How to Build a Backyard Waterfall

Just a small corner of the yard is all you need to create a beautiful waterfall.
Just a small corner of the yard is all you need to create a beautiful waterfall.

Waterfalls offer many benefits to a landscape design. Not only do they look lovely, but they can also block extraneous noise from surrounding properties and add a natural element to the landscaping that creates a tranquil feeling. Having a waterfall professionally built can be cost-prohibitive, but with some elbow grease and a little bit of patience, building one yourself is surprisingly simple.

Select the Site

The first thing to consider is the site of your waterfall. The space does not need to be large, but take into account how large you want the waterfall to be and if you want it to have a steep drop-off or if you prefer a meandering waterfall that resembles more of a babbling brook. According to The Family Handyman, a waterfall needs to be at least 10-inches high to block the sound of street noise and it needs to have a minimum slope of 2-inches so take that into consideration when choosing the location, size, and look of the waterfall. Also, be careful to choose a spot where the waterfall can be scaled to fit so that it will look natural. The pump for the waterfall will also require electricity so be certain that it is located in a place where power is available.

Draw an Outline

Once the site has been selected, using marking paint, draw an outline of the pond that will collect the water. There are two ways to line the pond. You can either purchase pond liner, which comes flat and can be molded to whatever shape you choose to dig or you can purchase a rigid pond tub. If you choose the latter, you’ll need to outline that exact shape whereas if you use the pond liner, you can create a free form. Outline both where the pond will go as well as the space where the rocks and plants will go surrounding it. If the waterfall is going to be more of a gradual stream rather than a steep drop-off, you’ll want to extend the pond liner up to the waterfall so that the water doesn’t seep into the ground as it moves down the fall.

Dig the Hole

The most labor intensive part of building a waterfall is digging the hole in which the pond will sit. Before digging, be certain that there are no pipes or wires that run through the ground where you have sited your pond (check your local yellow pages for a company that can come out to check if you aren’t 100-percent positive). The depth of your hole will depend on the size of the pond and the type of pump you purchase to move the water.

Install Pump

All artificial waterfalls require a pump to recirculate the water continuously. The pump goes on the lower level of the waterfall and attached to tubing that runs the water back up to the top of the waterfall. Place your pump according to the instructions (some are submersible and some are not) that come with it and run the tubing up to where the waterfall will be.

Lay Out Stones

The trickiest part of the waterfall installation is laying out the stones. The only way to do it is to use trial and error until you get the stones to fit exactly how you want them so that they look nice, hide the pond liner and pump tubing, and also provide the elevation you need to get to the top of the waterfall. Stones of just about any size and shape can be used, and your choice of stones will really determine the style of your waterfall. A mixture of different types of stones and a variety of sizes helps filter the water, make the waterfall more interesting, and will make it appear more natural in the space. If you are using any sort of decorative pre-fabricated waterfall, now would be the time to install that as well.

Fill Pond with Water

Once you are happy with the layout of the waterfall and collection pond, it’s time to fill the pond with water and turn on the pump. The water may be a bit mucky at first, but once it starts circulating it will begin to filter out the dirt.

Plant Around the Waterfall

Adding plants to the areas surrounding your waterfall and pond, and in the pond itself, is not a necessity, but it will make your water feature lusher and bring a pop of color making the overall look of your new landscape element even more visually striking.

More Great Links


  • “Build a Backyard Waterfall and Stream.” The Family Handy Man.
  • “DIY Backyard Pond & Landscape Water Feature” OHMY! Creative. (February 17, 2013).