Do you have a corner in your backyard that needs a bit of sprucing up? Perhaps this might be the project for you, Rather than spend your allowance on a packaged waterfall from Home Depot that will run you in the $200-$300 mark if you buy it in the middle of summer, you might opt for something a little more unique that will cost yes less than half of the retail price. Some of the materials we used include railway ties to build a short wall, landscape ties to close off the waterfall area, one inch river rock, pea gravel, plastic sheeting, a water pump, a few 5 gallon pails and assorted rocks from a local landscaping firm. Have a gander at what we did and if you have suggestions or make one yourself, please send me a copy.
Step 1: Come up with your idea
We must have sat and looked at the pile of rocks (see picture) for AGES. All I knew was that as it was an area close to the fence in the south east corner of my yard, nothing much grew there .
Step 2: Select area for waterfall and create a retaining wall
We used old railway ties I purchased locally ($4) each and created a raised area. The ties were used against the fence(s) making sure they weren't right against the fence so that in the future if the fence requires repair we won't have to dismantle the entire thing. While you can't see from the picture we tapered off the ties to the left of the image so that it went from two ties down to one then to nothing..... The ties can be kept in place by hammering in rebar (but as ours was so low we didn't do that)
Step 3: Continue with placing ties along the fence to provide a boundary for the gravel and rock
We used a saw (pictured) to cut the ties, while not shown here we did remove the top most left hand tie before we proceeded. Note the big yellow pail? This will be important for future steps.
Step 4: Start digging!
Here was the fun part, if you recall from the previous step I alluded to the pails being a reservoir for the waterfall. In order for the waterfall to drain into the pails they have to be below the highest point of the waterfall, Like a drain in a sink you want to make sure everything flows towards the pails. The best way to ensure this is to dig a hole to accommodate these pails. We used three pails but the more pails you use the larger the reservoir you will have. This will make sense in the coming steps, in the meantime grab a shovel and start digging at the point you wish to have the water pool when your waterfall is completed.
Step 5: Padding and Lining the pond area
We used leftover bubble wrap from the pool cover but you can use old carpeting, newspapers, this will prevent and rocks under the cushioning material from cutting through your pond liner. Pond liner is very expensive so you don't want to have a pesky rock cut the liner and then your pond/water feature drains. Once your cushioning material is in place you can then lay your liner overtop. A few options for pond liner are.... well pond liner.....which is expensive, something like $12 a foot and its only 3 feet wide. We used a thicker poly plastic that you could use as a vapour barrier when insulating home. It too has its pros and cons.
Step 6: Put pails into hole (modify pails first)
Before I start with this instruction I must tell you an important step. These pails have 12 holes drilled into each of them. These holes are half inch (1/2") wide and are interdispersed four drilled at the 3" mark, four at the 6" mark and four at the 8" mark. When you put the pails into the hole and backfill with 1" river rock the river rock cannot fall into the pails through the hole, however the water can seep into the hole to create a reservoir. The last thing you want to do is run a pump with no water. This ensures that won't happen. One of the pails that will house the pump has a notch near the top so that the electrical cable and pump hose can travel towards the top of the waterfall. All lids in place, all pails in the holes, now onto the next step.
Step 7: Complete the enclosure for the rocks using gardening ties
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We purchased a few gardening ties ($3-$4 each) and used them to close off the area to house the rock. Our handyman can be seen hammering in rebar into drilled holes in the rebar to secure the ties (don't use an axe like our demonstrator did, perhaps a large hammer will do). At the same time we filled the area with pea gravel, (very small round rocks approx 1/4" in diameter). We only used the plastic liner in the area that would be exposed to water, however you might consider placing some sort of landscape fabric in other area to prevent the growth of weeds pushing up from below.
Step 8: Run Electrical line and pump hose to top of waterfall.
From pail containing the pump we ran the electrical and the pump hose up to the corner of our waterfall. The hose is hidden behind the back of the top rock and the electrical is also pulled to the top but then connects away from the water source. This is important as water and electricity don't mix.
Step 9: Now place your larger rocks in the main area
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I tried to place the rocks so that they encircle the water area and tapered them off so that it appeared that the smaller rocks were at the edges. You might be able to see this in some of the pictures taken from a higher distance. Now the mistake we made which didn't really turn into a mistake as it was a plus in our situation. Here is Manitoba we get a lot of mosquities that breed in standing water. As we used the bubble wrap and the plastic sheeting there is a slow leak in our pond. Why is this a plus? No standing water for breeding insects and no bad smell for stagnant water. Also with a large dog he tends to enjoy laying in our pond on warm days.
Step 10: Plug in your waterfall crack open a beer and enjoy the summer
As you might be able to see this pond slowly drains, luckily it is away from both houses and so far there has been no problems.