How to Build Your Very Own Pondless Waterfall
Waterfalls are, undoubtedly, everyone’s favorite water feature in a garden. You can add waterfalls to your ponds and pools, but that’s not the only option. Stand-alone waterfall, known as pondless waterfall, can be an excellent water feature all on its own. It brings the sound and sight of flowing water into your property, without the maintenance needed with a pond. Pondless waterfalls require lower maintenance than any other type of water feature.
Whether you are a backyard warrior looking to tackle your own renovation project or a landscaping contractor specializing in aquascapes, this article is for you.
Complete System: Working, Space & Maintenance
In simple words, a pondless waterfall is a stream or waterfall that falls into and disappears in a bed of river rock. The water is collected in a small basin hidden behind the rocks and transported back to the top through a hose. It is fitted with a pump which sits on the bottom away from the view. As the water level never pools, it appears that there is no pond, when in fact the pond is simply not visible. You can set the speed of the waterfall as per your desire. Pondless waterfalls are a perfect solution if you have restricted space in the yard or you have safety concerns with a pond such as infants.
Pondless waterfalls can be accommodated into a small area, so even if you have a small backyard, limited space or you just want a small, compact water feature to enjoy, pondless waterfall is your solution. It is very easy to take care and maintain a pondless waterfall. All you need to do is to fill up the reservoir every few weeks to make up for the water loss due to evaporation, and you are done.
Steps to Building a Pondless Waterfall
Step # 1
Finding a suitable location is the first and foremost step in the construction of the waterfall. Ideally, pick an elevated area as the natural drop means you won’t have to create an artificial slope (work with what you have). If there is no slope, you can do some digging to create the slope so gravity will take care of the flow of water. You want to pick an area with little debris and falling leaves. Maintaining aquascape style pondless waterfalls e.g. matrix box, pump, and skimmer can be difficult to clean and properly maintain. It is sad to see many of these types of waterfalls inoperational within a few months to a year because they are difficult to clean (matrix box and pump hidden underneath the rocks). You could opt for a more vertical waterfall made using artificial rock e.g. fiberglass, conrete, shotcrete, or other material that can be easier to maintain.
Step # 2
Plan and mark a rough outline, keeping in mind that after adding layers of fabric and liner, you will lose a lot of definition from your path. It is wise to make the wall of your water flow overly exaggerated. Ensure that the pit you build is large enough to hold the volume of water needed. If you don’t estimate enough water, your pondless waterfall may run out of water too soon. This is especially true in hot weather conditions where water will evaporate quickly. A dried out water basin can cut years off from your pumps life as pumps should last many years under proper working conditions. You need to be cautious to avoid potential overflowing in an event of power loss. Even more important is to install a float valve that will automatically shut off power from the pump when water levels get too low.
Step # 3
Once you have dug out the path, you need to lay down a layer of landscape fabric. Make sure to spread out your landscape rubber so that it goes well into the groves and smooth out wrinkles on your waterfall drop. Finally, you should cover the entire thing in a sheet of landscape fabric to help protect your expensive pond rubber. Pond line exposed to the sun can eventually start to crack. The top later of fabric liner covers the pump, vault and drain pipe to allow the water to flow in, but keep the dirt out.
Step # 4
Landscape rocks may be expensive both in upfront cost, transport, and installation. But with a bit of searching you can find rocks for free, such as an area where mountain has been blasted, construction site, etc. This is good news for the DIYer or even a professional who can then route those savings to purchase more quality products for other areas e.g. better quality pumps, lighting, filters, and accessories.
Step # 5
You can use premix cement or landscape foam around the edges of your waterfall. As the gaps and crevasses are filled, water flows on top of your ledges rather than flowing underneath it. This is an important step as it can make a huge difference in the overall flow. Don’t spray too much as the foam expands. You can cut excess later with a knife. Properly filling in gaps will help to ensure that the water is going where you want it to go.
Step # 6
Something you should definitely add is landscape lighting to give your waterfall a spa glow during the evenings when the sun is going down. You can also add plants – real, fake or a mix to add more color and give the feature a more natural look. Pretty soon your pondless waterfall will become a miniature oasis that will have its own ecosystem. (And yes, if you have a pondless waterfall with natural rock instead of artificial rock the maintenance requirements will be very high).
Once you have done all the hard work, it is time to enjoy the waterfall. You can invite your friends for an intimate party at the waterfall or you can simply unwind after a hard day of work.
We recommend Pinterest or Houzz to find more inspiration for your pondless waterfall designs.
Need to find a contractor? Contact your local pond/landscaping supply store for some recommendations. They can also help you to spec out the proper equipment for your pondless waterfall including the pumps, filters, lights, and more.