Disappearing Vase Fountain HELP

usmc0302July 4, 2011

I want to install a disappearing vase fountain in our yard and need some assistance as this is my first attempt at this project. In particular:

1) Where can I find an alternative basin to the standard fountain basins that are sold in garden centers -- for a plastic bucket and grill, they run about $200 which seems unreasonable??

2) I want to use a tall thin vase style -- perhaps something roughly 48" in height. What size pump and basin would I need?? The water will, hopefully, not splash too much away from the base of the vase.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide!!!

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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

A very small pump should be fine, but the trick will be to find the stem tall enough for a 48" vase.

I made a pot fountain with a large Vietnamese pot, and it was a struggle to get all the parts together and make them work. For instance, I'm on my second pump, and it's sitting in the water on an inverted clay pot to get the height right. If I were going to do this again, I would buy a pre-made fountain kit.

As far as splashing water, there will be some, but you can adjust the flow of water through the pump and you can also adjust the spout to spray more or just bubble.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 4:38PM
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Catkim - you've gotten farther than I have. I bought the pot (with no hole) and a pitcher (with a hole in the bottom for the tubing) to make a fountain. That was about a year ago. And that's as far as I've gotten. I think eventually I will just give up and buy a premade kit. There are so many calculations and variables (how many feet of head, diameter of the tubing, rate of flow, loss of water due to splashing & evaporation, etc). It seems there are 95 ways to get it wrong for each way to get it right.

I sound math-phobic, you'd never know I'm an engineer in real life, LOL! I think I just hate plumbing.

To the OP: Seriously consider buying a kit. You could make your life a lot easier that way :)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 10:19AM
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Why does this seem unreasonable? It's a product that's manufactured for one purpose that reduces waste, manpower, and pretty much idiot-proofs the installation of a simple fountain. The alternative to the basin is to dig a hole, use runner liner, blah blah blah... Pain in the butt and all it takes is one pinhole in the liner to ruin your day.

The basin approach is as simple as it gets and it's how I specify small fountains for my clients. Since you're going pretty tall, I'd recommend the biggest basin you can get which is 4'x4'. You're definitely going to lose water from splash.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 1:01PM
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usmc, will ask a neighbor to help me get some pics of what I've done. I got a thick walled plastic barrel, cut it down with my saber saw. Dug big hole, inserted barrel. Ran into problems because of heavy rains. The barrel was floating out of the ground. Yikes! Ended up enlarging the hole and pouring cement under and around the partial barrel. Instead of a grate, I used a TV satellite dish which I mosaiced with glass tile after drilling smallish hopes near the center of the oval dish. This allows the water to return to the reservoir.

Used copper piping, 1/2", siliconed caulk (GEII) was applied around the circumference of the pipe. Mine now has only the pipe which burbles the water onto the tiled disc. Want to add a decorative element, copper cut to resemble petals.

Please let me know if you'd like to see pics. Probably doable.

Rosie, Sugar Hill, GA

    Bookmark   July 6, 2011 at 2:56PM
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I bought a large, heavy duty feed/water trough from the farm supply store. They come as large as 2 or 3 feet deep and several feet wide. That's mighty big, but it is made to withstand heavy use. That doesn't help you much, but it is an inexpensive, sturdy althernative to a big basin.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 11:16PM
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The following may be overkill, but it helped me with our fountain several years ago. I dug it up from the New England forum. If you search that forum under "installing fountains" there are four posts and these were in answer to my desperate questions.

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Posted by carl18 z6 NJ (My Page) on
Tue, Jul 7, 09 at 19:53

O.K. Take a deep breath. . .kick the vole out of the way, and let's start over
again from the beginning.

Years ago, when I tried my first fountain/watefall, I was just as flummoxed as you are now, but eventually I got the hang of it. . .it's really no more complicated
than installing a supercharged flush toilet or replacing the mainfold in a '54
T-Bird. . .but I jest, of course. . .

Real solutions: we need to know the exact dimensions of your fountain. . .
specifically, how deep is the "bowl" on top of the pedastal?. . .and how high
is the fountain from the bottom of the pedastal to the top of the fountain?
My guess is that the bowl itself isn't deep enough to hold the pump (which
MUST be submerged, as everyone has pointed out), and the plastic (or rubber)
tube which supplies water to the fountain from the pump must run down the
center of the pedastal. Are we guessing right so far?

If this IS the case, your only solution is a reservoir SEPARATE from the founain
(which is why I prefer larger fountains where the catch-basin is an integral
part of the fountain). . .personally, I would find the idea of an adjacent
bucket (or reservoir) unappealing; you were actually on to the most logical
and efficient solution with your five-gallon-pail. . .you just need to expand
and refine that idea.

Here's a cheap-and-dirty idea I've used over a dozen times in the past years
for simple waterfalls, overflowing birdbathes, or fountains just like yours.
You need to create a small pool to act as your water reservoir: my favorite
comes from an animal supply source (such as AgWay) and it's a small watering trough for horses or other animal, very tough, 24" round, black vinyl bowl, about 8" deep - an alternate, would be a black vinyl mortar tray
(from HD or Lowe's), the kind you mix concrete in, which are about 6" deep
and usually rectangular in shape (roughly 24"x30").

Sink this vinyl reservoir into the ground, so it sits FLUSH with the ground
level - it helps to dig your hole, tamp the bottom really hard, and fill with water (and let it drain away). . .this helps to keep the much heavier reservoir (filled with water) and the massive concrete fountain from sinking further
down once it's installed.

O.K. This next step is important. We don't want the reservoir to remain
FLUSH with ground level, because dirt and rain run-off would tend to spill
into it. So: we pour about an inch of clean sand into our hole-in-the-ground and set the vinyl reservoir on TOP of that. . .now, your black vinyl
pool is sitting a perfect 1" (approximately) ABOVE ground level, which is exactly where we want it ! Take a sturdy piece of scrap wood that is STRAIGHT (a 3-foot section of 2x4 is ideal), lay it across the edges of your reservoir in at least three different directions, and with a carpenter's level on top check to see if your pool is completely level. Here's why we used the sand: if it's not quite level, you can tap on the bottom of the reservoir to gently lower one edge - the sand will give just enough to allow this - using
your balled fist or a flat brick. Gentlly, now - you don't want to over- compensate ! Once everything is level, backfill with dirt around the vinyl
basin (since you obviously had to dig the original hole a bit wider than necessary) and tamp that backfill firmly, being careful NOT to disturb the
reservoir - water this backfill well (and gently) until really saturated, and let
it all soak in well (maybe an hour or so) before proceeding.

Now, we need to support the fountain. Using concrete bricks or patio blocks
(HD or Lowes - the perfectly flat, machine-made ones that will stack
securely) you create a "piling" in the center of your reservoir on which to
stand your pedastal/fountain. Depending on the depth of your reservoir, and/or the thickness of your bricks, you might need only one layer (which
would mean the pedastal base would be underwater - that's my preference),
or perhaps two. Remember, if you use THREE piles of bricks instead of just
the minimally necessary TWO, you'll make the pedastal/fountain steadier,
thanks to the tripod effect).

Your small little pump can rest on its side anywhere you like around the
perimeter of the reservoir, with the power cord snaking up and over the edge
and running off to the power source. By placing a small piece of slate (or
a flat dark stone) on TOP of your pump, it won't be visible once it's underwater. Stand your pedastal/pump in place, hook up the pump tubes, fill carefully with water, and you should be good to go. Try flipping the switch and see how it works. . .your only job now is to keep the water level in the
reservoir, if not full, AT LEAST covering the pump.

Finish off the edge of your reservoir/pool with irregular slates
around the OUTSIDE edge, resting solely on the ground, but abutting the
vinyl pool - since these slates are roughly 1" thick, they are about level with the edge, and a SECOND layer of slates can perfectly jut out over the edge of the pool and disguise it's presence. You could easily substitute stone, bricks, or whatever suits your fancy. . .

As for cleaning, I rarely ever need to clean my reservoir/pools (save for the
occasional stray leaf or twig) If suicidal voles tend to start hurling themselves
into your pool, why, just do what I'm sure Marty will be doing with all the
voles in HER new pools - she'll be dipping them in kerosene and having little
festive floating votives in her fountains ! Yes, at the end of the season,
I siphon all the water out of the pool, remove (and clean off) the pump for indoor winter storage, and then stretch a small, dark brown or black tarp
OVER the fountain and all the way to the outside edge of those slates
surrounding the pool - in fact, remove that second layer, stretch your tarp
and re-apply that second layer of slate to hold the tarp in place. The idea is
to keep as much water/snow/wind-blown-debris out of the pool as possible;
it not only makes Spring hook-up easier, but there's no freezing/thawing to stress the concrete or vinyl. Hate the tarp? One friend buries hers under a mound of pine boughs; someone else I know built an elaborate minature
shed/house which drops in place OVER the whole pool/fountain, complete
with little translucent windows that light up ! I told her all she needed was smoke coming out of the chimney - I'll bet she adds it this next winter. . .

How long do these vinyl pools last? Well, I can only tell you that one I installed nearly 15 years ago is still going strong. How dense was I about pools/fountains when I started? My major concern was how I was going to extend the water lines from the house, underground some fifty feet to the pool's
location - it was quite some time before I realized that pools and fountains require a POWER source, not a water source. . .duh ! Thank heaven I figured that out BEFORE I called a plumber. . .


P.S. Any questions? Let 'em rip. . .

RE: How to install a fountain....desperately

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Posted by ctlady z5 CT (My Page) on
Tue, Jul 7, 09 at 21:09

RE: How to install a fountain....desperately

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Posted by idabean 5A (My Page) on


Posted by idabean 5A (My Page) on
Tue, Jul 7, 09 at 21:40

RE: How to install a fountain....desperately

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Posted by cloud_9 z6 CT (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 8, 09 at 21:21

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Posted by nhbabs (My Page) on
Thu, Jul 9, 09 at 18:43

Idabean -

My DH is the one in the family with hands-on practicality, and I have slowly absorbed a tiny amount of his wisdom and experience . . . Get a wet-dry shop vacuum to clean out the bottom of the reservoir, and the extension cords needed to reach as far as the pond if necessary.

I have seen pictures of fountains with reservoirs filled with water smoothed pebbles or with a heavy duty screen covered by water smoothed pebbles. I guess you'd need a larger reservoir if you have pebbles filling it, but it's a nice effect. Here's a blog entry on fountains, and the 11th photo has what I'm trying to describe. Michelle may have directions somewhere else in the blog, but I didn't go hunting for that.

Here is a link that might be useful: garden fountains - Michelle Derviss' blog

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 11:34PM
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