJim

    Reply 11 months ago

    thank you, since it will be in the bowl, I'm putting the power cord over the edge... if it leaks a bit, won't matter... and usually I take the fountain down every couple years to reseal it... can redo glue if needed...

    thank you... music over the fountain sound at youtube... is it loud enough to hear through my window a few feet away?

    the fountain I saw had a kind of scallop edge to the upper tier, I wonder it that was to increase drip size and make more noise, my fountain, aside for the fun of water, is to blend street noise that sometimes includes crude loud music... I want it as loud as my neighbors will tolerate ;-)

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    Kaelessin

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very neat idea for a fountain! all the parts are already made lol

    What did you do to prevent the terracotta from deteriorating? I suppose each bit could be replaced fairly easily but that could get pricey qucik!

    2 replies
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    TinkerJimKaelessin

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    We did not apply any kind of sealant when the fountain was initially setup because it wasn't realized that something like that might be needed! It would be a very good idea. Terra cotta is somewhat porous, and a little seepage occurred at first, giving the outside a cool damp look, but mineral deposits put an end to that. We have had no deterioration of the terra cotta itself. The fountain has been in use for about 5 years now, and the pieces are in very good shape. We live in Wisconsin, so the fountain is taken down and put into storage for the long winter months. Mineral deposits are cleaned up with a little vinegar in the water when first put up for the summer and the outside is cleaned up with a wipe of WD-40. The water is partially replaced (by flushing with the hose) and topped up once or twice a week. Sometimes a little bleach is added to further clean and freshen things up.

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    WednesdayRTinkerJim

    Reply 11 months ago

    I've used Thompson's water seal on my terracotta... refreshing it every so often, but don't over coat it, did that once, left a film on the water for a while...

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    xd12c

    8 years ago on Step 7

    Maybe drill some holes or slots in the bowl with a wet drill?

    1 reply
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    WednesdayRxd12c

    Reply 11 months ago

    I was thinking of that, to promote water flow... I don't mind the fountain cord running over the pot edge... it will be in a corner... I may try to drill a hole for the cord... there is an entirely new instructable... "how to drill a hold in terracotta"

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    shellig

    4 years ago on Introduction

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

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    TinkerJimjdjonesdr

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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.

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    Happy2Think

    7 years ago on Introduction

    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

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    nicolenic

    7 years ago on Introduction

    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
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    TinkerJimnicolenic

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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.

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    frollard

    8 years ago on Introduction

    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.