How To: Disappearing Water Feature

HOW TO: Build a Disappearing Water Feature


Disappearing Water Features are a great option if you are constrained by space, budget, water restrictions, or if you just want to see and hear the flowing water in a simple form rather than a full scale pond.  These are very easy and quick to build and the options are endless.

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Pondless water features can be placed on the ground with your water cavity below ground level or they can be built on an above ground basin you build or purchase.  Your choice in basin will be determined by your feature, the look you are going for, and space/environmental constraints.  We built a Disappearing water feature this summer at Water Garden Gems with Universal Rocks merchandise we carry here.  To show you an example, here is our process and pictures along the way.

1) First, determine your placement of your cavity.  It should be located at the lowest point, and that may require you to create an incline down to the basin. The center basin does not have to be in the center of the feature, and usually is not. If you ever need access to the pump, you won't want it immediately beneath the feature itself.


2. Second and VERY important; you want to level off your entire area to where the water flows into the cavity.  This can be as little as a 2 degree slope, but there does need to be a slight slope into the cavity.  Make sure you pound firm the entire area you are going to place your liner or have your feature on as you do not want the ground to "settle,” as this can cause future problems with drainage, and may require you to rebuild your feature.

3. You want to create your cavity for your pump. This can be fairly small, but take into consideration the size of the pump and GPH you are pumping through to make sure you are not pumping the water out faster than it can flow back in.  Also understand that you will be adding water periodically based on evaporation so have the holding cavity large enough to prevent frequent filling.  We built our cavity to be about 2.5’x 2.5’x 3’deep for our feature running 7 one-inch tubes over a slight gradient covering about a 15x15 foot surface area.

4. Placing the liner should be done with caution as you do not want to make large footprints into your leveled area.  Make sure you firmly push your liner into the cavity and, as you add water, ensure that the liner is filling into the corners of the hole.


5. Once you have your liner in place and have filled the cavity with water, it is time to place the grate and, if desired, reinforcement to hold the weight of the grate.  You want to choose a grate that will not rust as it will be under water continuously.  You will also want to put a thinner material with smaller holes ontop of the grate to prevent smaller rocks from falling in.


6. Build your pump intake.  You can set the pump in the cavity if you have a submersible pump or you can run a pipe into the cavity and use an external pump.  Either way, we recommend you draw water from the middle of the water cavity as to avoid sucking sludge into your pump.  This is the design we created to provide our pump the optimal intake scenario.


7. Install your pump and you are ready to build your feature.  Here you see we have completely covered the cavity and have the outgoing water pipe cutting through a small hole in the grates. This prevents anything from entering our water chamber, such as leaves, rocks, etc.


8. The feature you are using will determine steps from here on. Whether simple or complicated, the key is to be patient and work at it until you have created the feature that fulfills the vision in your head.  We stacked many faux rocks to create a 3 dimensional feature with two bridges where water falls naturally in all directions.  It took time to hide all 7 pipelines, but when working with a 360 degree feature, it is important to hide all functional pieces of the project.


9. Level your feature.  No matter what type of feature you are installing, you want to make sure you get it perfectly level so the water flows as desired.  If you are building a multi-port feature, you may want to use a garden hose to test the water flow and how it falls out of each port before you hardwire your plumbing.


10. Finally, you want to plumb your unit.  If you are using an urn (or other feature with a basin above ground-level,) you will want to make sure that the basin is watertight.  If, for example, a disappearing urn project does not have a watertight seal at the base of the urn, water will seep out of the bottom of the urn, reducing the flow of water above the urn. This loss of water could result in your feature not providing the flow you intended.  If you build a feature with multiple water outlets, you may want to put a ball valve at each port so that you can better regulate how much of your waterflow is going to each outlet.


If you have questions or would like specific recommendations for your Disappearing Water Feature, Contact us by email or give us a call. You can also always come visit us.  We have several different features set up and can give you advise and ideas.  We also carry all the pumps, grates,  barbs, tubing, and everything you would need to make your vision come alive and have a great finished product.




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