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Installing A Disappearing Waterfall

If you're one of the many homeowners who want to learn how to install a disappearing waterfall, the information on this page is going to be incredibly helpful. Over the last few years, pond-free waterfalls have become very popular. A pond-free waterfall adds soothing sounds of running water to your garden without the hassle of fish or water clarity. Because the water in a pondless waterfall is only an inch or two deep, it greatly reduces the risk of accidents involving children and/or animals. Pondless waterfalls are easy to build if you wish to build it yourself.


Pond-Free Waterfall Components Handout

How a Pond-Free Waterfall Works
Pond-free waterfalls can be different shapes and sizes. Water can fall off rocks and into reservoirs or it can wind down long streams with cascading falls and pools of water placed throughout. A pondless waterfall starts with a reservoir that holds enough water for your waterfall. Inside of the reservoir is a pump that re-circulates the water through flexible hosing to a waterfall weir at the top of the waterfall. Everything is contained in a rubber pond liner and underlay beneath it, so the water stays in your waterfall and doesn't soak into the ground. The liner also keeps the water from mixing with dirt causing discolored water.

Pond Pro Shop offers disappearing waterfall kits that contain a pump, tubing, underlay, liner, a waterfall weir, etc. Learn how to choose the right kit for your backyard and how to install your disappearing waterfall effectively by reading below.

Choosing a waterfall basin
There are several types of basins that can be used for a pondless waterfall. Pond Pro Shop offers pre-formed waterfall basins that are good for small waterfalls. If a larger waterfall is desired we recommend using underlay and an EPDM rubber pond liner with a waterfall pump vault.

Before you choose what type of basin to use you will first need to find out how much water your waterfall will need. Use our Waterfall Basin Calculator to determine your waterfall's water volume and the size of basin it will require.

How to Choose the Right Waterfall Pump
Choosing the right waterfall pump is important in determining what your waterfall will look and sound like. When deciding on a waterfall pump you need to take into consideration the amount of head pressure your waterfall pump will have to overcome. Head pressure is the amount of force the pump must overcome to push the water out of the tubing end. You will also need to decide the width of your weir (waterfall spillway) and how much water you want flowing through your waterfall. Keep in mind that you want to purchase a waterfall pump that exceeds your needs – you can always decrease the pump's flow if it is too great, but you cannot increase its flow if it is too little.

To figure the amount of head the waterfall pump will have you will need to know the vertical lift from the water surface inside the basin to the top of the waterfalls spillway. Next you will need to know the length of tubing from the waterfall pump to the waterfall weir. Then you will need to count the number of 90 degree and "T" fittings you will need, plus any other fittings. Once you have the numbers, enter them into our Head Pressure Calculator to get the total head pressure your waterfall will have.

Once you have determined your head pressure you will need to know what size weir you will have and the depth of water that will flow over the weir. Half inch deep waterfalls are common for residential water features. Three inch deep waterfalls are generally used in commercial settings that require a more dramatic effect. Deeper waterfalls with thicker flows produce more sound. Keep in mind that you want to purchase a waterfall pump that exceeds your needs. You can always decrease the pump's flow if it is too great, but you cannot increase its flow if it is too little.

To determine the amount of water flowing over the weir, you will need to determine how wide your weir is and the depth of water flowing over it. Use our Waterfall Flow Calculator to determine how much flow will be required for the size weir you wish to have. Remember the amount of flow at the top of the waterfall is NOT the maximum pump flow. You will need to factor in the amount of head pressure required to get the water flow you need at the top of your waterfall.

Now that you have determined the amount of head pressure and the amount of flow, it's time to choose your pump. Direct drive waterfall pumps offer high flow rates but cost more to run. Magnetic drive pumps cost less to run but offer lower flow rates. If the pumps flow is less than the amount you need at the head height you have, you need to find a larger pump. If the pump's flow is more than the amount you require at the height of head you have, then that's a good pump for you. Remember, you want to purchase a waterfall pump that exceeds your needs, because you can always decrease the pump's flow if it is too great, but you cannot increase its flow if it is too little. Contact us for help on choosing the right pump for you.

You may want to know how much energy the pump requires to run. Pondproshop.com offers a Monthly Electrical Cost Calculator that will figure how much your pump or other electrical devices will cost to run each month.

How to Choose A Waterfall Weir
Now that you have decided how wide you want your waterfall weir, it's time to choose a diffuser that's right for you. Pondless waterfalls don't have to be filtered like water gardens or koi ponds. Waterfall filters are used to diffuse the water so it flows over the weir gently and smoothly. Pond Pro Shop offers different sizes of waterfall filters and weirs. Remember the wider the weir the more water it takes to create the desired water flow over the weir and will require a larger pump.

How to Break Ground
Now that you have all the information needed to build your pondless waterfall, you can dig the waterfall basin to the size determined above. Build up the spillway at the top of the waterfall with concrete blocks or large rocks and the dirt that was removed from the basin. More dirt may be required to get the desired look you want. Dig a hole at the top of your waterfall large enough to hold the waterfall filter or weir. To add interest and more sound, make the water way turn randomly. Create an additional shelf or two that will act as a small waterfall to provide more sound.

To add interest and more sound, make the water way turn randomly. Create an additional shelf or two that will act as a small waterfall to provide more sound.

Now that the dirt work is complete, it's time to install the underlay and EPDM rubber pond liner. If you are using a rubber liner basin our Pond Liner Size Calculator will determine the amount of liner that is needed for the basin. For added protection to you liner, lay a peice of underlay on top of the liner in the basin. This will protect your liner from rock and block that are added to fill in the basin. If you are using a gravel filled basin, it is time to install the pump vault, pump and tubing. It is recommended that an Auto Fill Kit be installed as well. This keeps you from having to fill the basin as the water evaporates or splashes out. Once these are installed, fill the basin with large rocks and then with gravel. Fill with gravel to the top of the pump vault. Install the underlay and EPDM rubber pond liner to the rest of your waterfall. The underlay and liner should be wide enough to cover the waterfall with an additional two feet on each side. Extend the liner three inches down into the waterfall basin. Install the waterfall filter or weir and attach the liner to it, leaving extra liner for settling. Make sure the liner is high enough around the waterfall filter or weir to prevent the water from escaping. Be sure to smooth out the liner along the sides and bottom of the waterway. Wrinkles could cause the water to flow different then you would like.

How to Add Rock And Gravel
Once the underlay and liner is in place and smoothed out, you can now begin strategically placing large boulders to accent areas of the waterfall. Place flat rocks on the small shelves you dug earlier to create small waterfalls. Use black waterfall foam to fill in around the large rocks to prevent water from running under them. Place gravel in the waterway and sides to cover the liner. Place rocks and gravel according to your design. Place pieces of wood or other obstructions in the waterway to create interest. Placing a large boulder in the center of the waterway causes the water to split and create more sound.

Using a garden hose, spray down the rocks and gravel to wash as much dirt away as possible. Plug in the pump and remove the dirty water from the basin. Repeat this step if necessary. Once the dirty water is out of the basin, bury the tubing and attach it to the waterfall filter or weir. Fill the basin to the top with water. Plug the pump in again and watch your waterfall come to life.

Now you can see where and how the water is flowing. Make adjustments where necessary. It is recommended that you let the water run for at least an hour. When trimming the excess liner, be sure to leave enough so that the water has no chance of escaping. It's recommended that you don't trim your liner any closer than 4" from the water level. Bury excess liner and landscape over it.

How to Create Interest
You can make your waterfall more interesting and aesthetically pleasing by redirecting the water flow using large rocks, gravel, or even a piece of wood. Remember to use black waterfall foam along the front of your obstacles so water runs around them instead of underneath. You can also add lights to your waterfall that highlight certain accent points making your waterfall enjoyable at night. Add plants around your waterfall to compliment the rocks. Use mulch to cover the excess liner and cords.

By following the steps outlined above you'll be able to wow your friends & family with your beautiful disappearing waterfall.

  1. 1. Waterfall Filter or Weir - Diffuses the water for a smooth flow.

  2. 2. Tubing - Flexible tubing allows water to flow from the pump to the Waterfall Filter.

  3. 3. Liner Underlay - Protects liner from items that could damage the liner.

  4. 4. Pond Liner - Allows water to flow without soaking into the ground and keeps dirt from mixing with water.

  5. 5. EcoBlox - Used to open up the waterfall basin so fewer rocks are used. Each EcoBlox has a 31.5 gallon capacity.

  6. 6. Waterfall Pump - Circulates water from the bottom of the waterfall basin to the waterfall filter.

  7. 7. Pump Vault - Used to keep debris from reaching the waterfall pump. Also allows easy access to the waterfall pump.

  8. 8. Waterfall Reservoir - Stores the water that is pumped to the top of the waterfall.

  9. 9. Cobblestone - Used to hide the liner in the streambed and the large stones in the waterfall reservoir.

  10. 10. Fieldstone - Used to create small waterfalls and focal points within the waterfall. It's also used to fill in the waterfall reservoir.


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