How to Build a Waterfall on a Budget that You Will Love

Don’t let ANYONE tell you differently. You can build a waterfall on a budget! Let me show you how with this tutorial. Trust me, it’s soooo much easier than you realize!

how to build a waterfall on a budget

Sometimes when I think up a new project it’s out of pure want. I want a pretty house, therefore, I want a gorgeous mason jar pendant light above our dining room table, etc.

However, this particular project started off not as a want, but rather a true need. When my husband Mike and I first moved into our home the previous owner could not take care of the large yard and pond by herself. Then to top it off no one had been living in our home for over 6 months prior to us moving in. The pond was a complete mess, to say the least! We desperately needed an aeration system and had to quickly add a pump that was within our very small budget.

Like with all of my projects I wanted to keep the costs down, but also create a beautiful piece of work that my family and I could enjoy for many, many more years to come.

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Pricing: Build a Waterfall

With that being said, have you ever priced out a pond waterfall kit? From my research, I found a range of $600 – $4,000 (depending on if you needed to hire help). Definitely out of my budget! How about flagstone, ledge, or slate rock? Jaw-dropping, right? Some of the local stores in town were asking a minimum of $60 for one rock at 25 lb. Uh.. yea. No thank you!

So, today I am going to show you how to build a waterfall on a budget, create your own rock out of concrete, and then “pretty up” the area with found rock and plant life. Are you ready?

DIY waterfall in a private pond

How to Build a Waterfall on a Budget that You Will Love

Materials Used:

  • 2x4x8’s (pressure treated)
  • 2x6x8’s (pressure treated)
  • 1x 6’s (pressure treated)
  • 1″ PVC T-fitting (3)
  • 2″ foam insulation
  • 1″ PVC elbow (8)
  • 1″ PVC pipe 10 foot sections SCH20 (10)
  • 1/6 hp submersible multipurpose water pump
  • wood screws
  • 1″ PVC connectors (6)
  • liquid cement color
  • concrete mix (we used 6 80lb bags)
  • concrete mold
  • mortar (2 40lb bags)
  • purple primer
  • medium clear pvc cement
  • “found” rock

Tools Suggested:

Steps:

1.) Decide where to put your waterfall

Ever since we bought our home I have been majorly crushing on this itty-bitty island right smack in the middle of our heart-shaped pond which is approximately 3/4 of an acre.

It was a little consumed with saplings and plant life so we had to row our little boat over there to clear out an area for the waterfall.

It would have been too much of a hassle to bring all of the unneeded branches back over to the “mainland” so the rest were burnt directly on the island.

how to build a waterfall

2.) Make artificial rocks 

Next, it’s time to make some artificial rocks out of concrete. Did you know that they have cement colors? I sure didn’t!

Make sure to read and follow the directions on the cement color bottles first. I do believe we did it the wrong way the first time around. Oops!

3.) Smooth the cement

After your cement and color is thoroughly mixed we placed it within the mold, smoothed it over with a piece of wood we had on hand, and then immediately removed the mold.

NOTE: Use a tarp with this step. They will be easier to remove when they have completed dried.

I was a little nervous to immediately remove the mold, but our first one (and then everyone after) worked out just fine!

We ended up using three bottles of cement color (each with their own bag of cement), and then an additional two more bags of concrete with their usual color without a mold. They were created by just making large square-like sections on the tarp.

Also, just remember these little guys take a long time to thoroughly dry. They will be extremely fragile for the first 24 hours.

Psstt… here’s another tutorial on how to create faux rocks that is also super helpful!

How to Build a Waterfall on a Budget that You Will Love

make your own rocks from concrete for a DIY waterfall feature

4. ) Form the flow of the water

To make the water “fall” out of the rock instead of shooting out, we divided the supply line 4 ways with some 1″ T-fittings and 1″ elbows. We pre-cut 2″ long pieces of 1″ PVC to connect all the fittings (male connectors).

After priming all the pieces to be connected we started with one T-fitting and two male connectors, then added two more T-fittings to that. From those two T-fittings, four more male connectors were used to add the four, 90-degree elbows.
building a custom waterfall in a pond

As you can see in below picture this will be your end result. Don’t worry, this will not be seen! This is just merely the fountainhead that will be underwater.

 build a waterfall in a pond

5.) Assemble the framework

Next, assemble the framework. This was done with three staggered boxes, ours measured 24″ by 36″. The first box was made from 2X6s and the other two from 2X4s. The most important step here is to make sure they are level (to avoid water running over the sides). We screwed them to each other with 3″ screws.

build a waterfall custom

6.) Test placement of fountainhead

Temporarily place your fountainhead inside to see where your supply lines need to run.

7.) Brace the box

Where the last box hung off the edge we used some cut 2X4’s to brace it up and hold it level.

8.) Put insulation inside the boxes

Next, cut and fit the 2″ foam insulation to fit in the boxes.

how to build a waterfall the easy way

How to Build a Waterfall on a Budget

9.) Add extensions

Cut and connect some 12″ extensions to come up through the foam. When we pressed the foam to the top of the fountainhead it left an impression that enabled us to cut holes for the pipe to protrude from. Again keep calm, this will all be hidden later.

10.) Secure the foam into place

diy waterfall

Secure the foam into place with some screws. Don’t drive the screws all the way through, just enough to hold the foam in place.

11.) Create a lip around the boxes

Use some 1X4s to create a “lip” around your boxes (see picture below).

Have you been wondering how all these shots have been taken? I thought you’d get a kick out of this picture! Let me just start off by saying that I have been known to be a little clumsy. Rowing this little boat around the island while taking pictures (some of them I was standing up in!) was quite amusing. However, I can proudly say that I did not fall in throughout the entire duration of this project!

12.) Connect the water supply

Connect your water supply line to the fountainhead and bury it as necessary. Fill some of the voids with leftover foam and our homemade “rocks”. Our water supply line is on the far right side of the below picture.

Pssttt…. Don’t forget to check out my DIY projects page chocked full of DIY and decorating goodness!

how to build a custom waterfall

13.) Mix and apply concrete

Mix your concrete and apply liberally to all the boxes making sure it fills in all the little gaps and cracks. Also, ensure that it is approximately 1″ thick in all areas, and then slope it up to the lip with a scrap piece of wood (or your hands, if you dare!). This creates a nice trough for the water to fill in and run out. However, waterfalls aren’t troughs so we added some more of our homemade “rocks” to break it up. Do this while your concrete is still wet to ensure they adhere to.

NOTE: Our homemade rocks had a beautiful color when they were first made, but as they hardened their color faded significantly.

Here are a few different angles just to give you an idea of how ours looked at this step.

How to Build a Waterfall on a Budget that You Will Love

14.) Apply mortar to the outer edges

Mix the mortar and apply to the outer sides of the structure, and place your “rocks” into the mortar to break up the edges and make it look more natural.

15.) Hook up the water pump

After everything has thoroughly dried (I highly recommend a minimum of 24 hours. The longer, the better), it’s now time to hook up the water pump and test it out! Since we already had one in place we just had to connect our PVC pipes from the island to its location.

As you can see in this below picture the distance is a little bit of a hike and required a lot of PVC.

diy waterfall

16.) Connect your water pump

Make sure to follow the instructions on your water pump since each one is a little bit different.

I let Mike jump in the pond and attach our PVC to our water pump. I’ll be honest! There was absolutely no way that I was going in that pond. I’ve seen water snakes and snapping turtles in it before, and I’m quite alright watching from dry land!

how to build a waterfall pond

17.) Make sure the concrete has hardened

Prior to turning on your water pump for a test drive ensure that your concrete has indeed hardened, and then go ahead and trim off those PVC extensions approximately 1/4″ above the concrete. We used the reciprocating saw to do this (prior to turning on the water), and then tried it out!

I love it when a plan comes together!

build your own waterfall pond

How to Build a Waterfall on a Budget that You Will Love

18.) Place rocks around the waterfall

Last, but not least, we gathered up some “found rocks” and place them around our new waterfall.

Now honestly, this step will all depend on your location. I grew up in the Midwest around a lot of farms (and even now in North Carolina), and I’ve always been able to easily find rock around these fields. I am by no means encouraging you to enter onto any farm or field that you wish. However, Mike and I have quite a few friends who own farmland who have beautiful rocks that they just can’t get rid of quickly enough! What I am encouraging though is that you ask your own family and friends (or maybe even a neighbor) if they need help getting rid of these “hindrances”. To date, I’ve never been told no.

how to build a pond waterfall step by step

There’s really no perfect way to add rock. Just start off by testing them out. Place them all around your waterfall on both the inside and around it.

Add a few flowers and mulch, and voila you’ve created your own little oasis! Not to mention, if there is a part of your structure that isn’t as appealing to you (for whatever reason) just add your found rocks, mulch, and plant life close by to cover it up.

Not sure what plants will grow around your waterfall or in your pond? Check out this article about these 10 Popular Pond Plants!

how to add a waterfall to a pond

Cost and Time Involved to Build a Waterfall:

  • wood: $40
  • foam insulation: $38
  • PVC: $40
  • screws: $6
  • cement color: $15
  • purple primer & pvc cement: $7
  • concrete mix: $24
  • concrete mold: $15
  • mortar (2: 40 lb bags): $8
  • water pump: $64
  • lilies: $36
  • 3 bags of mulch: $10
  • found rock: $0

total: $303

This project will ultimately depend on your budget. We had a very small budget so we had to get quite creative in order to make this work. This particular project took us all weekend (plus a Friday night), but that was mainly due to having to wait for the concrete to dry.

I hope you enjoyed learning how to build a waterfall, and just let me know if you have any questions!!

Happy DIY’ing it 🙂

Pssttt…. Don’t forget to check out my DIY projects page chocked full of DIY and decorating goodness!

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This post was originally created in June 2015 and then updated in June 2021.

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16 Comments

  1. What cool projects! The waterfall is beautiful.

    By the way, I’d love to invite you post on my new blog hop—the Weekend Blog Hop at My Flagstaff Home (www.myflagstaffhome.com). It begins on Thursday evenings and lasts all weekend, if you’re interested.

    Jennifer

    1. Thank you so much!! It is a little bit of work (I’ll be honest!), but the end results will completely outweigh any negatives. I can’t wait to see yours!

  2. This is fabulous!! Thank you for sharing with us at Brag About It!
    I’ll be featuring your post at the next party – I hope you’ll join us! Party starts Mondays at midnight.
    Have a great week!
    ~Laurie

  3. Thank you for sharing at Share it One More Time, you are one of the features this week! Party is open would love to see what you have been up to this week! Tammy

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