Adding a water feature, like a pool, pond, or fountain, to your outdoor space can take relaxation to a whole new level. Check out these ideas to help create the oasis of your dreams.
Happily, you don’t need deep pockets or lots of land to enjoy your own water feature. You can install a fully equipped, landscaped, fish-filled pond for around $500, provided that you do your own digging.
Creating a lush habitat like the one at right requires rubbery liners, powerful pumps, effective filters, and, without question, a commitment to care for them. But when you’re finished, whether it’s tucked into a corner of the yard or next to a deck or patio, your pond will provide an endless source of fascination for family and visitors alike. Learn everything you need to know about them here.
A free-form pond can be customized for any landscape, with different rocks, plants, shapes, and waterfalls. But we’ll give you some helpful points on placement, size, and materials. Before beginning, have electric and gas lines marked, then pick a noticeable spot away from large trees or play areas.
See the full DIY tutorial to learn more about optimal size, depth, and building materials. (This how-to was inspired by this reader remodel couple.)
Make a lily pond
If you want to add a touch of Zen to your patio or garden, here’s a pleasing solution as compact as it is easy to care for. The simple box construction is plenty sturdy, a thick pond liner contains the water, and a plug-in aerator provides the circulation and oxygen that plants and fish need to thrive in a small space. Lower in several hardy water lilies, and the perennials will send up shoots that keep you in daily blooms of pink, red, white, and yellow from June through August.
Come fall, just shear off the shoots and they’ll come back bigger and bolder next spring. As long as the water doesn’t freeze solid in winter, these lilies will survive in place. See the full DIY tutorial for photos and detailed instructions.
Explore more backyard pond options
Ponds can be grand additions, or they can just make a small splash in the landscape. This gallery features 11 different options to choose from.
Landscape contractor Roger Cook answers questions about pond safety here and battling pond algae here.
Installing a pond is no small feat, but the end result can be a beautiful, enjoyable space that adds character to your yard for years to come. The ponds created by these TOH readers prove just that, and each pond has a unique story of how it came to be.
Some homeowners turned a completely blank landscape into a lush oasis. Others uprooted their existing nightmare and completed a total makeover. These tales of outdoor transformations may just inspire you to build a pond of your own. This reader changed his weedy lawn to a rock-garden pond.
How to build a pondless waterfall
If you don’t want to commit to an entire body of water, this soothing waterfall is a natural-looking addition to your yard. For written step-by-step instruction, visit our how-to.
Few things soothe like running water. If you don’t happen to have a meandering stream in your yard, there’s another way to harness water’s therapeutic benefits: a garden fountain. It provides the same calming qualities and can dramatically lift the look of your landscape.
Styles run from classical tiered towers to contemporary orbs, and a fountain’s design speaks to more than aesthetics; the architecture determines how the water flows and the music it creates, from a splashing that drubs out street noise to a bubbling that provides a subtle background score to patio conversation.
Read on to discover everything you need to know about installing your own, and if a running, bubbling, pouring, raining, or cascading fountain is best for your yard.
How to build a fountain
The project is nothing to get stressed about. In a mere weekend, you can fountain-ize most any leftover garden ornament, turning it into an enduring monument to tranquility. Revive a defunct birdbath, declare your own ode to a Grecian urn, or drill holes in a stack of rocks you found on-site, as This Old House technical editor Mark Powers did for a friend one hot afternoon.
When the job is finished and your fountain runneth over, you’ll rinse the tension from your bones in calm, cascading rivulets. Relaxation never seemed so easy. Build your own fountain in just 8 hours by using our step-by-step guide.
Turn a salvaged urn into a garden fountain
The only other major expense for this fountain project (besides the urn itself, which hopefully you may have!) was the submersible, recirculating bubbler, which we got for just $25. The rest was sweat equity. Here’s how to do it in five easy steps.
Use a fountain for privacy
Even if you’re not literally seeing eye to eye with the neighbors, you might still be close enough to hear their conversation. Or you may be bothered by intrusive traffic noise or buzzing AC compressors. In such cases, adding a fountain to your privacy plan can mask unwanted sounds with pleasant white noise. These range from off-the-shelf, plug-in units that sit on a table or hang on the wall to custom designs that become a major focal point.
Look here for nine other ways to add privacy to your yard.
Install a solar-powered fountain
This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook shows how to harness the sun’s energy to power a backyard water feature.
Read the written steps here and finish the project in just a couple of hours. Roger Cook answers other questions about a solar-powered pump here.
Maintaining your fountain
Beautiful water features come with a price, of course: resource management and maintenance. With a little effort, you can make sure that your water feature doesn’t become an expensive and non-working eyesore. Read tips inspired by the fountain at our Cambridge, Massachusetts house.
Keep your fountain running
Fight build up and get rid of grime to keep your fountain running – with clear water.
Read about five fountain care tips here.
Adding a backyard pool is a large commitment in space, time, and money. Be inspired by one installed by a former professional swimmer, or this one, installed as part of the TOH West Palm Beach house.
Maintaining your pool
On a searing summer day, a swimming pool is a welcome respite from the heat. But before you can dive into its cool blue water, you have to perform all the maintenance drudgery that prolongs its crystal-clear perfection. This often makes a backyard pool more of a burden than a blessing.
Read a step-by-step maintenance guide (informed by a speedy, expert pool cleaner) here, find some more headache-free tips here, and don’t forget to test the pH!
Heat a pool with an air conditioner
Watch along as TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey installs a device that will heat a pool with the heat produced by an air conditioner.
Find the steps here, or read more pool heating and cooling tips.
Install an outdoor shower
Whether the goal is to wash off the day or to commune with nature, there is an outdoor shower for you. The simplest is a foot sprayer hooked to an existing cold-water spigot. The most complicated and expensive is an outdoor shower with cold and hot water, a custom enclosure for privacy, and a built-in changing room for convenience. What’s universal about any alfresco shower is that it beckons you outside. Read all about outdoor showers here.